On Saturday night, I learned a lot about my own Rapids fandom, and the nature of fandom in general. You see, I spend quite a bit of time thinking about what it means to not just be a fan, but to be a supporter of a team. I root for some teams that have provided their fair share of heartbreaks, and unfortunately, it takes little effort to revisit the pain of near wins and gutting losses.
Due to Easter services starting early at my church the next morning (and since I'm the lead pastor at my church), I left at the 80th minute feeling good—great, even—about the match being in hand. Say what you will about the Rapids, but if they have the lead at home late into the game, they have found a way to win over the last year-plus.
We got in the car, and before we could even exit the park, the Rapids went down 2-1—and we (my boys and I) didn't say a word until we got onto I-225. My son, Daniel, then said ever so quietly, "Man, that made me sad!"
And it's here that the Rapids supporter psyche kicks in that makes me sort through why I process the Rapids' play the way I and others do. For instance...
for the first 80 minutes of the game, I thought the Rapids played better offensively.
No, really. I thought in the first half, we created more chances than we had in the previous four games combined, and I felt somewhat hopeful. I thought, "OK, it's not where I and most fans want to see it, but it's better. At this point, that's good." Granted, as @cinhosa tweeted me: "Chances created and not taken do not yield wins or playoffs." Got it! But they played better. So the stat that the Rapids held possession 37.5% in the first half surprised me. It didn't have that 'feel.'
Yet, the stats do not lie:
- The Rapids had seven shots total with three on target, while Real Salt Lake had 10 shots total with three on target (and two going in).
- Overall, the possession favored Real Salt Lake 60.6 to 39.4%.
- Real Salt Lake had 446 passes completed at a 75% rate, while the Rapids completed 284 passes at a 63% rate.
- RSL spent 66% of their possession in the attacking half, compared to 48% for the Rapids.
- The Rapids won more duels (46-37) and more tackles (10-7), but had four offsides.
- And did I mention that our already depleted backline will be without Jared Watts for Sunday's game at Minnesota?
So why do I believe the Rapids played better, and even outplayed RSL?
Have I grown delusional? Was I really sitting in the South Stands watching the same game the data bore out?
I believe the reason I felt better about the Rapids was due to one stat and one stat alone— at the 29th minute, Bismark Boateng delivered a beautiful pass to Marlon Hairston who delivered a pinpoint pass to the head of Kevin Doyle and put the Rapids up 1-0. As long as that score held up, fine! The team could keep working on improving.
Then Jared Watts.
Then the PK.
Then the winner.
Then the streak was over.
And now the Rapids are last (last!) in the west, one point behind expansion Minnesota United FC.
Let the emotions roll.
Gas up the plane.
Print up the banner.
Fire up the KSEOut movement.
Dust off the #PabloOut hashtag.
OK, South Stands, do you think it's rainbows and unicorns?
No, I don’t.
The Colorado Rapids have issues to address, and no one knows this better than the Rapids themselves. One thing I've gathered from the Rapids Front Office is that they do want to win. They know offense is needed—so much so that they traded Sam Cronin and Marc Burch away to free up space to have something in the works to address that issue.
We grow sick of rebuilding, rebuilding, rebuilding. Yet, with the parity in MLS, the proliferation of injuries, and the players moving from team to team each year, I wonder if every team is actually in rebuilding mode. (Probably not, but I still wonder.)
Some of us who write for the Burgundy Wave try to help talk supporters down from the ledge, but we all know that yes, an evaluation of the roster is needed. Yes, the verdict is still out as to whether Pablo's Platitudes put the cookies on the bottom shelf for the players. Yes, supporters want to know that something is in the works to bring in some help upfront.
It's bad. It's sad. We're mad. But it's game five of 34. Let's see if they develop chemistry and let them get some players back from injury, and see...
But it gets old. I pray that something clicks soon so the Rapids can gain some momentum.