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Backpass: 2016 is a new year... with some of the same problems as 2015

Backpass - your tactical Tuesday graph and chart-fest - is back! But can someone please dial up a win for me to breakdown?

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

(Sigh). Another year, another loss for the Colorado Rapids; the fourth such year without an opening day win. In 2015, it was a scoreless draw at Philadelphia. In 2014, it was a 1-1 draw against NYRB. In 2013, it was a 1-0 loss at Dallas. The last time a Colorado Rapids team won on opening day was 2012, when they beat Columbus 1-0. Matt Pickens was the keeper. Scott Palguta was a defender. Pablo Mastroeni was still a player. Brian Mullan still had knee cartilage.

The problems of last year - goal scoring - raised their ugly head again. But there is some reason to be hopeful.

Oy, the Shooting

Last year's problem was not only finishing, which the team has had since Deshorn Brown was the point man of the offense, but more importantly getting into high probability shot locations: the magical ‘zone 14'. In short, they took bad shots.

That wasn't Sunday's problem. The Rapids had 18 shots (!) against San Jose, a team we knew would be defensive and tough to break down. But the Rapids not only played well and moved the ball forward well, especially in the last 10 minutes, but took shots in good locations!

Here's a link to a great article on where goals come from ("One night, mommy and daddy drank a handle of Jim Beam, and the lights were just right, and daddy put on some Barry White, and..."). No, no, no.



Goals predominately come from high percentage shots (duh!). Here are the % of foot shots (this was for 2013-14, but these numbers are pretty stable from year to year) that become goals

15.5% of goals come from location 1.

45.7% (!) come from location 2.

15.8% come from location 3.

14.8% come from location 4.

Below are the shots by our starting attackers: Shkelzen Gashi, Dillon Powers, Dominique Badji, and Kevin Doyle.



So the good news is the Rapids are taking the right shots- lots of location 2.


The bad news is we aren't scoring on them.


Here are two of those shots: Badji - Doyle at the 88th, as a Vine.



Badji took two shots in location 3; both were pretty decent, both saved. Statistically, that shot should score 7% of the time. So, ok. Forgivable.

That top of the box shot in location 4 should go for a goal 5.5% of the time. So those four misses were also understandable.

But those shots in location 2 become goals 20.7% of the time, on average. For the Rapids on Sunday, all of those shots were no good. One was Doyle's attempted put back up above. Another is this left-footed half-volley by Badji.



Argggh! Badji! Why shoot that? That's a freaking circus shot. Settle and shoot the sensible ball. Try to get on Sports Center once you've guaranteed yourself a starting job, for cripes sake.

It's just not good enough. The team shot like crap, especially Doyle. The best shot of the night came from late sub Marco Pappa, who put his head on the ball well but donked it off the post.



In summary, the attackers need to shake the rust out of their shooting boots fast. Especially the ones making north of $1 million a year. Because the last two pieces of the 2016 Rapids puzzle still on their way - Tim Howard and Jermaine Jones - aren't going to be on the team to score goals.

But Yay! The Passing, With One Exception

The team had a lot of good, short passing that lead to all these shots, especially from Jared Watts. Dom Badji lost all his take-ons and was generally bossed pretty hard by Marvell Wynne, giving him only 8/12 passing. EXCEPT that he made his passing moments count, finding 3 key passes (passes that led to shots - see below). Watts got forward a few times in threatening ways. There was even the kind of gorgeous tiki-taka play down the left side in the first half that I'd love to Vine, except that MLS Live only lets me view condensed games right now. Darn.

We got all those awesome shots because we moved the ball well, and mostly on short passes, instead of long balls or blistering runs (Hairston did the only racing of the day, and that looked great.) Here's a chart with some passing numbers that show how strong the team was Sunday at picking out the right pass - and moving into space to receive the safe ball, a skill that also is notable.


That other red box above is around Kevin Doyle's passing. It was bad. Here's his map.



That's... a lot of red. And very little green in the final third. He had 18/30 passing for those of you scoring at home. Granted, Doyle's better at putting the ball into the net than he is dishing the rock. Still. He's a DP player, and he straight stunk up the joint. Doyle was 0/3 on shooting. He blew this one too.

His inability to both move the ball cleanly in the final third and to finish good shooting chances are a big reason we failed to score. Everybody gets a clunker now and again. But remember- Mike Magee had 2 goals and an assist on Sunday too, and he was basically available for free. We paid beaucoup bucks for Doyle. It's gotta be better.

Quick Hits

We did NOT pay beaucoup bucks for Dom Badji, nor has he ever played at that right attacker spot. He was... ok. That half-volley above... why? Why not settle the ball and try and score, instead of that lottery ticket shot he took there? Badji gives you size and holdup play when you start him in attack, but I would have expected Dillon Serna to take that spot...

Gashi was kind of disappointing, but he had flashes. He was subbed off at 67', and looked pretty much listless beginning at the 40' mark. Hopefully he gets fit to go longer, because I was pretty sure putting Luis Solignac on for him wasn't going to bear fruit. I really wanted to be proven wrong...

The defense did the job they set out to do. Fullbacks Miller and Hairston looked fantastic, especially getting forward, but also closing down in the corners. Cronin and Azira made the midfield almost impenetrable. SJ were frustrated, and denied possession, throughout. Very impressive. Now, can they do it again against a much more dangerous LA Galaxy team next week?

Watts had good passing, and he also gave the Rapids a lot of good defending, although he made two mistakes - one he raced back and corrected with an emergency tackle on Amerikwa to save the day, and another that... turned into a headed goal for Chris Wondolowski. Whether he keeps his job when Sean St Ledger is back from injury (back? Knee? I've heard various things) is a good question.

Hey. Backpass is back. Rejoice.