Colorado Rapids credit halftime adjustments, altitude in getting comeback win over New England

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – Something just seemed to click at halftime for the Colorado Rapids on Wednesday night. 

In the their 2-1 win over the New England Revolution at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Colorado stormed back from a 1-0 second-half deficit to record their third win in four matches, and head coach Oscar Pareja and his players attributed the comeback to a combination of offensive-minded tactics and mental fortitude to overcome a stingy Revolution backline.

“If we were going to have more mobility, we were going to have to sacrifice the way we get the ball back in the midfield,” Pareja said of the his offensive-minded halftime moves. “I thought it worked well.”

Following Juan Toja’s 15th-minute goal that put the visiting Revolution up 1-0, the Rapids appeared lifeless, mustering few chances the rest of the half and botching the limited opportunities that they did manage.

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Knowing that his 4-4-2 offense needed a spark, Pareja splashed a metaphorical can of Red Bull onto his squad with the halftime introduction of Atiba Harris in favor of holding midfielder Hendry Thomas, with Harris moving up top to give Colorado a 4-3-3 look.

It didn’t take long for the burst of offense to show up favorably on the scoreboard.

Benefitting from extra space in the midfield thanks to the extra striker, Nick LaBrocca drove home a shot in the 62nd minute from just outside the penalty box, and five minutes later, the Rapids struck again on Dillon Powers’ centering feed that José Gonçalves accidentally turned into the back of his own net.

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“The speed of play picked up a little bit, and especially in the second half, with altitude, those gaps open up, and we expose them,” LaBrocca told reporters. “A little extra urgency, too.”

While tactics played a large part in Wednesday’s win, the Rapids also knew they needed a mental switch as well, and they got it while taking advantage of their mile-high home-field advantage.

“It was a little tactical adjustment but mostly I think just kind of a mentality change,” midfielder Nathan Sturgis told MLSsoccer.com. “I think also it’s tough for opposing teams in the second half. In the first half, they’re able to kind of keep their shape and do well defensively against us, but in the second half, it’s tougher for them, I think they get winded a little bit.”

Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.