A measured outing from a makeshift lineup and a deserved victory. If not for an excellent performance from Pickens in the Colorado net, it would have been an even uglier scoreline for the Rapids, and that has to be encouraging. But you can’t ignore that Colorado were severely banged up as well, lacked the rhythm that comes with games in quick succession, and still made things uncomfortable at times for United. Let’s get right to the major talking point I want to focus on.
Movement. It’s not so much an issue now, but off-the-ball movement used to be one of the drums I would always be banging here on FBF. Soehn’s United in particular were guilty of groan-inducing, static play. But look at the movement on the goals tonight. On the first, casual play by the Rapids in midfield hands the ball to Neal. He pushes forward, forcing the issue and creating a 3 v 4 break with Zapata struggling to get back on the Colorado left after his poor ball set the break in motion. Salihi’s intelligent cross-field run drags both center backs with him – away from the gaping hole left by Zapata’s pushing forward – and De Rosario sees the opening, darting into it, forcing Larentowicz to decide between tracking him or closing down Neal. Larentowicz remains indecisive, Zapata can’t recover, and Neal’s ball splits the defense perfectly, the pass and Salihi’s run removing all obstacles and leaving De Rosario with a clear chance that he buries.
The second goal highlights De Rosario’s excellent work rate as a second forward and Boskovic’s surprising range in central midfield. De Rosario tracks down Korb’s hopeful lob, keeping the ball alive on the left side of the box. Unable to find the pass to set up a shot for Salihi, he drops it for the trailing Neal who takes a touch and spots the run of Boskovic, making a dart in behind when the entire back line pushes up bar Zapata (rough night for him, huh?). Boskovic’s header forces another Pickens save and Salihi, still working the margins of the Colorado defense in the box, pounces on the rebound.
- Big, Olsenian efforts on the part of multiple midfielders to get back and man the barricades when Colorado threatened on the break. Nice to see, particularly from guys (Najar, Boskovic, Neal) who haven’t been locks to start. Competition and a fiery boss are good things.
- Hard to believe this is Kitchen’s first year as a professional d-mid. He puts out so many fires and is quality on the ball to boot. United dodged a couple of huge bullets with his injury scare and the US failure to make the Olympics.
- Woolard has been tremendous as an emergency center back, using his reading of the game rather than physical presence or technical quality to get the job done. Parkhurstian, almost.
- But Korb has quietly been turning in solid outings on the left as well, preventing Woolard’s shift from opening further holes. I haven’t been high on Korb thus far in his United career, but at this point, I think a healthy Dudar or Jakovic pushes Woolard back to the left, and Korb to the right to replace the stuttering Russell.
- On the other hand, I’m well and truly sick of Danny Cruz. I get why Olsen values him. I might too if he possessed anything resembling technical ability, tactical sense, or discipline. Hell, any one of the three might do. However frustrating he might be for the opposition to deal with, he’s no picnic for me either.
So a steady start to the home-stand against mediocre opposition. With multiple guys starting to return from injury and a couple of winnable games at home against Eastern Conference opposition before a well-deserved break, United have a chance to go into the summer high on confidence and high on the table. The trick, of course, is maintaining that confidence and that position during the long slog through the sweltering heat. That’s where the quality of depth will have its chance to tell and where Olsen will be tested as to whether he can keep players fresh and hungry.
Who had been, to this point, turning in another anonymous outing that had me scratching my head about why we signed him. Given his part in both goals and generally steady, if unspectacular, play, I withdraw my premature leanings towards criticism and proffer a tentative thumbs up for experienced depth. ↩
Might he yet earn an extension? I know that I’m in the minority in preferring De Rosario played as a second forward, but Boskovic showed far more mobility and desire in this match than I’ve seen from him … ever? Tough to say what he’d do against better opposition, and Kitchen’s range played no small part in his good showing, but that was an encouraging performance. ↩
It’s not hard; he doesn’t possess more than one positive quality: covering massive amounts of turf like a decapitated chicken. Hey! Same initials (Danny Cruz, Decapitated Chicken) . I think I smell a dubbing approaching. ↩