A week is a long time in sport. After Montreal Impact and Houston Dynamo were comfortably dealt with by the Rapids, thoughts of heading into the mini World Cup break on a huge high were dealt a bit of a blow with a draw and a loss in the two most recent outings.
Bizarrely, the defeat at FC Dallas on Saturday was easier to swallow than the tie with Chicago Fire three days earlier. A more familiar-looking lineup had greater threat in the final third, netting two well-worked goals, but ultimately fell short.
The same 11 which humbled Houston were on show in Frisco but, while more goals were enjoyed by the Rapids, it was at the other end where things went a little pear-shaped. This is a side which has kept seven clean sheets in 15 games – more than any other team in MLS – and yet, in the five games they’ve lost, have conceded 15 goals. Feast or famine for opposing teams, it seems.
At Toyota Stadium, some would argue that the first two goals scored by FC Dallas, courtesy of deflections, were fortuitous. I’d be careful on that front. After all, the Rapids have been awarded six penalty kicks this season. A goal is a goal, as we’ve been swift to chirp.
I’d also add that more could’ve been done to close down Zach Loyd as he pulled the trigger for the Dallas second. Reaction ought to have been a bit quicker. As for the Dallas winner, possession was softly given away in midfield, players committed to the challenge too early, affording Fabian Castillo a more comfortable path to goal.
And it could’ve been worse. I’m still not sure how their most dangerous striker, Blas Perez, was afforded a free header, which fortunately crashed off the crossbar. Tesho Akindele will feel he should’ve done better, also, as he watched his close-range effort balloon over the top. Neither player was properly tracked. There needs to be greater responsibility for picking up players, particularly those making runs into dangerous areas.
Now, for those with a glass half full, the Rapids have claimed seven points from the past four games, witnessed goals from Deshorn Brown (3), Kamani Hill (2), Dillon Powers (2), Shane O’Neill and José Mari, afforded valuable minutes to youngsters and rookies, and kept clean sheets in half of the matches. They are also two points better off than at the same stage last season, and have had to cope for long stretches without Vicente Sánchez, Edson Buddle or a fully-fit Gabriel Torres.
Those with a glass half empty would wander back to the Chicago fixture at home, suggesting momentum gained in the previous two games was lost in the midweek draw against the Fire. Only time will tell whether – come the postseason – that was a point gained or two points lost.
And so into the MLS break, with the team returning to league duty on June 28 at home to Vancouver Whitecaps. Before then, the matter of a US Open Cup 4th round game at home to Orlando City on June 17, kick-off 7 p.m (TICKETS).
In the first 15 games, Rapids head coach Pablo Mastroeni has called upon 24 players (including Marvin Chavez, who is now with Chivas USA). Of those, nine different players have scored goals, and 10 have provided assists. We’ve seen there is flexibility. We’ve noted that Mastroeni is happy to give guys minutes. The locker room is united and – with rotation – the legs should be fresh. Sanchez and Buddle will be back in time for the resumption, one hopes, and we’re also told the club has identified offensive talent that will be brought in during the transfer window.
The last two results were not what anybody wanted, but this first portion of the season has been a mixture of a fact-finding mission and a question and answer session. Much has been learned since that opening game at the Red Bulls. We now wait to see whether this side can kick-on in the second part of the season when, as we know, all the big questions will be asked.