The Colorado Rapids were crushed in the first round of the MLS Cup Playoffs, ending their promising season in Minnesota on Sunday-evening. The Rapids quickly got a goal against Minnesota United FC, failed to take advantage of their equalizing chances, and then the wheels came loose in an eventual 3-0 defeat.
By ending a four-year playoff drought, the Rapids achieved one of their main goals for this season. But does the disappointing effort outweigh the club’s performance?
Here are three points from Rapids’s end-of-season loss:
Moment too big?
The Rapids had one of the youngest teams in the MLS this season. Most of the squad had never played in the playoffs, and Colorado’s best players were all inexperienced. The Rapids flew in each half, but they couldn’t hold it up and the Loons immediately took advantage of minor errors.
“We weren’t clinical enough and we opened up towards the end looking for a score,” said Jack Price. “We have to be more clinical and we will have to learn from this. This is a very young group and we will come back stronger next year. “
Price, the captain and head coach Robin Fraser all said the Rapids’ mistakes were not due to a lack of preparation, but were based on execution.
“It was a relatively young team in a big situation,” said Fraser. “I thought we were not at our best, but we have created some really good opportunities.”
Fraser thought his team could have won the game.
That takeaway can be steep. This marked the third time in his tenure that Colorado was closed, the entire season after long layoffs.
Ironman is on the sidelines
Another important element in the game was that ironman Sam Vines started the game on the bench and then played for just 20 minutes.
“Vines was injured and so we wanted to be careful with him,” said Fraser. “We thought if we went after the game, we would give him some service no matter what he did.”
If Vines was healthy enough to play, why didn’t he start? He played every minute of the Rapids’ regular season. The home-grown left back was one of the club’s most important players. Instead, Kellyn Acosta, who hadn’t played as a defender in years, moved from midfield to Vines’ place. Acosta was fine, but it’s easy to see a snowball effect.
Interestingly, the Rapids recently picked up Steven Beitashour to support Vines. The wingback was a staple of the LAFC line-up last season when they captured the Supporters Shield. He also got a lot of playing time in Toronto a few years ago, winning the MLS Cup for a club that Fraser worked with as an assistant.
“Beitashour hasn’t played in a year, and I didn’t think it was fair to throw him into a playoff game after not playing in a year,” said Fraser.
Fraser also started Jonathan Lewis, who recently came off the bench when expensive Nicolas Benezet came as a substitute. Benezet ended his season with no goals, although the offense was clearly better with the French winger on the field and Lewis working like a spark plug to end games.
The youth may have been hurt in Sunday’s playoff game, but overall this season has been a step forward. With the younger players, the Rapids have something to build on.
“We are a young team and moments like this are good for teams like this because you can see where we made the mistake,” said Price. “I don’t think the guys folded under the pressure of the game. We knew we had been playing under pressure for the past month. They were the more experienced team, they have been here before and we will come back stronger. We now know how to deal with these obstacles. “