Thursday, March 15, 2012

New Era in Colorado

Another year is about to begin. Expectations and ambitions are high. The supporter clubs have been marinating outside for 3 hours. The atmosphere is great. Crowd is buzzing, the deafening cannon just went off, and “Glory, Glory Colorado” is resonating throughout Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. Here we go, ahhhhh. The Rapids 2012 campaign is underway.

Colorado looks different under new coach Oscar Pareja.  They seem to be more of a possession minded side.  They have lined up in a 4-3-3 that is more of a 4-5-1 utilizing two attacking midfielders. The wing play of both outside backs is a big reason for the change. Kosuke Kimura has been running wild on the right side for years, but with the addition of left back Luis Zapata, Colorado is now making use of both sides of the field for this new style of play (think Patrice Evra and Rafael for Manchester United).

They get up and down the field and put tremendous pressure on the opposite team to track back.  The addition of the Columbian international Jaime Castrillon ensures the midfield will no longer be bypassed in lieu of the direct ball to the forwards.  He showed an ability to hold the ball and incorporate the entire midfield in the buildup of the attack and the support of Cummings.  Pablo Mastroeni and Jeff Larentowicz were their typical stop gap selves all game. Anytime the outside backs were caught out of position, at least one of these two was in position to cover. Neither provided much of an offensive threat. Drew Moor and Marvell Wynne are anchors on the back line and arguably the best duo of center backs in the league.  Colorado is controlling the flow of the game, attacking when the opportunities present themselves and accepting possession when it doesn’t.  Colorado wins 2-0 on a beautiful cross from Kimura that was met by the head of the high rising Moor in the 44th minute and a great strike from sub Quincy Amarikwa in the 89th minute from 25 yards out. Amarikwa celebrated his first goal of the season by going “dead fish’’ the corner flag. It was a great goal, but a better celebration.

All this boasting about the Rapids would be for not if it wasn’t for two fantastic saves by Matt Pickens. The first was a long range worm-burner that he tipped just wide in the 30th min; keeping the score 0-0. The second was a point blank header that he pushed off the crossbar to preserve a 1-0 lead late in the game. I am a little bias, but he is in my top 3 keepers in the league and a possible pic for goalkeeper of the year.

The Columbus Crew was no match for the reorganized Rapids, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet. We are only one game into the season, but you can see they have bought into the coach’s vision of play. I also find comfort in seeing them play this well without Connor Casey who is still rehabbing from the achilles tear and Jamie Smith who tore his ACL in November. Remember, Colorado is only 16 months removed from winning the MLS Cup with the same core group.  These new additions and a new head coach may be exactly what they need to hoist the cup in December. The football community in Denver couldn’t be more excited for the future.

A new era in Colorado has begun.

Editor's Note: We are pleased to welcome "Straight Red" to our team. He will be covering the Colorado Rapids as well as other soccer happenings in the land of the Rockies. If you have a hot tip or story idea for him drop SR a line at straightred@scoringthird.com.

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