Barrios’ Hot Streak Rolls On
Michael Barrios’ pace and chance creation are among the most dangerous attacking threats for the Rapids, and Saturday’s 2-1 loss to LAFC was no different.
Due to a formation change, the Colombian slotted into a second striker role running off Diego Rubio’s hold-up play. The result was the same as when Barrios has played on the wing so far this season, as he caused problems for the LAFC defense all night with his pace while creating chances for himself and his teammates. In the 50th minute, he broke through after Rubio played a floating ball in behind the defense and Barrios slotted it home. It was Mikey’s first goal in Rapids colors and came at a crucial time to cut into LAFC’s lead and pull the Rapids back into the contest.
“He has fit in absolutely perfect for this system,” Marcelo Balboa said in the postgame recap on Altitude TV. “He’s so dangerous and gives everything for 75-80 minutes and then you can bring on someone from the bench to add a spark of energy late."
Time will tell as to whether head coach Robin Fraser saw enough of the three-man backline, and, subsequently, Barrios playing in a more central attacking role to stick with the formation against FC Dallas next weekend, but Barrios’ goal and two assists in his last two games prove he’s able to contribute wherever he’s deployed offensively.
"Diego is as good as anyone in the league at holding the ball up, and, with Mikey's pace, we thought that he'd be able to take advantage of some of that hold-up play and find some space in behind, which is exactly what he did on the goal," head coach Robin Fraser said following the loss.
Trusty Continues to Shine
There’s no sugarcoating it, Diego Rossi made the Rapids pay on Saturday night. The Uruguayan (and 2020 MLS Golden Boot winner) slotted home two goals in the first half and the visitors were forced to chase the match for the remainder. But outside of those two moments, the Rapids were very solid defensively, breaking up the trademark transition and rhythm that makes LAFC so dangerous while holding Carlos Vela to only a few chances in his first start since April 17.
Leading the way in the Rapids’ three-man central defense was Auston Trusty. The defender has now started every match for Fraser and continues to build confidence and play well early in the 2021 season. The Rapids conceded for the first time on the road this season, and Trusty’s play in each away match has been worth noting.
“Tonight, he pretty much did everything that we’ve expected of Auston from day one, which is really physically strong, dominant in his one-on-one exchanges, showed good makeup pace at times and was composed with the ball. I thought he had a really solid game," Fraser said.
The Guys in Green Didn’t Back Down
When LAFC are firing offensively at home, up 2-0 and looking for more, there are few situations more difficult to face in all of MLS. A good sign for this Rapids side is that after going down two-nil, they weathered a flurry of knockout punch attempts that followed from Bob Bradley’s men and didn’t blink. The Rapids carried that two-goal deficit into the locker room knowing they’d have their chances in the second half.
"Even though we were down 2-0, we were very much in the game," Fraser said. "There was definitely the sentiment around the locker room of 'Let's go, let's keep it going. There's more in it for us than what it looks like right now.'"
After hafltime, the Rapids stood toe to toe with LAFC and generated plenty of quality chances, including Barrios' goal. The way a team responds to a difficult situation says a lot about their makeup, character and leadership. Remember that this Rapids team bounced back from their lowest moment so far in 2021 by winning three straight.
“What I love about [this team] is the fact that, whatever the situation is, they never say die, and they keep fighting,” Fraser said.
The Rapids have scored six goals in the last two games inside DICK’S Sporting Goods Park and will be eager to right the ship heading into the international break in front of the home supporters when FC Dallas pays a visit next weekend.