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#COLvATL: A Breakdown of Key Plays

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Another week goes by without a goal from the ‘Pids, but let’s break it all down.

MLS: Atlanta United FC at Colorado Rapids Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

In the last four games, the Colorado Rapids have given up 13 goals and scored zero. Three of those came Saturday when they lost 3-0 to Atlanta United. Sadly, that means I have to wait another week before I get to actually break down a goal the Rapids score, but more on that later. Let’s take a look at what happened:

Atlanta 1-0 (11’)

Before you even hit play on this highlight, take note of the space that Julian Gressel finds himself in. Okay, now hit play.

That space. That should never happen. It doesn’t matter if the ball is a switch or a through ball or whatever. You shouldn’t find that space 35 yards out.

Here, either Edgar Castillo—or Dillon Serna if Castillo is tucked inside—should be on that guy. Instead, Castillo is tucked in, but not actually on a guy, meaning he should have been able to step out there. Serna, on the other hand, is nowhere to be found. Even on the second camera angle, I still can’t pick him out.

After Atlanta gets the ball, the break is on. The ball from Gressel is perfect. It’s away from Howard but curling around the defense, and perfectly in stride with Miguel Almiron. Almiron pulls away from the CBs because he is just faster than them, and he finds himself one-on-one with Tim Howard.

Howard tries to be a little too cute and guess Almiron’s shot before he takes it, leaving himself on the ground while Almiron just chips it over him.

Atlanta 2-0 (19’)

This one basically starts and ends with a poor giveaway by Kellyn Acosta. He tries to do too much, so when Atlanta gets the ball and starts storming forward, the Rapids defense is out of position and unprepared.

Kortne Ford is faced with a terrible situation: a 2v1 with Almiron and Josef Martinez. Seeing as Martinez set the MLS single-season goal record this year, Ford closes him down. Martinez drops it off to Almiron, who slots it home.

Atlanta 3-0 (37’)

This goal starts with the ball to Gressel, and it looks a lot like the first goal. This time, Castillo is left too far upfield. When the ball is turned over, Gressel is his mark, but Castillo lets him slip in behind him.

During the actual pass, Tommy Smith gets caught in two minds. He wants to cut out the pass, then decides he can’t. Now it’s too late for Smith to get out there, so Gressel is able to get off a cross without any pressure.

As far as the cross goes, it is another well-placed ball. Again, Ford is just not as fast as Hector Villalba, and he does a solid job finishing.

Quick Thoughts

Atlanta is lethal

All three of these goals definitely had some Rapids mistakes in them, but they also had a sense of Atlanta taking their chances. It wouldn’t be uncommon in MLS for a team to manage a clearance on a lesser-quality cross from the first and second goal. Instead, Atlanta took their chances there with lethal finishing. On the second goal, it was just class. That is how you score a 2v1.

I point this out because it should be the film the Rapids keep as a benchmark. This is what a top offense in the MLS can do. The gap between Atlanta and Colorado is big, but it should serve to be something the Rapids strive for as they revamp the offense over the next few years.

This was the worst performance of the season

I’ll admit this is a bit of a hot take. There have been some poor performances this year (*cough* RSL *cough* twice *cough*), but neither of those even had 11 players on the field for the Rapids. This was different. It felt like they quit this weekend.

Aside from a few players, there was not a true effort on Saturday. A number of passes went awry, and not many players ran them down. Players would take a bad touch and they wouldn’t really fight Atlanta for the ball. It was pretty obvious early on that this game was only going to be one result.

Yes, it was hot out there. Yes, Atlanta is a better team. Yes, the Rapids have almost nothing to play for, but Hudson harps on effort and fitness. At one point, the commentators said that it looked like Atlanta was playing an amateur side, and he also constantly referred to the game as “practice” for Atlanta. That’s bad.

Acosta is not a 10

Seeing Acosta in the 10 spot in the lineup gave me Jermaine Jones déjà vu, but this was not as effective. Acosta is an 8. He can be dangerous on offense, but let him pull the strings from a little deeper. He looked decent at times in the 10 role, but there was also no denying that the Rapids liked a presence in the middle he could have brought as an 8.

Play the kids

The Rapids have no hardware to play for since they have been officially eliminated from the playoffs. At this point, I want to start seeing a lot more of Cole Bassett, Niki Jackson, and maybe even Sam Vines. They will bring energy to the field, which was lacking Saturday. They will get a taste of MLS, which should motivate them to work over the offseason to gain more time next year.

Finally, from a tactical perspective, it’ll help them work out their kinks. They will probably make mistakes. Look at Jackson against RSL or New England in the opening game. Those won’t instantly stop, but I would rather them happen now. Jackson will probably never make a stupid foul outside the box late in the game again. Hopefully, he will be better about keeping his head. Let’s make those mistakes now when, realistically, losing doesn’t matter. Then, they will grow and be better when the games matter again next year.

Any other thoughts? Throw it in the comments section.