Creativity is a meaningless word in soccer, and one that I hate seeing get thrown about as an excuse for why teams aren't scoring. The 2010 Colorado Rapids, who scored only one fewer goal than the generally well-regarded and 'creative' 2013 side, were railed on for a lack of 'creativity'. They managed to get it done regardless, because they knew what they needed to do. They loved to play a bit of long ball out of the defense and generally passed over the midfield, and they scored 44 goals through the work of a duo of forwards who were very good at going face to face against defenses.
It means nothing, but it seems to be the scapegoat people are pointing to this year for the Rapids' failures on offense. Just like lambasting a player for not having enough 'heart', talking about a team's lack of 'creativity' is simply a way to wash over an issue without actually picking into it. In this case, picking into it isn't even all that hard a task: the Rapids midfield has been fantastic defensively, but hideous offensively.
Like the 2010 side, this Rapids team likes to go for a bit of longball themselves, but they prefer to do it from the midfield instead of from the defense. Unfortunately, that has left the forwards on an island all season long, because just about everyone in the midfield seems more interested in lofting it up than making a run themselves. Since the move to the diamond 4-4-2, the midfield has been stocked with guys great in possession, but more suited for a defense-minded box-to-box role than anything involving attacking flair. That has meant great passing and possession in the bottom two thirds of the pitch, but discombobulation in the final third.
All the creativity in the world can't help the biggest issue that the Rapids have had, which is a lack of numbers forward in most situations. The first 10 minutes against the Sounders, the Rapids were being handed the ball in the center of the park time after time, only to fizzle out on the attack because it would invariably be only Edson Buddle and Gabriel Torres forward, outmanned by the Sounders defense even when they got steals in good positions. The Rapids are smart and compact in the defense and midfield, which is nice, but they seem incredibly tentative when it comes to throwing people forward from the midfield. That might partially be on Mastroeni's tactics alone, but the fact that he's starting guys better on the defensive side than the offensive in 3/4 positions in the diamond isn't helping.
It makes sense that the Rapids forwards are having major issues, because this is nearly the opposite of what they had going for them last year. The 2013 Rapids were at their best when a fire drill was on up the field and six or seven guys were flinging themselves forward at once to create mismatches. Compared with the stagnant offense with little movement we're seeing this year, it's just bad.
It's not the fault of the diamond tactic in general, as some might say. As much as Rapids fans have loved to crow endlessly about width the past few weeks, it's very possible to work well offensively in a diamond as long as they players in it know when to break forward and work in tandem with the fullbacks. It's a matter of getting the right players into the mix, which it's very arguable that Pablo hasn't done.
It seems likely that Dillon Powers, Dillon Serna and Vicente Sanchez will all be available for selection against the Los Angeles Galaxy this weekend. If Pablo wants to finally put some goals on the board, starting all three of them in the diamond instead of Nathan Sturgis and Nick Labrocca would be a bit of a risky move, but probably worth a shot. They may sacrifice a bit of possession in the end (though all three of those guys are pretty good with the ball at their feet) but any extra chances they create might give the team that bit of confidence they seem to be sorely lacking at the moment.