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Backpass 6-7-15: Safe But Sorry

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It was a little too safe, and a lot un-creative as the Rapids laid an egg at the Rio Tee for our first installment of the Rocky Mountain Cup. And we didn't even have to face Kyle Beckerman.

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Friday I watched the USMNT vs. Netherlands. Saturday was the Champions League Final. Sunday, before the Colorado Rapids took on RSL in the first leg of the Rocky Mountain Cup, I watched Germany dismantle Cote D’Ivore. So the burgundy boys had a lot to live up to. I knew the bar had been set high, but I also know that my eyes couldn’t unsee the silky smooth dribbling of Messi, the pure dominance of the German women's (Die Wummanshaft?) technical skill, or the aggressive and effective 4-3-3 that Jurgen Klinsmann put on against the Dutch. So I knew I had to "recalibrate" (note: euphemism for "lower") my expectations for our Rapids.

Then the formation came out, and I saw both the Rapids AND RSL playing a 4-2-3-1. I thought: this could get ugly- just too many bodies hogging the midfield to see some open and interesting football.

And it did. The Rapids played somewhat tentative all game, or even downright chicken. RSL was content to do the same, except when they could give the ball to Joao Plata and let him go to work all by his-self. On balance, he made RSL look a tick better than the Rapids throughout the game.

Faced with this packed midfield, the Rapids went with three offense tactics: 1) Long Ball, 2) Give the ball to Ramirez have him made a run and fall down in a threatening position for a free kick, or 3) try and work methodically from the back through the constricted and heavily manned middle. As the score would in dictate, none of these really worked.

Real Salt Lake’s center-mid pairing of Luke Mulholland and John Stertzer combined to choke off the middle of the field fairly effectively: more effectively than Sarvas and Cronin, who let through a couple of scary Joao Plata runs. That said, RSL will likely have USMNT stalwart, former Colorado Rapid, filthy dreadlocked hippie, and Men in Blazers war-pig Kyle Beckerman back for the next leg, so uh-oh. If we couldn’t beat Mulholland and Stertzer in any meaningful way for 90 minutes, that bodes poorly for our chances at regaining the Rocky Mountain Cup this year.

Dillon Powers had 22 passes total, and as you can see, few were really significant. His play to Cronin for the nice shot (that yellow box in the middle) was really the only moment he was memorable in the game. The other yellow box on the right was a dish to Nick LaBrocca for a long shot, which actually threatened the goal and made the game highlight reel. Although that really tells you more about how few highlights this match had.

Whether it was due to too many bodies in midfield or a genuine struggle to play slick, creative ball, the Rapids looked a little slow, a lot passive, and were generally uncreative. There were times when I wondered where Torres and Powers had disappeared to. I’d like to pull up the game and show my loyal readers (both of you!) some screen shots of how they were cut off, but MLS Live does this stupid 48 hour blackout so I can’t re-watch the game. How many people are dying to re-watch this game, on a Monday, besides me? If you are, you should get to a psychologist, immediately.

Other thoughts

It was nice to have Marcelo Sarvas back. I think the d-mid pairing of Cronin and Sarvas has potential, even though what I really want to see is Doyle out there instead of Sam Cronin. Sarvas has better passing in the opponent’s half and better vision, and he takes some of the pressure off of Dillon Powers to make things happen…

Flipping Torres and Ramirez was a good effort. It amounted to nothing: Ramirex did his run-and-dish-to-the-other-team routine on another side. Torres, as you can see from this first half chart, didn’t do much: two shots, a failed cross. This is the first half chart, but if I pulled up the second half chart it would basically clutter the picture but tell the same story. Torres and Ramirez failing to make an impact is becoming a trend, and that's not good…

Dillon Powers penalty kick. I can’t even…

Tim Hinchey should seriously consider signing Megan Rapinoe. Because, daaaaamn.

Luis Solignac showed us what he can do in the 87th minute when he received a long ball, twisted and turned around two defenders, and got fouled in the box to set up one of the Rapids only two really good chances; the other was a nice Powers to Cronin dish in front of goal in the 53rd. Let’s get Solignac the ball more, please, and soon…