Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Confidence is Key as Rapids Trump LA Again
Gary Smith said on Fox Television's Football Fone-In program Monday night that the key to the Colorado Rapids doing well this season was true self-belief. Something obvious, you might say, but Smith's style and own self-belief seem to be working well on the players as witness an incredibly hard-fought victory over the LA Galaxy last night in the US Open Cup. Consider this. The team played practically a whole normal length game with ten players after Greg Dalby was dismissed for an apparently questionable offense in the 36th minute. There was no corner kick won until late in the second period of overtime. The Rapids also sustained increasing pressure from the closing minutes of normal time right through the first period of overtime. I was following the game on a match tracker supplied through the Rapids' blog via LA and it seemed that Chris Klein or Alan Gordon had the ball in the Rapids' penalty area for a consecutive 30 minutes or so. Then, with the LA players tiring and frustrated, momentum began to change and the Rapids gained, if not dominance, then at least the upper hand. They took that into the penalty kick stage and the belief came shining through. Not only a heroic peformance from Preston Burpo in goal, who apparently guessed right on all four LA spot kicks, saving two of them, but also the penalty takers. Colin Clark, Mehdi Ballouchy, Ugo Ihemelu and Omar Cummings all notched their kicks and the game was over. Now, you would expect a Rapids' press release to say they all calmly and confidently scored those kicks. But I had an LA-based friend at the game (the same friend who called into the Fox show and asked Smith what the key for the Rapids was) and he said there was something about the self-belief with which the players accepted their task. Ihemelu took just two steps to bury his chance for example. By contrast, Chris Klein looked like a deer in the headlights and his body language just shouted out that the LA Galaxy would be letting their fans down. He duly missed as Burpo saved. Real self-belief, so lacking in the Rapids of recent years, may be the key to success going forward. It can't replace talent and organization but it can carry you through difficult times and this is what the Rapids will have to face in a gruelling season.