Any investigating team seeking answers to Friday’s puzzling scene at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park would be helped by 18,432 witness statements.
Forensic experts would quickly establish that the Colorado Rapids and Columbus Crew were known to one another, and that the Crew only took what was due to them, albeit in the form of a gift. Evidence would also lead us to the conclusion that any damage done to the Rapids was self-inflicted.
Although the Crew played their part pretty well, the Rapids’ inability to notch-up a second straight home win, and fourth in five at DSGP, was due to a below-par performance.
From the display against Vancouver Whitecaps six days earlier, to the performance witnessed by a sell-out crowd on 4th July against the Crew was like chalk and cheese, night and day, apples to oranges.
Dr. Jekyll, meet Mr. Hyde.
Which brings me to the challenge from Vicente Sánchez on Hector Jimenez. I stepped out on a limb earlier this season when two San Jose players transgressed, and I will do so again with a player closer to home. Firstly, my thoughts go out to Jimenez, and I wish him a speedy recovery. The challenge which ended his night was late, high and dangerous. Nobody likes to see a player leave the field on a stretcher, clearly in some discomfort. I'll not be a hypocrite and gloss over the incident. Studs up rarely ends happily.
The positives from Friday were that the unbeaten home record now stretches to five games, while Clint Irwin did as much as he could to add to his six shutouts for the season. The Rapids also fielded an unchanged lineup for the first time this season.
Friday’s visitors looked the better side for long periods, and certainly looked the more likely to snatch all three points. But, though they pressed and closed down the Rapids, tracked back and defended in numbers (their athleticism impressed me), the Crew’s cause was helped immensely by a home side that was often guilty of giving away possession far too cheaply.
Passing has been the cornerstone of success in recent home games, and yet it went AWOL on the biggest night of the year.
“Individually, I think they (Colorado Rapids) put their partners in bad spots with bad passes and bad touches,” head coach Pablo Mastroeni said after the game.
And he’s right. For all the good work put in by Columbus, their job was made a little less difficult because of the errors committed by the home side. A crisp passing game, at altitude, will have your opponent feeling as if they’re wading through quicksand by about the 75th minute, as they tire chasing shadows. That wasn’t the case on Friday, as the Rapids – in surrendering the ball so sloppily – allowed the Crew to conserve energy. This meant they were still full of running at the final whistle.
Indeed, late on there were images of Rapids midfielder Jared Watts having his foot bent back by Marlon Hairston in an attempt to ease the onset of cramp. The Rapids were the ones being given the runaround, and they didn’t look comfortable.
Two errors produced the two goals. The first, a hefty deflection off the noggin of Eric Guerig edged the Rapids into a fortuitous lead. The less said about the manner of the equalizer the better, except to say, that one move, which gave the Crew a deserved point from the contest, pretty much summed up the night for the Rapids. Yes, they had their chances, but they weren’t the more aggressive and were not the dominant force on show. They were too easily bossed and left their ‘A game’ in the locker room.
So, we are now at the midway point. Seventeen games played in the regular season by the Rapids, and they have 26 points – six more than they had at the same stage last season. But, rather than comparing where we are now with where we were in seasons past, I would rather move on from that approach and look at where we are now and which teams stand between us and ultimate glory.
We can’t do anything about past seasons. It’s a great method to fathom out internal progress, and gives us a warm feeling for a few moments, but we can’t alter what’s already gone before. All the side can do is focus on the job in hand, the current campaign and set their standards by the best in the league, rather than the previous best that the franchise has achieved.
For example, last season the club crashed through 50 points for the first time ever. That was still only good enough for fifth in the West and a play-in game at Seattle, which the Rapids lost 2-0.
Seattle has set the benchmark this season. Sure, they have the quality, but they did lose to a Whitecaps side on Saturday that the Rapids had conquered a week earlier. In other words, the Rapids at their best are as good as any in this league. They’ve already shown that. But what they’ve also shown is an inconsistency that needs to be addressed as we roll into the second half of the campaign.
We know how good this side is; they’ve shown us, which is why disappointment is doubled when we witness such displays. I’ll never question the effort, but I was left wondering about the execution.
The crowd was fantastic, but their 4th July ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ were left for the post-game fireworks, which lit up Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in a way that the Rapids had struggled to do.