I don't usually dive into the world of non-tangible soccer terms -- ask me how I feel about a player's best attribute being 'heart, grit and determination' -- but here's an interesting thought that I had after watching the Chivas USA win.
Following the game, I put out these two tweets:
Though the game itself was a bit blah, the two goals were both exactly what Rapids soccer is supposed to look like.— Burgundy Wave (@Burgundywave) May 26, 2013
On the ground, through a sequence of passes and great teamwork to eventually create easy finishes for the eventual targets.— Burgundy Wave (@Burgundywave) May 26, 2013
Essentially, when we hear about 'attractive, attacking soccer', that's what we're talking about. Both goals had two assists on them, each one also had a string of several passes leading up to easily finished chances. That's the sort of thing that Barcalona does to get their moniker of the most attractive team in the world. (Amazing individual efforts that turn into golazos don't hurt things either.)
We'll call those 'pretty goals'. Those are the goals that the Rapids go into every game wanting to score, and the types of goals that they really should be scoring against a defense as porous as Chivas' is. Colorado has the players to stretch defenses with pinpoint passing in the midfield to the strikers, creating open opportunities like the ones that Atiba Harris and Nathan Sturgis finished off. (And Atiba should really have had two!)
However, most (all) of the defenses in MLS are better than Chivas' is. Colorado's players are mostly still young and still working on chemistry since their team changes due to injury seemingly every week. I maintain that we're not going to see the full potential of these guys until next season for those reasons, and that's why they can't just focus on those pretty goals. They should absolutely keep going into games hoping to score said pretty goals, but gameplans change if defenses are having particularly good evening.
Now, what's an 'Ugly goal'? That's when you capitalize on one of the mistakes that even the best defenses make every game. Getting deflections, beating people up to get headers, scoring on set pieces.
Here's the thing, Colorado has yet to put a game together this year featuring both 'pretty goals' and 'ugly goals'. (Penalty kicks aside, since that Portland game comes to mind.) That's the way to win games if you're the Rapids, I think. Focus on trying to get those pretty goals but practice finishing off those ugly chances. That was the biggest issue with last season's team. We saw all sorts of opportunities created by the squad, capitalizing on opposition mistakes, earning free kicks and penalty kicks, and being unable to finish a dang thing.
They've started putting those together this season. Just about every goal they've scored this season, actually, have been of the 'ugly' variety. Deshorn Brown's against RSL, Atiba Harris' against RSL and Edson Buddle's against Toronto. (Capitalizing on awful mistakes and bad marking by the other team's defense.) Drew Moor's against Houston and Nathan Sturgis' against San Jose. (Scoring from set pieces.) Dillon Powers' against Columbus. (Both a set piece and a deflection!)
Really, the only two 'pretty goals' I can think of before that Chivas game were the blooters by Jamie Smith against Philly and Dillon Powers against Portland. And both of those were of the 'beautiful individual effort' category, not the 'superb team play' category.
Even though they're getting those gritty goals now, they're struggling mightily at putting together the pretty ones in the end, even though that's the aim of the team going into most of the games. That should get better as the years go along and the team continues to gel together, but the Rapids are starting to look like a contender immediately with the results they've pulled out lately. If that's going to turn into anything substantial like, dare we say it, a trophy, they'll need to find it sooner rather than later. They've already started playing good soccer. It's up to them to make that good soccer look as good in the end as they did against Chivas all the time.