View from the Booth: Road form must improve or postseason may be short-lived
As the saying goes, ‘when I got home I wanted to kick the cat’, such was my disappointment with both the result and the manner of the loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Firstly, no real cats were hurt in my outpouring of emotion on Sunday night. That’s because I don’t have a cat (and I wouldn't really kick a kitty), though being Halloween, there were enough plastic black cats adorning the lawns in my street and they had every right to fear my boot connecting with their flat, shiny backsides.
Not my words, but the words of Rapids skipper Drew Moor, and I’m pretty sure they’ll resonate with most Rapids fans watching the game on Altitude last Sunday.
Full Match Highlights
The defeat in Vancouver reminded me of the 3-0 loss on the turf in Portland back in June, when the defense looked disjointed, suffered lapses in concentration, seemed to struggle with positioning, failed to properly close down the threats and were not always communicating clearly with one another.
Moor was critical of himself for the Whitecaps’ second goal which came as the Rapids looked to be gaining a little momentum. Up to that point – the Edson Buddle near-miss aside – it was the Whitecaps who had shown greater intent.
Clint Irwin produced a string of fine saves early on, thankfully; otherwise the scoreline may have been a lot worse. Defensively, not the Rapids’ finest moment of the season, but this is a team game and few players stood out for the visitors.
I lost count of the passes which went astray. These were not 50-yard sweeping, cross-field passes, meant to glide off the outside of the boot and drop on a sixpence. No, these were often just 10-15 yard passes, which were either under-hit or simply poorly directed.
So, possession given away cheaply, at moments in the game when the Rapids sought to re-build momentum, started to hurt the team. I accept the surface may have been an issue, being played on turf, but the passing game being out of kilter was just one aspect.
The link-up play from defense to midfield and midfield to attack was sporadic, not helped by possession being gifted to the opposition. Options for the player on the ball seemed limited, and maybe that's credit to the gusto with which the Whitecaps had approached this fixture.
Urgency and intensity, elements of the Rapids’ game which we have enjoyed in some of the more recent home hurrahs, didn’t appear to make the trip to British Columbia. Bearing in mind, this was against a Whitecaps side already eliminated from the playoffs, and yet they had the look of a side still hopeful of a tilt at the title.
Taken in isolation, this was a poor performance. But this is not a poor side, as they’ve repeatedly proved over the course of a record-breaking season.
My over-riding concern at this stage is that, at home, the Rapids play like world-beaters, scoring for fun and scaring the bjeezers out of Major League Soccer’s top teams. On the road, though, they’re a different animal, and a rather timid one at that. Since securing their first-ever MLS point at Seattle, with a 1-1 tie on July 20, the Rapids have managed to net just three goals in six away games. Compare that to the 16 goals scored in the six home games.
Rapids 5, Sounders 1 Highlights
That figure of 16 could’ve been so much higher. In contrast, the scoring opportunities away from Dick’s Sporting Goods Park have been painfully thin on the ground. It’s been raining goals at home, with a near-drought suffered on the road. If we narrow that stat to the most recent three home and away … 10 goals at DSGP, and none on their travels.
And let’s be brutally honest, in those three shut-outs (Portland, San Jose and Vancouver) not only have the Rapids failed to score but – in the main – they’ve not created a great deal.
Buddle came closest to beating David Ousted in the Vancouver goal at BC Place, only to be denied by Brad Rusin’s (even more) bulky frame and the impressive debutant Sam Adekugbe.
And so it’s a midweek trip to the Seattle Sounders, a Sounders side that has endured a torrid month of October which began with high hopes of clinching the Supporters’ Shield but quickly started to unravel following the 5-1 drubbing by the Rapids on October 5.
Drew Moor offered no excuses for Sunday’s showing. He knows there has to be improvements in Seattle. I’m pretty sure there will have been some harsh words spoken post-Vancouver, among a group of players that have stared down adversity time and again in 2013.
The Rapids demolished the Sounders in their previous meeting, only to lose at San Jose in their following contest. They then took a huge stride toward the playoffs with a battling 3-2 win over the Whitecaps at home, to then take a tumble in Vancouver eight days later.
Players have often told me – win, lose or draw – ‘that game has gone, on to the next one.’ With that in mind, learn the lessons from Vancouver and move on, only acutely aware now, though, that there will be no second chance, no ‘next one’. The safety net has been removed.