Breaking Down Colorado Rapids Defensive Struggles In First Game Since Trade

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KANSAS CITY, KS - APRIL 09: Forward Dom Dwyer (14) drives past Defender Kortne Ford (24) during the MLS match between Sporting Kansas City and the Colorado Rapids. Sunday April 9th, 2017 at Children's Mercy Park in Kansas City, KS. (Photo by Nick Tre. Smith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Editorial (April 11, 2017) – The Colorado Rapids had a rough go of it on Sunday night. They lost 3-1 to Sporting Kansas City, with their goal coming on a stoppage time PK. The defense was abysmal in their first game since the Sam Cronin and Marc Burch trade. It was also their first match in three weeks. Here’s what went wrong and how they can fix it.

Breaking Down Colorado Rapids Defensive Struggles In First Game Since Trade

Rapids fans may be shocked at what they saw on Sunday night. It was the first game since last September that they’ve given up more than two goals. It was also their first loss in Kansas City since June 2015.

That said, it was their first game in three weeks. FS1 Color Commentator Alexi Lalas said on the broadcast said this was like the start of the season all over again for Colorado. It was also their first game without Cronin and Burch. It’s hard to judge a team on one road game against a tough opponent.

Kortne Ford Had A Rough Debut:

I don’t mind head coach Pablo Mastroeni giving his Homegrown center back a run out. But doing it on the road against Dom Dwyer and company was setting the kid up for failure. Kortne Ford adjusted well as the game went on. Still, he had a legitimate opportunity to prevent the first two goals. His hesitation in reading the play and reacting cost his team.

He had a chance to clear Tim Howard’s rebound that ultimately lead to the opening goal. In Ford’s defense, he was caught flat footed, but he was in No Man’s Land. He didn’t attack the ball and he wasn’t aware enough of his surroundings to close down the open man.

On the second goal, he hesitated. Ford was just a few feed away from a Roger Espinoza. He didn’t make an effort on the ball. He also didn’t anticipate the run from Gerso Fernandes or close him down. Again, he was in No Man’s Land.

To be fair, Ford settled down after that. He made several good plays on Dom Dwyer throughout the night. Still, the kid clearly has a lot to learn. Mastroeni and the coaching staff will use this game as a lesson. Still, for the Rapids to have a better outing at center back, Bobby Burling should be in there.

More critically, they need Axel Sjöberg back healthy.

Nana Boateng And Michael Azira Need Time To Gel:

This match marked the first start for Nana Boateng in MLS. He came off the bench in a game against Minnesota United and had some good moments. He wasn’t great on Sunday though. He and Michael Azira have to learn each other’s tendencies. I’ve written in the past about just how Cronin and Azira were such a great pair together.

Neither of them did anything special. But they outworked their opponents and they knew exactly what the other one was going to do. This helped them overcome deficiencies in talent and speed. Boateng is a Manchester City academy product, so he’s probably a better player than both Azira and Cronin. But like Ford, he needs time. Time to get used to MLS and his new central partner.

Lalas described Boateng’s appearance as “unremarkable.” For a TAM level contract, he’s going to need to improve significantly.

The Cronin And Burch Trade Left Holes:

As previously stated, two of Kansas City’s goals involved deficiencies in the middle. Ford made mistakes on those plays, but they were also in areas Cronin marks. Thus, the former Rapids captain could have had a hand in preventing those goals. The first goal also started with Graham Zusi and Gerso down Colorado’s left flank. Remember how Burch rarely makes mistakes that lead to goals? Mikel Williams let Gerso get in behind him.

On Sporting’s final goal of the match, Dwyer was able to get in behind the Jared Watts and Williams. Sjöberg could have contributed on that. So would have Burch marking Dwyer on his run. Dwyer shot from just inside the box, not too deep for Cronin to track back.

Thus positionally, Cronin and Burch could have made a play on all three goals where their replacements came up a bit short.

The Rapids need to get healthy. They need Sjöberg back in the Starting XI. In the meantime, Burling probably steps in for Ford and does just fine. Boateng and Azira need to get acquainted. The left back, Williams or otherwise, needs to step up. If they do that, the defense should be back to its usual of giving up one or so on the road and getting home shutouts.

The Rapids play their first Rocky Mountain Cup match on Saturday against Real Salt Lake. The home match is scheduled for 7 pm MST.

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