Saturday, March 24, 2012

Fight in Philadelphia

Courtesy of the Philadelphia Union
Before I begin, how beautiful is the backdrop to PPL Park in Philly? What a spectacular view.

Philadelphia coach Peter Novak must have watched the Rapids game last week, or more likely read this blog. To anyone paying attention to the Union formation, it was obvious they were playing with three in the back despite the pregame lineup. That extra man in the midfield absolutely contained Colorado during the first half. The Rapids exiting play in their first game was due to two things: runs from the outside backs and quality possession of the ball in the midfield. Possession was absent and the runs were ineffective Sunday. Coach Pareja was rarely seen sitting on sideline. His constant instruction and demand for Colorado to hold the ball could be heard over throughout. Colorado has reverted to playing long ball. This is a 180 degree turn from the impressive team that played in Colorado last week.

Drew Moor was lucky to be on the field after he was caught sleeping in the first minute of the game. His reckless challenge from behind on Danny Mwanga just outside the box didn’t even result in a foul. The replay clearly showed Moore taking out Mwanga without coming close to the ball. The shining light in the first half was Castrillon. Once again he is taking people on, possessing the ball and all-in-all living up to abilities that he showed last week.  Lone striker Cummings is non-existent.
The second half begins the way the first ended. Possession is easily given away and Colorado is playing what the uninterested call “Kick and Chase.”  In that moment, I couldn’t agree more.

Beginning in the 50th minute, the Rapids finally gain a bit of possession which leads to a Cummings sighting. He missed an opportunity to take the lead in the 54th minute when he slipped away from his defender and got up to redirect the cross from Mullan. Chris Albright’s recovery and nudge was just enough to affect the header, which went wide.  

Here is a lesson for all you young players out there. The Colorado goal was a combination of hard work by Cummings, the attitude of Mullen and the anticipation by Castrillon.  Cummings received the ball and went hard at the defender catching him on his back foot and easily beating him to the touchline. He lofted a cross too close to Philly’s keeper Zac MacMath. He was jumping for the ball, just inside his 6 yard box when Mullen came from nowhere to challenge. This put MacMath off just enough and he was unable to secure the ball which fell to Castrillon’s feet, who just happened to be waiting for such a thing. There was nothing spectacular about any of these, but it is what coaches love to see.

Let’s turn our attention to the Larentowicz debacle for a moment. As a former player who thrived on hard tackles, you have to realize the situation, and this was neither the time nor place. Your team just took the lead in a game that has been dominated by the opponents.  You’re on the road and you already have a yellow card for the bad tackle at the end of the first half.  Both cards were unnecessary and well deserved. His reaction to the second card said everything.  He knew it was a senseless tackle that put his team in a tough position.

A man down, we are back to playing long ball.

Colorado’s second goal was again due to a hustle play by Tony Cascio. On one of the many long balls coming from the back, Cascio pressured Albright who tripped over the ball. It took a lucky bounce for the Rapids and the mid-fielder was all alone on a breakaway. He buried it into the back of the net.  The collective groan echoed around PPL Park. The fans knew this goal would come back to haunt them. Lionard Pajoy of the Union got one back in the 67th minute, and they came close again in the 71st.

The game was a polar opposite of what we were treated to in Colorado last week. It was not pretty by any means, but it was enough to walk away with 3 points. The Rapids play the Red Bulls in Red Bull Arena on Sunday. Hopefully they can put together a better performance than the one on display this past Sunday.


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