Colorado Rapids Poor Starts: How midfield issues and mistakes are costing them

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. (July 6, 2018) – The Colorado Rapids are still trying to figure it out this season. Poor starts to games and second halves have burned them throughout this season. Their loss on Wednesday against Seattle Sounders FC was emblematic of their season so far. Let’s take a look a the Colorado Rapids poor starts. Manager Anthony Hudson’s comments summed the match against Seattle up:

“It wasn’t a good night. We started poorly. Gave ourselves too much to do. Giveaways, soft goals,” said Hudson postgame. “We got overrun in midfield really. It was a poor start. Too many of us were not at the level that they needed to be.”

Colorado Rapids Poor Starts: How midfield issues and mistakes are costing them

One of my pet peeves this season has been the Rapids midfield. In Hudson’s preferred 3-5-2, the central midfield three haven’t brought consistency or quality. Jack Price and Michael Azira are reliable No. 6’s.

Everything else has been a wash. Are the other two players supposed to be No. 8’s? Is there supposed to be a No. 10? This lack of definition has extended to the past two games when the Rapids have been in a 3-4-2-1, that will occasionally shift to a 5-4-1.

Game plan and execution just not good enough:

Again, the midfield effort and energy has been lacking. Hudson’s experimented the last few months with getting central players to run out wide and combine with the wingbacks. That’s helped maintain possession and get the ball forward, but it’s left no one in the middle of the pitch to receive the service once they get in the final third. Forwards Yannick Boli and Dominique Badji have been left outnumbered in the box.

“For all the attacking players, we all have a role to play and we’re not executing right now,” Badji told Last Word on Soccer last month after a home loss. “As 9s, we need to get to the end of crosses and be more of a threat in the box. Our wingbacks need to be crossing the ball more, put them in better areas. The 8s need to be in a position to be threatening. It’s not one, it’s all the attacking positions.”

Much of this stems from poor starts by the Rapids, especially and ironically at home. Despite desperately needing a win, the Rapids take 30 minutes to get their footing and often they’re down a goal by then. And by the time they’re able to flip the switch in the final 20 minutes of a half, how much of that is the opponent getting winded or defending a lead?

Where does the blame fall?

Some of that comes down to coaching. As midfielder Sam Nicholson told Last Word on Soccer, some of it comes down to the players figuring it out as the game goes along.

“The first half, we just didn’t do enough. Second half, we had a lot of possession, gotten balls in the box, and just haven’t gotten anything from it. There were times where they had a lot of the ball. Sometimes we pressed them well, sometimes we came off.”

As a team, when we’re on the pitch, we need to sort things out. That’s killed us for some of these games,” adding “we did enough video on them to know what they were doing, but they came out with a different game plan. The second half showed we adapted, but it just wasn’t good enough.”

The Rapids have been very predictable this season and opponents have changed things up to keep them guessing and get results. The preparation from the coaches and players needs to be better. There needs to be a Plan B ready for the start of a match if the opponent catches them by surprise. And they need to make adjustments and improvements throughout the game, not just at halftime or with substitutions.

Midfield ‘Butterfly Effect’ troubles:

The lack of consistency in midfield on both sides of the ball has led to problems at both ends. As described above, the lack of role assignments (or the execution of those roles) has hurt central chance creation. That’s hurt this team’s ability to score goals.

Other than Nicholson, no central midfielder has done well enough getting forward to facilitate the attack and support the forwards.

The poor performances and system implementation have also hurt on the defensive side of the ball. With so much instability in the last line of defense before the center backs, the back three of usually Deklan Wynne, Danny Wilson, and Tommy Smith have been hung out to dry.

None of them are particularly fast. All three have trouble defending 1-v-1 and are error-prone. The issues in the midfield lead to the opponent having more of the ball, creating turnovers, and getting the ball in advantageous situations with numbers.

This all leads to the opponent having more of the ball and getting more chances on an at best leaky defense.

The Rapids need to improve their preparation for games and early in-game adjustments. The midfield needs to improve on both sides of the ball, which will probably require personnel changes in the upcoming transfer window. If they don’t, this team probably isn’t going to even smell the playoffs.