The focus of Saturday for the Colorado Rapids was the 1-0 win over Real Salt Lake in an exhibition match at the Desert Diamond Cup in Tucson, and Pablo Mastroeni was pleased with the team’s performance. He thought the team limited RSL’s chances while also doing some strong work in the offensive third.
“We worked well as a unit today, on both sides of the ball,” Mastroeni said after the match. “Defensively I think we were organized and found good times to press and put them under pressure higher up the field.
"As an attacking group we found great opportunities to get forward, and created a few good chances. Overall the effort was tremendous and the guys put in a good shift.”
The group of players that started the match left the Kino Sports Complex early, with the players that finished the game doing some extra fitness and skill work before entering the locker room. Goalkeeper Coach Chris Sharpe also did extra training with the three goalkeepers, Clint Irwin and Joe Nasco who had played in the game, and John Berner who was on the bench for the match.
BROWN “ON A TEAR”
Rapids forward Deshorn Brown finished his first year with 10 goals (best among MLS rookies) and the team’s Golden Boot award, but he did not rest during the offseason. After traveling to Barcelona to get extra help on his game in January, the Jamaican international has come back in fine form.
With four goals in six games, Brown is leading all Rapids scorers this preseason, and has got his goals in just 265 minutes, a rate of 1.36 goals every 90 minutes. Three of his four goals have come against MLS competition (Houston Dynamo, Chivas USA, Real Salt Lake).
“It’s awesome,” said Mastroeni after the game. “He’s on a tear, and is starting to understand the effect that he has on this team moving forward, especially against an experienced backline, like the team that [Real Salt Lake] put out there today.”
RSL LOOKS FAMILIAR
Real Salt Lake features a number of former Rapids, including Kyle Beckerman, Nat Borchers and Chris Wingert. But Mastroeni is close with several others.
“I used to play with Jeff Cassar, Andy Williams, Kyle Beckerman, Chris Wingert, Nat Borchers and Nick Rimando,” said Mastroeni. “But it’s funny, the focus for us this preseason has always been on our group, and when that game starts, I don’t even see another team out on the field.
“It’s about how the guys are executing, how the guys are working for each other, working with each other. Not until the end of the game did I realize how many of those guys I had played with.”
The end of Saturday's match against Real Salt Lake featured one of soccer's more rare infractions, which was whistled by referee Kevin Stott.
In the 90th minute, Rapids goalkeeper Joe Nasco received a headed pass from a defender and held the ball for more than six seconds, causing the ref to call an indirect free kick for RSL from the top of the box. The resulting free kick hit the wall and was cleared, and Stott immediately called for the end of the game.
Not only was it the first time Nasco had ever been whistled for the infraction (in FIFA's Laws of the Game, goalkeepers are required to put the ball back into play within six seconds of collecting it with their hands), but no other players had ever been a part of a match where it had been called. Normally a referee will warn a goalkeeper if he is holding the ball too long, or allow a goalkeeper extra time if there are opposition players impeding his ability to play the ball.
After the game, Nasco said he had not been deliberately holding the ball for a long time, and that an RSL forward had been walking in front of him to prevent his punt. Despite this, the ref made the call, but luckily for the Rapids, nothing came of the indirect free kick.
After a busy week, with three games and stops in three cities (Las Vegas, Denver, Tucson), the team has a well-earned day off on Sunday. The coaches were discussing heading to a golf course, while players had mentioned trying to find a movie theater nearby.