A common claim of soccer fans is that scoring goals is the hardest thing to do in the game. However, for the Rapids, keeping score lines at nil is not an easy task either. “It’s a lot of work,” says Colorado Rapids defender Danny Wilson. “If you look across the league you very rarely see a 0-0 draw. Attacking is very open and it goes from end to end.”
Let’s face it—a lot has to go right (and a little luck helps as well) in order to shut out opponents in MLS. Colorado has done that just twice this season, but as Wilson tells the Burgundy Wave, there’s more than just one person involved in keeping a clean sheet. “Obviously you come in and you’re disappointed [if you don’t get the clean sheet], but you look at the goals we’re conceding comes down to collective and individual errors,” he admits.
During the recent run of eight straight MLS losses, Colorado saw opponents bag 21 goals against. For all the early season talk of being a more attacking side, defense is still important first and foremost. “The important thing for us when we were on that run, you were embarrassed by it, you want it to turn the corner, but there wasn’t panic from us or we’ll completely change what we’re going to do,” explains Wilson confidently. “We know what we’re going to do, we know what we’re going to try, it’s just a matter of us getting better at it and being better at it week to week instead of saying, oh it’s not working for us.”
“It’s been a learning experience because I’ve never played in a back three, especially the way we want to press the ball,” he continues. “The way we want to play is good but sometimes we fall a little bit short of what’s being asked of us and that’s where we get caught. We are trying to implement it because we know if we get it right we’ll be a very tough team to play against. “
Like it or not, Colorado has taken time to figure itself out, let alone the opposition, but has not—and will not—give up the task of shutting teams down, according to Wilson.
“We are trying to do the right things, but for one reason or another, we’ve not been able to get it right. It’s not for a lack of trying or a lack of work on the training field, we just seem to be in a period if it could go wrong it did go wrong,” Wilson says. “These things happen in football but the last two games have been slightly better. We know we can still work on a few levels, and we’ll try and build on that because it’s given a more positive outlook.”
Part of doing those right things is the role of individuals working together as a collective unit. That has sometimes been an on/off flow in the run of play, but Wilson tells fans that the goal is always to defend well as a group, from keeper Tim Howard all the way to the forwards. “We’re trying to be proactive about it. Tim is behind it and can see it all, but it comes from the players who are in the action at that moment, whether it’s the midfielders, defenders, strikers we all have a responsibility. “
“Sometimes we’re a bit guilty of not doing what we should be doing at the right times,” says Wilson, but no one is complacent in their roles either. “We work collectively as a team—areas to press the ball, areas to defend, areas to drop off. We hope that now we can reduce the collective and individual errors and start to put more points on the board.”
Defenders often talk about the communication during a match being key, however as Wilson points out, talking for talking’s sake isn’t always best either. “You can always be talking but sometimes be giving the wrong information. So it’s giving the right information and being a bit smarter with our play and defensive actions. “
“We all know, we’re all on the same page, we all talk about where we need to be so no one comes in and points a finger at each other,” Wilson says of the Rapids locker room. Which is good news considering how easy it could have been for morale to fall off the radar and everyone begin questioning the guy next to him. “We’re very much together. We want to improve together.”
Colorado has a chance to do that in the standings looking at their next few matches as July breaks. Away at Vancouver, home against Seattle, then home against Houston before another road trip to Utah will give them a chance to make up ground in the Western Conference if they can hold possession, keep the opposing defenders on their heels, and work towards those elusive clean sheets.
“We’re playing teams the next few weeks that are around us in the league so there are points to be won and lost there. Hopefully for us we can continue in this small but form we’ve shown and get better,” finishes Wilson as we wrap up our conversation. “If we can, we know we’ll be in a lot better place for it because we’ll start picking up the points. We can really help ourselves picking up points and getting out of the position we’re in because at this point we can be a lot better.”