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#COLvPOR: Breakdown of the key plays

The Rapids season started out with a truly great game.

MLS: Portland Timbers at Colorado Rapids Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The new look Colorado Rapids opened their season with a snowy, cold game on Saturday. After opening strong, they ended up being reduced to 10 men and having to fight back from two different deficits to secure a 3-3 draw. Without further adieu, let’s break down the goals.

Rapids go up 1-0 (16’)

The unfortunate part of this video is that it only shows the ending of what was a truly great team goal. Just before the highlight starts, Diego Rubio does a great job of holding the ball and wiggling through a bit of traffic. He sees that Portland has shifted over to his side on defense, so he switches the ball to a well-positioned Dillon Serna.

Serna, while new at left back for the Rapids, is only there to receive the ball in open space because he chose just the right time to slide up the field. From here, he takes the ball down and lays it off to Kellyn Acosta.

Acosta does just enough to maintain possession under some pressure and get it back to Serna. Finally, great team chemistry allows Acosta to continue his run while Serna hits a perfectly weighted ball on the half-volley into Acosta’s path.

Acosta takes one touch toward the end line and is already looking to lay a dangerous ball across. The second Acosta takes his first touch, Kei Kamara takes off. This allows him to get into the space behind his defender for an easy tap in and Kamara’s first goal in burgundy. It really is that simple, just a great team goal.

Portland draws level 1-1 (29’)

As far as the goal goes, it was a penalty kick. Not really much to break down here aside from Tim Howard being too good at his job. He reads the kick so well he actually gets out in front of it. Unfortunately, that makes it so that he is unable to push the ball aside and it goes straight back out toward Diego Valeri who taps in the rebound.

The other key part of all this was the red card on Axel Sjoberg. If you want a breakdown of that, see my other article here.

Portland takes the lead 2-1 (45’)

This isn’t much more than a corner kick goal, so we are going to focus our efforts on some of the other goals that were scored in this game. For this goal, the ball is sent in and Sebastian Blanco is able to beat Acosta to the ball while putting a perfect flick in at the back post.

Colorado draws level 2-2 (46’)

Welcome to the Colorado Rapids, Benny Feilhaber! While the first goal was a great team goal, this is a great solo goal. Benny starts with the ball a good 40 yards out before proceeding to beat four different defenders on his way to slotting his second chance past the Timbers’ goalkeeper.

There isn’t much more to say besides that the Rapids had been missing players in the midfield who could do something like this. Hopefully, this is the first of many plays like this from Feilhaber.

Portland goes up 3-2 (66’)

This goal starts on a good play and ends with an unlucky bounce. Andy Polo takes the open space on the wing because Serna had stepped up to the man at the top of the box. Once the ball is played to Polo, Serna tries to catch up to him, but he never stood a chance.

Once Polo gets close to the end line, he plays that same ball that Acosta had played in the first half. Deklan Wynne, knowing that he shouldn’t let the ball get past him, tries to react and get a foot on the ball. In the end, he is only able to get enough on the ball to deflect it into his own goal.

Unlucky for Wynne, but he still reacted the way he technically should have. Give credit to Polo for playing the ball between the defensive line and the goalie where this kind of thing can happen.

Rapids tie it up 3-3 (94’)

This goal is caused by two things: ball watching and clever movement. If this was 2018, it would have meant the Rapids were doing the ball watching, but the tides have turned.

At the beginning of the play, Blanco seems to take up the role of marking Andre Shinyashiki. As the play goes on, Shinyashiki slowly and cleverly moves into the area of the back post while Blanco just stands there. Now, I know Blanco is an attacking player, but you have to mark the back post when you are the weak-side winger holding onto a lead in the 94th minute. Without him coming back, look at how much space Shinyashiki has.

The final key is Serna’s shot. If he takes the shot to the near post, he still likely doesn’t score. At the near post, however, the shot will either be out for a goal kick, or the goalie can just push it out for a corner. By shooting to the far post, the goalie has to parry the ball into the danger area of the back post. Of course, no Timbers players are there to clear the ball away, so Shinyashiki gets a big goal to open his pro career.

Other Notes

Even though it was only the first game of the season, I feel like we learned a lot about the 2019 Rapids.

The new guys are legit

The starting XI featured five players that were not on the roster in 2018, and the new boys impressed. Keegan Rosenberry did a good job holding down the right side while also getting up the field from time to time. Feilhaber showed his ability to control a midfield and he showed his class by scoring the second goal. I look forward to seeing his talents further up the field once Jack Price comes back to the starting XI.

Nicolas Mezquida was pretty good in his first game for Colorado. For someone who most people think might be a bridge player for a new DP in 2020, he held his own. The only thing I would hope he grows from is the antics with Valeri late in the game. Mezquida kicked a free kick right into Valeri, eventually gave Valeri his own free kick, tried to encroach on the free kick, gave away another one, and pulled more antics with trying to stand too close. All together he ended up helping Valeri waste three minutes. When you are down a goal with less than 15 minutes left, you can’t get caught up in all these things that help the other team waste time.

Finally, the two new strikers were impressive. Rubio only got about 30 minutes of playing time due to the red card, but he did a great job holding the ball, moving into space, and playing off Kamara. Kamara also did a good job working off the space Rubio was making him, getting into dangerous positions in the box, and linking up with the midfield. These two could be the combo that helps brings some real sustainable offense to Colorado.

Serna at left back might not be terrible

Due to a lack of streaming, I was not able to see any of the preseason games that the Rapids played. The more I saw Serna listed as the left back, the more nervous I got about how that would work. Yes, the Rapids gave up three goals. Yes, he is never going to be a lockdown at left back. Yes, there are better left back options around the league, but right now the Rapids don’t have many options, especially when you add in the current injuries.

The one reason this experiment could work is how similar he could be to Edgar Castillo. Serna, like Castillo, is a quick wingback that likes to get up the field. While it makes them a bit of a defensive liability, the player’s ability to get up the field can pay dividends (like in the first and third goal). Serna is not at the level of Castillo, but he slots into a system built around an explosive left wingback fairly well.

The defense is shaky

From the very start of the game, the defense seemed a little too shaky. It felt like too many balls got into the box too easily, too many corners were given to the other team, and it was too easy for Portland to get the ball into the attacking third. All three of Portland’s goals seemed to come from one of these things above.

What worries me is that the Rapids giving up three goals even with Tim Howard playing pretty well. If Howard doesn’t keep up this form, things could get pretty bad. On the flip side, all three goals were given up while the Rapids only had 10 men, and the Rapids were missing both their first choice centerbacks (and their third and fourth). Maybe that means the defense will be okay. Time will tell.

The attitude is different

When Sjoberg got his red card, I was afraid this would end up looking like two of the RSL games last year where Colorado came out strong, got a red, and then got deflated and crushed.

What happened was entirely different. The Rapids took the red card in stride and never gave up. Even when they had to come from behind twice, they seemed confident and kept their head up instead of rolling over. This is new. This is great. This team could be pretty fun this year.

Did you notice anything else in the game on Saturday? Let us know in the comments section below!