Fire 3, Rapids 2
It’s not just a loss, it’s foreshadowing. Up until now, the Rapids had shown real potential. They were in a great position to finish in the top two in the West, the top four overall, and qualify for next season’s SuperLiga. I know SuperLiga ain’t the most prestigious tournament, but with the history of this club, it would’ve been a step up. And anything that brings more Rapids matches is good with me. No, this was an omen. Up 2-0 with 20 to play, just needing to kill the clock, they couldn’t hold it. They had been off for two weeks, playing against a tired Fire team, and they couldn’t hold it. Knowing that a win would put them in fifth, with matches in hand over the teams in 2-4, the couldn’t hold it. It doesn’t bode well for the rest of the season.
This was a huge chance. Two weeks ago, after a strong win over Chivas, they were sitting in fifth, with upcoming matches against two clubs ahead of them. The opportunity was there.
Given their history, it’s not really surprising, but it still hurts. Losing 5-0 hurts. Losing 3-2 by conceding three late goals hurts more.
Next up – home for the West-leading Dynamo on Sunday. Season on the line.
It’s the downside of having a good scouting system: as soon as any foreign Rapids player gets good, they get snagged by their national team. But, for having a keeper like Bouna in the nets or a forward like Omar up front, it’s the price you pay. Both Bouna Coundoul and Omar Cummings have been called to their homes overseas to help their countries get to the World Cup.
If you’re curious, Bouna’s Senegal is in a tight race with Algeria and Gambia, all of whom are a single point apart with one game each left to play. There are lot’s of ways Senegal could get through, but a Senegal win and Algerian tie or lose would clinch it. I bet the people of Senegal would appreciate a shut out.
A little closer to Colorado, Omar is heading to Kingston, where Jamaica will host 3-0 Mexico. If you have a moment on Saturday after the US beats Cuba again, flip around the Spanish channels to see if you can find Jamaica – Mexico. Omar plays for our club and he is trying to beat Mexico. That’s enough for me.
For the Rapids, this might be a problem. The first ten minutes against Houston notwithstanding, Preston has done quite well filling in for Bouna. His goals allowed average is a bit higher than Bouna’s was, but he has shown he can do okay as long as the offense keeps scoring. And that’s where this could be bad. Omar’s in Jamaica, we traded Herculez, and Conner is suspended for hitting someones elbow with his nose (still a bit mad about that one). That leaves Tom, who is still listed as doubtful with a knee injury, and Jacob Peterson, who can be very good, but can also choke, a lot. It would seem like a 4-5-1 is about our only shot at this. The good news is, that we’re up against the Gals, who love to let people score on them, so if there’s any week for offensive troubles it’s this one.
I mentioned it in the recap, but we should really flood the box for Connor Casey’s goal as Goal of the Week. It was an amazing, last-second, game-winning, hat-trick-clinching strike. So vote early and often Rapids fans. We really don’t get enough of these.
How did New York win the Super Bowl? They peaked at the end of their season, going into the playoffs. That’s a different sport, of course, but it’s a good lesson to remember: to win a title, you have to finish strong. And so far, the Rapids are doing just that.
It’s hard to say that the Rapids don’t have momentum right now. Not only are they four games unbeaten, in the three games they won, they won decisively. Saturday was no exception. In MLS, a nine-goal game is usually a sloppy game with very little defense, but that didn’t seem to be the case during Bulls – Rapids. Both sides showed genuine inventiveness and creativity in front of the goal and played one of the best offensive games I’ve ever seen in the league. The moral of the season has been when the Rapids shoot, they win. By the end of the match against the Red Bulls, they had taken 18 shots, 11 on goal.
On the other side of the field, Preston continued to perform well managing the defense, and single handedly shut down several offensive attempts by New York. The four goals conceded where pretty remarkable, and if anyone was to blame it was the defense, not Preston.
Of course, the highest accolades must be paid to Connor Casey, having scored a hat trick. And MLS has taken note as well, nominating his game-winning third goal for Goal of the Week, which he has a real shot at winning. Even more importantly, he was named Player of the Week. Let’s not forget, though, where that goal came from. Mehdi’s cross was absolutely brilliant, beating two defenders and perfectly placing the ball for Casey to finish off, so second place man of the match goes to him.
Now, the Playoff picture: the Rapids are sitting in the last West playoff spot, a much more comfortable place than it was last week with the West having reclaimed one of the wildcards. In fact, if things go right with Dallas in the final few weeks, the West could end up with the five playoff spots. That would be even more unexpected then the Crew winning the Supporters’ Shield.
What was with the end of that match? Calling the game in the middle of a breakaway? Next to just before a PK, that is the most absurd time a ref could possibly call a game in soccer. If you watched the game from your home (at least the part that made it on the air), you heard a lot of complaining about inconsistent officiating, but over all, it seemed pretty normal for MLS. But that last call was a disgrace. I’ve only seen one other team get more robbed by a call in soccer: Canada in the 2007 Gold Cup.
But, officiating aside, while I would have liked a win as well, the Rapids are on a three game unbeaten streak. A three game winning streak would have been nicer, but, hey, it’s the freakin’ Revolution. At least it was in the second half. In the first, New England were not themselves; they were sloppy with virtually no field presence, and a severe possession (or at least control) deficit. When the Revs found their form at half time, though, there was plenty for Rapids fans to be proud of. They shut down Twellman, a task that proves difficult for any team in the league. They still managed to exercise decent ball in the midfield, and were stellar on defense, particularly Preston Burpo.
Another point to be proud of: the Rapids offence continued to threaten tonight, and against most MLS clubs would have earned a win. When the Rapids shoot, they don’t lose, and they managed 13 shots tonight.
Of course, I have to mention Colin and his perfectly placed header which was the Rapids’ only goal of the match. If you haven’t figured it out by now, Colin Clark is absolutely my favorite soccer player. If this kid played for any team which was considered a contender for the Cup or the Galaxy, he would have been a Rookie of the Year contender last year. Considering how well he plays on the right wing, and the USA’s recent shallowness there, I would be willing to bet we will see Colin Clark play in the World Cup someday. He just needs one shot at an international cap, and they’ll want him back for sure.
Concerning as we head into the home-stretch of the regular season, however, is the Rapids inability to finish on great opportunities. Terry and Colin are goal-makers, but if no one actually scores them, it only does us so much good. As far as opportunities created by the midfield go, the Rapids had the Revs by a mile, particularly two headers set up by Terry which were botched on the receiving end.
So, as we start looking to the playoffs, we should recognize that our team does have the fundamentals of a contender. Having one of the best midfields in the league will do that for you. Our short home stand is over, but we do have two more home games (against Houston and Salt Lake). Our other three last matches are away, but away against beatable teams. If we can beat Chicago at home, we should be able to beat LA or Chivas on the road.
Who doesn’t love a giant-killer game? Despite being at home, the Rapids were the dogs on Sunday and they knew it. They had to shut down Blanco and McBride, and they did it. That’s going to (or at least should boost the confidence). It should also help that this was our first back-to-back win all year. Look at it this way: if the Rapids can beet Chicago at home, we should be able to get at least a point next week against New England at home (all they have to do is shut down Twellman, Ralston, Cristman, and the Gambians. How hard is that?).
First of all, who at this point can say that picking up Burpo wasn’t a great move? The guy better wear that baseball cap next week, because for most keepers, that was not a shutout. Chicago seemed very determined to stop the shutout, and Burpo’s defense wasn’t doing anything to help at that point in the game (as defenses up by two in the final 10 minutes tend to do).
As for the goals, Omar is the offensive MVP of the game. Remember when I said that we didn’t NEED Herculez Gomez? This is what I meant. Herculez is more of an attacking midfielder, and we only need one of those on our team; Herculez isn’t going in for Christian (if he gets back into the game any time soon). Our team needs quick, one-touch forwards like Omar and Tom. With the exception of Connor (usually), it doesn’t much matter who’s there to score as long as the midfield setup is good. Midfielders create shots and forwards create goals. The Rapids are fine as long as they keep shooting.
This win leaves us tied for the last playoff spot in the West with Chivas (from whom we can steal the tiebreaker if we win against them in a few weeks). It looks like (if Rapids keep this streak up), we can hope for second or third in the West this year. An interesting note there: unless they manage first place (unlikely), this would probably match us up with a certain club from Salt Lake. That’s almost to exciting to comprehend.
I should probably mention this trade: Herculez was sent to Kansas city in exchange for early draft picks. Not to say that I won’t miss the first player to score at Dick’s; he has a lot of fans, but as it stands now, this probably comes out in the “win” column. We don’t NEED him. He helps to have around, but we don’t need him. This is one of those ambiguous “it’s good if it works” moves. IF we get someone good, and IF whatever angle Gary is working pays off, this could turn out well.
On the other hand, the Rapids are obviously already starting to look towards next year, which is a bit uninspiring.
WE NEEDED THAT. Big time.
Props to Terry Cooke on his service on that corner; he did a good job spotting the coverage lapses. It was probably more of a Dallas error than a Rapids play that scored, but a big part of soccer is capitalizing on errors. And Mike did just that.
Tight road games might be the best example of why the Rapids need Pablo so badly, so I’m glad he didn’t go down to Cuba as a Rapids fan (although it’s always a bit of a let down as an American. Oh well, the US is good enough to spare him). The man is just a monster in the midfield. He has the presence of two midfielders.
Also, I know the Rapids don’t have the best record at Pizza Hut park, but where is all of this “never win” there business come from. Do the ESPN announcers watch the playoffs? In the only games that matter, the Rapids have a perfect record in Dallas.
This was a big win for the Rapids. If it had gone the other way, the Rapids would now be six points back from the last playoff spot, virtually out of contention. Now they are just three back, with two home games ahead. Sounds doable, until you notice that those games are against Chicago and New England. We’ll have to take what we can get but the Rapids all but have to win at least one of those.
In summary, perk up, Rapids fans. We have our win. Our country beat Cuba in Havana (take that commies), we have two home games to get back into the thick of the West, and it’s that golden window of the sports-fan calendar: Soccer on Saturday, football on Sunday. So enjoy, Rapids fans, we’re finally back at Dick’s next week.
When you talk about the Rapids’ defense, you don’t always call them great, but you usually don’t call them sloppy. The goals themselves, particularly the first two, were pretty incredible, and it’s hard to fault them for not stopping those, but they just allowed way too many chances for DC. DC had 15 shots. There’s no way that will turn out well. Your opponent is probably going to make one in five of their shots. In fact, Preston was really the only reason the score wasn’t higher against Colorado, making four pretty remarkable saves.
The fact that this slump (I guess it’s a slump, although we are 2-3 in our last five games) isn’t killing our playoff chances is really just a testament to Western inadequacy this year, but we’ll take what we can get. It’s almost certain, though, that the west will only send three teams to the playoffs this year, so we really need to break into the top three, for which we would only need to gain two points. This brings us to this Friday’s match.
Next Friday, the Rapids play Salt Lake at Rice-Eccles. In my experience there’s nothing better for Rapids frustration than beating Salt Lake on the road. A win would accomplish three things.
1) It would almost certainly put the Rapids back in a playoff spot.
2) The Rapids would take back the Rocky Mountain Cup and we can pretend last year never happened.
3) Since Salt Lake is on its way out of Rice Eccles pretty soon there, a win would be a large contributor to Rice Eccles stadium’s status as a monument to Real Salt Lake failure. It would not affect Rice Eccles’s status as a monument to Mountain West Football failure, but that’s pretty much shored up anyway (as we reach the fall, you can start to expect several football jokes here and there. Sorry to any non-Americans).
It’s finally happened. The Rapids have let go of their coach, Fernando Clavijo. Surprisingly, Gary Smith is going to take over for him on an interim basis, whatever that means. I say surprisingly, because it seemed like the Rapids have been preening assistant coach John Murphy for the job. He’s been the face of the coaching staff for years, and the Rapids even sent him over to Europe to become the first American to be a UEFA certified manager.
I’m sure some will make a big stink about the Rapids saying that he left of his on volition, but I believe it. If they were going to fire him, they could have picked a million better times over the past few years to do so.
And I’m sure the supporters groups will go nuts and believe that somehow all of the Rapids’ problems have been forevermore solved (for those who don’t know, they hated the guy on an extremely obnoxious level). I actually have always kind of felt sorry for the guy for the bad rep he’s gotten. It is certainly a possibility that this could end up being good for the Rapids, and after all, his win percentage as Rapids coach wasn’t good, but he really wasn’t all bad. He did get our club to the Western Conference Final twice and he came up with a few interesting ideas for the club this year.
Right now, this is really still up in the air. If this had to happen now was a good time, as there is just enough time for the Rapids to adjust and stay in the playoff race. So, like the rest of this season, it could turn out really well. We’ll just have to wait and see.