Pablo Mastroeni's tactical acumen, substitution choices and line-up selection have all been much improved from last season, which is just the sort of thing that we wanted to see going into his second season even if the improvements haven't happened quite as quickly as we were hoping for. There are, naturally, still some issues with the young coach's game, and his in-game tactical issues were right at the forefront against FC Dallas on Friday.
The Rapids probably should have won the game on Friday. Past a ridiculously well set-up goal for FC Dallas, the defense was mostly stout and the Rapids moved the ball pretty well in the middle third of the park even discounting the fact that they were a man up for a half hour. Unfortunately, the Rapids' tactics weren't up to snuff.
The team went into the game with the wrong tactical mindset, which isn't necessarily a terrible thing. Great managers send their teams into matches with tactics that don't end up working all the time, and they adjust. The issue here was with the adjustment, or rather the lack of it. FC Dallas is known for a few different things, and one of the most notable is a rock-solid group of center backs. Their team is loaded with Axel Sjoberg types, big guys who love to slurp up balls lofted in towards them before attacking players can ever think of reaching them.
Naturally, against this team, the Rapids decided to... play wide and try to cross at first sight? Oh, dear. It worked about as well as you'd expect it to. Here's the stat of the game, from our friend Ben:
Rapids were absolutely devoted to crossing the ball in from wide. That's what they do. 26 crosses on the night. 3 of which were successful.— The Rapids Apologist (@thelosthooligan) April 25, 2015
Yep. You didn't even need to see that number in order to know it, I'm sure. It passed the eye test pretty well. A Rapids player cutting down towards the byline and smacking a cross in right to the waiting head or feet of a Dallas CB was the theme of the night on offense, and it's a miracle that the Rapids even got a goal out of it. There were other points in the match where players like Juan Ramirez decided to take it upon themselves to instead take it into the box and make a chance themselves, but those were few and far between enough to give Dan Kennedy only a few big saves to make.
Up a man, there were plenty of opportunities to take people on and try to win the match with speed and guile instead of size and crossing, which was clearly not working after the first 45 minutes. A lack of in-game adjustments have been killing the Rapids this season and that's probably the number one spot where they need major improvement if they're to start scoring goals more frequently.