Editorial (May 23, 2018) – The Colorado Rapids have lost five matches in a row. They haven’t won a game in a month and should they lose on Saturday at home against Portland Timbers, they will have zero points for the month of May.
May Day: Breaking down the Colorado Rapids losing streak
There have been several themes in the recent Rapids losses. Inexcusable defensive mistakes, individually and collectively, have led to goals. There have been some controversial officiating decisions that have gone against them and the offense has been limited outside of Dominique Badji. The last 10 minutes have been urgent and spirited, but it’s usually been too little too late.
With that, what’s wrong with the Burgundy and Blue and can they right this ship?
The Rapids have over $1 million committed to Danny Wilson and Tommy Smith. Along with Deklan Wynne, the most common three-man backline is relatively slow, not great at 1-v-1 defending, and is mistake prone. These issues have been a big part of what has caused the Rapids defensive issues.
The fullbacks haven’t helped out with these issues. Their positioning has been poor at times, limiting the passing options out of the back. Edgar Castillo and company need to put in more effort on both sides of the ball for the new formation to work effectively. It hasn’t been good enough all around. The wing back issues are tactical and can be addressed. Wynne is the youngest of the center backs mentioned above. Players don’t gain much speed after 23-years-old.
The midfield enigma hurts on both sides:
The three center midfielders and their roles has been one of the great mysteries for me in Hudson’s system. Jack Price is clearly the No. 6/Regista. The other two have been highly variable (and questionable) depending on who’s playing there and who the opponent is.
Johan Blomberg has had some decent moments as a No. 8, but has been hurt. Enzo Martinez is a bundle of energy and works harder than anyone, but his efforts haven’t always been focused. Nana Boateng has been inconsistent and has recently been played at right wing back. Sam Nicholson’s brought an offensive spark.
At the core, the midfield three have been too easy to pass through and haven’t catalyzed the offense enough. The production on both sides of the ball has been lacking. It’s leaving the forwards starved for touches and has left the already susceptible backline hung out to dry.
I’m still waiting for this midfield to figure it out and have clear role assignments from game-to-game. The fact that it isn’t clear to the observer shows that it’s still a work in progress.
Squad selection, injuries, and roster building:
Given the current Colorado Rapids losing streak, questions need to be asked of squad selection and team preparation. Hudson’s taken responsibility for the performances this week, saying he almost “put the lambs to the slaughter” in terms of the game plan against New York City FC. There’s room for improvement there going forward.
Injuries have had an impact, with several forwards taking awhile to get into the squad. Kortne Ford, Marlon Hairston, and Blomberg have all missed time. That’s three presumed starters missing right now.
Tim Howard, Wynne, Martinez, and others have all had questionable performances that need to be looked at. Hudson could be trying to make his system work with his guys. That said, players like Axel Sjoberg, Dillon Serna, Zac MacMath, and Stefan Aigner are all on the sidelines and have something to contribute.
Given how much change this team has gone through in the last eight months, growing pains were expected. But this team has spent a lot of money on players who still seem to be struggling or unprepared to contribute (the center backs, Yannick Boli, Stefan Aigner (#AignerGate), and Shkelzen Gashi).
If Hudson is so sure of the players he seems to prefer, his long-term plan better work.
Where do they go from here?
First and foremost, this team needs to get healthy. They deserve the patience of fans and pundits to at least get healthy and fit and show what a fully armed and operational Colorado Rapids looks like. That will probably result in some changes to the matchday team sheet.
While the effort has been there, the mentality and focus hasn’t been 100% for 90 minutes in any game this season. That needs to happen. #AignerGate needs to come to some form of resolution. The back five need to improve and a forward besides Badji needs to show some semblance of a scoring threat.