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#SKCvsCOL: Breakdown of Key Plays

The Rapids once again suffer defeat in the MLS is Back Tournament Group Stage.

MLS: Colorado Rapids at Sporting Kansas City Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Coming into Friday night against Sporting Kansas City, the Colorado Rapids needed to bounce back after a disappointing defeat to Real Salt Lake. That was happening—until things went south fast. With five goals and two red cards, we have a lot to look at, so let’s get to it.

Rapids jump out to an early 1-0 lead (6’)

The goal starts with the Rapids running at the SKC back line. Diego Rubio pushes the ball out wide and the ball eventually makes its way back into the middle for Kellyn Acosta to put it home. There are two things to point out in this one.

First, SKC is just a little too disorganized on defense. If you look at the play, they have five guys behind the ball, so this shouldn’t happen so easily. Once the ball goes out wide, Cole Bassett floats off his man, who has to stay and support the defender on the ball. The defender at the top of the box floats over to cover Bassett and he probably should have been a bit tighter. He does a good job of closing Bassett down once he gets the ball, but Bassett is able to face up to goal thanks to that little bit of cushion he was offered. If the defender is tight to Bassett, he never gets to turn and would be forced to play the ball back out wide or backwards.

From there, he plays the ball into Acosta’s path and the top of the box is left open. Again, the defense does a good job crashing, but had the person on Acosta’s back put a little more effort into his run back, that ball never gets shot.

Second, what a great shot. Acosta has been taking any open shot he had during the first two games, so you knew one was bound to go in. No goalie was going to save that one.

Danny Wilson gets a red card (61’)

Watching the replay over and over again during the game, I have mixed feelings about this one. Yes, Wilson is the last defender. Yes, SKC is in on goal if he doesn’t stop the play. Yes, he fouls Khiry Shelton. The real question to me is, how do we take into account the ball going off Wilson’s leg?

The ball hits his leg as he is taking Shelton down, and then it bounces pretty wide toward the corner of the box. You could make the argument that this stops the play from being an obvious a goal-scoring situation. Would Shelton have beaten William Yarbrough to the loose ball? Would the angle have made him have to turn back inside and allow a defender to get back? Who knows.

On the other hand, are we calling the foul before Wilson touches the ball or during that time? If it is before, then it is definitely DOGSO, just like tripping a forward as a through ball is played into their path.

All in all, I could see this being a red or a yellow. Unlucky they chose red.

SKC ties it up 1-1 (65’)

Of course, right after the red, SKC gets a weird goal. The ball is hit a little too hard and goes over all the defenders. Gadi Kinda does well to keep the ball in play, and at this point, it still doesn’t feel too dangerous. The ball is at a bad angle and we have defenders back.

From there, Kinda hits the ball to the one spot the Rapids don’t have covered—the same terrible angle at the other side of the back post. Shelton happens to be there and manages to hit a volley from a tight angle. It sucks, but the Rapids seemed to be in good enough position. This is one of those goals that just happen sometimes and you gotta move on.

SKC takes the lead off an unlucky PK (72’)

If you look at the slow-motion replay of the reverse angle (start at minute 1:05 in the video above), you can see that the handball call was correct. The ball doesn’t really change direction, but you can see that Rubio’s hand snaps up after it gets hit. By the current handball rules, his arm wasn’t up against his body and it hit his hand in the box, so that is a handball. Now, that doesn’t mean that FIFA and VAR haven’t made a mess of the rule over the last few years, but it is a handball by the current rules.

The PK by Alan Pulido is a good one and SKC takes to lead thanks to another rather unlucky goal.

Jack Price sees red (73’)

Of all the calls made in this game, this is the one I have a major problem with. I have no doubt that Jack Price said something rated at the very least PG-13 (probably R), but I don’t see how you give this red card. The referee has to understand the situation and the frustration of the last 10 minutes.

If you don’t like what Price says, go over and warn him or give him a yellow. Don’t just jump straight to a red card unless he said the most egregious thing you have ever heard, and the consensus from most interviews I’ve seen is that he said something pretty run of the mill for that kind of situation. We will get back to this at the end.

Colorado ties it up 2-2 (84’)

When you are down to 9 men, all you can do is counterattack. Lucky for the Rapids, they are good at that. They take the ball and pounce quick thanks to the speed of Jonathan Lewis. All you can really say about this one is that SKC should be embarrassed by the amount of space he had while two men down, and that’s a quality finish. Two good substitute appearances from Lewis makes you start to wonder what he has to do to get a start.

SKC scores the winner (90+’)

This goal starts at 0:43 on the video:

Once again, unlucky. The initial ball is dealt with well enough and Graham Zusi tries for the golazo. The ball is actually going wide, but Sam Vines does whatever he can to stop the ball from going through him, like any defender is trained to do. Unfortunately, the deflection goes in the back of the net.

Three unlucky goals, one “eh” red card, and one unnecessary red card later, the Rapids are seeing their MLS is Back hopes all but slip away.

Other notes

The officiating

Let’s just get this one out of the way. The fact that SKC was allowed in the locker room and the Rapids were stuck on the bus before the game was a terrible decision that started what was going to be a rough night. Once the game started, the referee quickly lost control. He tried to let the players play a lot early in the game, and that was a mistake.

It became obvious the ref needed to regain control, so he had to start being picky and showing cards. From there you box yourself into a corner of continuing to throw cards out left and right or losing your consistency—and neither is good. I think Price got his red so quickly because the ref knew he had lost control and needed to get it back somehow.

Knowing it was two Western Conference teams with a bit of a rivalry, the ref needed to take charge earlier before things deteriorated as they did.

The response was there

The Rapids needed to bounce back after a poor game against RSL. They scored six minutes into the game. Then they got unlucky and found themselves down a goal with only nine men, and they scored again. The resilience was great to see, and that is the only reason I haven’t lost all hope of advancing in this tournament. They are gonna come to play against Minnesota United, so let’s see what happens.

Rubio provides a nice switch to Kamara

With Rubio up top, the Rapids were able to play a very fluid front three, meaning the three forwards were constantly switching who was left, right, or central. It proved to be a challenge for SKC to manage, so it is nice we can switch to that if having a true striker like Kei Kamara isn’t working.