On Saturday night, the Colorado Rapids and San Jose Earthquakes played to a 1-1 draw. As if the draw wasn’t disappointing enough, both the team and viewers/listeners had to deal with 90 minutes of cars honking as the Earthquakes hosted an in-car watch party at the stadium. Safe to say, the game was better once I turned the volume down.
Here are the goals:
San Jose scores first (59’)
After a relatively uneventful first half, the Rapids made the first major mistake of the game. Sam Vines went to ground attempting to stop a cross from within the box. In the process, however, he left his arm straight up in the air and the ball hit it.
Chris Wondolowski ended up slotting home the PK as you see above. William Yarbrough tries to guess which way he’s going to go and Wondo ends up going down the middle. Nothing too noteworthy in all this.
Rapids equalize late (81’)
Who needs Jack Price when you have Cole Bassett? This whole goal comes from the Rapids playing to their strengths and executing. Given who was on the field, it is obvious what the Rapids wanted to do when they got a corner kick: hit Kei Kamara. He is arguably the best aerial threat in MLS, so of course he is the target of this play. Colorado knows it. San Jose knows it. Everyone knows it.
What it comes down to is if the Rapids can execute better than the Quakes. You’ll get the best view of all this if you watch the replay starting 0:27 on the video. Defending the corner, San Jose should be doing everything they can to knock players off their run by either slowing them down or blocking the direction they want to go. This makes it so that no one is at their targeted spot when the ball comes in. As we can see, they fail. Kamara has little-to-no problems getting to his spot.
Next, we look at the ball. Not only was it played in at the perfect spot and pace so that Kamara didn’t have to move side-to-side or wait for it, but it was also the perfect height—all things that likely end up with a goal.
Flipping the midfield triangle worked well
Throughout most of the season, the Rapids were playing Price and Kellyn Acosta as duel 6’s while the third midfielder as a number 10. On Saturday, they flipped the midfield triangle by playing Collen Warner as a 6 with Acosta and Bassett as duel 8/10s. From a midfield perspective, it worked well. Warner was able to stay back and cover the defense while also providing the easy pass to start the buildup. It also allowed for Acosta and Bassett to go forward and be involved in the attack.
Given the personnel the Rapids have on their roster, it might be hard to keep this shape and find spots that work for players like Price, Acosta, Bassett, Mezquida, etc. at the same time. Either way, it’s nice to know that it works.
Younes Namli should be more involved
The downside of shaping the midfield as the Rapids did is that the wingers become less involved. Given that there are two midfielders pressing forward, there is less space for them to come inside, and they have t be a little more defensive. Neither of these things bodes well for Namli considering he likes to cut inside (and we brought him in to drive the offense).
If we are going to play this way, I would recommend letting Namli be one of the offensively-minded midfielders. You will be sacrificing a little bit of defense compared to Bassett and Acosta, but then Namli can get on the ball in the places he wants to be. Time and time again Bassett and Acosta kept finding themselves on the ball 25 yards out in a fairly central area. Wouldn’t you want that to be Namli in that spot instead of him hanging out by the sideline?
Rapids needed more speed against San Jose
Coming into the year, the Rapids had Sam Nicholson and Jonathan Lewis as speedy options down the wing. Now, Nicholson is gone and Lewis can’t seem to lock down a starting spot. As a result, the front three of Diego Rubio, Andrew Shinyashiki, and Younes Namli just doesn’t have the right pace for the Rapids style. The Rapids like to counterattack, and San Jose plays an aggressive, man-marking system, which should open them up to a counter.
Throughout the first half, there were a few times that they started the counter, but there just wasn’t a guy that could break away from his mark the way Lewis or Nicholson could. Robin Fraser is going to have to find a wlikay to get more speed into the offense, or we are going to have to find a new way to create goals instead of using the counter.
What else did you notice in Saturday’s game? Let us know in the comments section!