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#COLvRSL: A Breakdown of the Key Plays

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It sure wasn’t pretty, but here is a breakdown of the plays that spelled defeat for the Rapids this weekend.

MLS: Real Salt Lake at Colorado Rapids Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Rapids got steamrolled 6-0 by Real Salt Lake on Saturday night and unfortunately, the score shows just how ugly the game was. It was the worst loss the Rapids had ever suffered at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, and it was almost inevitable considering they only got to play nine minutes of 11v11 and the whole second half was 9v11.

Since we hope the Rapids won’t be continuing to play games understaffed, it makes it a little hard to really look at this game from a tactical standpoint, but there were a few key moments that we can look at as things to pay attention to going forward.

RSL’s First Goal: 6th minute

When it really comes down to it, this goal is on Danny Wilson. Throughout the whole play he is in a poor position. When it starts, he is stepped up from rest of the backline to stop Kyle Beckerman from going too far forward. Unfortunately, he just stands there and gives him too much space.

Tommy Smith is just behind him to the left and Jack McBean is coming back to support, so Wilson should not be overly worried about the man next to him. At that time, he should be stepping out to Beckerman so that he isn’t free to pick any pass he wants, especially a dangerous one. Wilson doesn’t step, and Beckerman is able to put the ball behind the backline to the winger.

Once the ball is played, Wilson should be making a recovery run. As the near-side CB, his job is the near post. Instead, Wilson ball watches for a second and ultimately gets beat to his spot by Damir Kreilach and boom, goal.

Sadly, you’ll notice that ball watching was the trend Saturday night.

RSL’s Second Goal: 33rd minute

This one is a more of a combination of mistakes by the Rapids. Smith does a good job to come out and put pressure on the ball, forcing a pass. Here, the pass isn’t taken down well, and the Rapids have a chance to clear. Dillon Serna comes in and tried to do a little poke around the RSL player, and that is the first mistake.

When you are playing down a man, the ball is in your own box, and the defense is somewhat scrambling, that should be a clearance. Serna should have been giving that ball a big swing instead of a little poke. Live to fight another day man. He tries to make up for this by fighting for the ball, which he eventually wins. Then he tries to touch the ball to his left foot around the defender and go for the clear. Unfortunately, he misses.

This isn’t so much a bad play as just unlucky. A pro player can probably make that move 99 out of 100 times, so it sucks he messed up 16 yards from goal.

The rest of the goal falls on Edgar Castillo. Wilson is rightfully covering the middle of the goal to Serna’s right, which is the side Serna would have been beaten to had he lost the ball in the scrum.

On the other side, Castillo spends three whole seconds watching the ball and not moving. This gives his mark time to run all the way around him, grab the ball, and take it in on goal before Castillo even moves. More ball watching.

Boateng’s Lack of Options: 39th minute

There were two moments that made it look like the Rapids might have a chance to get back into the game.

The first was a Kortne Ford header that was cleared off the line. Good plays all around by both sides on that one.

The other was late in the first half when Boateng was able to run onto a ball sent into the corner, dribble into the box, and ultimately hit a shot off a defender and out for a corner.

I don’t have a great video of this one, but here is the moment where he hit the shot:

http://www.espn.com/watch/player?bucketId=5525&id=3e5c05ef-c8f0-4439-a982-8966e5128824

This could have been the moment for the Rapids. They got a ball in behind, had a man dribbling into the box with speed—and they didn’t give him anything to work with.

Generally in this situation, you want a player making a near-post run, far-post, and a run to the area between the PK spot and the 6-yard-box. Usually, it is some combination of the strikers, attacking mids, and far-side winger. Here, Giles Barnes is the only player who managed to get himself forward, and he doesn’t put himself in any of the three spots. Sure, the Rapids were down to 10 men, but remember that this play took all the time it takes for the ball to go to the corner, Boateng to run onto it, and Boateng to beat a man and get into the box. There was plenty of time for people to get forward so that there was at least one more option in the box.

At this point, it was clear that the Rapids were only going to get back into the game if they racked up free kick goals, or they had some sensational solo plays.

RSL’s Fourth Goal: 69th minute

We are skipping the third goal for two reasons. First, there were a lot of goals, so we are going to call them all “key plays.” Second, it is a simple breakdown, Tommy Smith needed to close down a DP-quality player before he got into shooting range.

So, the fourth goal. The mistakes start with Tim Howard on this one. He tries to be way too cute by clipping the ball 30 yards toward a marked Kellyn Acosta instead of just sending the ball up and resetting the defense. Predictably, it leads to a turnover.

The defense tries to get back into position but ultimately RSL gets two free runners in the box.

Since they had just been on offense, the CBs had split wide which pushes the outside backs wide and up. Ford was not so far up because he had the ball, but Castillo was so wide and pushed up you hardly even see him in the screen on this play. Had he been back and more tucked like on defense, he would have been able to take the back post and allow Smith to step more into the middle of the box.

Instead, Wilson and Smith have to essentially challenge the crosser to get it over Wilson and down before Smith, which he does. Jack Price is not able to come back because he is marking passes across the top of the box. Normally, a back-side midfielder would also be able to help out here, but the Rapids only had nine men at this point.

As far as the 5th and 6th goals go, they were good plays against a tired and undermanned team that had already given up, so we won’t do a breakdown of those.

Other Tactical Notes:

  • This was as much as we have seen Ford go forward as a traditional RB would. Typically he would sit back and allow Castillo to go forward and the Rapids would play up the left.
  • In the nine minutes that the game was 11v11, Serna only had 2/7 completed passes go forward. This needs to be higher if he is going to be playing a number 10.
  • When the Rapids went down a man, Serna dropped lower and was just barely above Price, flattening the diamond and playing a compressed 4-4-1. This can be seen on their heatmaps on WhoScored.

It’s hard to have many other notes when the game was so out of hand and they only played nine minutes with all their players. Going forward, the ball watching needs to stop, and we need numbers in the attack.

If you’ve got any other thoughts on what happened that terrible night, let us know in the comments!