(Editorial) – Going into their weekend match against the Philadelphia Union, the Colorado Rapids are in first place in the Supporter’s Shield standings. The have won five of their last six games and have only lost two games all season, both 1-0 on the road. Lately however, they haven’t been world beaters. The Colorado Rapids are bending, but they haven’t broken. This should galvanize them, not worry them.
Colorado Rapids Are Bending But Not Breaking Going Into Philly Match
The Rapids have not been at their best the last few games. But they have still been able to grind out results and rise up in the key moments of each match. Great teams find ways to win when they are not at their best. This has epitomized Colorado in the month of May.
Jermaine Jones made his debut last month and led the team to two emphatic victories. The club then struggled on the road against the Montreal Impact. Didier Drogba scored on a free kick and the Rapids had to absorb waves of attack from the home side. The club got two good chances and scored on both of them to survive with a 2-2 draw.
In a midweek match earlier this month, the Rapids needed second half heroics from substitute Dillon Serna to beat a struggling Sporting KC side. Kansas City were desperate to get a win on the road but the Rapids were able to styme their attacks with Peter Vermes‘s side playing a make-shift lineup. Colorado did get lucky with a late game red card, but they got the result, a 1-0 win. That’s all that mattered.
The Rapids then traveled to face the Columbus Crew, who just had a serious locker room shake up in Kei Kamara getting traded midweek. The Crew came out reinvigorated and put the weary Rapids on their heals in the first half. Colorado was able to settle down at half time. Shkelzen Gashi found Dillon Powers on a set piece early in the half to tie the match 1-1. The Rapids were able to manage the game from then on out despite many of their key players tired from the midweek game against Sporting.
Last weekend’s game was by far the most impressive performance under this recent modus operandi. The Rapids went on the road to Seattle Sounders and got a 1-0 victory with only one shot on target and 34% possession. Jones had possibly his worst game as a Rapid (the match was played on turf though). The attack was a bit discontinuous with Gashi unavailable and Marco Pappa still injured.
That said, the defensive effort was tremendous. Zach MacMath had his best game of the season with several spectacular saves. Marc Burch cleared a ball off the line on a corner. Sam Cronin and Michael Azira put in gutsy performances in the midfield. Every time the Sounders had a dangerous attack, a Rapid came up huge. It wasn’t pretty, but it was effective.
All of these results have been the product of the philosophy head coach Pablo Mastroeni has preached: keep fighting cause we’re always the underdogs, work hard and find a way, be comfortable being uncomfortable, and don’t make excuses.
Mastoeni’s press conferences have turned into motivational speeches that Rocky Balboa would be impressed by. His entire team have bought into the message and they have embodied it in everything they’ve done this past month.
One could argue that this method is not sustainable: you can’t keep winning by the skin of your teeth. This is true, but this team has been missing some pieces. Gashi missed two games this month (one to illness, the other to reporting for national team duty). As great as Jones has been, he arrived just as Pappa got hurt. The two have played only one game together so far.
These performances might not be sustainable, but they don’t need to be because of the boost the team will get with Pappa’s return. After this weekend’s match against the Union, the Rapids will play only two games in the month of June: June 18th against Chicago and the 22nd at Los Angeles.
Albania and Ireland will likely have trouble getting out of their groups in Euro 2016. Unless they make it to the quarter finals (very unlikely for both), Gashi and Kevin Doyle will be back for the July 4th game. Even if the USMNT plays in the Copa America Centenario final (June 26), Jones and Tim Howard will be available for that game as well. Pappa should be returning from injury around that time as well.
Even with four key players missing time with their national teams, the Rapids won’t be without them for more than two games in all likelihood. In the meantime, Luis Solignac isn’t a bad option at center forward. Powers can step in for Jones as the No. 10.
This style of play really only needs to sustain results for a few more games. After that, the attacking reinforcements will arrive and we’ll finally be able to see what that front four of Doyle-Gashi-Pappa-Jones looks like. With that quality up front, the Rapids will be able to possess the ball more instead of absorbing pressure. They’ll be able to dominate games at time. They’ll be at their best more often and won’t have to rely on getting results on off days. Mastroeni’s mantras will still be uplifting even with this change.
The Colorado Rapids are bending, but not breaking. It appears to be working. Even if it isn’t sustainable, it doesn’t have to be.