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A View From The South Stands (Be Aggressive?)

"A-g-g-r-e-s-s-i-v-e! Aggressive! B-E-AGGRESSIVE!" An old high school cheer that I for some odd reason, I cannot forget. But it seems others have forgotten the meaning of the word. Of course I’m specifically speaking about the Rapids.

Let’s return to the days of Gary Smith. Of course it wasn’t that long ago, but it feels like eons since his defensive minded Rapids magically won the MLS Cup. As is the way of sports, a new season dawns, and old ones are written in the history books which is where they forever and always will remain. And all that matters to us, is the current season. This one, for us, consists of a brand new head coach and basically, a brand new team. I personally, was extremely excited to see these new Burgundy Boys. After years of watching the same short pass, drop back, strike when available team week after week, was hoping to see a team come out and continually pummel the opposition on their end of the field. In week one, I watched as Oscar Pareja’s rejuvenated, re-animated, revamped Rapids came out and dominate the Chicago Fire across the board. A 2-0 win where the Rapids had 18 shots vs the 12 shots from Chicago. Only one blocked goal from the Rapids, while the Fire needed five. I thought to myself, "Here we go". I thought it would be a season of offense. With the defenders picking their nose of boredom, the strikers would dominate the net on the other side of the field.

Then week 2, week 3, and week 4 happened. I understand that defense is an absolute necessity and can save games, but not when the offense stands around because the team isn’t AGGRESSIVE enough to drop the long ball for a score. Defense, at least in soccer, CANNOT win you games, they can save games. And you can’t save games when you’re not ahead. The following 3 weeks after the destruction of the Chicago Fire, I watched, as the Rapids reverted to their typical, drop-it-back, don’t score, play possession game. It made zero sense to me, watching them lose 2-0 against Real Salt Lake as the Rapids made no effort to win that game. Watching their 51%-49% possession ratio, and still only have 8 shots while RSL had 13. What happened to that week one team that came out firing?

The matches following the Real Salt Lake match were similarly as ugly. A 1-0 loss to the Seattle Sounders with similar numbers, those being 18 (Seattle) to 4 (Rapids) shots, and a 60% (Rapids) and 40% (Seattle) possession ratio?!?!?!?! You’ve got to be kidding! With that sort of possession, you’ve GOT to shoot more than four times. Over and over, I revert to the original cheerleader chant. A-G-G-R-E-S-S-I-V-E!

The 4-0 win over Chivas USA brought my hopes for a Pareja offensive minded team storming back. A fundamentally sound, trigger happy Rapids team dominated the field against a less skilled Chivas team. "They knew what they had to do. They had their game plan and executed it," said my seat-mate. I was excited once more as the Rapids looked like the team they should have always been.

And once more, the letdown, as conservative play lost them the next three matches. Errors, lack of aggression, lack of play-making, lack of any enthusiasm at all seemed to plague them through a terrible stretch of self-destruction. Spurts of aggression seem to win them games, or at least gain them a goal or two, but always coming too late after realizing their desparation for a win. They have the talent, they have the will, th
ey have the playmakers, but they just cannot seem to put these all into place at once. Aggression is something the Rapids seem to pull out of their pocket every once in a while. Like a washed pair of pants with a forgotten $10 bill in their pocket. They leave the aggression out of the match, until the very end when it’s too late. That aggression is a weapon the Rapids have the talent for, a weapon that is potent and deadly, that they do not use, or are scared to. It is something they need to re-institute and make a part of their long term plan if they ever expect to make it to the finals, bringing glory to the state of Colorado and the Rapids faithful.