When the Colorado Rapids were producing positive results at the start of the season, I recall some rather cynical observers suggesting the team was relying on luck. After all, how else does a team gain five penalty kicks in their first three games?
The side then holds out against LA Galaxy for a 1-0 win and, again, the word ‘luck’ is put forward as to the reason for the victory. I’ll admit, there were times when the phrase ‘they rode their luck’ sprang to mind, for one couldn't fathom how the Galaxy had failed to find the net. But was that good luck on the part of the Rapids, or just bad finishing from the visitors?
What we have here is a side that has caught people by surprise, and the only explanation offered by some is to label the Rapids lucky. Now, over one or two games, critics could claim that a side is enjoying the ‘rub of the green’, but we’re now eight games in and that lucky label is a lazy one and simply will not wash.
As the French poet and film-maker, Jean Cocteau, once commented: “We must believe in luck. For how else can we explain the success of those we don’t like?”
Replace the words ‘don’t like’ with the words ‘don’t deserve it’ and I think we’ve maybe stumbled upon something. Glory be! How can a side such as the Colorado Rapids, under a new coach, achieve the results they did against New York, Portland, Vancouver, Toronto and LA Galaxy?
It has to be luck, for it cannot be down to hard work and endeavor, can it? One of the Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson, said: “I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.”
Was it luck which forced Robbie Keane to miss a second pk of the season? Was it luck which led Landon Donovan to rattle his shot off the outside of the post? Was it luck that intervened when Drew Moor stretched out a leg and watched Keane's cross graze the Rapids’ upright?
Or was it a poor penalty, which Clint Irwin would likely have got a hand to, a slight mis-cue by an otherwise talented player, and a timely intervention from a defender doing what he could to avert the danger? Yes, the ball could’ve sliced off Moor's boot and into the goal. It could also have caught him flush on the in-step and gone out for a throw-in.
LA Galaxy had a great chance early on at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, after which the three best chances of the first period fell the way of the home side. Vicente Sánchez conjured up more magic with his MLS Goal of the Week contender, but there were also great chances for both Deshorn Brown and Dillon Serna in the dying moments of the half. Had Brown’s back-heel gone in, rather than shave the post, it would surely have joined José Mari’s effort in Vancouver as a Goal of the Year candidate.
So, one could argue that the Galaxy were lucky not to have gone in at the interval trailing 3-0. With the injury to Sanchez, and his failure to emerge for the second half, you could suggest luck was going against the Rapids, for the Uruguayan had been a thorn in the Galaxy’s side.
Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena was reportedly livid with his team’s performance, insisting they deserved at least a point, if not all three. Keane was a little more realistic. He said afterwards: “For me, myself, I wasn’t good enough and I’ll take responsibility for that. I take it on the chin, but there are 11 guys that could say the same thing.”
In other words, try as they might, the Galaxy were not good enough on the night. Yes, they had their chances, but so too did the Rapids. As with every season, there will be games where you play well and emerge with nothing. There will also be times when you have a stinker and steal the spoils.
Eight games in, and time now for this team to be viewed as one which is organized and resilient. I, for one, raised an eyebrow when spotting the starting line-up. A lot of changes off the back of the humbling at the hands of the Sounders, but it wasn’t a knee-jerk reaction to that defeat, rather a rotating of the roster during a busy period, and what it told me was that there is depth to this Rapids squad.
Luck will only take you so far before you reach a point at which your ability is tested. I think it's fair to say, we’ve gone beyond that point.