Sunday, May 3, 2009

Rapids Professional Without Being Dominant

Real Salt Lake came to Colorado trying to solve their conundrum of blitzing everyone at home and struggling on the road. After a dramatic first half in which they went 1-0 down to an early goal, lost their goalkeeper to a hand injury and had a player sent off, it wasn't about the conundrum anymore. As Salt Lake's coach, Jason Kreis, said afterwards, it was then about the character of his players. "All evaluation went out of the window," he said. In the end, the Rapids had control of the game throughout the second half, solidifying the very large upper hand they had gained after that first half. They stroked the ball around calmly, exhausted their ten-man opponents and added a second goal from, of all people, Kosuke Kimura, who slammed a great shot home from the edge of the area after Terry Cooke laid the ball off to him. I think he was rather pleased. Gary Smith, Rapids' head coach, was pleased with the result without being excited. That is part of his make-up anyway but it is the right reaction because, while we should be pleased with the result, we are still some way off dominating a team at home. The reaction of Ugo Ihemelu maybe sums the performance up. He was delighted with the shut-out, partly because it was his self-confessed mistake last week which led to LA's equalizer. But it also shows satisfaction at a professional performance rather than delight at a dominating one.
The line-up was interesting. After a run of a few games between the posts, Preston Burpo was left out in favor of Matt Pickens, the original number one choice at the start of the season. Mehdi Ballouchy, who has been a constant in the midfield, was dropped to the bench with Nick LaBrocca, scorer of the first goal, getting the start. Both Burpo and Ballouchy had not quite lived up to their own high standards in recent games, Smith said. It was time for a change. The Rapids have a bye next week before going on the road to play New England.


Josh said...

Well written Nick - a solid win without being dominant. One has to wonder how different a match it would have been had RSL maintained full strength throughout.

Having said that, it was nice to see loads of possesion, cohesion on the back line, some dangerous runs and some creativity. This game could be a good stepping point forward for our boys.

And I love the way Smith played LaBrocca. He is not a true #10 and never will be but he is calm, relentless, a defensive stallwart and solid in his distribution and passing. This was the best midfield play I've seen all season.

Can we expect to see this lineup again after the bye?

Joe said...

I've told any one who'll listen that I believe a major difference between '08 and '09 is timely, crucial goals. Now we get one (unexpectedly) from Nick LaBrocca.

2-0-1 at home, 4 points on the road thus far. Is the tide finally starting to turn for this team?

Curt Bellew said...

Nice write-up Nick. I thought Ugo Ihemelu had a very good game too. Not sure why he stood out to me this week but he really did.
I agree, the tide seems to be turning ...

Nick Thomas said...

Thanks for all your comments guys. Sorry for lack of preview but moved house last week and had no internet set-up. I think LaBrocca could be a fixture now in midfield. He won't let that opportunity go easily. I'm still a bit hesitant to say the tide is turning but I do feel that this team under Smith is more resilient. For example, I'm not expecting them to go to New England and get easily beaten. They will go there with a solid belief they can get something out of that game, something we probably would not have said last season when they actually emerged with a 1-0 win on the road there. Keep checking back. I will be at training this week and there will be some stories later this week.

re boyle said...

Awesome blog Nick, I've had a note to check it out since you mentioned it at the Fusion games a few weeks ago. Will stay tuned in. Great stuff, much appreciated.

Also enjoying our stellar Komodo Dragons / Beckham's Dudes match ups. Denver kids to watch!

Bob Boyle