Oscar Pareja started Atiba Harris over Vicente Sanchez in a playoff game, and left him in for the full 90.
Oscar Pareja started German Mera over Marvell Wynne, and left him in for the full 90.
You can complain about the refereeing, which was pretty awful on both sides of the ball, all you want. You can complain about the turf, which had its terror shows on both sides of the ball, all you want. But in the end, Colorado's 2-0 loss to the Seattle Sounders came down to two immensely confusing maneuvers from Oscar Pareja. I made it very clear prior to this match that Oscar Pareja would not win if he decided to sit back on the attacking side of the ball, and put in a more defensive and conservative group of players. He did just that by having Harris and Shane O'Neill together on the right side of the field.
Gabriel Torres and Martin Rivero both seemed a step slower than usual while playing on the turf field, and with those guys playing a step off and Harris doing nothing in particular on the other side of the field, the Sounders were able to replicate their double-coverage of Brown from the last time the Rapids traveled to Seattle. As such, the offense was about as lifeless and unable to create as it had been all season.
On the other side, the defending was mostly of the emergency variety as the Sounders midfield stomped and romped all over the Rapids defense. German Mera seemed three steps behind everyone else on the field while making his first real appearance for the Rapids in ages. Chris Klute also had one of his worst games ever, constantly failing to move the ball up the field, losing possession, and turning the ball over on throw-ins. Eventually, the Sounders earned a deserved goal when Brad Evans was left alone in the 18-yard-box.
Oscar Pareja left Atiba Harris on in the second half, and made no halftime substitutes. That went about as well as you would expect. The worst part for Pareja wasn't just that, though. When he finally brought on Vicente Sanchez, he brought him on for Martin Rivero, who had been Colorado's only real attacking outlet in the first half. When he brought on Edson Buddle, it was for Deshorn Brown, who was decent enough when he was actually given space and time. Harris played the full 90 minutes, and contributed essentially nothing as Vicente turned the game around.
Lacking Brown and Rivero may have been what killed them in the end. Micheal Gspurning was called for a handball outside of his own area, and instantly sent off with five minutes remaining. Unfortunately, Colorado had no speed or bite to take advantage of it, and only got a real chance off on the ensuing corner kick. After that, Seattle merely had to boot the ball to Mera or Klute and watch them destroy the Rapids from the inside out. Eventually, Eddie Johnson scored after turnstiling Mera aside, and that was the end of that.
It was a year of growth for everyone, including and especially Oscar Pareja. Hopefully this will turn into one of the biggest learning experiences yet for the second-year man. Until then, let's toast to a far better season than anyone expected and look forward to knocking them dead in 2014.