You may have noticed that we here at Burgundy Wave have been "cataloging" different Rapids losses this season. And with so many of them (UZ put up an article saying that we are fast approaching the record for losses in a season of any Rapids season in history) there's been a lot to pick from. Some of us might sit there and say "well, a loss is a loss and the only thing that matters is the points we either got or we didn't get". I can understand that point of view, but I don't share it.
We learn a lot from our losses, and there's been a lot to learn. One thing I've been keeping track of is the most basic statistics given to us by MLS. I use them to basically get an average temperature of where the team is at, and then compare each new game against the averages. Where have we been doing better? Where have we been doing worse?
What I found out from the San Jose game was that, despite the odd scoreline, this was what UZ and I have been calling the "typical Rapids loss." This is where the Rapids, by most measures, dominate most statistical categories. Possession, as it always has been this year, has told us nothing about whether or not the team will win or lose a game. There have been games where we've won the possession battle but lost the game, and games where we've ceded most of the possession and won anyway (that's an anomaly, but it has happened). There's no "magic stat" besides goals that can tell you whether or not a team has won or lost a game.
The fact is, possession could have been good because once you bag a few quick goals, you feel more comfortable letting the other team have the ball. And let's face it: San Jose is a team that is very comfortable with letting the other team have the ball.
But here's the funny thing: the San Jose game was a shocking result precisely because of what's been going right with the Rapids. Passing accuracy was better than average (82% completion over 78.9% on average) overall passes made was up. So the passes were better and there were more of them. Shots were up (15 compared to 13.2 on average), as were shots on goal (6 as compared to 4.6 on average). Goals were down (average is 1.2 per game, we only got 1 so take from that what you will.).
The last game, the 4-1 drubbing at Buck Shaw, was a totally different game.
Passing accuracy was 73% (down from 78%) overall passes were 353 (down from 436) zero goals. Possession, which is surprising both considering how the Rapids want to play but especially surprising given how San Jose likes to play, was an odd 46% (down from 53%). Just looking at that, you can see that this was a much more aggressive San Jose who pounded a much weaker Rapids. If you'll also recall, Hendry Thomas saw his first team minutes in that game, The Rapids have only lost the possession battle once since then. Nearly identical results, but totally different games.
I think stuff like this is helpful because it helps us narrow in on what we need to see improve if the Rapids are going to accomplish anything next season. This San Jose game proves, pretty much without a shadow of a doubt, that the defense was the trouble, is the trouble, and will continue to be the trouble. Having good numbers everywhere else but a terrifying 4 goals scored is as good an indication as any to prove that. Good teams have been able to exploit the poor defensive coordination, and do so with impunity because of poor finishing at the other end of the pitch. 1.2 goals per game is not threatening to anyone.
At the very least, the midfield is good, so that should keep the Rapids limping at least through these last few games.