COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – It’s supposed to be the greatest home-field advantage in MLS, perhaps in pro sports.
Aside from the natural advantages of playing in front of your own fans and dressing in your home locker room, the Colorado Rapids play their home games 5,280 feet above sea level, and the altitude has led to opponents running short of breath, and typically running short on the scoreboard as well.
But after suffering just six total losses in 47 games at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park between 2009 and 2011, the Rapids have incurred four home defeats in their last five games, leaving the team scratching their head as to why their once dominant run of form in Commerce City has so suddenly slipped from their hands.
“To give you an accurate answer at this point is difficult,” Rapids head coach Oscar Pareja told MLSsoccer.com. “Against Vancouver [on July 4], they get in our backs maybe twice, and the goal was one huge mistake that we had. Against San Jose [June 20] we were leading until the [83rd] minute.
"With Dallas [July 14], it was exactly the same thing. Leading until late, and then we end up just losing it. And this game against Seattle [last Saturday] is a team that took three shots. I tell you this, but I don’t want to use that as an excuse. We have to be better, especially at home, especially with the altitude, with all those things. Period.”
The Rapids are in the midst of their worst run of form in franchise history, having tied a franchise record with a six-game MLS losing streak and eight losses in their past nine games and it’s been their inability to collect points on their home turf that’s largely contributed to the slide.
But for Colorado – who have allowed five second half goals in their last five home games – it’s been the inability to put teams away early in games that has contributed to the dip in home form.
“Every team is playing a lot of games right now,’” defender Drew Moor told MLSsoccer.com. “We think about the altitude too. We think, ‘Hey, they’re coming in here, let’s get after them the first 20 to 30 minutes.'
"Everybody’s got to realize there’s moments in games where you have to put a team away or where you have to keep a team from believing that they can stay in the game, and we haven’t been good about that so far.”
After starting the season 4-1-1 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, the home woes came suddenly for the Rapids, and with a key home tilt looming Saturday against rivals Real Salt Lake (7 pm MT) the Rapids recognize that the time for change is now.
“If I put my thumb on it, it’s just concentration at parts of the game where we’re lacking a bit of concentration,” goalkeeper Matt Pickens said. “I think we still got a good thing here and there’s a lot of points on the board still and we need to make sure we try to get as many as we can out of the next 12 games to get into the playoffs.”
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.