So it turns out that having a mediocre midfield in a 4-3-3 formation is a pretty bad idea. The Colorado Rapids proved that pretty well in their game against the New York Red Bulls, getting toasted by Thierry Henry en route to a 4-1 loss at Red Bull Arena on Sunday.
The midfield was missing Jeff Larentowicz due to suspension and Pablo Mastroeni due to headaches, which set a bit of an alarm off as they didn't have anybody worth replacing them with in the pivot position. Last season, defensive midfielder depth was one of the biggest issues on the team and it was one of the few spots on the squad that didn't get bolstered during the big signing glut of the offseason. Those fears were proved to be absolutely correct when Ross LaBauex got the start in the midfield and immediately handed a dream start to NY by turning it over to Henry in the third minute with nobody but the keeper in front of him. Just that fast, it was 1-0 New York.
The bad start piled on quickly for the Rapids when Kenny Cooper escaped the defense and snuck into the box in the sixth minute. He was able to flip a slow roller towards the net that evaded Matt Pickens and was stuck in by Marvell Wynne's foot. Being down 2-0 less than 10 minutes into the match was about the worst start the Rapids could have asked for, but they didn't take it lying down.
Tony Cascio and Jaime Castrillon took over the game at the 10 minute mark and started actually possessing the ball for the Rapids, even putting a few shots on goal. Nothing went in but the future looked bright for the Rapids with a great ending to the first half. The Rapids were even winning some of the statistical battles, including possession, as the half ticked to a close.
It didn't quite work out like that script had set itself up to, unfortunately for the away side. Colorado controlled the match well for the first 10 minutes or so of the half but we all knew it would take only one mistake to shift the fortunes of the game into 100% Red Bulls territory and the Rapids defense gave that mistake to them in the 53rd minute. The entire back line froze behind Henry, possibly trying to keep him offside but failing miserably, and it gave him a wide open chance on Matt Pickens. That's the kind of chance that Henry just doesn't miss.
Omar Cummings finally put some confidence into the team with a lovely 77th minute flick into the net, his first goal of the season. Even with the loss today, that score from Omar should be a huge boost to the team. Hopefully he'll start banging them in on a regular basis now. What is it with Red Bull Arena that makes Omar score amazing goals, remember that one from 2010 that was a goal of the year candidate?
Colorado kept their composure after that with some more decent chances on net, but it was too little and too late for the Rapids at that point and another one late by Kenny Cooper right at the 90th minute assured that any attempts at a stoppage time comeback would be futile.. It was the fourth straight game in RBA that ended without a win for Colorado. If nothing else, this game was proof positive that Jeff Larentowicz may be the most important player on the Rapids in this new formation.
Interestingly, this was also the eighth game in the last nine between these two teams that featured more than four goals. Sadly the Rapids won't have a chance to avenge their defeat at DSGP later in the season due to the new scheduling rules.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Omar Cummings scored a goal, finally! He'll win the award just for that. Bonus points to Tony Cascio and Jaime Castrillon for being the only two players who seemed willing to play in the first half.
GOAT OF THE MATCH: Ross LaBauex. That's not the kind of performance that will inspire confidence in Oscar Pareja to start LaBauex ever again.