Latest tactical shift fails to yield results for bruised Rapids

The sun shines, and so it seems, the Colorado Rapids switch formations.

In Saturday night’s 2-1 loss at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, Oscar Pareja offered yet another surprise in his tactical formation, trotting out a 4-1-4-1 look, the third different spread the Rapids head coach has offered in the past month alone.

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Colorado appeared to struggle to adapt to the new formation, nearly conceding in the game’s first 20 minutes and only late in the match did they finally appear to settle into the contest.

Injuries are the root of the switch; with strikers Conor Casey and Omar Cummings only just returning to the lineup, Pareja is trying to rest both players appropriately, and that ultimately helped make his decision to go with the 4-1-4-1.

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“We have been playing three games in a week,” Pareja told MLSsoccer.com after the match. “Conor has been tight on his leg, Omar coming from injury [on] the ankle as well has been a week where we want to have some fresh legs with Jamie [Smith] and give us an opportunity to get involved in the game. We thought it showed well with the plan today. It gave us a lot of control in the middle.”

The Rapids nearly stormed back to even the match in the game’s final 15 minutes — Cummings’ 79th-minute goal made the final quarter hour at CenturyLink interesting — but it was ultimately too little too late for Pareja & Co., who largely looked the inferior side out of the 4-1-4-1 formation.

On June 16 against Vancouver, Pareja used his typical 4-3-3 look in a 1-0 loss against the Whitecaps. Two weeks later, and the Rapids used a 4-4-2 in a win against Portland and again in a loss against Vancouver four days later. Against Seattle on Saturday, it was a more defensive-minded 4-1-4-1 that Colorado used, but to no avail.

Despite the slew of changes, the Rapids did not blame the different look for their most recent defeat.

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“I don’t think it’s the tactical switch," defender Drew Moor told MLSsoccer.com. "Of course there’s an adjustment period, but we practice with each other every day. Yeah, there’s little tweaks here and there, but you have to. It’s soccer. I thought our starting 11 was a mostly veteran group of guys who’ve mostly been around together.”

When Pareja faces his former team FC Dallas on July 14 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, perhaps the Rapids’ adventurous boss will have yet another tactical surprise up his sleeve.

Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.