Pablo Mastroeni left grasping for explanations after Colorado Rapids' defensive collapse vs. LA

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. -- Before the LA Galaxy’s 4-3 comeback win over the Colorado Rapids at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on Wednesday night, the Rapids presented retiring Galaxy midfielder Landon Donovan with a slew of gifts including a ski pass, a Vail Resorts gift basket and even a bottle of wine from Colorado owner Stan Kroenke’s vineyard.

But maybe Donovan ought to give the Colorado defense a thank you gift basket of his own after a historically leaky Rapids back line virtually gifted Donovan with his 80th-minute go-ahead goal on Wednesday. On Donovan’s goal – well-taken, it should be added – defender Marvell Wynne was out of position, leaving center back partner Grant Van De Casteele, making his MLS debut, by himself against arguably the greatest American soccer player of all time.

It was the 15th goal the injury-stricken Rapids have allowed in their last five games and the fourth time they’ve allowed three or more goals in that stretch, which needless to say has led to defeats through the spell.

A sarcastic Rapids head coach Pablo Mastroeni all but raised his arms postgame.

“We need to play with two goalies. We need to make the goal smaller and play with two goalies. I’m going to write to FIFA and the commissioner and see if that’s available,” Mastroeni told reporters on Wednesday night.

“Your guess is as good as mine. The way we’re conceding them is really strange. There are little breakdowns that lead to goals, and for me, I always preach about good starting positions. If you’re in a good spot to start, you’re going to be able to deal with a ball that’s coming in. If you’re in a bad spot to start, you’re going to be reaching, the player’s going to play it around you, you’re going to be shifting, and once one of those guys on the back line shifts, everyone else has to shift. Then there’s open space on the other side, so everyone shifts again.”

Adding to the struggles for the Rapids, regular center backs Shane O’Neill and captain Drew Moor are both out, likely for the season, with injuries. Rookie Jared Watts stepped in, but he was forced off in the second half with a hamstring injury.

That left Wynne, a converted right back, and Van De Casteele, a rookie out of Notre Dame, to defend Donovan, Robbie Keane and the busy Gyasi Zardes. Needless to say, it didn’t quite turn out as Mastroeni and the Rapids, who had a 3-1 halftime lead, had hoped, and it left the first-year Colorado head coach without answers about how to fix his troubled defense.

“When you throw Van De Casteele in his first professional game against a team like that, I almost feel bad about throwing him into the wolves. But I think he did a good job, and he’s going to take his lumps and move forward,” Mastroeni said. “We can work on a million different things, but at the end of the day it’s about concentration and focus.”

Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.