EDITORIAL – After a month out of action, the Colorado Rapids returned on Saturday and sought to get back into their winning groove. Instead, the Rapids found themselves in an all-too-familiar rut in their first game back after a long hiatus, falling 4-0 to Sporting Kansas City. Will it be possible for the Rapids to return to winning form in time to make the playoffs?
In Short Time Before Playoffs, Can Rapids Return To Winning Form?
The Rapids failed to continue the beginnings of a win streak that they started back in September with a 2-0 win at Galaxy followed up with a 5-0 thrashing of San Jose Earthquakes. Unfortunately for Colorado, they haven’t been able to have a competitive game since then and have had even their training sessions disrupted by positive COVID-19 tests, and failed to turn those two wins into a full on win streak.
— Keegan Rosenberry (@K_J_Rose) October 23, 2020
Colorado Continues To Struggle After Long Breaks Due To COVID-19
Saturday saw history repeating itself, as the last time the Rapids had two wins in a row before going on a lengthy break was right before the MLS is Back tournament. The Rapids were quickly eliminated from that tournament after losses to Real Salt Lake and Sporting KC, followed by a 2-2 tie with Minnesota.
After their MLS is Back exit, the Rapids again had a long period of time between the tournament and their next match, which they lost against Real Salt Lake 4-1.
All this to say that an extended break in play has not boded well for the Rapids this season.
Is There Enough Time For The Rapids To Turn It Around Before Playoffs?
The question now with how little time remains in the season is can the Rapids return to winning form in time to make the playoffs?
There's a new team in first in the West. 👀 pic.twitter.com/Gj48oIUG99
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) October 25, 2020
If it takes the Rapids as long to get back to grabbing three points from games as it did after their last extended break, the answer is no. After that 4-1 loss in the return to play against RSL, the Rapids went on to tie three games 1-1 (against SKC, San Jose, and Houston), before finally getting a win in that historic 5-0 thumping against RSL at Rio Tinto.
What Went Wrong For The Rapids On Saturday?
The name missing from the team sheet that ended up also revealing a glaring hole in the midfield was that of Kellyn Acosta. In his stead, Collen Warner started alongside Jack Price in a defensive midfield role with Cole Bassett higher up the field.
The entire defense and midfield looked slow and rusty in the beginning of the game, but that was especially true for Warner. Warner was consistently getting caught too high up the field and having to chase back to support, leaving too much space for the likes of Pulido.
Warner only had two interceptions and zero tackles according to MLSsoccer.com, but he was also subbed off due to injury in the 27th minute, when the game was still scoreless.
Nicolas Mezquida replaced Warner, pushing Bassett into a more defensive role, and the 0-0 tie remained until halftime, with plenty of opportunities from SKC and not a shot from the Rapids.
Warner, Bassett Fail To Fill Hole In Midfield Left By Acosta’s Absence
While Bassett ranks fifth in distance covered per 90 minutes in the MLS and is no slouch on defense, his true contributions come on the offensive side of the ball. As such, Bassett was also getting caught too far up field, leaving his defenders in unsavory 1v1 situations.
— Sporting KC (@SportingKC) October 25, 2020
Instead of being one of four white jerseys surrounding the ball, Bassett should be tracking that man in the middle and filling that space. Instead, one pass takes four Rapids players completely out of the play, and Wilson’s unable to stop Gadi Kinda on his own.
On offense, the Rapids never really got anything going. Namli’s typical individual brilliance was stifled by a combination of rough fouls from SKC and poor link up play from his Colorado teammates.
The Rapids’ best opportunities came late in the game when Jonathan Lewis and Jeremy Kelly were subbed on and tried to make some magic of their own. But it was too little too late, and the limited opportunities failed to materialize.
Austin Trusty also received a late appearance, coming on for Lalas Abubakar. Many have wondered this season (myself included) why Trusty isn’t given a start over more experienced center backs such as Danny Wilson or Drew Moor.
This late game goal is probably an indication of why we don’t see more of him:
93' We need to talk about this goal, you guys.
— Sporting KC (@SportingKC) October 25, 2020
The Rapids next three games are against some of the strongest sides in the Western Conference: Seattle Sounders, Portland Timbers, and Minnesota United, who are currently second, third, and fifth in the West respectively. Unfortunately for the Rapids, they don’t have time to ease themselves back into winning form, they’ve got to start collecting three points (or at a minimum one) per game immediately.
Colorado is also going to have to accomplish this against some of the most difficult teams in their conference with very little rest between games. At this rate, the front office promise of the Rapids being a perennial playoff team looks like it will be postponed once again until next season.