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#COLvDAL: Breaking down key plays

How fitting for Howard to get a clean sheet in his last home game.

MLS: FC Dallas at Colorado Rapids Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Rapids came into Sunday’s match against FC Dallas with one thing on their mind—to win. To have any chance at the playoffs, the Rapids need to win both of their final two games, ideally boosting their goal differential. In the end, they were able to walk out of DSGP with a dominant 3-0 win before heading to the West Coast next weekend. Here are the goals:

Rapids get on the board early (10’)

This play starts with a simple, yet great, pass from Andre Shinyashiki. The ball played into Jack Price perfectly splits the two Dallas defenders and breaks the midfield line. As a result, Price runs free at the FC Dallas back line.

With both Paxton Pomykal and Bryan Acosta beat, the natural thing Dallas would do is have a centerback step to Price and try to force him wide or back. In this case however, the closest centerback is busy marking Kei Kamara. If he steps, Price would play Kamara in, so he can’t. Instead, it is on the other centerback (Reto Ziegler) to recognize the situation and step to Price while the left back tucks in behind.

Ziegler is slow to step, so Price gets close enough to rip a shot, which ends up being a beauty to the far post. It was his first goal of the year, and it was a great finish.

Rapids get one more before the half (45’)

This is a great set-piece that had a little luck. With the ball so close to the goal, players don’t typically have enough space to get the ball over the wall and back down, so it is pretty common to see someone try to go through or under the wall. What was uncommon was Diego Rubio being the one to do it.

When the Rapids set up this play, everyone thought Kellyn Acosta or Price would the one to take it, and that is what made it so great. Once it was set up, Price stepped to the ball quickly and got everyone to react a little. Then they all started to relax and wait for Acosta to strike it. When Rubio runs up, you can tell that many of the Dallas defenders don’t seem as ready or focused as they did with Price.

When Rubio hits it, the two defenders on the left make the terrible mistake of dodging. As the ball goes through the space between them, you can actually see them both move away from the ball and make the space even bigger for Rubio’s shot. That’s just poor wall etiquette.

Rapids get one more on the counter (72’)

Dallas decides to open up a bit and try to get a goal back, and this is what can happen when you do that.

When taking a team on 2v2, you want to make sure that you create space between you and your teammate so you don’t drag the second defender over by the guy with the ball. That’s why when the play starts, the first thing Nicolas Mezquida does after not getting the initial ball is open up wide. This gives Kamara the option to take his man 1v1 or pass the ball off to Mezquida. In this case, he makes the right call to lay the ball off to Mezquida.

Right after Kamara lays the ball off, he takes off in a full sprint and catches his defender off guard. He gets a step on him and Mezquida plays a perfect ball into his run. From there Kamara does what Kamara does—score goals. A nice easy finish to the far post is all it takes to put Colorado up by three.

Other Thoughts

Most complete game all year

While the Rapids have been playing well for a while, this might have been their most complete game all year. They looked good in possession, created chances, limited the chances for FC Dallas to two-ish, made saves, and just dominated the game.

At point was I watching the game thinking, “The Rapids might not win this one...” Hats off to the team that showed up when the games are mattering most and really took it to Dallas on their home turf.

Shinyashiki starting over Lewis

For the last few months, we have been seeing Shinyashiki get a lot of starts on the left side instead of Jonathan Lewis and it has seemed like a peculiar choice. Yes, Shinyashiki will be Rookie of the Year and is playing well, but Lewis had been doing so well for Colorado that he made the Gold Cup roster back in June.

What I saw Sunday may have shown why Lewis has been sitting on the bench. When the Rapids go forward on offense, they like to have to players stay very wide. On the right side, it is Sam Nicholson. On the left side, however, it is Sam Vines. This allows Shinyashiki to tuck inside and become a central front three of Kamara, Shinyashiki, and Rubio. While most teams only deploy two centerbacks, this makes them outnumbered unless a defensive mid gets back on defense, and even if they do everyone is stuck man-marking at that point. This is the kind of number advantage that Fraser talked about in his opening press conference.

With this in mind, it makes sense that Shinyashiki, who doubles as a striker, would get the start on the left side. He is likely to be better tucking in that Lewis, who prefers to use speed and width to play his game. Now, could the system be changed to work with Lewis or could Lewis play on the right instead of Nicholson? Sure. Could Keegan Rosenberry provide width and Lewis play on left with Shinyashiki on the right? Yeah. But, as the old adage says, don’t fix what ain’t broken.

I’m proud of this team

Regardless of what happens on decision day, you have to be happy with how this season has gone considering how it started. Even if this team doesn’t make the playoffs, the fact that they are going to decision day without having been eliminated yet is amazing. This team had two points in their first eleven games, and now they are here.

To top it all off, I don’t think I have had this much fun or been this excited about the team and their games since 2016, so hats off to these guys.

Not bad for a bottom group of players, right?

Have any other thoughts on the game? Let us know in the comments section!