Well - that was a neat little disaster. Many seem to be attributing the loss to a "lack of effort", which is something I just do not buy most of the time. The only game where I felt like there was a lack of effort, was the game at home against the Red Bulls, and that was not the Rapids with a clear apparent lack of interest.
Not only were these paid, professional athletes, these are athletes who have pride, and there was much on the line that night in Vancouver. So outside of injuries or international play, I assume that if the Colorado does not acheive a positive result, it is likely due to either: A) Colorado doing it to themselves (see Chivas USA draw in which Brown provided a clinic on how not to finish, but in which, Colorado did everything else right), or B) the opponent found a way to stymie Colorado either offensively or defensively.
In the case of this most recent match, Vancouver did both (obviously, since the score was 3-0). But how, in the span of a week, can the results change so dramatically?
A couple of key things:
B) Pareja's lineup and formation
C) Vancouver's ability to get shots off in the 18
C) Colorado's Inability to find passing lanes in attacking third.
First of all, Vancouver's defensive approach was dramatically different this game than the previous two. As you can see from the OPTA Stats, Vancouver's defensive pressure was much farther up the field, not allowing Colorado time to get into their positions and start the offensive approach. Colorado has struggled all season long when teams defensively pressure them in their half of the pitch. It only was made worse without Powers, whose ability to calm things down when there is pressure and make the quick pass to break up the pressure all the more necessary.
In addition, the added pressure meant that CO was forced to make passes up the field, it did not intend. Looking at the OPTA data, you can see from the home victory, Colorado's back line distributed the ball back and forth between the left and right side of the field. This allowed for CO to use the entire field to set-up its movement forward. Compare that to the loss last night (10/27/2013), and you there was much less horizontal passing. Vancouver's pressure caused CO to rush the ball up the field, and resulted in more errant, long-balls which were intercepted.
Insert Defensive Opta Stats.
Defensive Pressure - Difference between 10/19 and 10/27
Notice how little defensive pressure is located within Colorado's defensive (Vancouver's offensive) half of the field, when Colorado won 3-2. Contract that with the following:
Vancouver Pressure 10/27 (3-0 Colorado Loss)
Vancouver took a lesson book from Kansas City and Portland (and I fear Seattle is going to take the same lesson). Only caveat, is hopefully, with a more appropriate line-up, this pressure can result in some decent counter-attacking chances....I hope.
But one clear difference, is that whether by accident or due to the pressure, Colorado stopped using horizontal passing in the back half of the field, to create space. I think the increased pressure caused Moore and Wynne to rush their passes, and all too often, passed ahead, which often was not the best and safest pass, as this only continued to pass into the pressure on the right side.
Colorado Back-Line Passing - 10/27 Loss
Colorado Back-Line Passing 10/19 Win
Contract the above passing chart with the passing chart below. Notice how Colorado was more patient, using left-right passing to create space. Again, Colorado is going to need to review how it deals with pressure in Seattle, because if I am Seattle, I take a page out of this book, in which Colorado struggles when teams press. This will be especially important, as Brown vs Yedlin I am sure has Sigi worried, and the best way to avoid that is to not get Brown the ball. Seems, this right-side pressure worked wonders in Vancouver. Albeit - with Rivero or Sanches on the right side, this should alleviate some of these issues.
Look - I cannot imagine where CO would be without Pareja, but I am starting to have some doubts about his game-day tactical decisions. Unless I am missing something, I cannot fathom how, with both Powers and Sanchez out, he did not start Rivero, and put Torres in at the CAM role. Running a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Klute, Brown and Torres all next to each other, meant the left side of the field was where all the attacking strength of the team was located. To me, this just makes it easier for Vancouver to use defensive pressure in CO's half of the pitch, to force them to go right as opposed to the left side of the field. Add to the fact, that Torres is a wing-striker, who likes to come from the wing into the middle when attacking, and he was stuck, forced to play a role of distributor to Buddle.
You can see viewing these OPTA stats what this did.
#1: LaBrocca vs. Rivero
The following 4 OPTA charts clearly show how much more capable the CO team was at advancing the ball, and getting it into the VAN side when Rivero was in the game. Contrast that to LaBrocca, and you get some clear indications that with a creative spark on the right side, they were finally able to begin getting around the pressure being placed on CO in CO's half of the field.
Rivero Individual Passing
LaBrocca Individual Passing
Overall Team Passing: When Rivero was on the Pitch
Overall Team Passing with LaBrocca:
But the biggest indicator as to how Rivero, was able to break down the pressure was the following:
Unsuccessful Passing - LaBrocca in Line-up
Unsucessful Passes: Rivero In Lineup
As you can see, once Rivero came into the line-up, he was able to take the ball forward, and break-down the press....or provide a better outlet as compared to LaBrocca. Another mistake, on the road, by Pareja with his right winger personnel decisions. I am still befuddled.
#2 Torres - Playing the wrong position and in the wrong part of the pitch:
Because of the combination of position and the advanced pressure by Vancouver, Torres was forced to come back to the ball far more than he should be as an attacking striker. And you can see just how little he was able to distribute to Buddle because of that position.
Look at the difference between the 10/19 and 10/27 game, when the former game saw Torres playing a wing-striker role, which is his strong suit:
Gaby Torres - Passing 10/19
Gaby Torres - Passing 10/27
You can see below, Gaby not only was less proficient in the attacking third of the field, he was forced to play much farther back, owing both to his position, but also to his need to come back to try to be an outlet when the Vancouver pressure befuddled Wynne and Co.
Vancouver vs. Colorado: Shot Selection and Footwork
The biggest difference in the game, was Colorado was unable to get any decent shot off on net. I content that while Pareja's teams play an attacking style of soccer, they do not play possession style, pass/ground oriented soccer. It has been a huge problem of their creating shots and getting passes within the box to open players once they get near the 18. But this is not helped when Pareja plays a line-up that further limits the abilities of the players to maximize their talents.
Vancouver on the other hand, while not necessarily creating opportunities passing, excelled at breaking down defenders with their feet. Look at the different OPTA stats, showing successful dribbles. It is astonishing.
Vancouver Successful Dribbles
Colorado Successful Dribbles
Now, a lot of these successful dribbles came against a defensive unit that was also under more duress, due to the increased pressure. Pressure, when done correctly, not only creates errors, but it also opens up opportunities to break down a confused, and tired defensive unit.
But what does this say about the Colorado Rapids front line? Outside of Sanchez, Rivero, Klute and Torres, this team lacks the ability to break down defenders with their footwork. Add to a lack of creativity when near the top of the 18, and this team is left offensively with two opportunities to score: A) Long-ball tactics - which BTW - is exactly how the Rapids attacked Vancouver and Seattle successfully at home, using their North-South speed to create opportunities B) Crosses/Set-Pieces into the Box.
When a team cannot create near the middle-of-the-field, and defenders are not worried about being broken down One-on-One, they can pressure players more aggressively, and the results are what we see below:
Vancouver Shots on Net
Colorado Shots on net
VAN-15 Shots on Goal CO (via bradfordk.towne)
And add to all of this, Colorado has some serious issues in terms of passing and footwork when in the attacking third of the field. They are reliant on launching crosses and flicks into the box and then hoping for a lucky bounce. It is a rare occurrence when they are able to utilize passing to actually break down a defense, and this invariably is their biggest offensive weakness. It does not help that Pareja plays into this by playing a line-up that not only limits players from playing to their strengths, but plays into Vancouver's game plan.
The OPTA stats clearly indicate how flawed this approach was. Look at the Rapids passing trends when Labrocca was in for close to 60 minutes vs. just 30 for Rivero.