Rapids' set-piece woes exposed again in loss to Sounders

Oscar Pareja

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After disappearing for a chunk of the season, the Colorado Rapids’ problems defending set pieces re-surfaced in a big way Saturday night.

In their 2-1 setback to the Seattle Sounders at CenturyLink Field, the Rapids conceded the first goal of the contest on an open Álvaro Fernández header in the 52nd minute, where the Uruguayan found himself unmarked following a mix-up in the Colorado back four off a corner kick.

HIGHLIGHTS: SEA 2, COL 1

While Seattle’s second goal didn’t come on a set piece, it may as well have been. Mauro Rosales’ open curling ball from the wing connected with an open Eddie Johnson for the Sounders’ game-winning tally. All-in-all, it was another night of frustration for Rapids head coach Oscar Pareja, who said opposing set-piece goals hold a special place of annoyance for him.

“I thought it was concentration,” Pareja told MLSsoccer.com after the game. “That first goal was our fault. It was us. You have to control, and that part of the game you can control. In open play and during the game … the game went back and forth. It’s disappointing when you keep giving up points on set pieces and that’s difficult.”

At the beginning of the season, Colorado saw set pieces doom them to losses against the Sounders on April 14 and the Galaxy on April 21. But those early-season problems had appeared to have been fixed over recent weeks.

Saturday, however, represented an unfortunate return to something the Rapids did not want to see.

“First of all, we gave up a bunch of set pieces, and you’re asking for problems,” defender Drew Moor said of his team, who gave up 10 corner kicks on the night. “They’ve looked at us now, they know where our strengths are, and they got pretty much a free header on [the first goal]. You’ve got to be big, you’ve got to be strong, but unfortunately that’s what’s killed us now. It’s disappointing when you keep giving up points on set pieces.”

Right back Hunter Freeman appeared to lose his man on the Fernández goal, and Johnson overpowered the Rapids back four on Seattle’s second score. For Pareja, concentration is the key to improvement on set pieces, something he plans on preaching to his team heading into next Saturday’s home contest with FC Dallas.

“The only thing that you can control is to keep working and to keep making things better,” Pareja said. “The game is going to give us what we want and deserve. You’ve got to keep working with them and develop a mentality that can improve those set pieces and concentration moments, and for them it’s just to keep working.”

Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.