Well - I hope to make this a regular occurrence, providing fans (if any who care) analysis for the game, mostly with a more critical eye for things that concern me as a fan.
First of all, a tie at New York is a victory in my book. So I cannot be disappointed with the result, but I am not on board with the claims that we outplayed New York. Vancouver outplayed New York (yes sans Henry), but still, that is what outplayed looks like. Colorado at best recovered from far too many defensive mistakes along the left and right sides of the field, and was able to pull out a plucky draw on the road.
What I liked:
The first of them, was Serna. Aside from Moore (well, Drew Moore's head clearing what seemed like a million crosses into the box, which makes me think he is primed for a future ESPN Outside the Lines episode on the dangers of heading the ball and brain damage, but I digress), Serna was the star of the game. His pace, his footwork, and ability to laterally break to the middle and create space for a shot was awesome. It was clear, that Serna was excited, and pulled the trigger for shots, when, had he pulled back a little and lifted his head, Brown and Torres could have been open for a better shot or a header attempt.
But I cannot blame the kid for his enthusiasm getting the best of him. I hate to jump the gun, and not sure if he qualifies, but damn he should be a ROY candidate already.
LaBrocca was surprisingly good. In fact, I fully support him in place of Sturgis. LaBrocca seemed to push the ball forward more effectively than Sturgis ever did, and this is something Colorado needs, especially given opponents in the league all realizing that pressing Colorado in their zone is an effective strategy (more on that below). And Mari held his own defensively, and I will chalk up his poor passing on being new to the club.
Berner - yes - nothing ground breaking, but no Steward Ceus moment in my books is a win. It gives me confidence that we can spell Irwin in future games if need be, especially for US Open Cup play, and be confident that another Orlando City debacle will not happen.
Burch - honestly, he was better than Klute. Defensively, he was tighter than Klute was, and while still ineffective offensively, at least he did not get burned down the side as much as Klute seemingly did.
What Concerns Me
The entire left side of the Rapids was a feckless mess. It is one thing to be a basket case offensively, but no. This side of the field was a basket case defensively as well. New York seemed to always succeed on the basic "Give-and-Go" play to move the ball up the flanks, leading to a whopping 27 (of 29 depending on the stat site) crosses. Actually - O'Neil and Co. on the right side also succumbed to far too many give-and-goes leading to crosses into the box as well, and were worse in that, Klute, LaBrocca and Moore seemed to recover and keep NY from getting as deep on the left side.
Klute was and is my favorite player. So I take no joy in seeing him still stuck in the situation as he was in the last half of 2013, when teams finally figured him out. Press him early, force him either go inside and pass. He is not nimble enough with his feet at this point to break down defenders with his feet, and in a way, he is similar to D. Brown. North-South speed, but if the defense can stay and contain that move, both Klute and Brown struggle.
How bad was the left side. Here are a couple of interesting OPTA match analysis charts or matrix that show just how awful they were:
First off - Rapids Field Position Report
The rapids spent less than 1/4 of the day trying to advance up the left side. A lot of this has to do with the NYRB defensive strategy (more on that later)
Colorado Successful Passing
But the story was even worse for Klute, Torres and Powers. Not only did Colorado fail to make much of a dent up the left side, when they did get up the left side, almost NONE of their successful passing attempts were towards the box, and, even those were from closer to mid-field versus down near the left corner, where Klute's crosses are at their most dangerous to opponents.
This raises some questions as to why Powers, Torres and Klute were so ineffective up the left sideline. If you compare that to New York. It seemed none of them knew where to be when not with the ball, and when they had the ball, neither knew where the other two were. It was so bad, they hardly actually successfully passed to each other. Look at the passing matrices for each of them, and notice how little connection there was between the three.
Moore and LaBrocca seemingly were the safety passing outlets for the left-side trio responsible for the offensive threat up the left side.
Klute Passing Matrix
Powers Passing Matrix
Torres Passing Matrix
Compare that with New York Red Bulls Attack
Compare this with the New York Red Bulls. Evenly distributed. However, and this is a credit to Klute/Burch and Labrocca and Moore combination in defending deep down the sideline. O'Neal, Wynne and Mari especially struggled with the constant give-and-goes down the Rapids defensive right side of the field. It created many more deep cross opportunities for New York.
Why was Colorado so bad at bringing the ball up the left side? My eyes tell me it is was a combination of:
A) Lack of footwork with Klute and Powers. Klute and Powers so far, lack the footwork and technical ability to use their feet to create space and time sufficient to allow for a better outlet pass. Often this lead to the safety pass back to LaBrocca or Moore.
B) Powers, Torres and Klute have rarely played in this combination up the left side. Torres was (if I recall) always slotted on the right side of the field, What changed was Buddle sat out, Serna came on, and this forced Brown into the central, holding striker role and Torres onto the left side (guessing that this is because Serna must struggle having to play the left side due to his natural foot being so dominant.
C) New York Pressure - New York (as well as ever team essentially since September of 2013), have figured out Klute for now. Contain Klute and force him to go in the middle of the field, and he does not yet know what to do then. Either Klute develop better footwork to create space and time, or he and Powers/Torres need to work more on how to pass out of this trap. What it lef to, was all too often, long-balls into the NYRB half, and the taller, bigger Red Bulls seemed to win more than enough of those aerial duels.
In fact, you could see Klute getting frustrated, and I think part of this was with Torres. But I cannot tell is Torres was at fault or whether this was a combination. Is Torres not effective at moving and finding space when he does not have the ball?
To be fair, I also wonder whether, part of the problem was Klute being instructed to stay back, and part of the reason the trap from NY worked so well was that Klute would in essence, make sure not to try to take the ball up himself, as instructed, but the outlet pass to either Powers or Torres was not available in part due to NY defense as well as due to the lack of chemistry between these three players.
Another problem seemed to be, that Klute should potentially recognize that when this occurs, it invariably means likely the right side of the field (read: Serna and O'Neal) should be open for a potential long-ball across the field to take the attack up the right side. But as you can see from the passing chart above, that did not occur.
You are just going to see more of this pressing style of defense, from one of the best next Saturday: Portland.
I am starting to worry, that, the RapKids last year got a big benefit from a lack of scouting, allowing for their raw athleticism to maybe shine through, until a defensive strategy arose that has contained Colorado since the San Jose loss in the fall of 2013. After that, all teams have played a high, pressing defense, containing the pace of Klute and Brown, and forcing Colorado to find a way to beat the press. Until off-the-ball movement improves, and players start to develop some chemistry to pass their way out of the press, I worry Colorado is going to struggle to get much in the way of possession in opponents offensive zones.