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Backpass: Marc Burch for USMNT

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Marc Burch pwned the Seattle Sounders. He would pwn Colombia and Mexico too if Jurgen would let him. Backpass.

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Marc Burch is a damn peasant folk hero. After this game, ballads were written of his legend in small villages across the Slavic hinterland. When battling ‘Marc Burch' in an MMORG, you must roll a 99 in order to survive an encounter with him. Marc Burch actually runs MLS' central office of man-bun approval: no player in the league may sport his signature hairstyle without expressed written consent from Marc Burch himself. If the US had had Burch in 1941, they could have dropped him over a Japanese city and ended the war immediately. Burch relaxed after the game by solving an equation sent to him by Fermi Labs, giving a lecture on his work decoding the human genome, and rescuing a family of penguins from a South American ice floe. When MLS named him to the ‘best XI' this week, he humbly demurred and handed the honor off to young Swede Axel Sjoberg.

In all seriousness, Marc Burch was the difference for the Rapids between winning 1-0 and losing 2-0. Burch did this:

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... and this ...

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And he delivered the corner that turned into this.

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Clearly that first paragraph I wrote is satirical. But the headline -'Marc Burch for USMNT'? I'm only half-kidding. The roster Jurgen Klinsmann named for Copa America this weekend is completely devoid of left backs. Not. A. One.

Tim Ream and Edgar Castillo and Brek Shea were all reasonable options that were passed over. Robbie Rogers and his gorgeous hair
is firmly stationed on the Benny Feilhaber Memorial Klinsmann On Deck Circle.

Marc Burch has been better this year than Rogers: if you disagree with me, I'll fight you. Burch has a penchant for emergency defending like nobody else - go back and you'll see that he has at least one inch-perfect slide tackle in the final third in every single Rapids game this year. His passing is reliable. He's an excellent crosser, both in the run of play and on set pieces. Sure, he doesn't give Jurgen the wide attacking option like other fullbacks because he doesn't have blistering pace, but Burch is probably the #1 safety valve guy on the Rapids roster that allows Sam Cronin and Jermaine Jones to go wherever because they know that Burch is there to save the day if they don't get there.

Is this ridiculous? Sort of. There's no way the USMNT bring a 32 year old in to the team for his first cap since he was a U20, back in 2003. No way. And Robbie Rogers or Jorge Villafana both have potentially a better overall makeup to earn the spot over Burch. But do I think Burch would A) do a great job and B) be better than any left back on the current roster? Yes. Yes I do.

Were these tactics good?

The Rapids tactical plan was extremely conservative - the most conservative I've seen since forever. The Rapids willingly conceded possession from start to finish, as Seattle held the ball 66% to Colorado's 34%. The Rapids defended extremely deep - deeper than they have all year. This picture illustrates it well, and in this game, the Rapids typically held their line like this on every possession: concede Seattle's half, post the defensive mids just in front of the 18, put the defense deep.

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Deny the middle. The Rapids didn't even really attack on the counter either. The offense was mostly meant to get into the final third as cautiously and slowly as possible, especially in the first half.

Was that a good plan? Listen, we won, so... yes? On the other hand, I saw a lot of problems. First of all, defensively, you either attack the ball, or clog passing lanes. The Rapids did neither very well. Watch as Seattle just absolutely runs right up the gut here on two plays early in the first half.

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Scott to Ivanschitz to Jones. Serna and Cronin and Burling and Williams all caught in space. That kind of thing would happen again.

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This is Osvaldo Alonso being Ozzie, but Clint Dempsey being pretty-un-Dempsey in not finishing this chance cleanly. But it's also Micheal Azira being too passive, and Sam Cronin not wearing Dempsey like a coat, as he should be. Thankfully, the defending got better in the second half, and there were fewer wide open chances for Seattle.

Another problem the Rapids had was containing Joevin Jones and Tyrone Mears, Seattle's fullbacks. They attacked mercilessly down the wings and helped Seattle create dangerous shots : a total of 17 to the Rapids 10. The Rapids kept their wingers, Luis Solignac and Dillon Serna, pinned on defense, and even with Jones and Mears pressed high in attack, the Rapids really never exploited the Sounders vulnerability at fullback. Here are all the dribbles and passed from Solignac and Serna. It didn't amount to much, especially not in the final third.

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This either A) speaks to the extreme conservatism of the Rapids game plan, B) speaks to Mears and Jones' ability to track back, or C) speaks to Solignac and Serna's sporadic ineffectiveness on the wings. I think it's a little of all three.

For those Rapids fans who are regularly up in arms as to why Dillon Serna doesn't get regular starts, this game was again a good display. He was pushed off the ball a bunch. He didn't add much in defense, and the Rapids literally played defense twice as much as they played offense. But most importantly, he didn't give you the one thing Dillon Serna needs to if you put him on: a threatening run that bends the defense to his will. Serna should still get chances, but his development curve has been stuck in first gear for a very long time, and it's disappointing.

Back to tactics: I think this plan was bad. Seattles' fullbacks had so much room behind them, they were practically giving out hand-lettered invitations to the Rapids to counter aggressively. In the second half, the Rapids did attack those corners a bit more. We were lucky to get away with a tie in this one, let alone a win, because on the night, almost everyone would admit, Seattle was the better team.

So why didn't Seattle win?

Too much Friberg and Ivanschitz and Morris screwing up. JJ Kovar doing nothing. Not enough Ozzie and Deuce. No Oba on the bench (winking emoji).

Seattle had more chances and better chances (if I had an xG map, I could prove that) but they choked in front of goal. Here's a great example (to go with that Deuce one up above):

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Erik Friberg makes a perfectly timed run through the back line and gets a ball floated over the top to him by Ozzie Alonso. He's in great position in the 18 with Morris in front of goal and Clint Dempsey streaking into the box. Andreas Ivanschitz is alone on the far side.

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So rather than go to the team's number 9 who has three goals in three games, or the USMNT DP with a nose for goal, Friberg lofts it up to Ivanschitz, an Austrian midfielder who has't impressed me yet in his time in MLS. Ivanschitz's only option is to volley, and he skies it over the net.

There were more than a few of these type of play in this game. Like I said: if I had an xG map, I'd bet that Seattle were biblically bad in front of the net.

So the Rapids were lucky. Usually we're good, and on this night, we were lucky. Hey, being mostly good and sometimes lucky is a sound strategy that a certain team called Leicester rode all the way to an EPL title this year.

Quick Hit

When I saw that the Rapids scored on a corner to Axel Sjoberg, I immediately thought to myself "Oh yeah. That's the 'Axel starts outside the box and runs straight towards the back post' play the Rapids have been running for a year and a half. It finally worked. But then, re-watching it, I saw it was a different set play that I didn't recall: it's a neat double pick from Burling and JJ. Set plays on corners, like in-bounds plays in basketball, are so cool, and they require practice and skill in order to work. Props to the Rapids coaching staff and all the players in choreographing this ballet to perfection. Defending corners also requires work, as NYCFC learned the hard way this weekend when they gave up four corner-kick goals in one game. Oy...

Rapids Thug Life Moment

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Oh yeah. Zach Scott's gonna feel that in the morning.