The second of three matches with the San Jose Earthquakes brought the Rapids back to reality in a 2-1 defeat at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. It was a very ugly start by the Rapids, punctuated by a defensive break-down and a needless ejection. The loss to the Quakes is especially tough to take with a three game roadie on the docket.
Cue up The Good, The Bad, The Ugly - -Week 16 edition
The Good: Martin Rivero: For as poor as the start of the match was, seeing Martin Rivero on the pitch to start the second half was a breath of life. His playmaking, passing,shooting and calming influence was evident in the final 45 minutes. He made several telling runs and forced the San Jose defense to be on their toes. Even playing down a man the entire second half did not seem to bother the team. Having Rivero on the pitch freed up the wide defensive backs to bring the ball forward and prevented San Jose from cheating on their defense. In short, he made them play honest football. Having him on the pitch freed plays like the Brian Mullen cross to Nathan Sturgis, who scored his third of the year.
The Bad: The Mental Breakdowns: The play of the team this Rapids team has allowed many supporters the ability to forget the mental breakdowns of previous incarnations. However the defensive breakdowns on both goals were just terrible. I was speaking to people in my section and they were wondering if missing Shane O’Neill was to blame. I hope it is not as this team was supposed to be built on the idea that the team is greater than the sum of its parts. This has been demonstrated by the younger guys stepping up. But for some reason, in this game, two bad mental breakdowns led to two goals. I will give credit to the Quakes for capitalizing on the chances presented to them, but the Rapids practically gift wrapped both goals.
The Ugly: Atiba Harris: there are few teams in MLS that can withstand a sending off in the 18th minute of a match. When the Rapids saw their leading scorer sent off for a poor challenge the task became more difficult. At that point the team was already down a goal and chasing a game whilst being a man down, is not a strong suit of this team. Harris was not the reason the game was lost, but him leaving after only 18 minutes made the task of defeating the Earthquakes more challenging.
So the streak is over, blah, blah blah. It was tough to see the team drop one like that, but the Quakes have had the drop on the Rapids recently. Over the last five matches with the Quakes have outscored the Rapids 13-5 and the Rapids are 0-4-1 in the stretch.
Where does the team go from here? A quick turnaround to play Chicago Fire on Wednesday and then two road games with two of the better teams in MLS, Portland Timbers and Montreal Impact. This three game road trip will give supporters a good chance to see what the team is made of and if they can respond to the adversity from a tough loss. Points are crucial on this trip so the team can avoid sliding down the Western Conference table.