Tale of Two Halves: Breaking Down the Colorado Rapids Draw Against SKC

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Editorial (March 25, 2018) – Tommy Smith said it best: “We’re angry at ourselves. We’re extremely disappointed to not get [the fans] three points tonight.” After a 2-0 lead in under 10 minutes, a Diego Rubio stoppage time goal led to a Colorado Rapids draw, 2-2 in their league home opener against Sporting KC.

Tale of Two Halves: Analyzing the Colorado Rapids Draw Against Sporting

It truly was a tale of two halves. The Rapids pressed well and dominated the gaps on both sides of the ball in the first half. Peter Vermes made some adjustments and the tide turned as Sporting got two second half goals. The match rightfully ended in a draw. Now, let’s break down what happened and why.

Switching Off After First Two Goals:

The Rapids had a dream start, with goals in the 5th and 8th minute from Dominique Badji and Joe Mason, respectively. They were the better team in the first half, but Sporting gradually took control of the match and were clearly the better side in the second half. By overall performance, the match should have been a draw.

“We stuck to the game plan for about 30 minutes and then threw it out the window. We got complacent and that will get you,” Badji said post game. “The great start was almost our problem. As soon as we went 2-0 up, we invited pressure. It changed the approach and mentality,” Head Coach Anthony Hudson added.

The Rapids were so happy with their start that they played the score rather than keeping their foot on the gas. As Sporting adjusted and found their game (especially in the second half), it became harder and harder for Colorado to reestablish their game plan.

“To be honest, going up 2-0 we relaxed. That affected us because we gave them the ball and defended all game,” Edgar Castillo said through a translator.

Sporting ended up dominating possession, chance creation, and shots on goal. Some of that was due to them being down 2-0 and taking low quality chances when they came up.

Tim Howard ended up keeping the Rapids in the game through 90 minutes. “[Howard] took away 5-6 goals. But that can’t happen. We dropped back and that cost us the match,” Castillo said. He denied Felipe Gutierrez on two point blank chances in the second half to keep the match 2-1.

The Rapids invited pressure after scoring twice. Sporting got loads of opportunites and eventually made them count. Some of that was due to the Rapids inviting pressure because they switched off. It wasn’t good enough in the final 30 minutes.

Gap Control on Both Sides of the Ball:

Much like the overall performance, gap control on both side of the ball were critical and varied from the first half to the second. Sporting got one quality chance in the box in the first half as Yohan Croizet got in behind and was stopped by Howard.

Other than that, the first half gap control was excellent by the Rapids. The center backs and wing backs were on the same page and managed that space well (unlike against Toronto FC last month). They were well prepared and anticipated runs from a wide position.

On the offensive side, they did well what Sporting couldn’t. Check out Badji’s goal:

Castillo drifts out wide, where he’s got no one within 20 yards of him. He runs forward and Badji splits the center backs to get open and score. The Rapids pressed the back line all first half and the results showed.

“We knew that they were going to play a high line. You could see it on Joe [Mason]’s goal. Get behind them and make them run. They’re very aggressive, they play a high line, so they’re vulnerable at the back,” Badji said.

Then the second half started and it all fell apart.

Check out the Felipe Gutierrez goal:

A cross goes into the box and Johnny Russell beats both Marlon Hairston and Deklan Wynne to the ball. Howard stays at the near post to make the save. The header goes off the post and back out. Wilson marks Khiry Shelton, who shields him from the ball. No one tracks back to cut down the angle on Gutierrez and he buries it in the corner.

Like both goals against Toronto and the first goal at New England Revolution, this goal was a collective defensive breakdown by several players. Hairston and Wynne did a poor job marking. Smith was late tracking back and the midfielders were nowhere to be found.

The same can be said for the second goal:

Start by watching Diego Rubio (#11) on the entire sequence. He’s open or one step ahead of Jack Price from start of his run to the finish. Wynne is a bit late to mark Gerso Fernandez, allowing him pass inside. Smith marks Shelton but can’t intercept the back heel (he’s the least at fault on of the players mentioned in my eyes).

Enzo Martinez is unable to steal the ball from Shelton and does not follow Rubio. Having gotten out in front of Price, Rubio runs onto the back heel pass and beats Howard.

Monday’s training session will have slices of blame pie getting passed around to lots of players.

Fan Support:

Saturday night’s crowd of 17,424 was electric. Sporting KC had a good traveling group of supporters, making for an engaged and lively environment.

“Before the game, during the game, the atmosphere was incredible. If we get that kind of support, it will be massive for us,” Hudson said.

One could feel the energy as the players came onto the pitch. It carried through to kick off and helped the Rapids score first. In three seasons as a credentialed press, I have not heard Dick’s Sporting Goods Park as loud in a regular season game as I did after that second goal.

“It was awesome. You felt it on the field. It was great energy. Hopefully we can get that for a lot of games going forward,” Badji said when asked about the crowd.

Hopefully the team and the fans can do well for 90 minutes next game and beyond.

Last Word: Joe Mason’s Debut

Joe Mason scored in his debut with the club, less than two weeks after arriving in Colorado. The striker played 64 minutes and was a thorn in the side of Matt Besler every second. This game saw Colorado’s offense wake up.

Hudson said “it’s almost like we have this cloud around us about scoring goals. It’s positive that we scored a couple of goals. It was a fantastic start. Two very good goals and we’ve created 6-7 other chances.”

Mason and Badji were a big part of that, not just in their goal scoring. Based on his time at Wolves, Mason’s goal was very typical for him. This is a good omen for his future in Commerce City.