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#SJvCOL: Breaking Down Key Plays

The Rapids seem to be back to their losing ways as they fall to San Jose 3-1.

MLS: Colorado Rapids at San Jose Earthquakes Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

Coming into Saturday night, the Colorado Rapids had never beaten the San Jose Earthquakes at Avaya Stadium. Sadly, that fact remains true to this day. The Rapids lost 3-1 and the scoreline was pretty indicative of how the game went.

Let’s take a look at the goals:

San Jose forces the unlucky own goal (2’)

It’s safe to say that this game did not start as the Rapids would have liked. Not even two minutes into the game, San Jose drives the ball down the Rapids’ left side. Since Tommy Thompson, the San Jose right back, gets up the field, Jonathan Lewis must come back and help defend. He fails to do so and Sam Vines is left facing a two-on-one. As a result, San Jose gets to the endline way too easily.

Once they get to the endline, the San Jose player does exactly what you should do—send a ball across the 6-yard-box. Here, Lalas Abubakar makes a pretty big mistake. Yes, it was a mistake to kick the ball into his own goal, but the real issue was that he used the wrong foot for the clearance. Naturally, Abubakar is right-footed, so he tries to use quick feet so that he can hit the clearance with his right foot. As a result, he can’t control it as well and it goes into the goal. If he would have trusted his left foot, he could have just planted the right and swing the left. Then the ball would have gone either down the field or out to the sideline, either of which is better than what happened.

The real concern about this play is the Abubakar did the exact same thing in the second half. He stepped in front of an attacker to clear a slotted ball with his right foot, which was not the foot closer to the goal. That time, he had a little more time to get around the ball and open his hips so that it went downfield, but it is still not a good habit because it kept his body from being between the attacker and the ball. Had the attacker been a step faster in that situation, he could have gotten a foot on the ball because Abubakar opened the space for him. Moving forward, let’s see a few more goalside foot clearances.

San Jose doubles their lead (34’)

There isn’t much to say about this one aside from saying that the Rapids just got all-around beat here. First, Nick Lima gets the best of Nicholson in the corner. Second, Lima gets the best of Sam Nicholson off the dribble and Nicholson ends up giving Lima way too much space to pick out his pass.

After the pass, Valeri Qazaishvili takes the ball and puts Tommy Smith on skates. He cuts him multiple times and finds the smallest of windows to put a shot through. The shot beats multiple defenders and Clint Irwin as it goes in at the far post. All in all, the Rapids got beat over and over and over on the same play, and the result was a good goal. Tip of the cap on this one.

Salinas takes away any doubt that San Jose would win (83’)

If I was Keegan Rosenberry, I would not be looking forward to the film session where they go over this goal. The play starts with Shea Salinas taking the ball down the line while Rosenberry tracks him. Initially, it doesn’t look like it is going to be anything too dangerous, until Rosenberry makes a huge mistake—he lets Salinas have the inside. In that situation, you cannot let the player beat you to the inside.....no matter what...ever. All Rosenberry had to do was escort Salinas to the endline and make him hit the cross, trusting that his other defenders would have it covered (and they do).

Instead, Salinas makes a slight hesitation and then cuts it back. He is able to get inside of Rosenberry and start dribbling across the middle. At that point, Rosenberry and Smith are in trouble. They have to sell out to block any shot because of where they are in the box, and that plays right into the hands of Salinas as he puts a couple fakes on the Rapids defenders. Ultimately, he finds a window and finishes, but it cannot be that easy to get to the middle of the box.

Rubio gets a consolation goal (88’)

Although the goal didn’t mean much, we have to appreciate that it was a good goal. Lewis starts the play by doing a great job beating his defender one-on-one. Using his speed, he breaks away and charges into the box.

Once he gets to the box, Lewis shows some good awareness to find Diego Rubio. Initially, I thought Rubio would shoot immediately, but he decides to take a brilliant first touch that completely takes his defender out of the play. Ultimately, his shot is deflected into the goal, but don’t let that take away from the good buildup play.

Other Thoughts

The wings struggled

For a number of articles, I have been claiming that Nicholson and Lewis were the keys to the Rapids success. Sadly, they did not play their best games on Saturday, and the Rapids struggled as a result. Nicholson seemed slightly off throughout the night, and Lewis struggled to really get into the game until late when he got his assist and had a goal called back for Vines being offside.

Without success on the wings, the Rapids seemed to struggle to know what to do going forward, especially once Kei Kamara came out of the game. Hopefully, this ends up being one bad game for the two instead of the start of a decline.

The Rapids need to be more clinical

Although San Jose probably deserved the win, we cannot deny that the Rapids had their chances. Rubio had a ball saved point blank. Lewis had a goal that was called offside on Vines. Along with those two incidents, there were definitely times that the Rapids could have climbed back into this game, but they were not clinical enough.

San Jose, on the other hand, were clinical. They took the chances they got and even scored on a few plays that did not initially seem dangerous. Being clinical like that leads to wins. Not being clinical leads to losses.

The midfield was just not good enough

Using a midfield three of Danny Wilson, Rubio, and Kellyn Acosta is not good enough in modern MLS. Wilson is not the type of player to be a lone number 6 and playing him there is not going to help the fanbase’s negative perception of him. Rubio is a forward player, so playing him in a dual 8 role with Acosta does not play to his strengths either. This left Acosta to try and fill in the places where Wilson and Rubio would fall short in controlling the middle of the park. That is a big ask for Acosta, and it is also not setting him up very well.

Going forward, the Rapids need to play real central midfielders in the middle of the park so that they can actually use them for defense, possession, and link-up play. Why Conor Casey chose those three as a midfield when the likes of Cole Bassett and Jack Price were on the bench is a mystery to me, but it is not surprising that the midfield got overpowered a bit throughout the game.

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