Different look, same frustrating result for Rapids defense

Rapids manager Oscar Pareja looking despondent

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Colorado Rapids head coach Oscar Pareja has tinkered with his defense plenty throughout the course of the 2012 season, but he has yet to find a magic solution for a leaky backline that has allowed eight goals in their last three matches.

Pareja has used three different tactical looks along his backline involving six different players over the Rapids’ past six games. But Colorado have now conceded 12 goals in that span, and Pareja tried yet another change during halftime of Saturday’s loss to the San Jose Earthquakes.

With the Rapids trailing 2-0 at the break on the back of two defensive lapses, Pareja inserted veteran Tyrone Marshall at center back, shifting regular center back Drew Moor to right back and removing starting right back Hunter Freeman.

But the halftime switch only resulted in San Jose sealing the Rapids’ sixth loss in their past eight MLS games on the back of two more second half tallies from the host Earthquakes.

HIGHLIGHTS: SJ 4, COL 1

“We aren’t playing very tactical right now and it showed in that second half,” Pareja said after the loss. “But all we can do is look forward to the next match, tighten up tactically and get three points to make up some ground in the standings.”

Pareja has experimented with just about every field position so far this season. But defensive midfield and the back four have been of special focus for the Rapids’ first-year skipper, who has even briefly rotated midfielder Brian Mullan to right back at times.

Colorado’s two most recent acquisitions were used on a defender (Tyson Wahl) and a defensive midfielder (Hendry Thomas).

“We just haven’t been giving ourselves a chance lately,” Marshall said on Saturday. “We aren’t playing a consistent brand of soccer, which gives us a chance at winning. We need to tighten up defensively, stop allowing cheap goals and learn how to finish.”

With only eight games to go and the Rapids anchored in the second-to-last position in the Western Conference standings, Pareja knows that his team has to find solutions quickly.

“If we are going to salvage the season, we need to improve and make adjustments immediately and sustain that play for the last two months of the season,” he said.

Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.