I don’t have a television, so I need to venture out for Rapids away games. Plans for taking the Light Rail to the official viewing party at The Armoury derailed, and Plan B is out of the question for 8:30 kickoffs. Plan B is to hope that one of the two TVs in our complex clubhouse is free, but the place closes at 10:00 (an unacceptable final whistle interruptus). So I went to Plan C: Walk to one of two establishments near my home but beyond the point where the trains don’t run.
A blues quartet raged. People filled most of the tables, but only one guy sat at the bar. He said he didn’t care if I watched soccer, so we flipped to Altitude 20 minutes before kickoff. The solos were spunky, and the drummer did some cool things with tempo while the bass player kept on track for the sax and guitar. I ordered the prime rib special and drooled for a trifecta: game, dinner, and music.
The plate arrived the moment the game started. Not three minutes went by before the guy loudly exclaimed, “Candy [not the bartender’s real name]. I can’t watch another second of this. Change it to anything. I don’t care what.” Candy started searching for the Rockies game. She had women’s softball on the other TV, but when I asked if I could see the soccer on that one after she flipped to the 7-1 lead for Colorado, she ignored me. The man ignored me when I said I thought the Rockies were on the other screen. It was surreal, a deliberate shunning. I moved the plates over to a distant table and sat down to gather my wits and fight my hunger. After two bites, I left the food on the table, returned to the bar, paid my tab, and went across the street to the other establishment in time to see Sturg redirect a near-post corner from Martin for the first goal.
People happily sang karaoke while watching Rapids AND Rockies, including a decent rendition from the Book of Mormon.
For the first half certainly, and arguably most of the game, the Rapids dictated the tempo and possession. My theory: Oscar wraps up serious training sessions with compact scrimmages on shortened fields that he squeezes sideways too, sometimes designating guys in protected zones on the wings to provide service to either side in possession. This shrinks the time and space.
Buck Shaw Stadium is like a phone booth for Lilliputians, so it probably had the familiarity of another job-defining small-sided scrimmage at work for the Colorado guys. When you watch Colorado train for a few months and the full roster has had the chance to earn a spot, these are the most defining moments for Oscar and the coaching staff. The guys don’t foul each other much, certainly not like they do against wrong-shirted foes in other stadiums. Imagine the difference between a disagreement among carpoolers and road rage among strangers in different cars. Trainings are intense but more brotherly than full of bashing.
So the Rapids players looked comfortable in tight quarters, and without fouling every other play, they controlled the tempo and didn’t let the Earthquakes rest. When your team has the ball most of the time and you’re in good physical condition, playing without fouling throws off opponents accustomed to the choppy pace of games. They can’t take water breaks while a guy rolls around or the ref lectures and pulls out canary tickets and red send-offs. If a team can’t breathe, they end up “fouling themselves,” which has the double meaning of hammering opponents while soiling themselves with dives for penalties and free kicks. When a game gets out of control, it’s their final trump card.
Deshorn scorched. Atiba didn’t foul too much or lose the ball every other play, and he gave me scary tachycardia with that blast off the upper postage stamp post. Danny was effective until he faded. All three of them had Martin, Pablo, and Sturg behind them pressuring high. The back line was compact right behind them. Shane played great, which is unfortunate because he double-yellowed himself out of the Chivas USA and FC Dallas games. SCRATCH: IT WAS STRAIGHT RED FOR LAST-MAN MALFEASANCE. Too bad Turkey isn’t now. But maybe he’ll get the same break that seemed to benefit Drew and was directly prescribed for Dillon before Rookie Wall-smack occurred. Plus, the graduation was huge, and I’m not sure how it all worked out with timing of his trip to the stage for tassle-flipping. He took summer classes so he could start training right after the draft. That’s job prep.
Drew won the ball in the air and was consistently solid. Klute didn’t have the ball every other play like he has the past few games, so he was extra sharp on defense. Marvell didn’t attack much either, and he too was solid in the back. The one time that play got behind him, he jogged back within closing distance because Drew, Sturg, and Shane had it covered. A Marvell retreat is a marvel to behold, a bittersweet vision that starts with, “damn, he’s out of position,” followed by a stunning sprint and “no, he isn’t.” He didn’t risk ripping his leg again, and he didn’t need to take the chance anyway.
Pablo looked great, even after Wondo’s bash brethren challenge before Wally replaced him.
During training on Tuesday and Wednesday, Nick looked like he had something to prove with a spirited show of technique and desire. He earned his spot for the game in the same way that Sturg looked like the ram with the biggest horns during training and played with the confidence of someone holding a position permanently. We’ll remember his goal, and don’t forget he hit the crossbar with a header too.
Irwin was heroic, and I don’t blame him specifically for the goal. But I blame the whole group. Never let an opponent in or near the wall. If Wondo volunteers to stand at the end of the wall, let him help block the shot.
Martinez did a good job to make it look like he was planning to bend a righty around the other side of the wall, but if they practiced this thing all week for that approach, then Wondo would have been on the other side next to Pablo. Regardless, the same strategy works on either side. Put Nick or another guy less than a step from what it would take for Martinez to hit the ball (Chavez was farther). By this, I mean imagine the moment before the kicker starts his run. This off-the-wall defender starts his run as the shooter approaches and gets directly behind Wondo to stand strong with a handlebar mustache and keep him from moving in the same way that a villain uses a baby to shield himself while running through gunfire. Even though the wall was outside the box, this strategy requires perfect positioning and timing so you don’t commit a foul. Then Wondo, stunned momentarily, would take it in the windpipe or face and the Rapids hold on for three points instead.