Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Scoreless in Seattle

Courtesy of MLSsoccer.com
Rapids are in their typical 4-3-3 (4-5-1). The big change was the sole defensive midfielder, Jeff Larentowicz. Think of an arrow in the central midfield pointing towards the back line now facing the forwards (<- to ->). This is the line-up I have been waiting for. The offensive midfield consists of Jaime Castrillon, Tony Cascio, Brian Mullan and Martin Rivero.

There is some recent history between these two teams. For those of you who do not remember, Brian Mullan had a terrible tackle on Steve Zakuani which broke his leg last year and ended his season. Mullan earned a 10 game ban. In the second meeting, Conor Casey ruptured his achilles.

Rapids, true to form, give up an early opportunity to the Sounders. Freddy Montero took a pass from David Estrada and got Drew Moor on the ground. His shot was saved by Matt Pickens, who has to come to the rescue again.

The next opportunity came in the 12th minute.  Zach Scott of Seattle missed a headed chance off a free kick. He was unlucky not to score.

The Rapids maintain good possession for the first 20 minutes. It is a good sign. I have not seen the away form look this good. It is a promising start.

Pickens is almost beat on a long throw in the 25th minute. Zach Scott threw it into the six yard box and a combination of Drew Moor and Brad Evans head knocked the ball just wide. Pickens may have been beat if it was on target.

The lineup has allowed for possession, creativity and counter attacks. One of those counter attacks, off a Seattle corner kick, almost led to a breakaway if not for Alonso’s sliding interception.

Although Colorado controlled possession, the Sounders created more chances. Freddy Montero puts a blast from 40 yards out over the goal. Pickens was irate at his backline. They are again allowing the most dangerous player on the field run free.

In the 33rd minute, Omar Cummins worked back to win the ball in the midfield. He was immediately rewarded with hard work with a through ball.  He took on three defenders, beat them all and got a shot off. It wasn’t a great shot but it was enough that Michael Gspurning spilled it. The ball fell to Brian Mullan who tapped it in. Unfortunately he was a step offside when Omar took the shot. No goal and that would be the only shot Gspurnin will have to make.

In the 37th minute Pickens had to come 15 yards out of his box to prevent a breakaway. If he hesitates, and doesn’t make the sliding clearance,  Montero is on to goal and Colorado is picking the ball out of their net.

The first half ends 0-0. On the road, this score line is an advantage. The way the Rapids played for the first 45 minutes needs to be carried over the break. The great team defense, pressuring the whole field and the quality possession that has been on display at home is finally showing up on the road. This is the team I have been waiting to see on the road.

The second half starts off with two quick yellow cards. Eddie Johnson picks up a yellow card in the 47th minute from a frustration tackle on Larentowicz after losing the ball. Zach Scott takes one trying to slow up a break in the 49th minute. Play gets a little more physical.

The first chance of the second half came when Montero bends a free kick just wide from about 30 yards out in the 53rd minute. Pickens had it covered.

The Sounders had the majority of play in the first 20 minutes of the second half, but Colorado has started to play their possession game. This is not the Seattle team that we saw in the first half. They are pressing and breaking Colorado’s back line.  

In the 62nd minute, Freddy Montero took a shot that was going wide. Matt Pickens wasn’t as sure. He pushed it wide for a corner. It turned out to be start of Zach Scott’s first goal of the season. He put the corner inside the far post off his head.  Tony Cascio let Scott run free to the near post for a snap-header that Pickens had no chance at saving.

For the second straight game, newcomer Kamani Hill comes on as a sub. He replaces Jaime Castrillon in the 69th minute. Castrillon wasn’t much of a factor in this game and was beginning to slow. With this sub, Colorado started to press up the field and Seattle was able to counter attack.

The momentum that Colorado had displayed prior to the break started to return, but it was short lived. Possession escaped them as they started to press which left them out of position. Seattle should have capitalized on the many late opportunities. Marvell Wynne made a great defensive recovery to prevent a second goal by using his speed to catch up to Sammy Ochoa, who thought he was alone at goal. Last chance of the match, Matt Pickens wouldn’t allow Montero to chip him in the final minutes of the game.

Colorado didn’t play all that bad. They failed to carry the momentum over the break and create quality opportunities. Cummings played well, but again is on an island up front. This is the most fluid I have seen the Rapids midfield and Cummings. There was plenty of movement, give and go’s and communication, just no goal scoring opportunities. This is the lineup I have been calling for, no double defensive midfield! Now we just need to work on removing the lone striker.

Colorado falls to 3-3. They host the LA Galaxy next Saturday at Dicks Sporting Goods Park.

Ending on a high note, Conor Casey is expected to be included in the team next week.

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