View from the Booth: is this the turning point for Torres - and the Rapids?
Those who came out to honor club legend Pablo Mastroeni on Friday night were rewarded with a treat. Not only did they get to share a special evening with one of the club’s most loyal servants, but they then witnessed three cracking goals as the Rapids players applied the icing to the Mastroeni celebratory cake with a 3-0 win over Chivas USA.
Yes, it was a weakened Chivas USA, minus defensive stalwarts Carlos Bocanegra and Bobby Burling, as well as the influential midfielders Oswaldo Minda and Mauro Rosales, absences which left Erick Torres an isolated and frustrated figure up top.
Defensively the Rapids kept things tight and tidy, but Torres was always going to struggle to shine on a night when service to him was limited. Some of that may be due to the battle being won in midfield, but you cannot ignore the fact that the visitors were a little thread-bare.
That, in itself, may also be telling. Only seven days earlier the Rapids had gone to Portland Timbers minus a variety of central characters, and only emerged with a 2-1 defeat. The fact that Colorado could compete in Oregon when not at full strength, while Chivas clearly struggled in Commerce City, a sign that there is genuine depth to this Rapids roster.
Many are talking about the goal scored by Gabriel Torres – his first since October 19 last year – but, speaking personally, it was his movement off the ball and work-rate which impressed me most. Fitness issues have restricted his playing time to date, but he showed on Friday that he’s set to be a key figure in the second half of the campaign as he pulled, dragged and deceived the Chivas USA back-line for the 76 minutes he managed.
His last action of the night was to deliver a curling chip over the head of a despairing Dan Kennedy in the Chivas goal, cementing a convincing win and offering a reminder of his class in front of goal. Torres is not just quick, with an eye for goal, but he is an intelligent player as well.
So, what’s been lacking? Why did it take until July 25 for the Panama international to register his first goal of the season?
Well, the aforementioned issue with his fitness has been a factor, as has the goals being scored by Deshorn Brown and Vicente Sánchez. The form of others, therefore, leads to limited minutes in the middle and if you’re not getting a good run in the team, it impacts on your rhythm and undermines confidence.
So, that goal for Torres was a huge weight off his young shoulders. You could not only see how much it meant to him, but also to his teammates. Yes, it was a special goal, but the men he shares the locker room with will also be acutely aware of the importance of that strike, and what it means for the individual and the team as a whole.
And that brings me to the performance of others on Friday eve. Let’s first take the earlier goals, from Nick LaBrocca and Drew Moor. LaBrocca’s wait between goals was even longer than Torres – his previous effort was in the 2-1 win over New England Revolution on July 17, 2013. Falling away from the ball, the former Chivas player executed the delivery beautifully. Moor – a constant threat at set pieces – timed his run to perfection to head home his second of the season, thanks to a wonderfully-weighted corner kick from Dillon Powers.
The other Dillon (Serna) scampers about with all the energy of an excitable new-born lamb. His work-rate was impressive, switching flanks at will and generally making a nuisance of himself. And he showed in the first few minutes that defenders force him on to his supposed weaker right foot at their peril. His curling shot beat Kennedy but cannoned back off the upright, setting the tone for the rest of the game.
Clint Irwin had little to do, but remained alert on the odd occasion that Leandro Barrera escaped from his leash and registered his seventh shutout of 2014 and 17th of his career. He is now three shy of equaling last season’s tally, and four away from setting a new club record.
Talking of records, and the Rapids set off for New England earlier today (Monday) hoping to end their run of six road games without a win (stretching back to April 12), while extending the Revolution’s sorry stretch to nine defeats in a row.
And something else to think about. The last away win came courtesy of Edson Buddle’s 99th MLS goal. As many of you will know, he’s yet to notch up goal number 100 – to become only the eighth player in league history to hit the century mark. His first goal in MLS came on May 16, 2001 … away to the New England Revolution.