Monday, August 11, 2008

Bell Finally Tolls For Rapids

The Colorado Rapids' press office must be working off a template for their post-match releases. My worst fears were realized when I again read that the Rapids had outshot their opponents for the tenth week in a row but had still lost. Just like the Rockies baseball team, a loss over the weekend finally nails it home what most have been thinking for a while. The Rapids will not make the playoffs. To lose successive league games at home, one to a very weakened team, and not score a goal in the process means we have failed when it was crucial to succeed. Yes, the West will always be tight because no one team can dominate and all the teams are similar in standard but we are slipping further and further down and there seems to be little chance of redemption. I hate to be negative but that seems the reality at this stage. May the team prove us all wrong, win all their remaining games at home and pick up wins in unlikely places but that scenario is, indeed, unlikely.
In this blog, I like to report and not apportion blame or give my opinion overly. I am a fan first and foremost and I want this team and organization to succeed. The players, coaching and front office staff have always been very pleasant and helpful to me. I found myself, however, watching the game on Saturday against Toronto unfold with an almost inevitable bad feeling. It's as if we had to score early otherwise we would concede and then be chasing the game. Conor Casey had a wonderful opportunity to score from a perfect cross from Terry Cooke in the second minute but his header went wide. That was the closest we came all game to scoring. We played hard, we passed well when building our attacks and we defended well enough, much better than against Columbus. But, unless it is a cross from mainly Cooke or sometimes Colin Clark, to Casey, we cannot score. We cannot seem to penetrate through the middle at all and are often reduced to long-range shots that aren't really going to go in.
A couple of other details on the game. Toronto's goal was an outstanding free-kick from new signing Chad Barrett. I doubt many goalies would have saved that. I don't remember Bouna having much else to do all game.
One other thing I dislike to do is overly criticize the officials. They are so often an easy target when your team is not playing well. However, this referee was one of the worst I have ever seen on a professional field. The sending off of Clark in the 70th minute perhaps typified the referee's inability to distinguish between a legitimate challenge and a bookable offense. Many referees seem less than stellar in distinguishing between an honest foul and a malicious one (the only type that deserve a booking). This official was incapable of distinguishing between a well-timed tackle and any kind of foul. Clark, who had already been booked for a somewhat obscure offense at the end of the first half, was chasing the ball to the corner flag with a Toronto player hot on his heels. They clashed in pursuit of the ball, the Toronto player fell spectacularly to the ground and clattered into the advertizing boards. Clark didn't even lay any part of his body on him apart from clashing in honest pursuit of the ball. It was a truly terrible decision and added to the somewhat self-induced pressure on the Rapids to chase the game in the final 20 minutes. There were other incidences including two to three tackles Ugo Ihemelu timed perfectly and was then penalized for. This referee needs to take a long, hard look at his performance on video.
However, we cannot blame the referee for our loss. We will need some changes in line-up for this weekend's home agame against Kansas City. Sometimes, things just don't gel and change is needed to inject new enthusiasm into the game.


Joey said...

Nick, one cannot blame you for feeling a bit pessimistic after the outcome of the TFC match. What I cannot understand is how a team with Christian Gomez presumably directing the center of the attack can be so woeful at scoring goals in the run of play. What happened to the kind of midfield creativity and possession we saw earlier in the year against LA and KC? When the Rapids score early they seem to be able to pour it on (as against LA or NY), but lately the team doesn't seem to be confident in its ability to finish a game. I don't see how the Rapids can make the playoffs this year, not sure that Clavijo will manage to keep his job given the team's squandering of its chances and the misuse of Christian Gomez.

Jason Maxwell said...

I disagree on the second yellof for Clark. He gave the TFC defender an added nudge when going out of bounds. Remember that Clark got sent into the boards by Wynne when the Rapids were in Toronto and not only was their no call, the ref wouldn't evens top play for Clark to get treatment. US Soccer said int her ref review sheet that week that Wynne should have been yellow carded for dangerous play. I'm sure that the ref had that exact statement in mind when he saw Clark give the nudge.

Scott said...

With big changes happening this week in Los Angeles, I would not be surprised to see something happen in Colorado. At the same time I think Clavijo has done a great job building the team, it is just a matter of getting the performances that he needs. It seems like this team cannot put it all together for one game.

Joey said...

Scott, I thought it was the job of the front office to "build" the team, and the job of the coach to extract performance from it. If you want to give credit to FC for building the team, should we then blame the front office for its recent detestable performance?

Scott said...

Hey Joey,

You don't believe that FC doesn't have any say in the players that he gets to use? FC is also largely responsible for his staff that goes out and looks at the younger players that they have been drafting throughout the years that have been having a significant impact over the past couple of seasons. I hate to get rid of a coach that has been so good ad finding and developing these young players. Perhaps the reality then is that FC belongs in the front office rather than in his coaching role.

On another note, glad to see that we got Corey Gibbs. I am wondering what sort of an impact he will make on the team and wether it will actually be enough. It seems that we have had holes in the defense exploited in the past couple of games but how many more defenders can we bring in that will not work out for one reason or another?

Nick Thomas said...

Guys, glad to see some spirited debate. That is what it is all about. I just posted something on Gibbs and other issues. I think he may solve some short-term defensive issues but who knows how injured he is? It clearly does not solve the offensive problems.