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Injuries, Referees stall the Rapids as they lose their first of the season to Dallas, 3-0

This is pretty much what half the game looked like.
This is pretty much what half the game looked like.

It's a rare occasion when two of my "Three Keys To The Game" are already destroyed before the game has even started, but it happened tonight. If there was any doubt before regarding how important Pablo Mastroeni is to the Colorado Rapids I think we saw how much of a factor he really is tonight. Without the true midfield engine to their team, the Rapids stalled and stalled big time against FC Dallas to the tune of a 3-0 loss, their first L of the young season.

Pablo missed the game after injuring his calf during the pre-game and although he passed some pre-game tests, the Rapids decided to hold him out of the game, possibly to try and keep him healthy so he would be available for the Real Salt Lake game on Wednesday. In his stead was young former Toronto FC midfielder Joesph Nane, a player who did very little during his time in Toronto and did just about as much today in his first league appearance with Colorado. Brian Mullan was also kept out of the game in exchange for Sanna Nyassi and Caleb Folan took Conor Casey's usual spot up top as he still is battling that fairly long term hamstring injury.

The game started with decent back and forth action between the two sides, with just a little bit of hard nosed play to go around. Unfortunately for Colorado, Nane looked like Mehdi Ballouchy 2.0, taking a god-awful shot that missed the net by 10 feet from 30 yards out - something that no defensive midfielder not named Larentowicz should ever do - and playing the pass backwards almost every time he got it. One of Mastroeni's strengths is his fantastic ability to distribute the ball forward and the strikers seemed to expect the same from Nane as they made good runs forward trying to escape their defensive counterparts, but the balls never came. I believe I counted a total of a single through ball attempt from Nane all game and it went about 5 yards wide of the player he was going for as well as having far too much weight on it. Not a good sign for a team that has an offensive system almost completely based on getting good balls through to the strikers. As a result, the Rapids had only five shots on goal all game.

After some pretty decent to watch football, the scoring began in the 26th minute as Ugo Ihemelu took a perfectly placed shot right into the inside of the post that Matt Pickens - who had been playing well until that point - had absolutely no chance on. At that point, all hell began to break loose in the game. The referee began to call almost every touch that he saw - has anyone else noticed that referees always seem to be way to sensitive whenever these two teams play?! - and Dallas took advantage. Fabian Castillo in particular spent about half the match rolling around on the ground, and the Rapids wound up taking several head-scratching yellow cards.

As Colorado continued to flounder possession-wise with turnovers from everyone from Nane to Jamie Smith, Dallas got their second in the 40th minute as David Ferreira roamed offside and got away with it, getting the football equivalent of a freebie goal with Marvell Wynne nowhere near him by the time he chipped it into the net. The game was pretty much over at that point as the Rapids were generating very little. Halftime didn't help as Jamie Smith missed his mark immediately after the second 45 began and Ferreira got his second on an easy tap in from right in front of the net. The terrible refereeing - combined with Dallas' diving - didn't help matters any for the offensive starved Rapids. Finally in the 48th minute Brian Mullan was brought on - you would think that the man who basically won the MLS Cup for us with his veteran presence last year would be the every day starter no matter what - but it was far too late and even his offensive boost didn't get the Rapids a goal. The best chance came in the 83rd minute as Drew Moor took a great chance right in front that was cleared away by Brek Shea.

As long as Pablo and guys Conor Casey remain out, the Rapids will be tested hard by other good teams in the league like Dallas. We had better hope that Mastroeni gets well soon, or Gary Smith finds a new replacement for him because with only Ross LaBeaux and Joesph Nane behind him, that is easily the worst area of depth on the squad. This game shouldn't be a cause for concern - the Rapids rarely play well on the road in Dallas even with their squad healthy - but if the injuries start to pile up, it's hard to imagine anything good coming out of it. Injuries shredding the Rapids wasn't a concern last year and it was one of the reasons they were able to lift the cup. If their luck doesn't hold this year it could be a long one.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Matt Pickens. Had no real chance on Ugo's goal and was left to dry on the other two, other than that he made some great saves early on before the rout began.

GOAT OF THE MATCH: Joesph Nane. Oh my god, that was horrendous. I don't think I've seen a more tentative, nervous and all around untalented performance out of a Rapids player in years. If he is going to be starting for any length of time, we are in deep trouble.