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#COLvSKC: Breakdown of Key Plays

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After a 1-1 draw, the Rapids remain winless since March.

John A. Babiak - @Photog_JohnB

The Colorado Rapids managed to score first on Saturday night, but they couldn’t hang on to that lead as they tied Sporting Kansas City 1-1. Let’s look at the goals:

Rapids take the 1-0 lead (57’)

When he was able to get onto the ball, Younes Namli was generally able to make things happen. At the start of this play, the Rapids’ DP went down the ride side of the field before cutting into the box. Right as he gets to the edge of the box, three SKC defenders crash toward him, which leaves only one other defender to cover the entire rest of the box.

At the same time, Namli lays the ball through the dangerous area of the box. As he should, the last remaining defender tracks Diego Rubio running toward the near post. Though Rubio might have been able to get a touch on the ball, he knows Cole Bassett is making a run behind him, so he does a good dummy and lets the ball run by.

From the beginning of the play, you can see Bassett racing down the far side of the field. His defender had been caught a little too far forward, and Cole knows that he can get into a dangerous spot just in case the ball happens to get to him. The ball trickles through, and we are now left with just Bassett and the SKC goalie, Tim Melia. Bassett makes a good, if not a little scary, finish to the top shelf. Good goal created by the big money player Namli.

SKC ties it up 1-1 (67’)

When the Rapids defended corners, they had all 11 players defend from inside the box (more on this later). As a result, the ball gets cleared right to Gianluca Busio. The teenager takes the ball down and decides to have a rip at goal.

Once the ball is taken down by Busio, only one Rapids player charges him. With all 11 players in the box, there are plenty of bodies to spare. There need to be more people pressuring Busio so that it is harder to get the shot through on goal.

William Yarbrough ends up getting screened by one of the lingering SKC players. Unfortunately, Lalas Abubakar is holding the screening player onside, so there isn’t any offside shout we can make. Due to the screen, Yarbrough is a little late to react and the ball ends up in the back of the net. Without the screen, it is probably a tough save, but I think Yarbrough could have gotten there, or at least gotten very close.

All in all, the Rapids won’t feel great about the goal because it feels a little preventable, but you also have to admit that it was a good strike by Busio.

Other Thoughts

Defending corner kicks

When they were defending corner kicks, the Rapids put all 11 players in the box. By doing this, they have a clear numbers advantage inside the box. On the goal that they gave up, they had 10 field players against the six that SKC put into the box. Hypothetically, this should keep things defensively sound when the ball gets sent in because stats would say a Rapids player is likely to win the ball.

The downside of doing this, however, is two-fold. First, they have no outlet. With all your players inside the box, there is nobody up the field to try and clear the ball to. This means that when the ball is cleared, it is going to go straight to an SKC player. From that point, the ball is just going to come right back down Colorado’s throat. Even when the Rapids won possession off a corner in the 76th minute, Nicolas Mezquida dribbled the ball out of the box, met a few SKC players, had to turn around, and SKC ends up with the ball running at the Colorado back line. Having at least one player that you can aim a clearance at can make all the difference because even if they can’t get the ball, they can apply pressure and slow the buildup of the other team enough to let their teammates press up the field and out of the box.

Second, by having 11 players in the box and no outlet, SKC doesn’t have to worry about defending. Looking at the goal the Rapids conceded, you can see that SKC has all 10 of their field players up around the box. Thus, the Rapids are just inviting more pressure by sitting back so far.

Basically, having that many players back tends to trap you in your own third and I am not a fan. To me, having one target man up the field to help get out of the box makes a bigger difference than one more person to defend the initial ball, but this is the strategy that Fraser went with.

The midfield need to be spaced better during buildup

Throughout the game, the Rapids were often caught passing the ball side to side before ultimately sending a long ball up the field. Understandably, fans are a little frustrated by this lack of technique and creativity. With the squad that the Rapids have, they shouldn’t need to rely on hopeful long balls all day.

Looking at the game on Saturday night, I couldn’t help but notice that the midfield was a little disconnected from the back line throughout the game. Take a look at this screenshot:

ESPN+

Here, the Rapids back line is in control of the ball and Abubakar is looking for something to do with it. What he has is no good option. He could keep swinging the ball to Keegan Rosenberry, but that won’t actually do anything, so he takes a dribble forward.

Looking toward the midfield—whose job is to link the play from the defense to the forwards—he has nothing. Every single member of the midfield is behind at least one line of defense, making the pass a little too risky for a centerback to be playing. If Abubakar tries it and fails, they would be left with a 6v4 the other way.

At this moment, there needs to be a midfielder or two in the space between the SKC midfield and forward, or at the very least they should be equal with the SKC midfield. Not surprisingly, Abubakar ends up playing this ball long, SKC wins it, and the Rapids are sent back on defense. They ultimately give up the corner that SKC scores off of.

Namli needs to get on the ball more

There is no denying that the Rapids were more dangerous anytime that Namli was on the ball. He has the unique ability to beat people off the dribble, hit passes on a dime, and take dangerous shots. He did all three on Saturday night and it resulted in him attracting two or three defenders every time he had the ball. That left players open and Namli looked like he was about to make things happen at any moment.

Whether he is playing as a winger or a number 10, there is no denying that Namli needs to get on the ball as much as possible. There were a few too many stretches during Saturday’s game where he wasn’t able to get touches, and that is hopefully something the team is working on.

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