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Removing the Blinders

The Rapids are ten games into their 2014 season. How can they improve?

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

"Mama said there’ll be days like this"The Shirelles

When October 26 arrives this year, let’s hope that we aren’t looking back to the game played last Sunday against Chivas, as the reason for the season ending and no playoff run.  This weekend Pablo got whipped both on the pitch and in the tactics department.  Rapids left three points on the table to a team Rapids made a whole lot better than their 1-5-3 record suggests.

There are tiers of talent in the MLS and this weekend, on paper, suggested the first "easy" game for the Rapids. It just goes to show you that no one is a push over.  Granted, it was the third game in 9 days for the Rapids and they had a tough mid-week showdown with the always favorite Quakes.  But really there should be no excuse for losing to an inferior squad, on your own turf, and in a snow storm.  Wasn’t so much the Snoclassico part II as it was Snofiasco!

Ten matches in the books and the Rapids stand at 4-3-3, on pace for 51 points.  Currently 5th place in the Western Conference.  Two weeks ago I stated what I thought were a bunch of positives.  This time around I’d suggest some areas of improvement

1)  Thirty four games over an 8 month period is a daunting schedule especially with games compressed due to the World Cup. Listening to Pablo go on about how talented his team is and that everyone on the roster deserves to start is a neat ploy to get us to think he is resting legs and getting players ready for the long drag of Summer. It could also mean, while our talent is good, there aren’t truly 11 players that deserve to be on the pitch for every match. While we like to claim what great depth we have, it is more often the case that no single player is stepping up and claiming a starting job.

Perfect example of this is Mwanga. Claimed off the trash heap from Portland in 2013, he has the DNA to be great. 75 minutes of Chivas didn’t make him an all-star. Then compare this to a player the Rapids couldn’t find minutes for, Martin Chavez. We trade him and then watch him score two goals against us this weekend. For a Rapids team struggling to string goals together to then get torched by a guy who can’t get minutes, one has to wonder what is going on for the Rapid’s decision makers.

2) Let’s for a moment take Pablo’s claim that resting everyone is a good thing.  When then do we trot out the definitive lineup?  Is it this weekend against our rivals?  And if questioned who would be our legitimate starters?

If March and April are treated kind of like a preseason, kick the tires, see what meshes well, have the Rapids learned anything they didn’t already know? And due to the lineup changes is anyone truly on the same page? While I would throw out this weekend due to the wind and snow, it does serve as a baseline to show that the players just are not in sync. Passes going wide, players not cutting to where the passer thinks he should be, and balls crossing to no one. As a fan you can just tell that this team is not clicking.

3) In regards to not clicking, the offense is nowhere to be found. With only eleven goals scored, four of these by PK, the anemic forwards need to get going. Part of this I believe falls into the ever changing lineups. Goal scoring as much as anything is a feel or touch. Sometimes it takes time but none of the forwards, except maybe Brown, has seen any significant time to find that touch. Plus, the midfielders have been such a revolving door that even if time on the pitch was there, I don’t think anyone is on the same page.

Sanchez is probably not back until July. That means between Buddle, Brown, and/or Torres someone needs to step up. Excuses be damned at this point. First thing is to get Torres involved. He is supposed to be the money maker. Put him out there. Brown isn’t sneaking up on anyone this year. Torres is supposed to be the pure goal scorer. If he doesn’t find his stroke in the next month, Rapids are done.

Rapids can’t keep relying on Clint "Freaking" Irwin to be a wall in every game.

4) I love Pablo’s attitude. It is a breath of fresh air but with humbling defeats against Seattle and Chivas, a gift win against LA (missed PK anyone?), another draw against San Jose, and the early season positives are starting to wear thin.

Seems like lot of talk. With the rivalry game this week a lot of whispering can be quieted. Little less positive mumble jumble and a little more hard love this week. Players need to step up. The Chavez bickering, club house bickering (Buddle/Mwange flair up?), and whatever else needs to be addressed must be fixed.

Pablo, you aren’t the Captain anymore, you’re the Manager. Tough decisions have to be made and the team needs to start moving in the right direction. Also toning it down for the media might be a good start. While I’m sure the writer’s love your quotes, it also seems to serve as a distraction. A good leader let’s his actions do the talking. Right now I believe the team is tittering. They need a rock.

So there is my pessimism for the week.  Losing to Chivas at home in the snow and cold can do that to a fan.  Facing an undefeated Real team playing at its best and at home will be a stiff task.  Hard to say this but I think this Rapids team is facing a must win or draw game.  A point or three this weekend and the boys should find their silver lining.  A loss, especially by more than one goal, and let the soul searching begin.

This is a good team, it deserves better, let’s hope they find some magic.  My starting eleven for this weekend would be:

Irwin, Burch, Wynne, Moor, Klute, LaBrocca, Mara, Powers, Serna, Buddle, Torres