Sunday, May 11, 2008

Now witness the firepower of this fully ARMED and OPERATIONAL MLS team!

Yes, much like Admiral Ackbar and his Rebellion fleet, the Rapids walked right into the trap game in Houston. Unlike the successful Rebellion though, the Rapids did not have a Han Solo or a Luke Skywalker to hit the Dynamo at their weakest point. Instead Ugo Ihemelu played the role of Darth Vader, committing a stupid penalty late in the game, costing the Rapids any chance of a result.

Once again the Rapids decided that MLS games are only 45 minutes long, and pretty much took the first half off. Pretty uninspired play by the Rapids was matched by equally uninspired play by Houston in the attacking third. Ching got in 1v1 against Bouna and managed to not only chip him, but also chipped over the crossbar. It was only a matter of time before the Dynamo managed to put one on frame, and sure enough, Ching got behind the last line of defense again and was 1v1 with Bouna. I don't know how he stayed onside on this one, but without a decent angle from Fox Soccer I have to assume the AR made the right call and the Rapids blew the trap. Bouna decided to try to meet Ching outside the top of the box and play the ball away with his feet. Proving why he's a goalkeeper and not a forward Bouna completely whiffed on the play, and Ching had a wide open look at an empty net for his first goal of the season.

The Rapids showed up to play in the second half. Slowly gaining control of the game and finally getting a pay off. Christian Gomez made 3 cuts, being stopped twice, before playing a through ball past the heart of the Dynamo defense. Cummings raced in and slotted it home to draw the game at 1. For the next 15 minutes the game was wide open, and either side looked like it might take the 3 points. Then just as the Rapids started looking like they were about to go into a shell to protect 1 point on the road, disaster struck. On a throw-in by Houston Ihemelu stuck his arm out to play the ball. The referee appeared to signal that it hit his chest, but after a reaction from the Dynamo players and supporters, called for the penalty kick. Post-game replays show it as a textbook example of playing the ball with the arm in the box, good call. Dwayne DeRosario stepped up and put the penalty away for his first goal of the season, and a Dynamo win.

Keys to the Game review:

  • We're going on the road to face a team looking to snap out of its funk. Can we keep the pressure on, or like the San Jose game do we get overconfident?
    The first half looked just like the San Jose game, and Houston took full advantage. We woke up in the second half but the damage was already done.
  • How does the new backline play? Ihemelu seemed to settle things down last week, does that continue?
    The back line kept allowing people to get free in the first half, but tightened up in the second and kept Houston from having many chances at goal. Of course Ihemelu's brain fart threw that all away.
  • Will somebody step up and claim the role of go-to guy in the box
    Nope, more of the same. Decent play until the forwards get involved. Cummings got the goal, but I still don't see him as the go-to guy.
  • The first goal seems to be even more critical in this game than normal. If Houston gets it they have a lead, at home, over a team they usually dominate. If we get it Houston might continue in the funk its currently in.
    And the first goal domination continues. Through the Rapids game last night, no team that scored first had lost in MLS (San Jose became the first later in the evening)
  • Who starts on the wings?. I'm guessing Cookie and LaBrocca, but Clark and Peterson have made their cases as well.
    Cookie was slated to start, but picked up a hamstring injury in training in Houston friday night. Peterson started in his place, with LaBrocca on the other side. Peterson was invisible most of the game.
  • Was Christian Gomez's play last week an aberration because he was facing his old team, or does the 2 forward formation really help him?
    The two forward formation does seem to help, as Gomez was more active this game, and once again used some nice ball handling to set up Cummings for the goal.

Critical Matchup: Pablo Mastroeni vs. Dwayne DeRosario- Pablo kept DeRo in check all night, and other than the PK he wasn't a significant part of the game. Great job by Mastroeni in shutting down the strength of their midfield.

Fact of the Match: The Rapids have yet to get a point when allowing their opponents to score a goal.

Random Observations:

  • I know there's a lot of support for Cummings, but I don't see it. It seems like he's great when he gets on a break, but if he has to create the chance himself he doesn't have it in him. I'd like to see Casey or Gomez start in his place next game.

  • Somebody put out an APB on Jacob Peterson, because he went missing around 7:30 local in Houston yesterday. Pretty quiet night from a position we needed more from.

  • Christian Gomez should not be taking free kicks and corners. I don't know if there's an injury problem or not, but he's having a hard time getting any elevation on his set pieces.
  • I was all set to give player of the game to Ihemelu, and then he pulled one of the more idiotic stunts I've seen. I recognize that he had a Houston player breaking into the box, but in a case like that you have to throw your body at the ball and hope, not play it with your arm.

  • Two ejections from the bench this game. Assistant Coach Gary Smith and Tam McManus (after he was subbed out) were both ejected for dissent. I'm all for passion, but somebody needs to step in and calm people down before it gets to that point.

  • The officiating wasn't great, but we have more blame to lay on our lack of play in the first half than we do on the officiating.

  • Next week is a must win. Not only is it a Rocky Mountain Cup match but the winner will be in first place in the West, at least for a couple of days.

  • Man of the Match: Pablo Mastroeni. Second week in a row for Pablo. He completely shut down DeRosario though and when everyone was popping off somehow managed to avid being carded.

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