3 wins in a row, 3rd place in the West
Recapping the win over Houston Dynamo
Looking at the pre-game lineups saw minimal changes for the home team while the visitors went with almost a full squad rotation. I thought, I don't want to jinx myself but this is exciting!
Once the game got under way you could tell the Burgundy Boys were up for it. In particular the right wing was exposed with Michael Barrios showing off his incredible engine. This game really had everything as evidenced by goalkeeper William Yarbrough getting an assist when he released Barrios on a long punt. Barrios got in behind, went to the end line and dragged it back towards the top of the 18' for the onrushing Sam Vines. Although the ball came across his body, he placed it well and with force into the nearside, top right corner. Keeper never had a chance, everyone thought he'd open his body and go far post which he didn't. Vines immediately credited Barrios in the celebration. 1-0 29'
7 minutes later and Mikey found space once again. This time he didn't take it all the way to the endline. Instead he pulled up about 20' out and towards the sideline, saw Diego Rubio in the middle and played a great ball in. Rubio rose up well and guided the ball towards the far post. Challenge from the defender wasn't enough, keeper had no chance as the ball hit the side netting. A beautiful goal and DSG Park erupted! 2-0 36'
Just 3 minutes later and another goal. This time from the visitors. After losing the ball in midfield the Dynamo pushed forward and swung a cross in from their left flank. Auston Trusty tried to throw a leg in the way but missed. Ball went through to the opposite wing. Christian Ramirez didn't even try to dribble, he teed it up and slammed it into the bottom far post corner. Not much that Sam Vines or William Yarbrough could do. 2-1 39'
Another 3 minutes later and another goal. This time the energy of Cole Bassett paid off when he blocked a clearance by the goalkeeper, Meric. Poor from the keeper but again the hard work paid off.
All the relevant action came in the first half. Game ended 3-1. 63% possession and ultimately a dominant display by the Rapids. Barrios earned man of the match honors as well as a nomination to the MLS Team of the Week (which has now featured a Rapids player in 3 consecutive weeks).
(Image: Colorado Rapids)
Homegrown Debut at Home
“When you make your debut, it doesn’t matter where you do it, but it’s more special when you’re home in front of your family, it’s just something, it’s just the love,” Marcelo Balboa said during the live broadcast. "He’ll remember this day for the rest of his life.”
Oliver Larraz became the 8th player to debut from the Rapids youth academy at age 19 and replaced Jack Price towards the end of the game. Not only that, but as Balboa pointed out he got to do it in front of his family who is from Denver, Colorado. Larraz was being called Scholesy post-game by his teammates. The red hair and central midfield position made him ripe for the Paul Scholes nickname. For more on the newest homegrown player, check out the video below courtesy of the Colorado Rapids:
Another great side note from the match was seeing Kortne Ford being named to the bench. It's been a long time coming. Clearly he's put in a lot of hard work to get back into the fold. Meanwhile Jon Lewis was named to the bench but did not see any action and sustained in injury in warmups. No further details yet on the nature of his injury.
Bring on LAFC
After a very encouraging result and three consecutive wins the Rapids visit LAFC next week. Normally this would be the time for panic. Desperation. Fear. Doom riddled pessimism. But not this time. Not this guy at least.
It really is a great time to face LAFC. Not words that I thought I'd ever type or say. But here we are. Rapids are sitting in 3rd place while LAFC is dead last in the Western Conference. Without Carlos Vela the Black and Gold are ice cold. Corey Baird and Diego Rossi seem to take the same space centrally, stifling their attack. Although they have the same personnel in central midfield, they simply aren't dominating games week in and week out. They're still capable of keeping possession but not bossing other teams. Finishing seems off as well. I'm not sure anyone has all the answers but as usual there are several contributing factors likely leading to these results.
I'd argue that Rossi and Vela are not getting into 1v1 situations on the wing, they are finding that space to do damage. It's started to look forced. And playing Rossi centrally doesn't appear to have fixed anything.
Last year this LAFC squad leaked goals. But as Steve Zakuani pointed out recently it didn't matter because they outscored everyone they played. Now that they are not scoring, the panic is setting in. It's the first time this team has ever been bottom of the table. There's always a target on their backs. This will be a very important time for the club, to see if they can overcome adversity. They're used to success. Not continued defeats. The character of this team will show in the next few weeks.
As far as matchups go, the Rapids have great strength on the wings through Barrios and Vines. I expect more of the same from the Rapids and nothing new necessarily. Build out of the back, keep possession and attack when the opponent is exposed. If LAFC tries to go more direct in their attack, I feel confident in the centerback duo coping with this approach. Which poses another question, will Lalas Abubakar get back into the starting lineup anytime soon? Trusty has done exceptional, he's taking the step forward we all wanted to see but I could easily see Abubakar getting back in soon alongside Danny Wilson.
Cole Bassett is performing very well with two goals in his last two games. With Younes Namli injured I'd expect Bassett to remain in the starting lineup. His late runs and energy across the field poses a unique threat for any team in MLS. He will however face a huge challenge against the likes of Atuesta, Kaye and Blessing.
Otherwise I'd expect that a key strategy for the Burgundy Boys will be to capitalize on set pieces as well as counter attacks. They are getting sharper and sharper in these two key areas while maintaining a solid defensive shape. We said before that the finishing and consistency in general were the last dominoes to fall. And the dominoes have fallen. Great momentum leads to a confidence boost. Confidence lends to scoring goals and closing out leads. This team has everything it takes to succeed and suddenly the entire MLS is looking over their shoulder at the Burgundy Boys. I wrote it here in my season preview, this team is good enough to finish 3rd in the West. Not only is the squad good from top to bottom, but it's clicking on the field. The chemistry, the will and the fight are all there. Exciting times!
Kick off is at 8:30pm MDT on 5/22/21 this Saturday at Banc of California Stadium. Catch the game on ESPN+, Direct TV or ATT&T Now and on the radio at 92.5 FM. Enjoy the match, until next time stay safe out there soccer fans! GO RAPIDS!