Just like last week, the Colorado Rapids managed to pull out a 2-1 thanks to a late game winner. In D.C., it was Jonathan Lewis. This time it was Drew Moor. Either way, it’s three points. Here’s how it all happened:
Namli gives the ‘Pids a 1-0 lead (64’)
YOUNES NAMLI HAS ARRIVED. pic.twitter.com/yUkxZErzLe— Colorado Rapids (@ColoradoRapids) March 8, 2020
My fantasy team thanks Keegan Rosenberry for the assist on this goal, but this is really all Younes Namli. Namli receives the ball 35 yards out with his back to goal. At that point, he is basically no threat to Orlando—but that is all about to change. The Orlando defender closes him down a little too aggressively, allowing Namli to get around him with a quick touch and turn to his left.
Defender #2 comes from the near side of the field and tries support his teammate. Sadly for him, the first defender wasn’t even able to slow Namli down on his turn, so he can’t get over to help in time.
That brings us to defender #3. Now that Namli has split the first two defenders, he is picking up speed and heading toward goal. Another support defender comes from Namli’s right, but Namli’s angle and momentum allows him to blow by the third defender with one touch. Just like that, Namli goes from facing away from goal at 35 yards out to a great shooting position in a matter of a couple seconds.
At this point, neither Orlando centerback commits to stepping toward Namli until it is too late. Namli makes no mistake and slots the ball into the bottom corner. 1-0 Rapids.
Orlando ties it up 1-1 late, but not too late (82’)
Looking at this one on film this week, the Rapids’ backline is going to be disappointed at how this one played out. When Chris Mueller starts to make his move, you can see Sam Nicholson try to pass him off to Rosenberry. While Rosenberry doesn’t react to the run soon enough to track him, he does step toward goal, allowing Mueller to stay onside.
From there, Mueller isn’t passed off to Moor, so he recovers straight back while Rosenberry tries to catch up. Ultimately, Andres Perea gets onto the ball in a pocket of space, look up, and play a nice pass into Mueller’s run. Mueller makes a nice finish, but the Rapids will be disappointed that he was able to break them with that simple a run.
Rapids grab a late 2-1 winner
THE SET PIECE KING TO THE VET. Pricey to Moor and we've got the late 2-1 lead!!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/kVBX66kdxj— Colorado Rapids (@ColoradoRapids) March 8, 2020
This goal all comes down to practice and skill. From a practice perspective, the Rapids meticulously work on set pieces throughout the week, which is why they are arguably the best set-piece team in the league. They come into games knowing exactly where the ball needs to be played and where runners need to be down to the inch, and that showed here.
You can have everything down to a science, but you still need to do your job. From a skill perspective, Jack Price plays a ball right on the money and Drew Moor wins his aerial battle to put his header in a good spot. It sounds simple on paper, but there is a lot of skill in those moments.
Rapids struggle to break down Orlando
On paper, it was obvious to see that the Rapids would be the favorites at home against a team missing their two biggest stars. It should come as no surprise that Orlando came into DSGP and bunkered down and locked up the middle of the field.
As a result, the Rapids resorted to playing down the wings and hitting in crosses. I am a firm believer that Kei Kamara is one of the best aerial threats in the league, but I think the Rapids have started to get a little one-dimensional with it. Compare the number of crosses the Rapids hit below with the number of balls they played from zone 14, which is the area around the top of the box.
When you have the ball around the top of the box, players can start to slip balls in and try to create really good goal-scoring opportunities. When you look at the passing from zone 14 above, you can see that none of the balls go into the box, and the majority of them are going out wide. That means that even when the Rapids were getting into a pretty dangerous position, they couldn’t get the final ball to really break down Orlando. Instead, they played it out wide and got left with a lot of unsuccessful crosses.
The next time that a team comes to Denver (or Commerce City) and tries this, I would like to see the Rapids play a little more into the middle instead of just trying to make on crossing.
Namli is starting to show what he’s got
While Namli didn’t quite dominate the game like we hope he will when he is fully fit, he certainly showed flashes of what is to come this season. Aside from the goal I detailed above, he impressed me with his passing range. A few times throughout the game, he decided to hit long balls toward the corners to our wingers and they looked deadly. One each one, he either connected or just barely missed. As the season goes on, look for those balls to be really dangerous. Once teams start having to account for them, it will also open up space in the middle and in front of the defense for the rest of the team to work.
The other thing Namli showed was his ability to dribble. The most notable example is in the goal above where we beat three defenders in six touches and a matter of seconds, but there were a few other moments where you could just see that he is a cut above with the ball. One that comes to mind is when he made a behind-the-leg cutback to open up a window of space down the right side in the second half.
All in all, he is something the Rapids haven’t had in a while: a player who can make a game-changing play all by himself if the moment calls for it. That’s basically what he did on the first goal.
What else did you see in Saturday night’s game? Let us know in the comments down below!