Saturday, July 5, 2008

Do You Know The Way to San Jose?

Well, the logistics department of the Colorado Rapids probably knows how to get the team there but do the team know how to win aginst the struggling Earthquakes? Thoughts must now turn to a vital game next weekend in California after yesterday's dismantling of a poor New York Red Bulls side. We have been here before. On opening day, most people got a little too excited about the 4-0 drubbing of Beckham's Galaxy. Suddenly, the Rapids were going to win everything. Now, we win 4-0 again at home and we have to carry it through at this halfway stage of the season. The key at San Jose must be to score first. When we have scored first on the road this season, we have won. When we score second, we have lost. It is that simple.
The game started very slowly yesterday. Apart from a Christian Gomez header over the bar, there was little to show in the opening quarter until Tom McManus finished a very nice build-up out of defense. Did the Rapids players agree on some special celebrations for July 4? The Scotsman proceeded to take the corner flag out of the ground and pretend he was walking a tightrope. Mehdi Ballouchy, starting for the first time this season in a league game, put the game further under control with a simple finish following a hard, low cross from Terry Cooke. Not sure what his celebration was but he lay on the ground for a while with his hands behind his back.
It was vital that the Rapids didn't let New York back into the game from this position. Bouna Coundoul certainly did his bit with a fine save from a great goalscoring opportunity at the end of the first half and, within minutes of the restart, Colin Clark put the game beyond reach with a rifle shot after some strong dribbling and persistence. In truth, it could have been a far higher score because other chances were missed but Omar Cummings wrapped it up from good work with McManus in the 68th minute.
Why do the Rapids sometimes look so convincing and then take a few games off? I can't answer that. What I did notice yesterday was that there was some great counterattacking play. The passing was slick out of defense, through the midfield and up to the front boys. If I could watch video replays of the whole game, I would probably say also that our midfield generally stifled any New York creativity. Credit for this, among others, must go to Nick LaBrocca who is turning into a very sound player indeed. He works tirelessly and appears to be everywhere on the field. He is not afraid to get upfield either and almost added to his goal last week with a shot over the bar in the second half. I think he is the only player to have started all regular season games this year and he fully deserves that. He was my personal Man of the Match.
I very much like the way the substitutions were handled. It made perfect sense for a still not fully fit Christian Gomez to come off after the game was safe at 3-0 and let John DiRaimondo play almost a half. DiRaimondo was unlucky to have lost his starting place after a good game last week against Columbus. On the other hand, it was good to see Ballouchy play a full 90 and play well. You have to be happy for Herculez Gomez that he finally got decent playing time after he came on for McManus with 20 minutes to go. Gomez has been frustrated by a lack of first team action but he is an important player for this club. Injuries and lack of form can turn things around in no time and that is why it is important he gets some good gametime under his belt.

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