Colorado Rapids encouraged by offensive progress despite missing faces

Even with their 3-2 loss to FC Dallas on Saturday night freshly in mind, the Colorado Rapids head into the World Cup break feeling better about their biggest problem over the first three months of the season. Much better.

With nine combined goals in their last four games, the Rapids’ offensive woes from the first third of the season are not yet a thing of the past, but the latest wave of goals have certainly improved their spirits. And that’s before the reinforcements arrive.

“I think we did well,” striker Deshorn Brown said of the offense after Saturday’s loss. “I’m starting to get more comfortable and trying to play my game and trying to be more relaxed.”

At one point, the Rapids went nearly two months and seven straight games without scoring more than one goal in a match, and even before that, the first five goals of their season came from the penalty spot. The offense was laboring, particularly after dynamic midfield maestro Vicente Sanchez went down with a sprained knee in early May.

But in the last four games, the Rapids offense appears to have turned a significant corner – even with Sanchez still out of action. Credit Brown (three goals in his last three games) for re-discovering his goalscoring form and helping Colorado put the ball back in the net more frequently. Dillon Powers has taken a more active role in helping orchestrate the attack in Sanchez’s absence, and Kamani Hill has emerged out of a crowded midfield to provide two key goals as well.

That does not mean the Rapids are not looking forward to the returns of Sanchez and veteran striker Edson Buddle from injury and seeing Gabriel Torres, who has logged exactly one minute since May 7, play a bigger role after taking a lengthy break to work on conditioning and muscle strengthening. So there are plenty of reasons for optimism, starting perhaps with an improved Brown setting the tone up top.

“[Brown’s] been in great form as of late, and we hope he continues that,” head coach Pablo Mastroeni said after Saturday’s loss. “What people don’t realize is how hard he works when he doesn’t have the ball, and I stress this to all the players: The kind of work you do on the other side of the ball will allow you to get in good spots when we win the ball.”

Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.