COMMERCE CITY, CO (June 18, 2016) – They were shorthanded. They weren’t at their best. But once again, the Colorado Rapids found a way to win. The Rapids defeated the Chicago Fire 2-1 at home on Saturday night at home off an 89th minute Jonathan Campbell own goal off a Marco Pappa shot.
2-1 Rapids: Colorado Keeps Finding Ways To Win
For the third straight game, the Rapids were without attacking stars Jermaine Jones and Shkelzen Gashi due to national team duty. Pappa was available on the bench, but is still recovering from an injury he got back in April.
Much like Tuesday’s Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup match, the Rapids came out controlling the ball and pace, but weren’t sharp. Other than Marlon Hairston, who had an excellent game at right midfield, the attack was a bit to slow. They had difficulty breaking the Fire down, who kept ten men behind the ball.
The Rapids continued to press and create chances, but were unable to find the net. “In the second half we came out with right mentality. We knew they were going to get tired at some point,” said Rapids head coach Pablo Mastroeni after the match.
Second Half Opening
In the 57th minute, a poor pass from goalkeeper Sean Johnson led to Dillon Powers stripping Joao Meira. Kevin Doyle ran onto the ball and was able to slip it past Johnson.
Chicago was able to claw one past on a Joey Calistri goal from just outside the six yard box in the 81st minute. Colorado immediately turned up the pressure, making several substitutions and throwing numbers forward. Finally, in the 89th minute, Pappa got the ball with a bit of space at the top of the box. He fired a curler towards the far post. It took a deflection of Campbell’s leg and got past Johnson. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.
The match ended 2-1. Mastroeni spoke about the result: “I’m pleased with the performance. I’m pleased with the result. Most of all I’m really pleased with the mentality,” adding “game after game, the guys that come in contribute in such a way that allows us to keep this run of form. That’s what I’m excited about.”
Rapids Keep Rolling
The Rapids are now 7-0-1 at home in league play this season. Their only draw came against the Philadelphia Union, in which the Union scored in stoppage time. The haven’t lost a game since April 9th at Salt Lake. They are 6-0-3 since. Their only two loses were on the road by 1-0 scorelines.
This defense has given up just 11 goals 15 games, the best in MLS. They’ve only conceded more than one goal in a game once, and it took a Dideir Drogba free kick to make that happen.
Regardless of the opponent or who the Rapids are missing, Mastroeni’s side continues to find ways to win. They set the tone at home. They grind out results on the road. They make the right adjustments at half time. This team eats, sleeps, and breathes Mastroeni’s philosophical doctrines of #KeepFighting and #NextManUp.
Continuing to Defy Expectations
On paper, this team looked like a bunch of minnows back in February. In the table, they look like giants. When hearing Mastroeni or any player speak, they seem like a family of cockroaches that have banded together to survive and thrive amidst a Zombie Apocalypse. They don’t go away. They refuse to die. They find a slightly different way to win each game, but it all goes back to the creed that has been instilled in them this year.
In reflecting on how this team has learned lessons and applied them to later games, Mastroeni said “the way that I’ve evolved as a coach is understanding that I can’t go out and affect the game from that perspective. [I have to] allow the players and the leadership group of the team to really take a hold of it. It’s great to see guys taking ownership of this team. It’s a player led, player owned culture. Credit to the guys that put the team on the back and lead by example.”
In short, Mastroeni has done a good job of setting the foundation, giving detailed but not restrictive instructions, and getting out of the way. He’s letting the players do their jobs. He’s letting his leaders lead.
Michael Azira confirmed that in the post game: “We give a lot of credit to Pablo [Mastroeni] for putting this group together, but it’s just belief. Belief in each other.”
Next Man Up
One game, it’s Pappa. The next it’s Dillon Serna. Some games, it’s all about the team defending as a unit to hold onto a lead. Whether it’s a role player, a veteran, or a complete team effort, they find a way to get the result. They’ve done it when they’re healthy and in the zone. They’ve done it without their best players when they are having a bad game.
They’ve all bought into the culture and the system the club has established. It all goes back to a belief they have in themselves and in each other. Once instilled with conviction, it’s nearly impossible to break. Just ask Leicester City.
Last year’s Supporter’s Shield was won with 60 points. At their current pace, the Colorado Rapids will hit 70 points. Oh, and Tim Howard hasn’t even shown up yet. Let that sink in.