COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – It had been just more than a month since defender Scott Palguta featured as a starter for the Colorado Rapids, so the tall center back was a bit surprised to get the nod against Columbus last Saturday.
In truth, the 28-year-old’s previous start, against the Kansas City Wizards on July 17, was not one of his better games. The former Rochester Rhinos player, who was slotted in at left back, endured a torrid time against the dynamic attacking of the Wizards forwards and found himself unceremoniously yanked before the end of the first half.
But against the Crew, despite the 3-1 defeat, the match was a good in terms of Palguta getting back on the horse.
Rapids head coach Gary Smith wanted him in at center back alongside Julien “The Beast” Baudet to offer a physical presence to the Crew forwards. Palguta felt his own performance was solid enough, but the defeat was hard to take, especially considering that Colorado dominated possession for much of the game.
“After the game, we were kind of scratching our heads and asking ourselves how they scored three goals on us,” Palguta told MLSsoccer.com. “We were really solid in the first half [and] they took it to us more in the second half, but it was extremely disappointing to play as well as we did and concede three goals.”
Conceding is one problem, and scoring is another. Palguta said the team is clearly struggling to convert chances and get themselves in a game where they combine very solid defense with efficient attacking.
“It seems like we haven’t been able to put [defense and offense] together on the same day,” said the defender. “That’s really frustrating. The day we click offensively, we are a little loose in the back. We keep zeros on the scoreboard and we can’t seem to find the back of the net.”
The Rapids are entering a crucial stretch of the season, with six of the remaining 10 games to be played on home turf. Two of those home games are coming up in the next two weeks, against Houston on Saturday and against Chivas USA on Sept. 4. Palguta believes the team has to find a way to win both those two games and put the disappointments of recent weeks behind.
“These games at home [are against] what is perceived to be weaker opposition,” Palguta said. “That’s a tricky word to use because nobody is truly weak in this league. Anybody can beat anybody. But at home, down the stretch, these are games we have to win.”
Whether Palguta will get another call-up this weekend remains to be seen. Smith may opt to put more attack-minded players to maraud down the flanks, which means the coach may put in Kosuke Kimura, Danny Earls or Anthony Wallace on the sides and move Drew Moor into a central defender role alongside Baudet.
If that happens, Palguta likely won’t be on the pitch. But he hopes his solid performance at center back against the Crew put him in good stead for this weekend.
“It was nice to get another 90 minutes,” Palguta said. “It’s not a lot of fun sitting on the bench. I want to be out there and playing regularly, so I’ll keep pushing to get there.”
The Rapids host the Dynamo at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on Aug. 28. Kickoff is set for 9:30 p.m. ET.