After analyzing the loss to San Jose, it clearly showed how imbalances in Colorado's attack seemed to close off the entire right side of the field offensively, and how that played into San Jose's hands. But this got me wondering if this was anomaly or if, Colorado's success in any given match may have certain tendencies, that we can then look for when watching the next two matches against Vancouver.
A lot of recent talk has covered issues such as
(i) when and where Rivero should play;
(ii) who should play up top and and
(iii) Should Sanchez play on the left or right side of the field. This has been a difficult year trying to figure out what exactly is the best line-up or formation, in part because so many new parts were added this year, and so many injuries to those new parts have resulted in little consistency, especially as it relates to the striker position.
Using OPTA stats from the MLS web-site, I was able to isolate successful passing trends for WIns, draws and losses, and tried to determine if there was some commonality between passing and results.
Part I. Colorado Rapids Wins:
The following is a snapshop of some various wins throughout the season. A common factor is even distribution on the left and right sides of the pitch. Even in games where the Rapids had limited possession (think the 5-1 win over Seattle), even in those limited situations, the Rapids attached from both sides of the pitch. This both causes the opposition to respect both sides of the pitch when Colorado advances the ball and means that Colorado is challenging and testing both sides of the oppositions defense.
Win- COvVAN (8-17-2013) (via bradfordk.towne)
Colorado closed out the season with two games against Vancouver. Vancouver is actually a good match-up for Colorado. Colorado struggles with teams that press in the middle-third. I think part of this has been due to the lack of a consistent line-up until recently, and Powers until recently, often lacked the vision and decision making when having to make a pass quicker than he was used to. This I believe was the first time we saw the line-up under the 4-2-3-1 below:
Formation (COvVAN) 8.17.2013 (via bradfordk.towne)
The OPTA chart below shows that the Rapids were able to spread the ball around, and advance the ball equally on the right and left and right sides of the field. While possession stats can be meaningless, in the case of a game against Vancouver, whose strongest suit is its strikers, lead by Camillo. In fact, the Rapids had 446 passes to 383 for Vancouver, and controlled possession for close to 53.3% of the time. I think that this bodes well for the Rapids. And I think provides evidence in my mind as to why Sanchez or Rivero should play the right side striker, away from Klute. Klute is a huge left-side threat. But by putting Sanchez or Rivero on the left side, you are removing in my opinion, the best right side offensive threat Colorado has.
As we saw in the San Jose game, when Atiba was on the right side, it allowed the San Jose team to focus on the left side, where all of the offensive fire power of the Rapids were located. And unless someone tells me otherwise, I truly believe that Rivero was forced to go left, because Harris provided him no outlet to go right, further consolidating the top 3 offensive play makers into the left side of the field.
Win COvTOR (5-4-2013) (via bradfordk.towne)
Technically, this should have been a draw. A late, late Buddle goal gave Colorado the win...but this was probably a line-up and formation that least resembles Colorado's current approach. You can tell, playing a 4-1-2-1-2 and with these players was when Pareja was trying to figure our who exactly he had on the field. A 4-1-2-1-2 is really just a derivative of the 4-3-3, , except it in theory, consolidates the mid-field and the strikers into the middle of the field, opening up lanes for the wing-backs (this was around the time Colorado realized what a special talent Klute was). And sure enough, if you look at the passing in the offensive half, a lot of Klute and Moore along the right and left sides.
However, as you can also see up top, all of those crosses were going to Harris and Hill....It would have been interesting had Buddle been in better fitness during this period, using this line-up except with Buddle up top, and Rivero in the mid-field running a 4-2-3-1
Secondly - a lot of people are calling for LaBrocca ahead of Rivero....but look at the passing chart below when Rivero came into the game. LaBrocca was unable to get the ball down into the right corner to provide service into the 18.....but Rivero repeatedly attacked that right side. Something to consider going forward.
Formation (COvTOR) 5.4.2013 (via bradfordk.towne)
WIN COvFCD (9-14-2013) (via bradfordk.towne)
A tough game to analyze, because the Rapids basically sat back into a 5 man back line during the final 30. However, even with the win, the Rapids were more effective on the left side, and this was also the game where Sanchez and Klute worked together up and down the left side. But this was to the detriment of the right side attack IMHO. While there were more passes deep on the right side of the pitch, most of those passes were not advancing passes, but passes either backwards or horizontal, indicating that defenses easily covered any move on the right side.
Win COvCOL (5-11-2013) (via bradfordk.towne)
We never expected that the Rapids to win in Columbus, so this was a surprise result that, if Colorado ends up getting into the Playoffs, along with Montreal an unexpected result that helped catapult this team into the Playoffs.
The main offensive approach again, was with Klute and Mullen up the sides. One of the rare line-up with Powers playing as a left mid-fielder. However, Powers was lost on the left-side. Powers was not in a position to use his skill-set on the left side, and it showed. He was invisible this game, which also could be attributed to Danny Mwanga being the striker on his side of the field. Tough to do anything when you are trying to connect with someone as in effectual as Mwanga.
But this is also clear...The Rapids need Powers in the central mid-field. Can possible the Rapids play with River and Sanchez on the wings?
Here is Powers and River's successful passing on the offensive side of the pitch....Powers, while starting on the left side, essentially with Rivero in the line-up, played a more defensive mid-fielder position.
Powers and Rivero in Columbus (via bradfordk.towne)
WIn - Rapids vs. Seattle (10-5-2013) (via bradfordk.towne)
Seattle seems to be a counter-point to the concept that the Rapids need to both work the ball near the 18, as well as attack from both sides of the field. However, this game was unique. First of all, all of the Rapids goals were set-pieces or, were done during a quick transition. In addition, because Colorado took a 4 - 0 lead by half-time, the second half for the Rapids was more about sitting back, protecting the lead, and not nearly as aggressive as their normal run of play would be. And finally, if you recall, Klute and Wynne sat back in defensive positions, and the Rapids used their midfielders to advance the ball, versus their more standard use of the left and right backs to try to advance the ball up the sides.
But even with a lack of overall possession within the offensive half of the field, you can see that their offensive approach was even handed to both the left and right sides of the field, and aggressive passing down each line.
So how have Colorado's offensive passing distribution looked during the teams losses?
Loss - COvPOR (9-20-2013) (via bradfordk.towne)
Remember this game? Everyone thought that the Rapids outplayed the Timbers, yet lost 1-0. But something interesting about this game....First of all:
1) Sanchez did not play
2) Atiba Harris played the right attacking mid-fielder position
3) Rivero and Labrocca filled out the remainder of the attacking mid-field.
4) Look at all of Klute's passes...he did not ONCE when in the offensive half of the field put forward an advancing cross into the 18. This is because, Portland scouted the Rapids well. The Rapids throughout the year have relied on Klute as a main focal point for providing service to the strikers, specifically Buddle and Atiba Harris.. Portland forced the Rapids to create opportunities on the right side, where Atiba Harris was playing. We all know Harris has little to no touch, pace or footwork. Portland gladly let Harris be a focal point of the offensive approach towards getting Buddle the service he needed to score.
Formation (COvPOR) 9.20.2013 (via bradfordk.towne)
Loss COvPOR (6-23-2013) (via bradfordk.towne)
Remember this game? The 3-0 loss. Worst game of the season (save for maybe the San Jose game from this past Wednesday). Colorado was barely able to advance the ball into the final third of the field, and when Klute was able to advance it, he was contained and did not get the necessary service into the 18. In addition, Colorado barely had any offensive presence on the right side in the lower 3rd of the field. And look whose number seems to pop up a lot on the right side....Atiba Harris.
Lineup (COvPOR) 6.23.2013 (via bradfordk.towne)
Loss- COvKC (8-31-2013) (via bradfordk.towne)
Another game in which the Rapids offense was could not advance the ball into the final third of the field, and had NO presence on the right side. Colorado actually played the same line-up that beat Seattle 5-1. But Kansas City is a team known for their pressing style. And as we have seen all season, the Rapids struggle with teams that press. But this was also when Powers was struggling, and there were calls to permanently replace him with Rivero.
I still struggle to understand why this team struggles with teams that play a pressing style in the middle third of the field. I hope that this will be solved as Powers continued to progress as the box-to-box holding mid-fielder, but all too often, the team is incapable of using quick passing to break down or overcome aggressive defenses.
Formation (COvKC) 8.31.2013 (via bradfordk.towne)
Loss- COvCHI (6-19-2013) (via bradfordk.towne)
This game was during the 3 game losing streak in June. The Rapids started with Rivero (just coming of his first injury) and Castrillon on the left wing. Colorado actually moved the ball back and forth, but aside from Klute, not much in the way of getting anything into the 18 or advancing the ball forward. Again - not the Rapids best line-up, and with a line-up that had yet to develop any rhythm.
But - something needs to be considered:
- One of the few line-ups where Hendry Thomas was not starting. I would be interested to see how, replacing Thomas with Rivero, and letting the mid-field consist of Powers, Sanchez, Rivero and Sturgis would function together...with a 4-2-2-2 formation.
- Castrillon lacks the pace to play in this formation. I would have preferred a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-2-2 with Castrillon playing farther up with Buddle. It would not require him to cover as much field to get into a position to benefit from the service of the mid-fielders. Yes- it may mean a greater defensive risk, but Castrillon is not exactly known for his ability to press in the mid-field anyways.
Formation (COvCHI) 6.19.2013 (via bradfordk.towne)
Loss - COvSJ (10-9-2013) (via bradfordk.towne)
Hey - remember this game? Harris played on the right side. Look at the offensive flow.
Formation (COvSJ) 10-9-2013 (via bradfordk.towne)
One cannot always draw clear-cut conclusions from passing trends alone. However, I think overall, it is fairly clear that when Colorado moves and advances the ball equally on both the right and left side, it offers the best opportunities for a positive result. But this season, with all of the injuries, new bodies and experimentation by Pareja, it is difficult to identify the perfect line-up and/or formation. But my takeaway from the above is this
- Harris - should never see the pitch again. Period. He is a one-trick pony, and that talent does not outweigh the liability it causes offensively.
- Rivero: The biggest X factor heading into the next two games, is Rivero. Can he and Sanchez co-exist on the pitch at the same time?
- Aggressive Defenses: The Rapids struggle with aggressive defenses. KC and San Jose come to mind, and the best way to break that press is through quick passing, and using the advantage of the ball speed to overcome the speed and aggression of the mid-field press. It may be too late into the season to experiment, but I would have loved to see a Sanchez, Rivero, Powers and Sturgis mid-field against a team such as KC. Thomas's liability is his lack of touch and ability to make quick decisions with the ball. You do give up Thomas's aggressive defense, but it seems that something will need to be done differently the next time Colorado runs into a team that presses like KC.
Some, such as the guys at the Mile High Club (Kwick and Moss) seem to support Sanchez on the left side with Klute. However, there are 3 players on the field who can provide the necessary service into the 18 to Torres or Buddle: Klute, Sanches and Rivero. However, if the Rapids play best when they apply an equal approach offensively to both the left and right sides of the field, then consolidating all of that talent into one side of the field, and leaving the other side devoid of the ability to challenge the right -side defenses, make the Rapids predictable, and easy to defend.