The dust has settled. As C38 regular @powderdayzz pointed out on Twitter, we got punched in the mouth. There's a lot of blame going around, lots of frustration and understandably so. If you didn't watch the game, seeing a19-3 advantage in total shots would make you think we were unlucky. Not the case. The Rapids lacked the ability to keep possession and to finish given the opportunity. In the end the visitors came in hungrier and took advantage of our mistakes.
Recap of home opener vs Austin FC
It was painful. What can I say. Although the Rapids were missing Lalas Abubakar and Sam Vines in the backline, Austin FC also had two players out. Matt Besler was at the hospital with his wife as they welcomed a baby into this world. Congrats to their family. Thomas Pochettino was left out due to supposed league violations of the DP signing "out of abundance of caution". With two key players out for both sides it's really a wash as to having an advantage on missing players.
Usually we see Coach Fraser opt for a different formation when Vines is out. I fully expected a 352 formation but the Rapids stuck with the same 433/4231 formation they normally run. Kellyn Acosta came in at left back and once again performed well. Namli slotting into central midfield meant that his ability to find space, take players on and dribble was mostly neutralized.
In the first half the Rapids came out strong. Lots of energy, especially with Cole Bassett chasing down loose balls and pressuring the visitors. This also led to Bassett being caught out of position frequently. Once again we saw Mikey Barrios running fast, on the counter and causing problems. Barrios was released in the 32' on a counter where he fed Rubio for a great chance that wasn't buried. Diego Rubio made a few selfish decisions on the night and went down a little easy while asking for the foul once or twice. Yeah, it was one of those nights for him.
On the third corner of the half for the Rapids, Captain Jack Price delivered a peach of a cross to Andre Shinyashiki who headed it down and into the far corner. 36 minutes in and the Rapids had their first lead of the year. Dicks Sporting Goods Park roared to life.
And this is basically where the fun ended and it started coming apart.
Going into the second half the visitors looked a little more hungry and it paid off for them. As Coach Fraser said after the game, "I didn't think we played particularly well tonight. Austin is a good team, and a good possession team. Part of the way to deal with them is to be good on the ball and tonight we weren't".
Individual mistakes led to the team being put in a bad position. Keegan Rosenberry was out of position on the first goal and had an off night. Cole Bassett was caught in possession in our own third which led to the second goal.
Then the dagger came when Austin found space behind Rosenberry and Dominguez once again finished nicely. Austin FC capitalized when it mattered most. Cecilio Dominguez scored two of the three goals that Colorado conceded in a 10 minute span. The finishing ability of Dominguez was really impressive and something the Rapids clearly lack.
After going ahead 3-1, the home team weren't able to fight back and score any goals. There were some chances, especially with Jon Lewis coming off the bench. However the team could not keep the ball which was ultimately why they were so poor on the night.
Kellyn Acosta had a good game at left back but his presence is missed in midfield. That bite that we're missing in these first two games, will be replaced when Sam Vines returns. On that note, Sam Vines and Lalas Abubakar have been in practice and I'd expect them to return soon. With a healthy back line, suddenly the midfield looks a lot different. There's no clear replacement for Acosta in the midfield, there's no destroyer in midfield. This also doesn't change the fact that the fundamentals of keeping possession appears to be the biggest factor to the slow start to the season.
Auston Trusty played a great game overall. He stepped up from the backline to press when needed, covered and blocked shots. He was all over the place. One of the better performers and it's great to see him seemingly taking a step forward.
The team kept their preferred formation in tact which is much better than going back and forth, constantly changing things for players. Barrios injects the speed and direct play style this team really needs. He won the player of the match for the Rapids on the night.
It's worth reiterating that with a healthy Sam Vines and Lalas Abubakar there's stability restored. Which in turn means Kellyn Acosta slots back into central midfield where he's needed most. It' also worth reiterating that the fundamentals seem to be lacking. Keeping possession and finishing opportunities needs to become more consistent. When the team gives up a goal, they have to pick their heads up and fight back. And play smart. Oftentimes they lose their cool, get chippy and give away easy goals. This has to be eliminated.
If the Rapids can go into next week's match against Vancouver with a hunger in their bellies everything can change. We all know that confidence goes a long way. Scoring one goal can do that. Keeping a clean sheet can do that. One moment can change it all. We're only two games in. There is no need to search deep or to freak out. No need to change game plans or second guess personnel. Trust the process. Trust Coach Fraser.
In case we needed to add fuel to the fire, Vancouver is playing at Rio Tinto Stadium. A great place for get back on the road to redemption. The Whitecaps are coming off a 2-2 draw with Toronto and beat Portland to open the season.
I'll be looking to see how the team responds, especially mentally. They have to move on, focus on beating the Whitecaps. Put this behind you (you too fans, if you can!).
Next match away vs Vancouver. ESPN+ if you're out of market. Direct TV and AT&T Now continue to carry Altitude Sports and will have the match aired at 8pm mountain time. As always you can also catch the game by switching your radio dial to 92.5.
Until next time, stay safe soccer fans!
(Cover Image: Colorado Rapids Soccer Club)