View from the Booth: The mystery which needs solving

Rapids must address the issue of slow starts in MLS playoff chase

View from Booth - COL-DAL

Photo Credit: 
Garrett Ellwood / Colorado Rapids

Man has a thirst for facts and a need for knowledge. Mysteries, therefore, only make us more determined for answers.

The Roswell UFO incident, for example. What really crash-landed on that July day in 1947?

Full Match Highlights

Other puzzles include:

Why do they put Braille on drive-through ATMs?

Do they sterilize the needles for lethal injections?

Who shot JR?

And who framed Roger Rabbit?

Our persistence gave us answers to the latter two, the last of which was even made into a movie.

But there’s always a new mystery to befuddle us, and we have one here at the Colorado Rapids.

Coach Oscar Pareja said after Saturday’s 2-1 loss at Sporting Kansas City: “Right now I’m unable to point at specifics why we didn’t get the good start."

Rapids defender Chris Klute added: “We normally start slow. We’re trying to get out of the habit.”

It’s often been said this season that the Rapids have lacked urgency and intensity early on. They’re not always strong starters, which risks allowing the opposition to set the tempo and dictate play, as Sporting KC did on Saturday. Certainly one of life’s mysteries and one which needs resolving swiftly.

This Rapids team has proved time and again that they have the qualities to take their place among the top five in the Western Conference, and thereby reach the playoffs.

Oscar Pareja Post-Game

The 2-1 reversal at Sporting Park was their first defeat in ten, and their first in more than two months. They’d had a pretty good run.

Conditions were a factor in Kansas City. Heat and humidity, on an awful surface, will have contributed to the Rapids’ sluggish start. What concerned me, though, was that they remained sluggish for all but about four minutes of the first half.

Not many teams have bossed the Rapids in midfield this season. Sporting Kansas City did just that on Saturday.

The Rapids lacked shape and were too easily knocked out of their stride. They had a real job keeping possession, and then found it equally hard getting the ball back as Sporting KC passed and moved with comparative ease.

By the time Edson Buddle’s deflected shot gifted them the equalizer, the Rapids had been doing much of the chasing for more than an hour, on an energy-sapping evening. No surprise, therefore, that it was a momentary lapse in the dying minutes which allowed the home side – deservedly I think – to take all three points.

But at this stage of the season, who cares whether you deserve to win or not? Who cares if you get out-passed and out-played for much of the 90 minutes, and still sneak out of town with a point? It’s all about the result.

Having looked to have stolen a share of the spoils on Saturday, it was particularly disappointing to have leaked late on – especially as the Rapids seemed to be holding their own following the Buddle goal.

Chris Klute & Edson Buddle Post-Game

I asked the question earlier in the season, as the players prepared to return from a bye week in mid-June: “Will the break have disrupted momentum?”

To a man, all those asked insisted it shouldn’t be a problem. The team then slipped to three defeats in a row.

The same question last week was met with a similar answer, but one can’t help thinking that this most recent break from MLS action was a factor in producing the flat, labored opening from the Rapids.

Yes, they bared their teeth in the second half. The introduction of Buddle, Martin Rivero and Atiba Harris added fresh legs and created a little spark, but the side seemed a shadow of their recent selves.

Buddle spoke after the loss, and suggested the result ‘was probably a good thing’ and ‘probably puts us in check a little bit’. I know what he means.

Don’t get me wrong, nobody wants to lose games, but if this result acts as a wake-up call for the remaining regular-season fixtures – all against Western Conference rivals – then it may just serve a purpose.

Games are running out; games with which to make amends after ‘off days’. Saturday was very much an off day, and one which every side should be afforded now and then.

But there are now just seven games to go, and the Rapids are facing foes fighting for the playoff places, foes who will punish poor performances, as Sporting KC did on Saturday.

The game at LA is now massive. Not just because of the points on offer, but because it’ll show us whether this side shrinks in the face of adversity, or stares it down and emerges triumphant.

I think we know the answer to that one.

But will the mystery of slow starts finally be resolved? Google couldn’t help me here, but it did confirm Judge Doom as the varmint who framed Roger Rabbit. The pesky villain …