Colorado Rapids Beat Philadelphia Union: Three Takeaways
Badji will get all the headlines with the finishes to win the game, but there was more to the match than that. Let’s break down how the Rapids got the first win of the Anthony Hudson era.
Dominique Badji Earned This:
Scoring has never been Colorado’s strength and Badji has been maligned at times for not putting up numbers when the team has needed it. He has four goals in the last two games after the hat trick over the weekend. Head Coach Anthony Hudson believes this has been building for some time.
“[Badji]’s had to carry a big weight on his shoulders. Publicly, we’ve gone after strikers and there’s been this outcry for goals. Quietly, he puts his head down and works incredibly hard. He has an incredible attitude. Everything that’s been asked of him, he tries to do it. I’m just so pleased, he got his rewards tonight and he deserves it,” Hudson told Last Word on Soccer post-match.
The Rapids striker did a little bit of everything. He scored on a set piece and from the run of play, with two poacher-like goals. He capped off the hat trick with a typical Badji goal, running into a pass with speed, passing a defender, and scoring.
Badji has now put Hudson in a difficult position as acquisitions Joe Mason and Yannick Boli get fit and altitude-acclimated. He’s improved every game and plays the way Hudson wants a No. 9 to play. We’ll see if he can keep it up and stay on the pitch as a result.
Tommy Smith, Set Piece Secret Weapon:
Tommy Smith has quietly been good for the Rapids the last several games. March 31 is Smith’s birthday and getting three points was an excellent way to celebrate it.
“[Smith]’s very good on the ball. He’s a good passer of the ball, he’s very composed. How many times have long balls come into him when most defenders would have cleared it and he just takes a touch and passes it down? He’s been a good signing for us,” Hudson said.
At 6’2″, he’s also been a good weapon on set pieces. He got a good header chance at New England Revolution. He now has two assists in two games, including the primary assist on the first goal. Defensively, he’s improved every match as well.
“Everytime I go in the box on set pieces, I fancy myself to score. It was a bad header really. I should have finished it myself, but Badji was there to finish,” Smith told Last Word on Soccer.
Smith’s has an uncanny ability to get open and find the ball on set pieces. Perhaps it’s because he’s new to the league and opponents don’t know his tenancies. Badji thinks it’s simpler than that:
“Tommy offensively gives it all out. He puts his body on the line. [The center backs] risk it all to get me the ball.”
We’ll see if he can keep it up and open his Rapids account.
Finishing the Job:
The Rapids have yet to play a full 90 minutes this season, including against the Union. One of their biggest weaknesses in that has been finishing games. They’ve dropped off in the final 20 minutes for every competitive match this year, other than last night. While the first half was poor, they finished strong to earn the win.
“When we have an aggressive attitude and we’re positive and we back ourselves, we play on the front foot. When we play on the front foot, we’ve shown we’re a very good team,” Hudson said.
Second half adjustments were critical, as the Rapids got their full backs up the field more. The high press made Philadelphia uncomfortable and allowed Colorado to establish their offense. Colorado did well to take advantage of turnovers as well, resulting in the second and third goals.
“We talked at half time about getting our full backs higher in the press. It gives us more height in the pressing game. That was the biggest difference. The space behind our full backs was big,” Johan Blomberg described after the match.
The second half saw individuals elevate their games as well, not just the full backs. Blomberg, who had a hand in two goals, and Badji, with the hat trick.
Hudson complimented the Swede after the match: “As the game went on, [Johan] grew into the game. He showed a lot of energy and drive.
This week we were better in possession, we managed the game better, and our shape was better. This is the result of the players working incredibly well. They’re getting their rewards tonight.
For Hudson, the game came down to the team executing their system and the game plan better than before. Hudson has been a believer in trusting the process. We’ll see if the process can make incremental improvements at FC Dallas this weekend.