While it’s obvious that Pablo Mastroeni and the Colorado Rapids are still tweaking the lineup (especially on offense), the Starting XI today vs. Houston Dynamo was pretty close to what we were seeing towards the end of last year:
I would love to see Shkëlzen Gashi in the 10 instead of Dillon Powers to see what that group could do. But I digress.
The defense was tested early, but for about 30 or so minutes, the Rapids kept the ball forward. They pushed up and got numbers in the box (which is what Pablo has been talking about this preseason), but the service into the box needed some work. I’m not sure how many shots we had in the first half, but the guys did narrowly miss and hit the crossbar a couple times.
We saw much of the same as last year - Dillon Powers was either hot or cold with his passing, Dominique Badji was super fast, and Jared Watts did a decent job cleaning up in the back until he got tired towards the end of the second half (I guess he’s not ready to lose his job to a young gun quite yet). Eric Miller was doing well until about the 43rd minute... Romell Quioto dribbled the ball down 1v1 with Miller and just blasted it into the upper left corner. Zac MacMath (who had a great save earlier) didn’t even move. The Rapids went down 0-1 just before the half.
The Rapids didn’t make any changes to start the second half, and Kevin Doyle had a good chance early but the Houston keeper came out aggressively and shut down the opportunity. The beginning of the second half was fairly balanced, though - both teams were getting the ball down to the other end and getting shots off, but nothing all that impressive from either side.
In the 67th minute, Boniek García settled a bouncing ball and passed it to Alberth Elis who came flying up the right side. Elis blew past Axel Sjoberg and Jared Watts, and tapped it to the oncoming Quioto. Quioto easily put it in the back of the net and the Dynamo went up 2-0. Just a few minutes later, the Dynamo keeper came WAY off his line, but Powers couldn’t get it on frame and there were too many orange jerseys in the box to get a shot off.
Houston continued to make subs, while the Colorado side stayed quiet. Apparently there was a scrimmage before this game with many of the B squad players, so maybe the plan was to wear out the starters and kick them into gear before the home opener next week. Despite being obviously worn out, the Rapids continued to push up and get opportunities in the box, but nothing came of it, and the final score was 2-0 Houston.
Side note (because I’m not sure where else to put this): Micheal Azira had a great game. He hustled the entire 90, stepped up to the ball, and was everywhere he needed to be. If he continues to play like this, I don’t foresee Nana Adjei-Boateng taking his spot anytime soon. Sam Cronin, on the other hand, didn’t have a bad game, but didn’t play as much of a role as we typically see from him.
The Rapids are definitely being more aggressive on the attack by high pressing and getting guys in the box, but it’s still pretty mind-boggling that they didn’t sign a true number 9 or a 10 in the offseason. Alan Gordon will absolutely have an impact in that 9 role, but he’s not going to be a starter. Tonight we saw much more offensive pressure than we are used to, but it seemed to be at the expense of the defense. But it was still preseason, so I’ll be curious to see how things pan out with a Starting XI that includes Gashi, in a game where actual points are on the line.