Breaking Down the Rapids

The Colorado Rapids are an unpredictable, yet extremely talented, team
by Greg Moss   |   Thursday, July 11, 2013

Mile High Club – column on Colorado Rapids & the Denver area and Colorado soccer scenes.

“You win some, you lose some,” they always say. An excuse at best if you asked me. A saying to tidy up a season that’s either on the brink of success or failure. In either case, the team is 1 of 2 things: terrible, or on the fence of being terrible with the ability to be much better than they should be.

One can never predict matches with regularity, but can revel in the idea that one can guess its outcome. You can base it on numbers and statistics, or heartfelt reasoning, or even the color of the kit. But you will eventually be wrong.

The Colorado Rapids are a team that wins matches that no one thinks they can win, and loses matches that everyone thinks they should win. Their last 2 matches against the New York Red Bulls and DC United are prime examples of such situations.

A win against the 2nd best team in the MLS’s Eastern Conference with arguably 2 of the best players in the league in Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill was followed closely by a draw to the worst team in the league that holds only 2 wins in all of the 2013 season.

The Rapids would be the last team that I would put money on if I stood in front of a bookie in Las Vegas.

The Key to Success

Colorado is a team that has the potential to be great. They tend to show up big to games that seem impossible, and lose or draw in games that should be easily won. Every match we watch, the style of play is different, as if physical and mental biorhythms truly exist. It’s as if bipolarity has got the best of them. One match, they will appear to be displaying all of their talent through strength in numbers and unity, while the next they appear to be discombobulated and playing individually.

Three factors arise when I watch a successful Rapids team.

- Chris Klute is highly involved in the game

When the leftback decides that he is going to drive the ball using his speed and size to gain ground down the field and is able to accurately cross the ball in to his opponent’s box, the Rapids seem to win. The on-loan defender can overtly make a larger impact on the match than any other player, save for Martin Rivero, for the Rapids.

If Klute can consistently realize that he has the ability to take the ball directly at an opponent and successfully surpass them to reach their 18, the Rapids have all but won, relying only on their ability to finish; they would be a far more successful team.

If we look at the matches the Rapids lost after their 2-week break, Chris Klute was not involved in the match as much as he should have been, and instead, drove the ball down the middle where the large center backs were able to converge on the Rapids.

- Shane O’Neill is on the field for the Rapids

When O’Neill started the match against the Red Bulls, he played as a rightback. This was something no one had seen him do in an active match. I myself questioned the move from manager Oscar Pareja pining for him to be in the center with Drew Moor.

It turned out that the young defender was nothing but successful against one of the greatest strikers in the world in Henry. It seemed that it didn’t matter where he played, as long as he was apart of the back four.

O’Neill’s ability to read strikers is unmatched by others stopping them in their tracks as they drive forward, regardless of how grand their resume is. He plays them the same, and reacts the same, all with effective results.

The Rapids are still undefeated when O’Neill plays. Take that for what you will, but it has to mean something.

- DeShorn Brown plays from the bench

When we look at the effectiveness of Brown, he begins the game at a pace in which the opponent’s defenders never seem to realize in the first 10 minutes of a match. But shortly after that, they settle in, marking him deep which contains the deep ball and his great ability to get behind them. He had a long drought of goals when he started matches for the Rapids.

His success seemed more evident when he came off of the bench and caught the defenders asleep after they had settled in against the stronger slower strikers in Edson Buddle and Atiba Harris. He entrance into the match around the seventieth minute catches them so off guard, they never realize what hit them. He had 3 goals in 3 matches when coming off of the bench, when he only had 2 when he started.

He was much less effective when he started against DC United because the defenders were able to catch on and adapt to his pace.

Reasons for Failure

The Colorado Rapids seem to play up to their opponent’s talent level, or down to their opponent’s lack thereof making for a very heart-wrenching season. Many of their failures come from lacking the previous 3 reasons for success. But it also comes from high expectations in matches that they should win.

DC United and San Jose twice are examples of this. There is no creativity in the middle and no involvement from Klute. The match they lost against a weak San Jose team was one that O’Neill was absent playing for the US’s U-20’s.

It seems to me that these factors are something that the Rapids need to consistently apply to their game, even as predictable as they might be. Predictability isn’t always a bad thing, when it works. Changing looks and lineups isn’t always the answer, when the talent level of these 3 factors has proven time and again that it is a successful remedy for a team on the brink of missing the playoffs.

NEXT UP: July 17 – Colorado Rapids vs. New England Revolution, Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City, Colo. 9 p.m. EST, MLS Live.

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Concordia College
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Colorado Rapids
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Producer of "From the Pitch" with Marcelo Balboa and a personal Rapids podcast. All personality with a face for radio and profile pictures. Born a midwesterner, thankfully transformed into a Rocky Mtn dweller. Covering Colorado Rapids with words and voice