COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – There is an air of frustration about the Colorado Rapids right now as they seek to battle their way out of a five-game winless streak—and Colorado head coach Gary Smith isn’t going to hang around and let things stagnate if they aren’t working.
WATCH: FULL HIGHLIGHTS: COL 1, KC 1
Nowhere was that more evident than after the disappointing 1-1 home draw against Kansas City last weekend, when Smith kept his team behind closed doors for an extended exchange of sometimes heated views.
The coach was reacting to a largely lifeless performance by his team in the first 45 minutes, in which the Rapids fell behind courtesy of a Davy Arnaud goal in the 20th minute. It could have been a greater deficit had the ever-dangerous Teal Bunbury’s shot had gone in instead of bizarrely hitting both posts before the ball squirmed away to safety for Colorado.
Smith’s response to the flat first half was to change the formation and inject some new bodies.
Colorado recently have been employing a system in which Conor Casey is the lone striker, with Omar Cummings moving more out to the flanks. That system was ditched in the second half against KC, as central midfielder Mehdi Ballouchy was replaced by Jamie Smith who moved out wide, allowing Cummings to adopt a more central striking role alongside Casey.
“We just hadn’t mounted any pressure,” the manager said. “There were no opportunities on goal in the first half. We looked like the away team. Looking at the shape and the group, it really was to try and maybe inspire some more energy and passion in the group to put Omar and Conor together to maybe mount a more forceful forward attack.”
With Jamie Smith and later substitute Claudio Lopez, both looking bright and creating opportunities for the front two, the new formation eventually worked. Casey grabbed a well-taken equalizer in the 74th minute. The striker even had a golden opportunity to clinch the game minutes from the end, but he failed to score into an open net after rounding the goalkeeper following a perfect pass from López.
The Argentine, who came on in the 62nd minute on Saturday for his second straight appearance, says his role is to create opportunities and chase the game if the team is behind, whatever the formation happens to be.
“When I go in in the second half, the game is another thing,” he told MLSsoccer.com. “It’s not the same game as the first half. You need to push on to try and change the game. It’s difficult to say if [the formation] is better. You need to push things to change the game.”
What may be more encouraging for the Rapids head coach on a night of much discouragement were the performances of López and Jamie Smith rather than whether a given lineup worked better than another. López said he felt that, with Jamie Smith on the field, it allowed him to create more chances.
“Jamie‘s a great player,” López said. “It’s easy to work when you have players that like to take the ball and do something with it. It’s easier because you can play and take your time to look for an option.”
The Rapids next play at Seattle on July 25. Whether Gary Smith decides to play two strikers going forward remains to be seen. The fact that they scoreed an equalizer and created scoring chances in the last 20 minutes against KC may have had as much to do with the Rapids’ need to push for a result as it did with the new formation.