Sunday, May 24, 2009

Rapids Scratch Heads as Victory Eludes Them

That was some game. The overriding feeling from the Colorado Rapids players and coaches was higher than average disappointment but, as a spectacle, it was the best game I have seen this season in terms of good football and entertainment. Not great football for the Rapids in terms of letting slip the lead but there were times yesterday when it was a real pleasure to watch two teams playing attacking and attractive soccer. Let's discuss the disappointment first. Gary Smith, head coach, took a long time in the dressing room last night before emerging downcast for the press conference. Having talked to both players and staff afterwards, it is clear that there was some lack of communication about the gameplan in the final part of the game. Does the team press forward and secure the win at 2-1 up or does it hang back and ensure the victory? "We spoke about it in the changing room," Smith said. "There is a fine line between going for the third goal and leaving yourself vulnerable and we got it slightly wrong." Smith was clearly of the mindset that the Rapids needed to ensure victory at 2-1 rather than continue their attacking play but some of the players instinctively pressed forward. It allowed for continued attractive soccer but it proved the undoing in the end as a series of mistakes and ill fortune saw Nate Jaqua score the equalizer in the 76th minute. "Everything got shot down," said defender Cory Gibbs afterwards. From Colin Clark failing to appeal successfully for a handball to Scott Palguta getting cramp to Kosuke Kimura having to make a decision which of two men to go for, everything did indeed shut down and it was 2-2. But for a tremendous save from Matt Pickens in the last five minutes, it could have been even worse.
Clearly, there was some frustration all around, among both the players and the coaches, but hopefully the team can learn from it. In every relationship, there is a lack of communication at times and it would be surprising in any team not to have this crop up from time to time. You have to make the mistake to learn from it. What is most important overall is to recognize that this is a very good Seattle team, that the Rapids are extremely disappointed not to have taken all three points and that the team has the confidence to truly believe that they can beat any MLS team. That is a big step compared to recent times.
I could write so much more about this game as there are so many dicussion points but, in the interests of brevity, I'll mention just a few points quickly. Omar Cummings may be frustrated he is not scoring but he was putting in some beautiful passes yesterday and played extremely well. Mehdi Ballouchy has responded magnificently to being dropped the other week and worked incredibly hard yesterday, putting in a beautiful pass for Cummings which led to the first Colorado goal. Pickens is proving to be a goalkeeper of national team caliber (don't be surpised if he is called into either the Confederations Cup or Gold Cup squads). Ugo Ihemelu was out of puff last night, perhaps finding the right back position demanding a different level of fitness to center back, and asked to come off in the second half. Up to then, he had done a great job neutralizing Steve Zakuani so much so that the young Seattle flyer had been moved to the right side to focus on Jordan Harvey instead, a point noted by a relieved Seattle head coach, Sigi Schmid, afterwards. That explains why the substitution occurred because it seemed strange at the time to bring on an attacking right back in Kimura when the team was 2-1 up and comfortable. Pablo Mastroeni did what Pablo Mastroeni always does, working incredibly hard and getting into the heads of the opponents. The veteran capitain has been called into the US team for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Honduras and Costa Rica but will be available for next week's Rapids game against New York. That's it. It's getting too long but at least there is a lot to talk about. Send me all your thoughts.

5 comments:

Josh said...

Nick:

I agree that there was some truly beautiful soccer last night which was very nice to see. If Seattle has a keeper just a notch below the quality of Keller we win 4-2.

I haven't confirmed this in the least but I distinctly recall watching the set up for Seattle's second goal from 108 - what I saw was Palguta (who I think had been struggling for a while with some sort of calf or hamstring issue) go down on a weak foul. He seemed to sit on the ground (upset the foul wasn't called?) and watch while Seattle took control of the ball on the right flank and countered forward. He didn't even try to get up until the ball was heading into the back of the net. Now, if I recall correctly, when Seattle scored he got right up, jawed with the ref and sat back down. He was then subbed.

If he was able to get up and yell at the ref he was able to get up and help defend. Who knows if Seattle would have scored or not but sitting on the ground and watching your right back try and cover two players for you is inexcusible sans serious injury.

Did you see any of this?

johncos said...

As a fan, there isn't much more frustrating than watching a player sitting on the pitch or a guy stop playing as he waves his hand at the linesman. We saw some of both of that last night.
On the other hand, there isn't much more inspiring than seeing quick creative passes and watching world class saves! We saw some of that last night too!

Nick Thomas said...

Not sure about Palguta. I think he was genuinely struggling, he's an honest player. I think more of an issue may have been the fact that Clark stopped playing on the left hand side to protest a handball and this allowed the Seattle player to make the initial break. It all went to hell after that. Everyone was understandably down after giving up the lead and having to settle for a draw but we should remember that we gave up the first goal and how often have the Rapids fought back from that in recent years? I think this performance should give them a lot of confidence and I think we will give the struggling Red Bulls a lot of questions on Saturday.

hggns said...

You're right about the quality of play- either team might have gotten all 3 points, or none, without fine play between the posts on both ends. Seattle gets the moral victory, however. As the second half wore on, they took the initiative from the Rapids, and with Cooke apparently unavailable, there was no one on the bench with the experience and skills to turn the tide.

I'm sure the young Rapids will learn, but for now, an opportunity to go into the upper tier is lost, and their lack of depth exposed.

-Joe

Nick Thomas said...

Joe, thanks for the comment. Cooke was available and on the bench. Smith chose not to use him. I am sure that is because Smith felt the Rapids should have been protecting the lead rather than pushing for that third goal and he felt Peterson was a better bet for that. Cooke had also just returned to training after his family crisis in England and was not at his fittest. Your point about the lack of depth in midfield and upfront is well taken.