Conor Casey is out for the season. This is not a good thing for the Colorado Rapids, I don't think I'm ruining any perceptions with that opinion. He was our best goalscorer, our most consistent player and a dominating presence whenever he took the field, not to mention the guy who was far and away our playoff MVP last season leading us to the MLS Cup.
Well, we don't have him now and an incredibly important game against one of the Eastern conferences best today provides the first challenge without Conor. Here's three ways that the Rapids can get three vital points out of this home match.Front Load the Offense - This team is going to need to score goals without Conor Casey, and none of the other strikers playing right now are exactly banging them in. Against a powerful Red Bulls team, it's time to go on an all out offensive to get as many goals as possible. Sanna Nyassi for Brian Mullan would probably be effective. Perhaps a 4-3-3 with Folan-Akpan-Cummings up top? Orders for Jeff Larentowicz to get farther forward and unleash that powerful shot of his sooner rather than later in games? Something's gotta give and even though the team scored three against Seattle, I'm not sure this team can be trusted to do that all on their own; Wells Thompson had two points in that game, for crying out loud!
Don't Mistrust the Defense - Last game against Seattle, the back four of Drew Moor/Tyrone Marshall/Marvell Wynne/Kosuke Kimura didn't quite work as advertised, with falling down, bad marking and bad passing plaguing the guys en route to allowing four goals. Honestly it was more that terrible turf plaguing the boys - and Kosuke Kimura having a pretty bad game in general - rather than a straight up lack of talent or confidence. That back four is still the best that the Rapids can put out onto the field right now unless Gary Smith decides to free Anthony Wallace from that cage in the basement. If Gary Smith tries to over-think himself and put out Palguta, Earls or somebody else (Holody?) it will almost certainly end in pain for the home team today.
Focus - The MLS Cup is a complete longshot for this team without Casey. CCL is also going to be a heck of a lot more of a feat to accomplish without the big guy up front. But let's remember - this is a team that didn't win the MLS Cup last year on the backs of any one player in particular. This team did fine without Casey for stretches of last year - remember that head injury he picked up and those long bouts of no goals throughout the season as well? - because they won on the backs of a solid team framework... and above that a ton of focus.
That's what it's going to take to get to the playoffs. Erase the first half of the season from their minds and focus on getting 20 points in the second half. That will be a playoff berth for the Rapids and as they showed last season, anything can happen in the playoffs. That focus has to start today.