The Colorado Rapids have won their third game in the last four, grabbing 10 points in that span and building momentum as we move on from the Anthony Hudson era. Perhaps the most impressive of the four games was Saturday night’s 3-1 victory against FC Cincinnati.
Let’s take a look at the goals.
Rapids take the lead 1-0 (43’)
And they forgot about Dre.#Rapids96 | #COLvCIN pic.twitter.com/PjDGHbV6Sd— Colorado Rapids (@ColoradoRapids) June 2, 2019
The Rapids managed to get the opening goal after controlling the run of play up to this point. The big moment in this one is the quick little one-two to Sam Nicholson that gets him running down the line at full speed in a 3v2 situation.
Here, Cincinnati does what you have to do: send a man to the ball and the other takes the closest offensive player. They are forced to leave Andre Shinyashiki wide open at the back post, but it is the better option than leaving either of the other two open. In the end, Nicholson does a good job of playing the cutback into space. Shinyashiki runs onto the ball, and Rapids get the added bonus of goalkeeper Spencer Richey slipping and leaving the goal wide open. Shinyashiki won’t miss that one.
Cincy gets back in the game 1-1 (72’)
What a ball to @kekuta16 for a brilliant finish!#COLvCIN 2-1 pic.twitter.com/twr4REemPC— FC Cincinnati (@fccincinnati) June 2, 2019
This is the kind of mental lapse the Rapids had all too often early in the season. Cincinnati plays a little chip over the top into the space between the Rapids’ backline and Tim Howard. From there we get to see just how fast Kekuta Manneh is, especially when he has fresh legs. He burns the back and slots the ball past Howard.
The back line needs to know who they are dealing with when Manneh comes on and space themselves better so that they don’t get beat by such a simple ball. Also, the Rapids midfield needs to do a better job of pressuring Cincinnati so that they can’t get that ball off so easily.
The Rapids respond immediately 2-1 (73’)
.@nico_mezquida is on !!!#Rapids96 | #COLvCIN pic.twitter.com/zREKWW5x6L— Colorado Rapids (@ColoradoRapids) June 2, 2019
The first few minutes after you score is when it can be most dangerous to concede, and the Rapids took that to heart with an immediate response to Cincinnati’s goal.
At the start of this, Diego Rubio does a good job getting on the ball in traffic and keeping multiple defenders from taking over. He turns out of the traffic and finds Nicolas Mezquida making a good run at the corner of the box.
The pass leads Mezquida into space, and defenders are all forced to turn around. Mezquida then makes a great first touch into the open space and sets himself up for the shot. In the end, the shot isn’t great, but it had enough power to squeak in under the keeper.
One more for good measure 3-1 (82’)
Tonight's been fun hasn't it?#Rapids96 | #COLvCIN pic.twitter.com/2MHAi7vO3A— Colorado Rapids (@ColoradoRapids) June 2, 2019
As far as this goal goes, it’s a good corner that had a little luck. The corner play worked well enough for Rubio to get a header on goal. From there, the Rapids get lucky with the deflection off the defender that gets the ball into the net.
Mezquida is perfect for the role nobody wants
Over the last few games, Mezquida has proven to be a game changer when he comes in for the last 30 minutes or so, but he hasn’t been able to have the same kind of impact when he starts. Thus, he might be perfect for the dreaded super-sub role.
Sadly, no player wants to be a super sub because they want to start, but the results speak for themselves. Mezquida’s energy and work ethic are perfect against tired legs. I hope the Rapids keep using him in this role because he can change a game that way.
The mentality is better under Conor Casey
When the Rapids were under Hudson, they constantly gave up goals in clusters. On Saturday, however, the Rapids never hung their heads when they got scored on, and they went right back down and scored to retake the lead.
That kind of mentality is nice to see, and I can’t help but feel like it comes from Casey taking over. Winning a few games and getting some new players in helps too, but this feels like a new team with confidence and a stronger mentality.
The Rapids might be okay if Jonathan Lewis goes to the Gold Cup
Before Saturday, I was nervous about Lewis getting called up for the Gold Cup. While it would be great for his career and for him personally, I was worried about how the Rapids would have fared if they couldn’t deploy Lewis and Nicholson as their wingers.
Shinyashiki changed this. He fit in well on the wing and created a number of dangerous plays. The most obvious example would be his goal, but he also put in a few good crosses. The most impressive to me came in the first half when he was able to get half a yard of separation on the side of the box, and he delivered a dangerous ball to Kei Kamara at the back post. His header was eventually saved, but it still showed that Shinyashiki can be a good replacement if Lewis leaves for the Gold Cup.
This team is fun again
I couldn’t help but watch all three game in the last week and think that it is actually fun to watch the Colorado Rapids. They are playing more confident; playing better defense; and the new formation/use of Shinyashiki, Rubio, Lewis, and Nicholson has made the offense more dynamic and exciting.
It may end up being short-lived, or maybe the Rapids have turned a corner. Either way, I look forward to watching the game now, and I don’t assume it is over the second they give up the first goal.
Got any other thoughts on the game? Let us know in the comments section!