Colorado Rapids vs. San Jose Earthquakes Analysis: Three Takeaways

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COMMERCE CITY, CO - APRIL 15: Kevin Doyle #9 of the Colorado Rapids advances the ball against Real Salt Lake at Dick's Sporting Goods Park on April 15, 2017 in Commerce City, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Editorial (May 15, 2017) – The Colorado Rapids got a much needed win against the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday. Head Coach Pablo Mastroeni changed things up tactically. We got some impressive performances from players in new roles. Here’s three takeaways from the match.

Colorado Rapids vs. San Jose Earthquakes Analysis: Three Takeaways

“Tonight’s performance was the most professional performance I’ve probably been a part of as head coach.” Mastroeni could not have said it better. The Rapids created numerous scoring chances. They were compact defensively and opportunistic. They pressed well and that led to goals.

The Formation Change Worked Like A Charm:

For the first time this year, the Rapids came out in a flat 4-4-2. It had a few different shapes throughout the game. With Michael Azira and Dillon Powers in central midfield, they still kept the defensive shape and the numbers that they have under the 4-2-3-1. “The responsibility is to try to release in the attack but be mindful of the [counter] attack,” said Dillon Powers.

The key change here was having two forwards up top to pressure the center backs. “With two forwards threatening two center backs, it’s 1-v-1,” said Marlon Hairston. The players and coaches all noted that Alan Gordon and Dominique Badji were able to pressure the back line. They created turnovers and space. That started the attack, that then allowed others to get involved. The Rapids clearly had an advantage at home with speed on the wings.

We’ll have to see how their execution is next week with two road games.

Gashi And Saeid Both Improved Significantly:

Shkelzen Gashi had a brace in this match. Mohammed Saeid had an assist, his first for the club. Both were involved in the attack, including a beautiful opening goal. Gashi’s been recovering from a lingering Achilles injury. He returned last week, with Mastroeni saying he “one-upped” his performance this week.

This game also saw Saeid get his feet under him. “He brings the tempo of the game from a super hectic pace to a slow pace. He finds balls that split defenses, find crosses, and not to mention all the work that he does defensively,” said Mastroeni. Both players were dynamic on the wings. Saeid had great speed of movement on both sides of the ball. Gashi did well to cut inside at times to overwhelm the Quakes defense.

With the forwards making life difficult for the center backs, Gashi and Saeid had space to do damage. Part of this was the formation change. Part of this was both of them having their best games of the year.

The Rapids will need both them and the two forwards to execute for the offense to build on this performance.

Hairston At Right Back Actually Worked:

Hairston made his first start at right back for the Rapids since 2015. While previous attempts had yielded mixed results, it worked against the Quakes. Hairston was smart about when to go forward and when to stay back. He and Gashi communicated great together, as did Tim Howard behind him.

Mastroeni was very happy with his performance: “I think he’s one of the best one-on-one defenders and covers the back post incredibly well. Once he gets his fitness from that position, I think he’ll bring something that we haven’t had at this club for years.”

This was still a very small sample size and Hairston is getting his feet wet (again) at this position. The Quakes didn’t have anyone on their left side get forward regularly to keep Hairston honest.

Still, the initial results are promising. Howard compared Hairston to DaMarcus Beasley in skill set saying “I believe that wingers make really good defenders, if they’re committed. I think you saw his commitment.” This could be something we see going forward.

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