June and July feel like the weekend of the calendar year. If you’re a student school’s out, all the water and theme parks are open, and weddings, just like any other Rapids’ season, seem to peak right around this time. As we head into August and the summer season starts to wind down, we’ll look back to the eight league games the Rapids played in June and July. In addition to those eight, Colorado also played an additional two games: an Open Cup game and a friendly against New Mexico United and Arsenal respectively.
After a hopeful May, Colorado went in to June with plenty to look forward to. Interim Head Coach Casey seemingly had the Burgundy Boys playing with confidence, purpose, and with a clear identity. The Rapids went unbeaten in June if you exclude the US Open Cup Match. Overall, a very good record for the month of June. It seemed as though the wheels really started to spin for the Rapids as they started to climb the table, slowly, but surely. July, however, seemingly killed the Rapids playoff hopes and put right back at the bottom of the Western Conference. The Rapids went all of July without a win and the honeymoon phase of June came to an end. I’ll give a quick analysis of each of the games except for the New Mexico and Arsenal games. In quick summary, the Rapids lost the New Mexico game because its a competition the organization doesn’t care about as a whole. Tickets weren’t even available until a week before the match: they know it’s nothing to focus on so I won’t here. The Arsenal game can be simplified as a game where a dominant European team defended in a low block with very rigid positioning. The Rapids attack had zero ideas and as soon as someone in the defense made a mistake, Arsenal capitalized and made the Rapids pay. In hindsight, and in my opinion, the Open Cup Game and the friendly are anomalies. They were chances to see a rotated squad but apart from that, not really anything to write home about. The league games will be the main focus and we’ll see just how quickly the Rapids Summertime Hightime went to the Summertime Blues.
Game 1: Colorado Rapids 3 – 1 FC Cincinnati
By now, everyone should know that the Rapids concede a lot of possession under Casey. In each of the games played in the summer, Colorado had less possession than their opponent. At the end of the day, the Rapids don’t “dominate” games in 2019. You may see the scoreline of this game and think “high scoreline=dominating performance”, but when looking at the stats FC Cincinnati were the better team. They had more possession, a better pass accuracy, won more tackles and dribbles yet lost the match. The Rapids just knew how to effectively counter-attack. I can copy and paste this broad generalization for all of Colorado’s wins: The Rapids just know how to hit teams on the counter and they also know how to score goals from set pieces. This match wasn’t dominant by the Rapids and they don’t necessarily need to be if it means the team wins games. Goals from Andre Shinyashiki, Nicolas Mezquida, and Diego Rubio were enough to beat Cincinnati’s one goal from Kekuta Manneh.
Game 2: Colorado Rapids 1 – 0 Minnesota United
This game doesn’t have nearly as much goals because Minnesota on the whole are a much better team than Cincinnati. It was a gritty and ugly match and there was probably more of a chance for Minnesota United to come away with the win. A set piece corner kick which found Kei Kamara led to Colorado’s goal and winner. The story is the same for this match: The Rapids gave up a lot possession, were sloppy in their passes, and weren’t as ambitious as they could’ve been. Expected goals for this match had Minnesota at 0.76 while the Rapids were at a very uninspiring 0.52. At the end, a scrappy win is a win nonetheless. However, scrappy wins can only get you so far.
Game 3: Vancouver Whitecaps 2 – 2 Colorado Rapids
It was truly a tale of two halves for Colorado. A strong twenty minute start saw the Rapids up two-nil on the Caps thanks to goals from Andre Shinyashiki and Diego Rubio. This Rapids team conceded a lot of the possession, but they were taking plenty of shots, testing former Rapids keeper Zac MacMath, and they were attacking with plenty of confidence. For whatever reason, the Rapids took the foot off the pedal and let Vancouver essentially walk back into the game. Right before the half, the Rapids conceded a penalty and Vancouver closed ended the half trailing by one. At the start of the half, the Rapids just seemed to lose that spark they had in the first half. The team that had been firing shots left and right and putting immense pressure on a bad Vancouver side was not there. Eventually, an 80th minute free kick from Yordy Reyna brought the Whitecaps level and the Rapids miss out on two crucial points.
Game 4: Colorado Rapids 1 – 0 LAFC
What will probably go down as the highlight of the season for many supporters, the Rapids upset dominant league leaders LAFC who before this match had only lost to the Vancouver Whitecaps. While many had predicted a blood bath, I stuck my neck out and suggested “Hey, if Vancouver can do it, then the Rapids can as well.” And that’s exactly what happened as after a Danny Wilson set piece corner goal, a lightning delay, and Sam Vines best performance of the season saw the Colorado Rapids beat LAFC. It was, of course, another ugly win and the stats suggest that Colorado Rapids played sloppily, it did not matter as the victories were there. You seeing the trend here?
Game 5: Colorado Rapids 1 – 2 New England Revolution
The 4th of July games are always a treat as supporters can enjoy a firework display show after a Rapids game. This year however, the game would be delayed for quite a long time: three and a half hours to be precise. This stop/start type of game really killed any type of momentum both teams had tried to garner throughout the match. It was not a pretty game by any means. Under better circumstances, this match could have been a real fun match to watch. Both teams seemingly resurrected from the pits of their respective conferences in a push for the playoffs. Ultimately, I think New England would have still won the match as they have just a little more of a spark to their game than Colorado did coming into the match. It’s also worth mentioning that the Rapids had gotten real close to equalizing in the dying stages of the match. The one reason they didn’t finish off the game was due to the fantastic goalkeeping performance of Matt Turner who stood on his head in the last moments of the match to prevent the Rapids from coming back down two-nil. This unfortunately wouldn’t be the last time the Rapids played against a goalkeeper who was on their game.
Game 6: Portland Timbers 2 – 2 Colorado Rapids
Coming into Portland, Colorado played against another goalkeeper who decided to stand on their head and have a fantastic outing in between the sticks. Steve Clark denied the Rapids multiple times and was definitely tested by Colorado’s front line. The chances were there for the Burgundy Boys but unfortunately Clark was on a different level. An own goal by Tommy Smith (who beautifully took it on the chin on social media after the match, props to Smith) did the Rapids no favor for the match. A penalty was also awarded to the Timbers which they converted. There’s no doubt in my mind that the Rapids were the better team in this match. The overall failure to capitalize on chances and mistakes like an own goal and penalty are what really muddied the chances of a win for the Burgundy Boys. This is a game Colorado should have won and ultimately it’s one that in my opinion can drastically stun any momentum.
Game 7: Colorado Rapids 1 – 2 New York City FC
The Colorado Rapids played for about ten minutes, scored a goal in the opening five, and then seemingly ran out of ideas. A red card to 16 year old Sebastian Anderson made the situation worse. Right before the half, Heber would score after Lalas Abubakar kept him onside. From that point to the end the Rapids would go into a deeper low block and would bunker to try to eek out a draw. New York would go on to dominate the rest of the match. The Rapids had an abysmal pass accuracy of 59% compared to NYCFC’s 86%. New York also shot the ball a total of 29 times with 9 on target meaning Colorado let themselves be tested again and again. It’s no wonder that the goal that would end the game came at the 81st minute. Colorado can usually shoot double digit numbers but for this match in particular, they only managed 8 shots and only 3 on target. This was the worst the Rapids have played all season despite the early goal which led many, including myself, that it was to be a game to be remembered. Instead, New York came into Dicks Sporting Goods Park and dominated the Rapids.
Game 8: San Jose Earthquakes 3 – 1 Colorado Rapids
Rapids fans witnessed another lackadaisical performance from the Burgundy Boys. This was not a pretty match and it seemed like everyone had an off day. The goal, which was a bizarre one at that, came in the late stages of the match when the game was out of reach. This game was dominated by San Jose and Colorado had no answers to the man-to-man defense that has worked so effectively for the Quakes. Ultimately, Matias Almeyda out-coached and showed truly how much coaching actually matters. The Earthquakes have done a complete 180 degree turn and the Rapids are still struggling to even find themselves in the position to compete for a playoff berth.
Conclusion: 8 Games – 11 Points
It’s become quickly apparent to me that the wins in June were all on the fluke side of validity. They didn’t play convincing-winning soccer against Minnesota or LAFC. The only convincing win came against FC Cincinnati, but given Cinci’s quality that isn’t really saying much. Coach Casey has allowed the players to play with much freedom but it’s come to a point where it’s too free. Sub-par passing accuracy, low shots on target, and a very one-dimensional attack leads me to believe that this team really has no ideas when it comes to attacking. They have resorted to the Mastroeni tactics of old and when you look at that successful 2016 season, you’ll see a lot of the same qualities to those wins to the ones the Rapids had in June of 2019. There’s something to be said about the way things haven’t really changed since the op-ed in terms of tactics and philosophy. That idea, however, deserves it’s own article which I’ll get into at a later point. Nonetheless, the next coaching hire needs to be apparent and ready for next season. Rapids fans are starting to become anxious and are beginning to wonder who the next coaching hire will be. There were some rumblings that a head coach was all but ready to be signed, but those rumblings have seemed to quiet down after a successful June. As we head into the late stages of the season, the Rapids find themselves 11 points out of a playoff spot. This month is truly do or die. The season lies on this month and if the Rapids can get enough road points from this month they might make the playoffs. It’s extremely unlikely, but nonetheless the season is not over and I’ll be hoping for a miracle to happen in the month of August.
Rapids matches for August:
August 3rd vs Montreal Impact
August 10th vs San Jose Earthquakes
August 14th @ Minnesota United
August 17th @ Houston Dynamo
August 24th @ Real Salt Lake
August 31st @ New York Red Bulls