Seattle v. Colorado: One Big (DP) Thing and Several Smaller Ones

Speaking as a Portland Timbers fan, goddammit. Speaking as a U.S. Men’s team fan…I’m sorry. Dropping the blasphemy is the best I can do right now. I lost money on this thing (you don’t want to know) so it’s going to take some doing to get over the bitterness.

Hell of a win for Seattle, obviously, as most 4-0 wins are. What impressed most was the slow strangulation of the Colorado Rapids – something that goes double after an opening 10 minutes that saw a number of Seattle players cough up the ball (Djimi Traore, Osvaldo Alonso, etc.)

One thing I noticed, though: this team is fucking addicted to heel-flicks. MLSsoccer.com typically posts a sort of “best plays” compilation (example): I imagine it’s going to be lousy with Sounders highlights.  I blame Clint Dempsey. Speaking of…

The Big (Obvious) Thing
Clint Dempsey owns his DP label in 2014. And in a very, very complete way. He’s dropping toward midfield to facilitate possession, riding challenges, dishing passes (2 of every three coming off one of his heels) and he’s getting kicked for his troubles, often. See: Mari, Jose (though it wasn’t as bad as Kasey “Shameless Homer” Keller made it sound. Useful as that can be, Dempsey’s also unlocking defenses with those same showy (admittedly entertaining) moves. (Still, fuck him.) The way Marco Pappa continued his run into the box on the way to Seattle’s second goal testifies to his teammates’ faith in Sir Clint’s ability to play out of trouble. Dempsey appeared completely closed down – two defenders closing around him, with two more between him and the goal – but he popped the ball free (with the heel, natch) to Pappa, who shot toward a mitten-handed Clint Irwin, who bobbled it for, yes, Clint “Goddamn” Dempsey to clean up. More troubling still (for the rest of us, anyway) is the way Dempsey took the set-up role from Obafemi Martins, who has ably filled that role for the past couple games.

Bottom line, Seattle pinned Colorado into their defensive end and just ran at them and ran at them and ran at them. The Sounders did it with enough ease to make it seem like they’ll be able to do this against any team they can pin back. Sigh…and oh my gawd. The thought of Seattle-ites with another reason to feel smug does turn the stomach.

Other Smaller Things
– Keller got one big thing right in this game: Colorado passed Seattle the noose by giving the Sounders second and third chances. And Irwin had a terrible game, coughing up rebounds readily and often as a 20-year smoker coughs up phlegm. By contrast Stefan Frei held on firmly to the few shots he faced. It mattered.

– Similar contrasts defined this game: Consider Dempsey versus Edson Buddle; Martins v. Gabriel Torres; DeAndre Yedlin v. Chris Klute; Alonso v. Nick LaBrocca. The Rapids won only one of those match-ups by my count – I put LaBrocca over Alonso and by some distance – and maybe they punched even with Klute v. Yedlin, but the forward comparison was elementary school versus college. Torres did nothing and Buddle did little more than give up the ball.

– Bottom line – and I think it’s pervasive – Colorado doesn’t have much for final third game. They’ve thrived on PKs, but even those (or at least two of them) came from through-balls that originated fairly close to midfield – typically through the absent Dillon Powers. Might have mattered last night. It’s fair to assume that the Rapids would have fared better with a little more control up top. It’s fair, even if you don’t buy it.

– Several Rapids players had good games; that’s the weird thing. Drew Moor might have got beat on a couple scrambles, but he also cleaned up a ton of mistakes. Mari was good and LaBrocca very good. (I won’t lie; I’ve always liked LaBrocca; he does bald men proud.) It just wasn’t enough with everyone else not quite there.

– Finally, that sweater Rapids head coach Pablo Mastroeni wore? Totally DP-caliber.

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Colorado Rapids 2014 Season Preview: Pulling for the Plucky Orphans

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Where’s Oscar?

How’d 2013 Treat ‘Em: 14-11-9 (W-L-T), 45 gf, 38 ga; 5th in the West
Rock-solid seasons from several league freshmen (my people call them “rookies”) made the Rapids into one of the pleasant surprises of 2013: Deshorn Brown ran through defenses and Dillon Powers carved them up, while Clint Irwin stopped them from scoring. OK, A LOT more players contributed – I kept an eye on Sanchez and Torres often as I could – but things must have felt pretty good in Commerce City, the future bright, etc. Might call it a Rocky Mountain…no, don’t. (Keep your dignity.) For all the optimism, Colorado barely made the post-season and they didn’t stick around long, either. Still, plenty to build on and they had a coach taking the team in the right direction…

Exciting Additions! – Marvin Chavez, uh…wait…hot off the presses, Jose Mari

Tricky Departures… – Hendry Thomas, Tony Cascio

Quality Parts: Deshorn Brown, Clint Irwin, Drew Moor, Dillon Powers, Nathan Sturgis, Marvell Wynne

It Gets Better If They Come Good: Vicente Sanchez (who could be above if I knew this team better), Gabriel Tores (ditto), Danny Mwanga, Marvin Chavez, Dillon Serna, Edson Buddle (injury-free?), Nick LaBrocca…and, now, Jose Mari.

What I’d Expect Based on the Above:
…(this picks up on ellipses left open in section 1) then an old flame came around, flashed a lotta leg, whispered remembrances of sofa sex under the sizzling Texas sun, and – poof! – Oscar Pareja’s gone just like that, leaving a team of wounded children, mouthing the word “why?” through trembling lips. Eh, it’s probably not that so much as Rapids players wondering why no one (say, a new head coach) has come by to rescue from the damn orphanage. Unless something changes before March 15, Colorado will kick off 2014 with an interim coach at the helm. Less a coach, even, than a player who just retired. That hardly seems ideal when you’re trying to build on potentially fragile momentum. Divorces happen, though, and the kids survive, even when they get ugly. I’ve heard (literally; confessed podcast whore, here) concerns about a sophomore slump epidemic hitting this team and a coaching absence could certainly exacerbate that problem. For whatever reason, though, I’m optimistic about this bunch. It’s not going to be easy – not in a Western Conference armed for live-test of the M.A.D. doctrine –but the Rapids have solid-to-good players in most places and enough old guys to help keep heads looking in the right direction. If nothing else, keep your fingers crossed that watching them work out any lingering “daddy issues” against FC Dallas will be the stuff of legend and future reality TV programming.

2014 Season Opener: @ New York, March 15