Enzo Martinez was my man of the match and it wasn’t close
From the start, with the more attack-minded Shkëlzen Gashi back in the starting lineup, Enzo was asked to pay a bit more attention to his defensive duties than he might if he were paired with Johan Blomberg – as he has been in many matches this season. His defensive work often goes unnoticed but on Sunday he provided cover to the backline all afternoon and helped to limit clear chances for a dangerous Orlando offense.
The amount of ground Enzo covers is immense, nobody on the field broke up more plays, or forced more turnovers than he did. His energy and passion are clearly evident and infectious, sometimes overly so.
As he does every match, the Uruguayan had several looks on goal from distance and it won’t be long before he scores an MLS Goal of the Week candidate with a world-class strike.
But it was his assist on Dominique Badji’s goal – his first assist at the MLS level – that was a true moment of brilliance. On the video replay it looks as if someone dropped the ball in from the sky. You couldn’t have floated in to Badji’s path any better if you tried 100 times from 10 yards let alone at full speed from 50+ yards away.
Even when this Rapids side is at full strength, I think at the very minimum the dude with the strongest beard/hair combo in MLS provides great depth in midfield and will quickly turn in to a player the fans absolutely adore here in Colorado.
Just when you thought the injury bug was cured
Earlier this week, Anthony Hudson mentioned how pleased he was that several players were returning from little knocks and injuries that had kept them out a few matches. Sure enough, Danny Wilson and Joe Mason were both back in the lineup after such absences. Marlon Hairston and Kortne Ford are back in training and should be back on the field soon enough.
Fast forward to Sunday evening and the training staff are faced with two fresh injuries to key players. While I don’t want to speculate on either, both forced Hudson to make substitutes in the second half in a tight and physical contest that the Rapids dominated in the first half.
Gashi hobbled off early in the second half and Nana Boateng (thankfully) walked off under his own power after he was involved in a nasty collision later in the match. If Hairston isn’t at full strength next weekend, who fills in at right wingback? Serna seems the logical fit, but the experiment with Boateng in that position might suggest otherwise. As for Gashi, the long road back to 90-minute fitness may have hit another speed bump.
The Rapids need to weather the storm over the next three weeks
Next three up: Away to Sporting KC, home to New York Red Bulls and away to New York City FC. As the calendar turns to May, each of those three matches will pose a difficult and very different test beginning in Kansas City next weekend.
Two losses on the bounce for the Rapids mean they’ll need to flip the script, and quickly, to avoid digging a hole as Memorial Day approaches. A glance at the Rapids fixture list sees a manageable window following this upcoming three-match gauntlet. In a Western Conference that appears to have the majority of the playoff spots up for grabs, it will be those next five or six matches where I think the Rapids can string together some results and add some points to the tally.