At the end of the first half, the Colorado Rapids' Mekeil Williams had the ball at the half line for about ten seconds with four Rapids positioning themselves ready to receive a ball in. He surveys, surveys, surveys. His choice?
A backpass, followed by a chorus of boos.
This play encapsulates the entirety of the game Friday against the Vancouver Whitecaps, and our season in general. Outside of Shkelzen Gashi, the Rapids show a fear on the offensive end. Far too often, when a choice stood before a player between passing the ball forward and passing it backward to reset, was to move backwards.
Is this a coaching problem? A personnel issue? Are the Rapids just afraid of making the wrong move rather than taking a risk to make the right move?
To be fair, the Rapids had more energy and took more chances than in previous games. They took 15 total shots, compared to Vancouver's nine. Yet, the Rapids had one shot on target, compared to the Whitecaps' two. The Rapids won the possession battle almost 60-40. But Brek Shea broke our hearts and turned DSGP into Dick's Sporting Goods Morgue.
Even with the positives regarding the offense, the Rapids spent much of the possession demonstrating a tentativeness in the build-up, with a fear of making a mistake and taking risks offensively.
Pablo Mastroeni teams will have a legacy of playing not to lose, rather than playing to win. I am sure the coaching staff would disagree with this, but being strong on defense and tentative on offense bears this out. In today's MLS, this is not sustainable.
Rapids fans grow frustrated in looking at teams like, say, Minnesota United. After their dumpster fire of a start, they made adjustments (like taking two of our players) and are now 7th in the West with a 3-5-2 record good for 11 points. FC Dallas has a consistency that matches any other club in sports. Orlando City and NYCFC have a culture that seeks to win and do all they can for the fans.
The common denominator? An ownership that's bought in to the club itself. Leadership and culture starts from the top and trickles down. They set an expectation for a desire to win. They move forward and do not make a habit of continuous proverbial 'backpasses.' Believing in an ownership that's committed to the club rather than the bottom line would lessen the frustration even during lean times.
Williams' backpass was a microcosm of the play on the pitch and the direction that trickles down from ownership. What will it take to develop this culture? What will it take for the Rapids to become a priority from up top?
If we are a priority, it sure doesn't feel like it.