On Saturday night, there’s no doubt that the Colorado Rapids were the better team for the first 35 minutes. The atmosphere around Dick’s Sporting Goods Park for this home opener couldn’t have been better. The build-up that led to Dominique Badji’s goal (5’) and then Joe Mason’s cool customer goal (8’) gave not only the Rapids a comfortable 2-0 lead, but also gave the supporters a comfort level that, frankly, none should ever have.
As Abbie noted in the Game Recap, Badji made a rather telling comment:
I think we stuck to the game plan for about 30 minutes and then kind of just threw it out the window, got a little complacent, got comfortable after being two goals up, you know, that’ll get you.
Old habits die hard
One of the most difficult aspects related to any organization is changing the culture. And part of changing culture is changing habits. In a book by Charles Duhigg called The Power of Habit, he wrote of the 1996 Tampa Bay Buccaneers and their culture of losing. A coach by the name of Tony Dungy came along and saw his job as not simply trying to get a Super Bowl ring, but trying to change habits of believing in the system, trusting the process, and staying with their role and their plan. It took a while, but Dungy brought a winning culture with winning habits to an organization that hadn’t won anything for two decades.
Badji admitted that the boys in burgundy stuck with Hudson’s plan for 30 minutes. Now, this is not necessarily about the Rapids culture—I believe that’s something supporters struggle with more than players. We’ve addressed before that the Rapids have a virtually new front office, new coaching staff, new tactics, and 12 new players. For these players, many of whom are starting, they have not had the opportunity to succumb to what many supporters have.
But what the players can revert to is bad habits, old habits that, when the stress hits or complacency sets in, anyone could lose focus. Tim Howard had to stand on his head at least three times toward the end of the first half to keep SKC off the board—and that should have tipped off everyone in the building that something would give unless that focus returned.
The way that the Rapids lost focus on those two goals were when the midfielders dragged in failing to stay with the SKC midfielders. Look at the build-up to the first SKC goal (57’):
You see that when the ball came off the post, both Johan Blomberg and Enzo Martinez were caught ball watching, allowing Felipe Gutierrez to score his fourth goal in his fourth game of the year.
The second goal by Diego Rubio (91’) was a heartbreaker:
That pass. That backheel. And you have to tip your hat to that initial ball. But what do we hear from Marcelo Balboa: Who’s marking the SKC players in the box? Those passes from Gutierrez to Gerso to Sheldon to Rubio—you know that Coach Hudson was absolutely apoplectic that at no point did the Rapids defense shut them down and walk away from the home opener with three points.
How to move forward
Sporting Kansas City possessed the ball for the majority of the game (62-38%), which isn’t surprising. That’s SKC being SKC—that, and the Rapids risking a parking the bus mentality to keep the lead. But if you look at the charts, for the first 20 minutes, the Rapids owned the game possession-wise. What steps can be taken to expand this all 90 minutes?
Offensively, the two early goals gave the supporters some good feelings, but consider the Rapids did not have a shot on target after Mason’s goal in the 8th minute. In fact, the Rapids did not have a corner kick all game (while conceding seven). Not to pour it on, but the Rapids only had five crosses all game.
But those first 30 minutes...
Supporters have so many unknowns. Some supporters are so starved for any positive movement that they (I) cling to it like an oasis in the desert, hoping it is not a mirage. Others will take some convincing that things have changed and will hold off on the enthusiasm until some consistency comes about. We all hope that Hudson has a system in place that will produce results, and hopefully those first 30 minutes are an indication of what’s to come. And if this system is what’s needed, the players have to buy in and believe—and not fall back into those bad habits which gave up those two goals.
It must be said
What a great atmosphere at the home opener. Coming into the park was way smoother than in years past. The artwork, the LED lights around the pitch, the flags in each section, the towels waving in the aftermath of both goals—maybe the supporters (we supporters) just missed being at the park to cheer on the Rapids through thick and thin. And we hope that 2018 is a whole lot thicker than in past seasons.
But let’s keep that going next Saturday, March 31 at 7:00 pm as our Rapids take on the Philadelphia Union who have a 1-0-1 (W-L-T) record in the East.