Anthony Hudson, Colorado Rapids Lament Slow Starts, Midfield Issues, Execution

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COMMERCE CITY, CO - MARCH 17: Jack Price #19 of Colorado Rapids pleads to the referee following a challenge on Kelyn Rowe #11 of Sporting Kansas City during the first half at Dick's Sporting Goods Park on March 17, 2019 in Commerce City, Colorado. (Photo by Timothy Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

Editorial (April 2, 2019) – So the Colorado Rapids are winless through five games this season. They’ve got two draws (one good, one bad). They’ve given up 12 goals, a lot of them bad. The midfield is a mess and hard to get a read on. Rapids Twitter’s already starting to freak out. Head Coach Anthony Hudson is lamenting results. What’s wrong and what has to happen for this ship around?

Anthony Hudson, Colorado Rapids Lament Slow Starts, Midfield Issues, Execution

Saturday’s 4-1 loss to Houston Dynamo was the exclamation on the poor start for the Rapids. For the third game in five, it took them 30 minutes to get into the game. In all three of those games, they conceded goals and had to mount a comeback. The defense was poor, especially in 1v1 situations. The midfield diamond had a lot going on, some of it good, a lot of it not.

This game was a microcosm of things the Pids need to significantly improve on:

Bad starts are a bad habit:

“We are incredibly disappointed and we all know that wasn’t good enough. The biggest problem for us was the start of the game again. We didn’t deal with their dangerous players. We were far too passive,” Hudson said in his post game press conference.

For the third time in four games, the Rapids surrendered the opening goal of the game. Every game since the home opener, they have come out flat. The game plan in principal maybe sound (more on that later), but there’s a disconnect in the execution. The team consistently has needed to take a hit before they get into the game. Not unlike last year.

“We’ve started games slowly. It’s a psychological thing that we have to address. The tactics is not really the issue,” said Hudson.

Regardless of the causes, this habit is a recipe for failure. This club is under-talented and weak at the back. If they’re going to stand a chance in MLS this year, this has to change. If they knew what was causing it, they’d have fixed it by now. Internal examinations are needed.

The midfield will make or break this system:

As I wrote about a few weeks ago, the Rapids midfield is all over the place. The diamond in name only has been shape-shifting throughout the year. Some of this is understandable. Most of it hasn’t worked.

Players and coaches have lamented the impact midfield struggles have had on both sides of the ball:

“We have to get more guys in the box. We do well for the most part in build up. At times, we can play through teams with ease. But then once we get in the box, we’re not creative enough. We don’t get enough guys in the box,” Cole Bassett told Last Word on Soccer.

Kellyn Acosta said the changes have to be “collective. From the defense all the way to up top.”

Everything the midfield touches needs to improve. It would be easier to pick out what is going well in the midfield (Jack Price only has one yellow card this season).

Whether it’s been the diamond, a flat 4-4-2, or a 4-2-2-2, the Pids lack width. The defensively imperfect fullbacks are left on an island. Keegan Rosenberry’s made mistakes that have costed goals. He’s also been hung out to dry at times. Dillon Serna had his worst game in over a year on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Kei Kamara and Diego Rubio have no reinforcements and limited service in the attack. The midfield hasn’t developed productive relationships or roles. This is leaving a weak defense vulnerable and prevents the offense from achieving its potential. Sound familiar? Something has to change.

“There’s going to be chances in the midfield. There’s Sam Nicholson come back today. There’s other players. There’s going to be other chances,” said Hudson.

For the Rapids to make the playoffs, this has to improve. Nicolas Mezquida has not been the No. 10 the Rapids need. Kellyn Acosta was benched for this game then came on as a right back. Outside of Sam Nicholson, it’s doubtful any of the reserves will bring something refreshing or better than the current group.

Preparation or execution: Why was it so easy for Elis?

Anthony Hudson is very hesitant to call out his players publicly. He took responsibility and blame for the results at times last year, but it usually took something horrendous or extensive questioning. Hudson has been subtle about it, but he’s been consistent in 2019:

His strategy and preparation have been good. The execution by his players has not been:

“There was nothing that we didn’t expect. Nothing that we didn’t talk about. We were prepared going into the game. We had all the right information.”

“When I say passive, that is without and with the ball. Without the ball, we gave too much time and respect to (Alberth) Elis. Even with the ball, there were situations we weren’t as positive and brave with the ball.”

The game plan in each half was similar. The execution was better, though Houston understandably were less aggressive up three goals. Everyone in the club has echoed the same message as Hudson: It’s an execution issue. Not a problem in methodology. This could be because it’s the truth. It could be because that’s been the instructed messaging. Last Word is not privy to the film sessions and backroom staff meetings.

If the execution is so bad, then one could argue Hudson simply doesn’t have the horses to run his tactics well enough to get results. Serna is serviceable player who has fit into a needed role this year. Few would expect him to win an individual match up with Elis in a game. Regardless of the cause, this is troubling.

Last Word: This team might still be really bad

The Rapids have ten games through the next two months. Three of them look favorable. The rest will be against good teams and for the road games, difficult places to get a result.

Many of Colorado’s current issues existed in some form last year. The club’s clearly not in a position to spend big in the summer transfer window. The club is going to have to dance with the team they’ve got, and so far they haven’t been great. If the midfield and other issues described above are truly fixable, if Colorado truly has potential and greatness yet untapped, they need to find it quickly.

If this team is near the bottom of the table come June 1st, they’ll likely be staying there for the rest of 2019.

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