We all knew San Jose plays an ugly game, and we all knew that Colorado was without, arguably its two most dynamic strikers, especially in terms of pace (yes - Buddle is a key strike, but pace is not his strong suit). Add to that, San Jose's pitch is a tiny bandbox, making it difficult to challenge San Jose's Thug and Hoof approach to soccer. In addition, San Jose also plays by aggressively challenging possession farther up the mid-field than other teams, and rarely give mid-fielders much space, requiring quick passing and decisions to break this down (I liken it to the equivalent of breaking down a full-court press).
In listening to various podcasts, some are seemingly blaming Rivero for not filling in properly for Powers, who was lost.
The question then, is what did Colorado do, and what could they have done differently.
First of all, let's look at personnel and formation:
Line-Ups (via bradfordk.towne)
San Jose, save for Lenhart, was playing their standard line-up. The Rapids were without Powers, Brown or Torres, leaving Buddle and Harris as our supposed strikers and Rivero taking on the position of central mid-fielder, albeit, more of an attacking mid-fielder compared to Powers.
Keep in mind - regardless of this personnel difference, Pareja continues here to stick with a 4-2-3-1 formation, meaning, overall, Harris is playing farther back from the 18, as compared to a 4-4-2, which would have he and Buddle split duties up top.
Look - I am open and honest and share Chris "Uz" White's disdain for any situation where Harris is on the field. His only talent is that he does have a knack for using his head to score goals on crosses and set-pieces. He is alike an impoverished version of Eddie Johnson, minus any ability to hold the ball at all. This means that when he is on the field, Colorado is essentially playing a man down except in those rare situations.
By playing on the right side, you would expect that the Rapids would try to attach from the left, and use Buddle and Harris as your main offensive threat.
So Rapids fans....how did this work out, eh?
First of all, aside from the number of crossing opportunities (in the favor San Jose), things were fairly even stats wise. As you can see below, overall passing, possession, and passing accuracy were similar.
Overall Stats (via bradfordk.towne)
But stats sometimes do not tell the entire story:
Colorado vs. San Jose - Passing
The following two OPTA charts indicate where on the field each team was successful in passing:
Colorado Successful Passing
Rapids - Successful Passing (via bradfordk.towne)
San Jose Successful Passing
San Jose Successful Passing (via bradfordk.towne)
- The Rapids overall passing, regardless of where in their side of the field the possession started, flowed to the upper left of the field. This would be consistent with a team trying to create attempts from the left, with someone such as Klute so effective at crossing (and BTW - Klute and Irwin are the only two for consideration as Man of the Match)
- However - such a consistent approach up the left side could not have possibly been lost on San Jose. Not only do teams know that the Rapids like to attack from the left, but during the game, at some point, you have to assume San Jose's defensive leanings were towards stopping the approach on the left. Yet, there was not much from what I can tell looking at the OPTA stats that there was any attempt at trying to attack up the right flank (more on that below)
- San Jose in contrast, attacked fairly evenly up both flanks, meaning that San Jose had the personnel to do so, and the Rapids could not "cheat" and stress defending one side over the other side.
......Nope...as you can see above, even their missed attempts were mostly from the left side of the field, or attempts at getting the ball into the left-side of the field.
A much more broadly distributed offensive approach.
Why the Predictability
So the question is, why were the Rapids so predictable? I put this at the hands of the following:
1) Atiba Harris 2) Martin Rivero 3) Oscar Pareja
Let's first look at the position of Harris and Rivero:
Rivero Successful Passing:
Harris - Successful Passing (via bradfordk.towne)
Now, keep in mind, Rivero was playing the center attacking mid position, and Harris was playing as the right-side attacking mid-fielder/striker. Between these two, they literally ignored the right side of the field. Now, this is where some speculation has to come in.
- Did Rivero go left because that was how Pareja wanted him to play? Or did Rivero just look over to his right, see Harris, and his instincts told him to go left.
- If so - then this would make sense for those of us who wish Harris never saw minutes again.
- But was this due to the fact that Harris was burning up the right side, trying to get into position for the cross from the left, right, and therefore, was not in position for a right-side approach with Rivero?
Atiba Harris - Heat Map (via bradfordk.towne)
Harris spent almost no time in a position to actually affect the outcome of a cross. Now, much of this may have to do with the fact, that plays were broken up before he would have a chance to get into the box. But this goes again to my question of using a 4-2-3-1 when both Buddle and Harris are on the same starting XI.
Buddle Heat Map (via bradfordk.towne)
What cracks me up, is even Buddle spent more time on the left side of the field...noticing a trend? Now, does anyone here think that maybe, creating space against an already aggressive and defensive mid-field is a little more difficult when everyone seems to be hanging out on the left side of the field.
How about Sanchez and Klute:
Sanchez Heat Map
Sanchez Heat Map (via bradfordk.towne)
Klute Heat Map
Klute Heat Map (via bradfordk.towne)
Some of this may be because, as teammates run into trouble, other players (Rivero et al) run in for an outlet pass. But this is not just the case, because as we see with the passing, everything seemingly went left. I was complaining about this during previous games in August when Colorado was winning or drawing games and scoring only 1 or 2 goals. Colorado become addicted to the left side cross, and absent Torres and Brown, seem to revert to a style of play that suits a 4-4-2, but continue to play a 4-2-3-1.
Wondolowski Heat Map
Just look at the difference with the guy who scored the eventual game winner....see how much time he was able to spend in the 18? And notice how even his positioning on the pitch was?
Wondolowski Heat Map:
Wondolowski Heat Map (via bradfordk.towne)
Unless someone in the media can dig in a little deeper, we will never know whether Rivero's predictable left-side approach was due to: A) Pareja's design; B) Rivero himself favoring that, and ignoring the right side by accident; or C) Purposefully realizing Harris is useless unless taking a header, and going to his left.
Would things have been different, had Harris stayed farther up field, and allowed perhaps Wynne and Rivero to work the ball up the right-side line, and try to get crosses into Buddle and Harris from the right side?
Would things have been different with Powers in the game? Some have suggested that Rivero, who is more creative and aggressive, forced his hand, and had he stayed back like Powers, may have set-up a different approach up the field.
It also brings to question why, when you know the field is small, and you know attacking down the sides is going to be more difficult, why Harris plays at all. I would have preferred Cascio or Castrillon in for Harris. I still think Castrillon could offer more ability at the short passing game needed to break a San Jose defense.