Two completely different games emerged within one game on Friday night at Dicks Sporting Goods Park. For the first half and the early part of the second, two teams were pushing on each other. The Colorado Rapids and FC Dallas were each getting opportunities, but like this season has gone so far, FC Dallas was able to convert on one of their opportunities.
But in the second when Blas Perez was sent off with a straight red card, the Rapids took control. Except for a couple breakaways that were dealt with, the majority of play took place in the south end of the pitch. Not until Nick LaBrocca got on the end of the header from Dillon Powers in the 79' did the Rapids get the equalizer.
In the first-half the Rapids seemed slow in moving the ball, but a few great through balls by James Riley put the Rapids on the front foot and provided good opportunities to score. A nice shot by LaBrocca beat Dan Kennedy but not the post. Just an inch further to the left and the ball finds the back of the net.
On the FC Dallas goal all the defensive players for the Rapids collapsed to the end line opening up space by the back post at the top of the six for the goal by Fabian Castillo. Players need to recognize that the end line was covered and take away the danger further up the field.
FC Dallas was lucky to finish the game with 10 men. Kellyn Acosta was lucky to get yellow and not red on his tackle on Juan Ramírez, he took more leg than he got ball and had his studs up. Kennedy was lucky not to get a yellow for taking out LaBrocca after the goal. That was a dangerous play and Kennedy probably should have received his second yellow of the match.
Here is how I saw the match.
Clint Irwin (7): Clint came up big again for the Rapids. In the 5' Perez was able to get behind the back line of the Rapids but Irwin came out and met him preventing an early goal for FC Dallas. This would have changed the entire tone of the match, somewhat like the Rapids did in Dallas two weeks ago. After the sending off, Irwin became an 11th field player distributing the ball from the back.
James Riley (8): Riley had a lot better game this week than vs Seattle. He had a few great through passes to Torres and Powers that led to great opportunities for the Rapids. He was active and when needed to was able to stop Castillo. What caught my eye though was his passes. They were the correct weight and location and just split FC Dallas open to the right side. This speeds up the attack giving FC Dallas trouble and more importantly, scoring opportunities for the Rapids.
Drew Moor (7): Moor was a pest all night long to FC Dallas. In the first half, Dillon Powers puts in a good attacking corner to the back post. Dominque Badji and Kennedy get to the ball at the same time but Kennedy drops the ball. Sitting on the ground, Moor almost gets his foot on the ball to put it in the net. Right after he earned is yellow for dissent on a foul call in the middle of the pitch, something set off Perez who shoved Moor to the ground. Instant red and the Rapids were up a man.
Axel Sjoberg (7): Sjorberg was solid in the backline in the first half and steadily worked his way up to an attacking roll in the second when the Rapids were up a man. He started spending more-and-more time in and around the goal the Rapids were attacking. There were a couple of times he brought the ball up the pitch and it was obvious that is not is gig. He turned it over. Sjorberg needs to watch his elbows. If he was the size of all his competitors it wouldn't be an issue, but he is a foot or more taller than some of his competitors and he is starting to get a reputation for throwing elbows. Though it looks like a natural position for me, they are catching opponents in the head and neck area. This is a point of emphasis for Major League Soccer and we might see more calls against him.
Michael Harrington (6): Harrington had some good passes on the left, one that stood out to me was the pass to Ramírez that led to Ramírez getting fouled. He is a good asset to have, someone who can play on either side of the pitch. The one mistake that stood out to me was he gave up too much ground to Castillo on FC Dallas' goal. Once Castillo made it to the box, Harrington and then Sjorberg were done. That threat needs to be stopped further up the pitch by Harrington.
Nick LaBrocca (9): Though everyone was questioning why LaBrocca was subbed on in an attacking roll last week and despite all groaning when we saw him in the starting XI, Nick came out and had a great match. He had the previously mentioned great opportunity off the post in the first-half and then sold out to get the equalizer at the end of the match before getting leveled by Kennedy. He pressured the ball quite well and earned a few turnovers. He is my Man of the Match.
Lucas Pittinari (7): Pittinari had another one of those quiet nights, just working along as a defensive midfielder. But looking at the stats, he had a pretty good night. He finished the night with four shots and one on target plus he had four fouls which is a fair number for a defensive mid. But the one stat he won't get credit for is the cross to Powers. He got some room and set a beautiful cross to the back post that was met by Powers with a text book header back to LaBrocca who put it in the back of the net.
Gabriel Torres (7): Gabby was causing problems for the FC Dallas defense all night. He was able to get some passes to him and get some crosses in, including a couple of shots. The defense was struggling to keep him contained. I think this is the position that naturally fits the skills of Torres. He is able to stretch the defense down the sideline and then when they try and take that away he can cut in and get space in the middle. He worked his butt off in this match.
Dillon Powers (8): Game after game Powers is starting to take hold of that central attacking midfield position. He was unlucky to score in the first half and earned the assist on LaBrocca's goal in the second half. He took four corners with a couple of those challenging Kennedy and FC Dallas. He is becoming a mainstay in the starting XI and he has earned it. The confidence is growing and more good will come from Dillon Powers this year.
Juan Ramírez (8): Talk about giving the FC Dallas players a fit, Ramírez sure did. He was fouled 8 times in that match and pushed, kicked, and abused many more times. His moves with the ball confused and confounded the opposition and the only way they could stop them was to foul him. In the second half, with the ball he was able to beat a double-team on the sideline and then draw a foul which earned a yellow on Castillo.
Dominique Badji (6): Badji is still learning and one thing he needs to do is work on timing. He was in a good position several times but started his runs too early putting himself offsides. That doesn't help the Rapids. He does have the vertical leap and was able to get his head to the ball just as Kennedy was grabbing it in the first half. Before being subbed off, he looked to be tiring, He became less effective as the second half progressed. Here is hoping he improves his timing, he could be a dangerous player for the Rapids.
Vicente Sánchez (7): Teams are starting to adjust to Sánchez. When he came in and as FC Dallas was putting 9 into the box, he would get double and even triple-teamed when he had the ball. That makes it difficult for players like Sánchez to do what they like to do. But moving with the ball, he was able to draw three fouls in dangerous situations. He had a great play to the end line where he was able to step over a FC Dallas defender and get a shot on goal that troubled Kennedy.
Those are my thoughts. What are yours?