Colorado Rapids Struggling At Right Back, “Waiting For Something To Happen”

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COMMERCE CITY, CO - MARCH 18: Dominique Badji, #14, Colorado Rapids, celebrates his goal against Minnesota United in the first half at Dick's Sporting Goods Park March 18, 2017 in Commerce City, Colorado. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

Editorial (March 19, 2017)Saturday night saw the Colorado Rapids struggling in many aspects. They gave up a 1-0 lead and were unable to win a game against a 10-man Minnesota United side. Head Coach Pablo Mastroeni had some strong frustrations with his team after the match as well.

Colorado Rapids Struggling At Right Back, “Waiting For Something To Happen”

The Rapids are coming off a lackluster 1-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls. That game saw Axel Sjöberg leave with an injury. The Rapids didn’t create much in that game. While they were able to score two goals against Minnesota, they were unable to take advantage of being up a man.

Being Too Passive

Minnesota clearly looked like the more desperate team. New York had the majority of the possession and they play. Mastroeni lamented on this issue after Saturday’s game: “We’re waiting for something to happen to us rather than imposing ourselves.” His side created enough chances and carried the play at times.

Still, they weren’t as ruthless or opportunistic as they usually are. They let Minnesota come at them several times. That led to several good chances for Christian Ramirez. That passive play earned Minnesota a PK and a go ahead goal.

“All we [needed] to do in the second half was come out with this ruthless mentality. Breathing down the necks of every one of their players. And we did not do that,” said Mastroeni. He added “we’ve got three weeks to dig in and challenge ourselves.” “You know that we’re going to win that game. That’s what we’re going to do.”

Struggles At Right Back and In The Air

For the second straight game, play at right back cost the Rapids a clean sheet. The game winner in New York was an own goal by Eric Miller. In general, marking was off for Colorado on the road. Mekeil Williams got the start over Miller in the next game, and he promptly gave up a PK to get the visitors back in the game. Williams did get forward into the attack on several occasions, to be fair.

Right back might have been the only position the Rapids had trouble with last year. They had a rotating cast of Williams, Miller, and even Dennis Castillo. It’s the only position going into this year that didn’t have a de facto starter with confidence. Jared Watts and Sjöberg are at center back. Now that he’s healthy, no question Tim Howard is the starting goalkeeper.

But right back has been a big of an enigma. No one is playing well enough to claim it outright. And recently, those players are costing the team big time. A weak link in the back line would be a major blow to Colorado’s biggest strength.

The Kids are Getting It Done

Shkelzen Gashi and Kevin Doyle are finally back in the Starting XI, but are still getting fit. They don’t quit seem like 90 minute players yet. In the meantime, Marlon Hairston and Dominique Badji continue to shred opponents with their speed and skill.

Badji took advantage of a defensive mistake to score over the weekend. He’s been one of the only players to provide that ruthlessness that Mastroeni spoke of.

“That’s what we work on – pressing other teams and that’s what we’re supposed to do. The ball fell to me and I was able to score there,” Badji said after the game.

Hairston was a workhorse on both sides of the ball, using his speed to get into space and create chances. He scored a rare header goal to tie the match up. The winger unfortunately went down with a knee injury after sustaining a tackle from United full back Justin Davis. Davis was given a straight red card for studs up contact to the knee.

“I don’t know his status. I think he’s got to get X-Rays,” said Mastroeni after the match about his status.

Badji and Hairston continue to develop and show their worth. Hairston has three weeks till the next game to recover. If he’s out long term, that could be a huge blow to the Rapids attack.

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