Mastroeni And Cronin: “Missing Top Players” Leaves Rapids Playing “Sideways And Backwards”

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CARSON, CA - AUGUST 13: Tim Howard #1 of Colorado Rapids makes a point to Sam Cronin #6 of Colorado Rapids during Los Angeles Galaxy's MLS match against Colorado Rapids at the StubHub Center on August 13, 2016 in Carson, California. The final score was 101 (Photo by Shaun Clark/Getty Images)

(Editorial) – The Colorado Rapids are 2-2-3 in their last seven games. That’s two wins since August 1st. While the team isn’t struggling, they certainly aren’t thriving. After Saturday night’s draw against the San Jose Earthquakes, head coach Pablo Mastroeni and captain Sam Cronin had some insight into what’s been going wrong.

Mastroeni And Cronin: “Missing Top Players” Leaves Rapids Playing “Sideways And Backwards”

First off, the Colorado Rapids have been short handed of late. Jermaine Jones hasn’t played in months but has been listed as questionable for a while, indicating a potential comeback. Shkelzen Gashi and Kevin Doyle have all had recent injuries that have kept them out of the starting lineup. Marco Pappa still isn’t 90 minutes fit.

Each of these players has had their runs of form in 2016 to lead the team. However, they have yet to all be on the field together at the same time. This is still the pipe dream for the Rapids offense.

With the veteran leaders out, Mastroeni has turned to his kids in the attack. Marlon Hairston and Dominique Badji have had some great moments, but the group on a whole has been inconsistent. Recently, the ball movement and runs haven’t been as sharp. The final pass has been there, but the final shot hasn’t always.

“We were just one pass away from getting a goal all night,” said Cronin about the match against San Jose.

“At times tonight it was a bit disjointed. The pass wasn’t quick enough or it wasn’t recognized enough. And the movement off the ball wasn’t good enough” Mastroeni said after Saturday’s match. It’s taking a lot out of the Rapids to get into those dangerous positions. They’re able to scrap to get them but it isn’t clean. When they are able to get those chances, finishing hasn’t been great.

That’s where they need their veterans back, Jones and Pappa especially. When asked about it, Cronin said “we’re missing a few of our top players as well. [We need to get] those guys back and keep working hard.”

Pappa and Gashi provide those final passes, making the movement better and more efficient. Jones and to a lesser extent Doyle finish those chances off. They also make the younger players better around them.

Jones provides motivation and confidence. The others take pressure off Badji, Hairston, and Dillon Powers, allowing them to play more freely.

Without them, the attack gets stale at time. “[We] play sideways and backwards and lose the ball in tough spots. You’re running back to your own goal, and that’s not what we’re trying to do,” said Mastroeni frustrated after the match.

The Rapids still can create a few chances with the current lineup. When they finish a chance or two, they can close wins out comfortably. When they don’t finish, they’re left frustrated with draws.

Mastroeni and Cronin are right. Colorado needs these four veteran attackers back if they want to finish strong and make a run at MLS Cup.

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