It's been a wacky Major League Soccer season. We've seen some high-scoring games, like last weekend's New England Revolution Victory over the Philadelphia Union by a 5-3 score. Then we had games like the recent tilt between the Los Angeles Galaxy and the Portland Timbers where both teams volleyed goals in stoppage time to end with a draw.
The Colorado Rapids in their recent slump have not really shared in the excitement. In large measures, the Rapids are playing sleepy, disorganized soccer.
Goals in the opening 45 minutes has been rare for the Rapids this season have been a rare jewel. In fact, it's only happened once, with Vicente Sanchez's cheeky score against the Galaxy. The rest of the season, we've seen the Rapids come out of the national anthem to just chuck the ball around aimlessly, unable to move to ball to their forwards in any meaningful fashion.
Say what you want about Oscar Pareja's teams during his two years here, but those squads at least tried to attack the goal, even if he lacked anything in the way of reliable snipers to put shots on frame. At least as a fan, you had some semblance of suspense watching what could be a solid goal scoring chance. And occasionally, Pareja's Rapids would break through, like the time they racked up five goals against the Seattle Sounders last year and then later rallied from a couple deficits in a critical playoff stretch match against the Vancouver Whitecaps.
It's difficult to see the Rapids doing that much with their lackadaisical approach in 2014. It's frustrating and boring to watch the midfield gather the ball from the defense, look around, see no options and no runs and then pass the ball back to the defense to give them another crack at moving the ball ahead. And its worse to see them seem disinterested until they fall behind to their opponents.
Mastroeni said he wanted to bring positive play and thinking-man's soccer to the Rapids this season, but this latest slump has been characterized by unaggressive, unimaginative play.
Drew Moor remarked at the conclusion of last weekend's loss to Real Salt Lake, in which the Rapids only seemed to want to come out to play after they fell behind 2-0 that his teammates couldn't wait until they were punched in the face to decide to play. His assessment was right on the money. The RSL game reminded one a bit of their triumph over the Whitecaps earlier this season when the Rapids showed no spark until they behind by a goal. And even then, it took a weird red card against the Whitecaps for Colorado to get after it and win off of two Jose Mari blasts.
The RSL game also had some parallels to the team's first match against the San Jose Earthquakes, in which the Rapids decided to control possession but couldn't make it matter much as efforts to set up a decent shot never seemed to yield much in the way of goal-scoring opportunities.
It's perhaps not too fair to come down so hard on a young squad working in a new system. And to be honest, the Rapids look like a different team with Sanchez in the lineup, but the veteran has been injured or otherwise not playing for much of the season. And we all realize it could be worse, given that the team snagged some impressive victories against some tough early opponents.
But Rapids president Tim Hinchey said recently he wanted to build a fortress at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. The Rapids will face enough challenges in making that dream a reality without subjecting the fans to uninspired soccer.