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#COLvHOU: Breakdown of key plays

Another game goes by without a Rapids win. Let’s look at why.

John A. Babiak - @Photog_JohnB

The Colorado Rapids fell to the Houston Dynamo 4-1 on Saturday night, and it sure wasn’t pretty. Overall, they seemed to be outplayed, out-coached, and out-manned, so let’s take a look at what happened.

Houston goes up 1-0 early (4’)

This first goal is just too easy. Houston is able to get on to the counterattack, and the Rapids are stuck with a back three. The Dynamo player initially goes at Serna in an effort to open up space on the right. He then turns inside, so Dillon Serna starts to let Tommy Smith take over. Unfortunately, Smith is playing way too far off to actually pressure the ball carrier. Axel Sjoberg also gets caught on the backside of the runner that Keegan Rosenberry is not able to catch. This allows for the easy pass and goal.

First, it was bad for Colorado to get caught out like that. Second, Smith needs to be ready to step closer and apply pressure to make that pass a little tougher. Third, Sjoberg needs to slide with the rest of the backline to cover the runner going into the middle of the box. The other midfielder coming back was already going to the guy at the back post, but Sjoberg never really left him. It all adds up to a terrible way to start the game.

Two eerily similar own goals give Houston 3-0 lead (15’, 34’)

These goals are basically the same thing. They both start with Serna getting beat down the wing by Alberth Elis. He is able to get to the end line and slot a ball across. Eventually, it ends with the ball being unfortunately put into the goal by a defender trying to clear the ball away. More on this situation will come later.

Houston goes up 4-0 (68’)

This goal is just bad defending. First, Nicolas Mezquida gets completely turned by the Dynamo player, starting the attack. The ball then makes its way into the middle of the field, and we have the start of a major problem.

In a past article, I mentioned that the Rapids tend to defend in a flat 4-4-2 with Mezquida on the right and Benny Feilhaber and Jack Price in the middle. Well, when the ball goes into the middle, they are all on one side of the ball. This leaves no midfielders that can pressure the ball except for Bassett, but he is over on the left side of the field.

Since he can’t get over there in time, Smith has to step up toward the man with the ball. Instead of closing the gap, Sjoberg and Kellyn Acosta don’t really move. This allows pace for Elis to make a run, and Acosta isn’t able to cut him off. The pass comes, and Sjoberg isn’t there to help. All that is left is the finish, and Elis makes it four for the Dynamo.

Rapids get on back on the PK (82’)

There isn’t much to break down on this one. The corner comes in and is headed right into the hand of the Dynamo player. Kei Kamara hits a good PK, and the Rapids get their lone consolation goal.

Other Notes

Go easy on Serna

I know it can be pretty easy to see that Serna got beat by Elis on both of the own goals, and those were the ones that felt like they put the match away. However, let’s remember the first four games of the season. People thought we might actually have a left back and there were many that thought he was doing really well. Therefore, let’s take a look at why we should go easy on him.

First, the system. If you watch the game, you can notice that Serna is told to get almost as high as the forwards when the Rapids are on offense. That means that there is a lot of room in behind him if the Rapids lose that ball. This means that one of either Bassett, Price, Feilhaber, or Smith needs to slide into that space a bit and cover for him. I don’t know who Hudson had designed for that to be, but it wasn’t really happening. This left Serna a bit on an island, and no adjustments were made to fix that.

Second, Elis is good. While the Dynamo probably targeted the space in behind/around Serna because it was so often there, it certainly helps that they had a fast, talented player going into that space. Serna is not naturally an outside back, so his 1v1 defending could probably use improvement. We all know that. He typically is able to cover for this with quickness and recovery, but not against Elis. As soon as Elis had his chances, he was gone, and that is a bit of an unlucky matchup for Serna.

Third, he’s new to this. Serna is relatively new to the whole left back thing. Yes, he played it here and there in his career, but he is definitely still learning. He is still learning how fast to get back, how to 1v1 defend, how to space himself with other defenders. He had a tough game. Growing pains will happen. This is the fifth game of the season, and the first four were pretty darn good, so we need to be satisfied with him showing more good than bad so far.

Really Tommy Smith?

The Rapids got their third red card in three home games this year, and it was just silly. When the score is 4-1 in the 85th minute, why would you do a two-footed tackle? That is just completely dumb. Add in that it was done by the supposed leader of the defense, and it really makes me worry about the state of the team. Leaders don’t do this.

Then again, leaders don’t let their team walk away from five games with only two points after overhauling the roster to make it look fairly decent on paper.

Questionable Coaching

I will be honest when I say that I have never been all about the #HudsonOut movement, but I am curious as to what was going on in his head. Through the first four games, I would argue that Mezquida has not been as good as Acosta, so why was Acosta benched? If you wanted to give Bassett some minutes, why not keep Acosta on the field and rest Mezquida?

Then I thought it was interesting to put Acosta on at left back. Yes, Serna was having a rough game, but Acosta was not accustomed to the position. He has played there before, but that was a few years ago on a different team and in a different system. Ultimately, he got burned as a part of the fourth goal. Overall, lots of things seemed a little fishy.

We need a real defensive midfielder

When the Rapids are playing Rosenberry and Serna, it is obvious they want the outside backs to get forward and add width to the team. What would be really nice is a defensive midfielder that allows that to happen. Typically, the player can drop in between the center backs and allow them to spread wide and cover the gaps left by the backs being forward, or the midfielder can drop into the gap if only one of the backs goes forward. Sadly, this isn’t how Price and Feilhaber play. They are both more playmakers and passers than true defensive midfielders. Man, I miss Micheal Azira.

Any other thoughts? Let us know in the comments section