View from the Booth 25
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

View from the Booth: defensive errors hurting the Rapids

"We need to play with two goalies, and make the goals smaller," joked Rapids head coach Pablo Mastroeni, when asked how his side halts the flow of goals in the wake of the 4-3 home loss to the LA Galaxy on Wednesday night. (The Rapids have given up 15 goals in their five successive defeats).

Alternatively, the Rapids could do a better job in identifying the danger, tracking the runner, marking target men more closely, and not allowing themselves to get easily dragged out of position. In that one sentence I’ve summed up the reasons behind the Galaxy’s four goals.

Goal 1: One of the most intelligent and experienced soccer players in MLS, Robbie Keane, was left unmarked in the Rapids penalty area, eight yards from goal.

Goal 2: The tallest man on the field, Omar Gonzalez, was not properly tracked, and allowed a free run at goal.

Goal 3: Gonzalez stood tall as a target man, and was not closely monitored, allowing him an easy knock down for Alan Gordon.

Goal 4: Keane knew he could not beat the Rapids defense for speed, so he used his soccer brain to pull defensive players out of position and open up space for Landon Donovan to stride in to.

The simplicity with which the Galaxy scored their four goals, undoing all of the hard work previously put in by the Rapids, was a little worrying … to say the least.

At 2-0 up, the Rapids were in control. The gift for Keane to make it 2-1, not only gave the Galaxy a way  back in, it will also have allowed doubt to creep into the fragile minds of the home team, and flagged-up to LA that here was a side that could be got at.

Watch the replay of Keane’s goal, and see how he brazenly beckons for the ball to be planted on his head, and defender Dan Gargan duly obliges.

Yes, the Galaxy side contained quality throughout, and they were going to press in the second half, when 3-1 down, but the goals were again too easily conceded. I’m about to repeat myself, I know, but I find it helps the healing process …

Marking has to be tighter. Make life difficult for the offensive threat.

Players need to better identify the lurking danger around them. Do not ball watch.

There needs to better communication and organization defensively, particularly at set pieces.

The midfield needs to do a better job of protecting the defense, maintaining discipline and shape.

And not everything that is worked on in training will necessarily occur in games, and so players have to draw on their experience to make better decisions.

Of course, life has not been too fair to the Rapids in recent times. Central defenders Shane O’Neill and Drew Moor are absent and, against the Galaxy, the premature loss of Jared Watts (hamstring) was also felt by the team.

But, I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again … the Rapids have been the masters of their own downfall. They were on Wednesday, and they have been in the previous four losses. Once again the phrase ‘we’re shooting ourselves in the foot’ was heard postgame on Wednesday. And it’s true. The Galaxy are a good side, but their job of getting back into the contest, and then taking control, was made all the more easier by errors on the part of the Rapids.

The Rapids now have just nine games to go, and just nine games in which to find a route to the playoffs. Five defeats in a row have sucked confidence from the team, and maybe old wounds were opened midweek as the Galaxy began their second-half charge.

There’s a little time in which to lick their wounds, before a trip to Seattle Sounders on August 30th. But there’s no point in moping, and there has to be a realization that this trend of leaking soft goal has to stop, and very soon.

The Rapids have made it far too easy for opposing teams in recent weeks. Wednesday was another disappointing example of this. Collectively, the team will take responsibility but – in all honesty – goals conceded have come about from individual errors.

Deshorn Brown and Edson Buddle played their part against the Galaxy, giving Gonzalez and Leonardo a tough time. Marlon Hairston was busy, and finished his first MLS goal with aplomb. Buddle’s 100th goal ought to have been the catalyst. We then thought the Marc Burch bomb would settle the nerves. Sadly, such has been the state of the Rapids’ confidence, that even at 3-1 you got a sense that the Galaxy would find a way back in.

Once again the Rapids left out the keys to the candy store, allowing the opposition to help themselves.

Too easy, and the Rapids need to tighten up before it’s too late …

A Burgundy Affair

Tuesday, October 17