Friday, June 22, 2012

Couged It

Couged It: 1. The inability to keep a lead in a sporting event; 
a) to lose a game in the last minute or second.
b) to surrender a walk-off homerun or lose in sudden death

For you Colorado fans who are new to the Pac-12, Couging It is snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.  So named for the fact that the Washington State Cougars have perfected this art, particularly in big games like the Apple Cup against my Washington Huskies.  There's no better description for what Colorado did on Wednesday night.  (Ironically, one of the best examples of Couging It in Rapids history might be our MLS Cup victory when Dallas Couged It with an own goal by former Washington Husky George John).

2-1 loss was my prediction, but I didn't see it coming like this.  San Jose, as expected, outshot us 9-5 in accurate shots but Matt Pickens was up to the task and it was Brian Mullan, 18 minutes in, who gave the Rapids the lead on a gorgeous header.  For the next 66 minutes the highlights seemed to consist of Pickens saves and San Jose shots.  In the 84th minute San Jose pressed a good attack and overwhelmed the defense, with four attackers crashing the box on a cross and only three defenders to stop it.  Pickens made the initial save but Freeman was trying to cover the extra man, as well as his own, and while he managed to just barely beat the SJ attack to the ball he was forced into putting it into his own net due to the contact with Gordon.  It was ruled an own goal but if Freeman hadn't been there it would have been an easy goal for Gordon, so he really can't be blamed.

In the 90th minute the Earthquakes turned the defense inside-out, allowing Alan Gorden to get behind the defense on the left side of the box with the ball.  Matt came flying out of his net and dove at the ball but Gordon pushed it past him and then went to ground.  There may have been slight contact or it may have been a dive, but given the positioning of the players it looked like contact from the referee's angle so the penalty was called, and converted by Wondolowski.  A 1-0 lead in the 84th minute became a 2-1 deficit at the final whistle.

My key to look for defense, defense, defense.  Well it was better, but hardly great.  San Jose got multiple chances and the defense got completely worked on the second goal.

Other Observations:
  • I was blaming the defense for the first goal until I watched the replay writing this post.  The real problem was the complete lack of support from the midfield.  Despite the play not developing that quickly the only midfielder in the box was Castrillon, and he was a bit behind the play.  Hard to blame the defense for not stopping a 4 on 3 (Zapata was out wide trying to put pressure on the cross).
  • That was the only time I noticed Castrillon all night.  He really hasn't added much this season, despite his team lead in goals, and should be benched as soon as Smith is ready to start.
  • Great to see both Wynne and Casey starting.
  • I've got no problem with the Casey-Cumming swap.  That's almost SOP for bringing two players back from injury.
  • Edu for Hill was maybe not as good a sub given the way SJ was finding holes in our defense.  I appreciate the idea of keeping pressure by attacking but in hindsight bringing Thompson or Kimura on might have helped more.
  • That said, getting Edu off should have happened earlier, he didn't add much in this game.
  • Rivero had another good night but took a step back from his play in the Vancouver game.  I know there were complaints about him staying on the ground during the sequence that led to the E-Quakes first goal, but Rivero's slow enough when he doesn't have an ankle stinger that I don't think he would have helped.
  • Mullan's goal was very pretty.  I wasn't sure it would dip enough to get under the bar but he found the perfect height to get over the keeper and under the bar.
  • Despite the own goal I thought Freeman and Zapata had good nights, Freeman had the assist on our goal.
  • At 19 points we're exactly on the team average for points after 15 games in the post-Shootout era.
Player Of The Game: Matt Pickens.  Right now Pickens should be the starter for the All-Star Game.  He's been that good, especially in the last month.

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