The sky seemed bluer, the sunshine sunshiner, the air all the crisper. It's amazing how a Colorado Rapids victory, one that came after five straight losses leaving our boys in the basement of the Western Conference, and one of such convincing fashion, can give our supporter base some hope.
Hope. That's something up until Saturday that was in the shortest of supplies. But the hope-o-meter went up a few thousand degrees for many supporters after the 3-0 Rapids win against the San Jose Earthquakes. The Quakes had only lost twice in the last 13 games played at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. Now, make that three times in an impressive victory.
What are some takeaways from this?
Pablo finally switched up the formation
For three solid seasons, Rapids coach Pablo Mastroeni religiously stuck to his 4-2-3-1 formation. After the terrific year the Rapids had in 2016, one could understand if Mastroeni felt a sense of vindication. Astute Rapids fans have clamored for him to try (at least try) a 4-4-2, giving more offensive options up top.
The Twittersphere and discussion boards felt a combination of shock and glee (yes, glee!) at the 4-4-2, with Alan Gordon and Dominique Badji being the two up top and Shkelzen Gashi (quickly becoming this writer's favorite player) and Mohammed Saeid pushing forward.
The result? Gashi scored twice, Badji scored once and delivered what Matthew Doyle defined as the pass of the week, even before all the games had played out. Gordon almost started things off after Marlon Hairston's laser was magically saved by Earthquakes' GK David Bingham that quickly and surprisingly fell at Gordon's feet, but he just couldn't put it in the back of the net.
We at the Burgundy Wave have been losing our optimism in varying degrees over this losing streak, largely in part to wondering (1) if a defensive-minded coach would make an offensive-driven switch and (2) if the Rapids could ever find the back of the net under any circumstance. Gordon's miss at the 16-minute mark fed that concern. Yet, Mastroeni, showing a seriousness about a more offensive attack, followed through and prepared the team to take full advantage of their chances.
Even with this win, there's still these two 'things'...
Thing 1: The chances were still few.
Yes, the Rapids scored three times, taking full advantage of the opportunities and chances presented. How many chances, you ask? The Earthquakes outshot the Rapids 11-7, but the Rapids had four on target to the Quakes' two. The Rapids played more aggressively on offense, yes, but also put in their best performance of the year defensively. The Quakes had 56% of the possession, but even with this, the Rapids kept their composure and sent the fans home happy.
Thing 2: Is it significant that Kevin Doyle didn't start?
Alan Gordon's legacy is having a nose for goal, for sure. Yet, Kevin Doyle has been put in the untenable position over the last two years of being the lone striker is the aforementioned 4-2-3-1. Doyle possesses the stamina and the strength to warrant a start over Gordon. He would thrive working side-by-side with another striker is the new 4-4-2. Hopefully, Doyle's and Gordon's roles will reverse with Gordon coming on as a super-sub. Doyle has earned time as a starter in this formation.
What about you?
Are you impressed that Mastroeni (finally) changed to a 4-4-2? What do you think of Gordon starting over Doyle? We're glad that Badji done 'good-ji,' so do you think he'll thrive better in this formation? What other takeaways did you have?
All I know is, it was a sweet afternoon. That win injected some hope and optimism moving forward. Now, onto Chicago as the Rapids play a team (pardon the pun) on fire this Wednesday night. A win on the road against a team like the Fire will do wonders in giving our boys significant confidence moving forward.