Editorial (March 4, 2017) – Dominique Badji. Marlon Hairston. Axel Sjöberg. Jared Watts. Zac MacMath. All 25-years-old or younger. Each of them did work in the home opener. Because of their play, the Colorado Rapids beat the New England Revolution 1-0.
Colorado Rapids Young Starters Impress In Home Opener
Let’s start with Badji. First and foremost, he got the goal. Badji created the opportunity to begin with, drawing a foul in the attacking zone. He finished the play off with a thumping header after chaos in front of the net. In general, he was active on the wings and up top all night. He had good moments throughout the game in the air.
His partner in the attack has often been Marlon Hairston. Hairston had a good game overall, running up and down the flank and getting into the box. He continues to be a dangerous secondary threat for his team. His defensive work rate against New England was better than it was last year as well.
“I think Marlon was really active in the first half. Getting in between lines, getting behind the back line and finding balls in behind,” said Pablo Mastroeni about Hairston. He added that “it’s a long process but today we had some really good looks and those are great incremental improvements from last year.”
The veterans on the squad believe in them as well. “They’ve established themselves. If you can start out the season on any professional team, you’ve done your job. Last year they proved that they can do it and they’re doing it day in and day out,” said left back Marc Burch.
On the opposite end of the field, Sjöberg, Watts, and MacMath completely shut down the Revolution attack. Watts and Sjöberg continue to be an effective center back pair. At 6’7″, Sjöberg might be the best aerial center back in MLS. Watts continue to be a clutch scramble defender. New England got the ball into dangerous places, but they never threatened. The Rapids won challenges convincingly and prevented the Revs from getting open looks.
“I think our backline was superb in that regard. I think Axel and Watts did a really good job of minimizing Kamara’s chances facing goal, a lot of his play was back to goal which is where we want him. Defending starts with our [No. 9] and it goes all the way back, said Mastroeni after the match.
Behind them, MacMath did have to make several quick decisions in the game. He came off his line in the first half to make a big save on Kie Kamara. He was also active on a few set pieces, punching crosses out of harm’s way.
Mastroeni was particularly complementary of his back up keeper: “I think Zac MacMath had a fantastic game. Made two or three great saves. The decisions he had with his feet was good.”
It’s still early. It’s only one game. But the younger guys are playing like old pros. If nothing else, the kids are alright.