Monday, August 4, 2008

Rapids Left in a Sticky Mess, Losing 2-1 to Everton

The Colorado Rapids played well but had nothing to show for it as they fell to Everton 2-1 on an 87th minute goal. The Rapids ran out 9 of their starting 11, with the only changes being Burpo instead of Bouna Time in the nets and Pablo reclaimed the defensive midfielder position from LaBrocca, with Erpen moving into the middle of the defensive line and Burciaga took his spot on the left.

The combination of Erpen in central defense and Burpo in the nets would pay dividends for Everton quickly. Mikel Arteta got the ball 30 yards from goal and charged right at the defense. Erpen backed off, backed off some more, backed off some more, and by this time Arteta was in the box. He sent a ball past an on-rushing Burpo for a 1-0 lead in the 7th minute. Without a good replay it was hard to tell, but the general opinion was that it was the type of shot Bouna Time would have likely stopped.

After that the Rapids took control of the game. Plenty of midfield possession and crosses into the box, crosses that nobody got on the end of. As one Everton supporter wondered about #9 (Conor Casey), "What's the deal with that guy, he gets the ball in space, makes some good moves, but doesn't make any effort to get to crosses int he box?". terry Cooke was obviously on a mission to get a goal, as any time he had a sliver of a look between the pipes he wound up and shot.

At half the Rapids made 3 subs, taking out Cummings, Ballouchy, and Burpo and replacing them with H.Gomez, LaBrocca, and Bouna Time!. Cookie didn't get a goal, but he did get an assist on a cross that Conor Casey finally got to. 3 minutes after halftime Terry floated one of his trademark crosses in front of goal and Casey got up to head one past U.S. Nats Keeper Tim Howard. Really the only mistake Howard made all night, and he could hardly be blamed for the goal. Much like Hesmer for Columbus last week, the 3-4 times the Rapids offense managed to break through Howard came up with the big save.

The Rapids controlled the second half, but got unlucky on one of the few attempts Everton had right before full time. Jose Baxter got free on the right and brought the ball all thee way down to the end line. This forced Bouna to cover the near corner, and Ihemelu left his man, Leon Osman open. Baxter crossed to Osman, who put the shot on frame. Erpen managed to deflect it, but not enough, and Everton escaped with a 2-1 win.

Much like last week against the Crew the Rapids out shot Everton 19-4, but had problems getting them on target. Howard was forced to make 5 saves, the best on a 30 yard blast from Herculez. There's no shame in losing to a team that finished 5th in the EPL last season, preseason or not. The real drawback to the game is that we're seeing more of the same problems from the Rapids, no finishing.

As I mentioned, I took the opportunity with this friendly and the lower attendance to wander around the stadium a bit more than usual. I was going to check out the Cantina, but there was a line to get in. Looking inside I couldn't see any reason to go in though, just as I could tell from my other glimpses and the pictures it looks like a Chipotle, no character at all for the "soccer pub" atmosphere we were hoping for. I'm in no hurry to spend any time there. I tried to go into the Team Store, but I wasn't allowed to bring my water bottle in so I had to pass on that as well. No big loss, I'm on a strict "no merchandise" policy until the team makes some changes. Wandering around the concourses I saw GM Jeff Plush, but it took me a second to realize who he was and by that point he had already passed me by. If I had thought faster I would have taken the opportunity to thank him for his quick response to my email a month ago.

I ended up watching the first 25 minutes of the second half from the elevated bridge above the locker rooms. Its a great view and you really get a good feel for the spacing on the field. When the action is at he other end of the field though its hard to make out some of what's going on though. And I'm pretty sure I wouldn't want to stand for the full 90 minutes. Still its worth going up there occasionally just to get a new perspective on things. I also had a good talk with Account Executive Marcus Myrick, ranging from ticket sales, supporters clubs, and general catching up since we last talked. I'll have a post related to this later in the week.

It was a great time out there last night. I hope some of the local soccer fans who haven't followed the Rapids were encouraged to come out (you know who you are ;) ). Now its time to start focusing on the league again, with the hosers form the Great White North in town on Saturday.

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