"Well, it's three points; that's the important thing."
That's what me and a lot of other people were saying after this match which was set up to be one of the more entertaining of the weekend, with both teams favoring an aggressive attacking game. But Oscar Pareja's newfound tactical accumen and a toothless Chivas USA attack produced a game without much flow to it. It hardly lived up to its billing, let's put it that way and then put this match behind us with three points in the bag.
A penalty kick from a foul on DeShorn Brown committed by Eric Avila in the early goings of the game decided the contest, with Chivas USA's responding PK being driven into the crossbar by Jose Correa.
Now, I recall saying that this match would be won by Chivas USA, but I also recall saying that this would be a very entertaining game. Turns out I was wrong on nearly both counts.
The first half was great for the Rapids. Here's a good look at the attack here from the OPTA chalkboard.
I show "attacking" as being events that happened in the Attacking Third, which include shots and passes in the final third. Lots of stuff going on for the Rapids in the first half. Compare that to the second half.
Looking a little thin in terms of making things happen in that second half, no? That seems to be by design though. Pareja made purely defensive substitutions as the game wore on, first Moor for LaBrocca (who looked to go out with a hamstring injury), then Wallace for Buddle. Finally, Smith for Brown. Leaving only the misfiring Atiba Harris up top.
Not to completely trash Harris' game. He won his fair share of balls and did some work on the right side of that final third, but failed to capitalize on his big chances of the evening, one miss even caused Edson Buddle to faint.
The midfield play seemed to be the culprit here, as Chivas USA enjoyed a lion's share of the possession, and on the night had much better passing that Colorado. The reason for this seemed to be the massive gap that Pareja had opened up between Hendry Thomas and Dillon Powers. The reason for this seems to be that Pareja likes Powers playing a more forward role--and Powers did not disappoint. He had a fairly quiet night, but his linking was quite good.
But these were two teams that seemed to look to disrupt each others' preferred game, rather than two opponents who want to attack the game in their own way. The match ended up being a lot of "win the ball, pass, pass, lose the ball, opponent pass, pass, win the ball back" without any team really gaining a significant turn in momentum or rhythm.
Colorado, however, was able to capitalize due to the forward play of Harris, Buddle, and Brown, where Chivas USA were woefully toothless. Tactically, the decision to shutter up in the second half proved to be, while somewhat risky and ultimately less entertaining, the correct decision. This speaks to Pareja and his staff growing tactically. I thought the late addition of Smith for Brown and putting Harris as a lone forward was particularly clever, as Jamie Smith has more skill in holding the ball and winning the ball and running it to the corner flag (which is good for time-wasting).
O'Neill gave away a silly foul in the box, but no one had what anyone would call a particularly cautious night defensively, which is a growing concern. Clint Irwin has had to face a penalty kick in every single one of his games. While this produces great moments for your Fantasy team if you're lucking enough to have Clint on there, this is simply unacceptable from a defensive perspective.
Look, I know Rapids fans love it when Clint Irwin saves a PK, but give the guy a break. The defense needs to do a better job of not giving those things away.
Moor's move to the back line calmed things down, but neither Brian Mullan nor Chris Klute had a particularly stellar night at Fullback. Chivas USA were able to create down the flanks due to both Klute and Mullan overcommitting to the attack. With a fit Anthony Wallace getting a few minutes in, I expect that the competition at the Fullback position is going to be very interesting for the next few weeks. Especially if Pareja gets it into his head that O'Neill and Moor would play well if played together.
But time will tell on that.
Anyway, three points in the bag, and the RapKids have a winning streak on their hands. Things are getting very very interesting.
Very interesting INDEED.