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#RBNYvCOL: Breaking down the Key Plays

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One game, one win for Robin Fraser.

MLS: Colorado Rapids at New York Red Bulls Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Robin Fraser went into his first game head coach of the Colorado Rapids on the road in New York and without the services of Kei Kamara, Kellyn Acosta, or Lalas Abubakar. It’s safe to say things didn’t look super promising, but in the end, Fraser and Rapids were able to walk away with a somewhat surprising 2-0 victory. As always, we begin with the goals.

Rapids take an early lead (14’)

Don’t you love how often a team can go from almost scoring on one end to conceding on another? Here, the cross comes in and Bradley Wright-Phillips is able to get just in front of the Rapids defender. He flicks the ball toward goal with his head and the ball ends up hitting the post.

What started as a scary moment quickly turned to joy as the Rapids jumped on the rebound and started their own counterattack through the speed of Jonathan Lewis. Lewis takes the ball up the sideline using his speed to go right at what was left of the Red Bull backline. Once a player steps to him, he pulls a great hesitation move to blow by one defender.

After he beats the first guy, Lewis does a great job to cut inside. This allows him to get on the wrong side of the next defender and seal him off so that he cannot recover and make any sort of tackle on the ball.

Finally, Lewis does a great job to get the shot off before the next defender steps to him and he beats the goalie to put the ball in the back of the net. Great play.

Rapids seal the win late (87’)

This play is pure confidence. Diego Rubio starts it out by getting a step on his man down the sideline. After that, he faces up and pulls a slick little move to allow himself to get enough separation to get a clean pass off to the top of the box.

When Lewis gets the ball, he takes a productive first touch. It can be all too common to see a player stop that ball dead and allow the defense to press up to him. Instead, Lewis decides before he gets the ball that his shooting lane will be to his right. This allows him to waste no time by taking his first touch in that direction, making it so the defender can’t press him as hard.

After he touches the ball out for his shot, it’s time to actually take it. Keeping in mind the Luis Robles had already made a number of good saves, it was seeming as though it would take a great shot to beat him, and it did. Lewis confidently places the ball in the top corner, leaving Robles no chance. That first touch and the placement of that shot takes confidence, and scoring a goal earlier in the game might have been just the thing to give Lewis that confidence.

Other Notes

Team structure

With this being Fraser’s first game in charge, I wanted to see what kind of system he was going to be running with. While this game may or may not have been indicative of that system due to the suspensions, it was still interesting to see what Fraser rolled out.

He started the game with Sam Vines and Sebastian Anderson as wing backs and a back three of Keegan Rosenberry, Tommy Smith, and Danny Wilson. This left Jack Price and Cole Bassett to hold down the center of the park, Rubio as a false nine, and Lewis and Sam Nicholson using their burning speed on the wings. Considering the suspensions, it was probably about as strong a team as the Rapids could field, and it fit perfectly into how Fraser wanted to play on Saturday night.

In his opening press conference, Fraser said that defense had to be the base of a fun, strong, attacking team, so we shouldn’t be surprised that the new formation was based around defense. The team could fall into a back five with four midfielders in front of them when they needed to, and then could break with the speed of Lewis and Nicholson on the counter.

Having the extra defender also allowed some flexibility is how Fraser wanted to defend. After Josh Sims created a few dangerous plays for the Red Bulls, the Rapids were able to put Vines on Sims as a man mark so that he would follow him wherever he went. This limited Sims’ impact a bit without leaving the Rapids short-handed on the defensive side of the ball.

It was defensive. It was careful. It was a road game with a depleted squad, but that first goal was still fun and attacking, right? Nobody would have blamed him for sitting back in the second half and trying to hold on to the 1-0 lead, but Fraser had different ideas.

In the second half, Fraser decided to go at the Red Bulls a bit by swapping Anderson for Nicolas Mezquida, swapping to a back four and having another player higher up the field. It ended up allowing the Rapids to take the game to New York, and New York couldn’t hold up in the end. Ultimately, it allowed the Rapids to have chance after chance, and they finally put another away to win 2-0.

We could blame Fraser for not coming after New York right away in the more attacking formation they played in the second half, but I couldn’t blame him for coming out defensive given the situation of the game. Ultimately, we have to give him props for the half time adjustment, though.

This was not a 2-0 game

With Fraser coming in as a more defensive coach, I had seen some people complaining that the Rapids were going to go back to their relatively uneventful 1-0 games of 2016. Saturday’s game showed that that is not true, at least for now. Sure, the game finished 2-0, but both teams had a number of chances. The Red Bulls hit the post, had a wide-open look missed by Tim Parker and had a number of dangerous shots go just wide of the goal. All in all, it would not have been crazy to see them finish with a couple of goals.

On the Rapids side of things, they scored two goals and had a few great looks saved by Robles. Add it all together and this game could have easily finished something like 4-2 or anywhere in between. It was exciting and I had fun watching.

Got any other thoughts on Saturday’s game? Let us know in the comments section!