The two worst teams in the MLS squared off on Sunday, and we were left with 90 minutes of uninspiring soccer. Both teams had a few solid chances, but the defenses were always able to scramble just enough to keep the ball out of the net, leaving the game to end in a scoreless draw. Perhaps the worst part of this is that I really don’t have any goals to break down. Looks like we have to just proceed to the other stuff then.
The starting lineup
Over the past few weeks, I have noted that the Rapids have played their best when they have at least one true striker on the field, but the Rapids were without Yannick Boli this weekend because of the late game craziness in Minnesota.
Logically, we would expect someone like Niki Jackson to step into Boli’s spot and Kellyn Acosta replace a player like Nana Boateng. Instead, Acosta replaced Boli. This resulted in Dillon Serna being moved up top alongside Shkelzen Gashi, Cole Bassett moving to the 10, and Acosta taking up the 8 spot with Boateng. Basically, this meant we reverted back to playing without a striker on the field, and shockingly enough we struggled to really get forward. Who would have thought?
On another note, it seemed silly to me to move Bassett to the 10. Yes, Acosta wasn’t really effective there when we tried that experiment, but why Bassett? He was part of the MLS team of the week when he played at the 8 last week, and he’s 17 with only a few MLS games under his belt. Let him play his natural position and continue to get accustomed to the pro game because we know (or at least hope) he won’t be our 10 going forward.
Lastly, I’m pretty done seeing Deklan Wynne on an MLS field. I’ll just leave it at that.
No real attacking plan
The more I watched the game, the more I saw one of two things whenever the Rapids got to the final third: They would either work to the ball for a cross—which isn’t very effective when you have no striker—or whoever had the ball would go solo.
As much as I didn’t like the Rapids starting Serna and Gashi up top, they made a number of clever little runs that would be ignored by those around them. Instead, players would just take the ball and dribble until they lost the ball or take a 30-yard shot.
If you are going to play without a true target man, you need to have a game plan of how you want to work the ball, and you should be making a number of little one-two’s. None of that seemed apparent on Sunday.
Sam Vines helped (kind of)
Sam Vines made his debut coming on at the start of the second half, and he did help shore up the defense a little.
In the first half, Deklan Wynne was playing left back, and he was getting utterly roasted. It seemed like San Jose was getting dangerous crosses off from their right side every other minute.
In the second half, however, the crosses seemed, for the most part, a little less dangerous. For perspective, let’s look at the San Jose crossing maps.
The number of crosses from the right side is pretty similar for each half, but look at the location. When crosses are hit from the side of the 18, they tend to be a little more dangerous, and the outside back is typically more at fault. As we can see, the crosses in the first half were from much more dangerous locations than the second half when San Jose had to settle for early crosses a lot.
To give credit where it is due, the one thing Wynne did better than Vines was get forward. Wynne himself got in a number of crosses on the offensive side of things in the first half, and Vines was not able to flash his offensive game much. Keep in mind Vines had four assists during his time in Charlotte this season, so we do have something to look forward to on the offensive side of things.
Finally, this looked like a battle for last place
Even entering the game, San Jose was guaranteed to finish as the worst team in the MLS this year, but this was still clearly the two worst teams in the league. There were a number of wasted chances. There was poor defending all around. It was clear that neither of these teams were very good, and that didn’t do much to provide much excitement.
If I was Coach Hudson, I would throw everything at the wall next weekend and see what sticks. Start Bassett. Start Vines. Start Jackson or Boli (or both). Tell the whole XI to go out and play free and be themselves. Who knows, we might just find a gem or a new play style in the process.