In a vacuum, a draw against the best in Major League Soccer’s Western Conference would be a fine result. For the reeling Colorado Rapids, however, they had an opportunity to bring down Sporting Kansas City — and saw it slip away.
The Rapids are now winless in their last five matches after the 1-1 draw. Here are some takeaways for a team that continues to fall behind in the MLS playoff race:
The Rapids have only had four multi-goal games this season, though they’ve never scored three or more. For a group that was third-best in scoring last season, is this a setback?
It’s hard to say for certain. Winger Nicolas Benezet was only healthy for the MLS is Back Tournament and has missed four games due to injuries. Young forward Braian Galvan has only subbed on for a handful of minutes, and most of the players up top have yet to solidify their roles.
Designated Player Younes Namli seems to have settled in, showing off in last week’s game against Real Salt Lake, then creating the Rapids’ lone goal against Sporting.
“We could have created a couple of more chances but the last couple of games too, we were getting a lot going in the box,” Namli said after Saturday’s match. “It’s just about executing. This is not our top-level, we have a lot of talent.”
Namli is correct. The Rapids have plenty of talent in their attack. They threatened Kansas City for a winner late but couldn’t net one against the shorthanded group. Figuring out roles will be essential to ending Colorado’s playoff drought.
The same backline that leaked in four goals last weekend settled down Saturday night to only concede one against Kansas City.
Sam Vines, Keegan Rosenberry and Lalas Abubakar have claimed their roles as starters, while Danny Wilson has started in four of the last five games at center back. The Scotsman signed a three-year deal before the 2018 season, but spent most of last season as a reserve. Could it be that he’s found his spot?
Veteran Drew Moor was brought in this offseason along with Auston Trusty. Moor has started some while Trusty would’ve made his first start in Dallas had that game been played.
“It’s a lot more than just the center backs but I do think that they’re playing well the way they complement each other,” head coach Robin Fraser said. “Lalas does well with an experienced player besides him, the pairing has certainly been good but part of them doing well is the whole team defending well.”
Wilson, in a contract year, may be a stopgap for a future acquisition at center back. Trusty has had a hard time getting into the lineup, which may not bode well for his future given the role was his to lose. With Wilson earning Fraser’s belief, it’s hard to see when Trusty will get playing time.
Cole Bassett made his second start of 2020 and was named Man of the Match. Scoring the lone goal on Saturday, Bassett had a solid 68 minutes in the midfield before being subbed off.
“He made a great run to get into position and had a really good finish given the way the ball came in and the position of the goalkeeper,” Fraser said. “A lot of composure to score that goal tonight.”
Fraser mentioned earlier in the week how it’s been hard to develop young players like the 19-year-old with the schedule being so fragmented this year. Bassett isn’t the only player affected by this, but as one of the Rapids’ top prospects, it’s certainly been a concern.
“I feel like every time Cole plays now he gets better,” Fraser said. “He’s really intelligent in the spots he occupies on the field and the choices that he’s able to make with very limited touches. If he continues to grow at that pace I think the sky is going to be the limit for him.”