"It’s pointless to be critical of your stuff once it’s done." – Paul Simon
Unless you’re the Rapids, who are suddenly wishing they had a point cushion right about now! The almighty point has become very important as we close out the season with a home and home series against Vancouver. With one measly point separating us from San Jose and three points separating us from the Whitecaps, the point is, the Rapids hold their own fate. A win by the Rapids on Saturday would eliminate the Whitecaps and a loss by San Jose to LA would make the final game of the season merely a formality. This scenario is the preferred option. A loss by Rapids with a tie by San Jose would result in a three way tie for that final playoff spot. Pointless indeed!
With 32 matches in the book, I wanted to look at the losses that were most painful. From this maybe we can find some pointers that we don’t want to see repeated on Saturday night. Below are the four games I find most frustrating:
- 4/20/13 Sounders at Rapids (L 0-1)
- 6/15/13 Quakes at Rapids (L 2-1)
- 7/7/13 DC at Rapids (T 0-0)
- 8/11/13 Rapids at Chivas (T 1-1)
I will ignore the games in March and early April, as I don’t find too much at fault early in the season. There were too many evolving parts in March and April to really blame the Rapids for the losses. Hindsight being what it is, it sure would be nice to have beat the Philadelphia Union at home back on March 10 (remember like it was yesterday…snow piles on the pitch, ice on the walkways…good times!). Nor do I blame the Rapids too much on the March 23 loss in LA when the Rapids played most of the game with one man down. Finally, I will simply ignore the loss in San Jose last week. Rapids just got beat and if they do that again on Saturday no amount of analysis will matter.
That leaves the four games above as the most egregious of the points left behind. Below is my analysis of each:
- The first Sounders game at home was a week after a 1-0 win at Chivas and two weeks from a 1-0 win against RSL. At the time of the match, the Rapids were looking better after a winless April. History against the Sounders has always been difficult for the Rapids but at the time of the match, the Sounders had yet to win coming into Dick’s with a 0-3-2 record and having only scored 2 goals. But the Sounders scored early (27’) and while the Rapids out possessed the Sounders (57.7% to 42.3%) they still came away with nothing. Rapids did come into this game without Buddle or Brown, relying on Mwanga, Harris, and Cascio (hey remember him?)
- The next game the Rapids tanked was in mid June. Rapids had a two week layoff after tying FC Dallas at home. At this point in the season San Jose had not found its form. They were 3-6-6 and had conceded 10 more goals than scored. Much like the Sounders game, San Jose scored an early goal (10’) and added a second one at the 52’ mark. Rapids did score in the 67th minute and outshot the Quakes 18-4. The Quakes actually owned the possession at 51.4%. Lineup for this game included Rapids big guns in Brown, Buddle, Harris.
- The third disappointment was the draw against DC United. The match was played only 3 days after the emotional and hard fought win against the Red Bulls. At the time, DC had a record of 2-13-3 and had conceded 21 more goals than scored. Surely of all the games Rapids wish they could have back this would be the one. This game highlights the absurdity of luck, showing that soccer can humble even the best of teams. Rapids had a 23 to 6 advantage on attempts on goal with a 7 to 2 advantage on target. Throw in 6 more corners and a 53% to 47% time of possession advantage and the Rapids still came up short.
- And finally about a month later the Rapids had another draw at Chivas. Again playing a basement dwelling team with no identity, with a 4-13-5 record, and playing to a 1-1 tie is eerily similar to the DC game. Rapids allowed a goal at the 5’ mark, had a 26 – 6 advantage on attempts, held possession to a tune of 69% to 31% and managed a face saving tie with an 80 minute goal by Rivero. Granted this game was played after an emotional tie against RSL and winning the Rocky Mountain Cup, but the inability to beat inferior teams is frustrating. Both Buddle and Harris sat this one out with a Brown, Cascio, Castrillon and LaBrocca starting front.
So going into this huge match tomorrow what can be said? First, the Rapids don’t have a quick turnaround so the team should be rested (although due to the Tuesday World Cup Qualifiers the availability of Brown and Torres to start the game are unlikely). Second, they are facing a team with nothing to lose. Rapids should take note from the last start against San Jose and play to emotions. In addition, we have to hope the Rapids play up to their competition (unlike the DC and Chivas matches). Finally, the biggest thing gleaned from the four losses above is not allowing an early goal. In three of the games above the Rapids were down at the 27’, 10’, and 5’ marks. Giving the Whitecaps hope early on tomorrow would be devastating, especially with the emotions of a playoff berth at stake. Also, based on these games, teams that get up one tend to sit back and stall. In the games above, possession wasn’t the issue. Teams with leads become content to let the Rapids pass around all day while allowing attempt after attempt.
Point of the story then? Score early, don’t let the opponent score early, and make sure Brown and Buddle are on the pitch together at some point! Sorry Cascio and Mwanga but we’ll bring you on for some late minute magic if needed! No real rocket science but a nice reminder on how not to be pointless!