Back in grade school they used say you could get an "A for effort." Unfortunately for the Colorado Rapids, a great effort on Wednesday night still resulted in a 1-0 loss to the San Jose Earthquakes -- and zero points in the standings.
After last week's home loss to Dallas, Rapids head coach Fernando Clavijo bemoaned his team's lack of consistent drive. The opposite was true in the loss to San Jose, especially in the second half.
"The effort was outstanding," said Clavijo. "You're never happy when you lose a game, but the effort was there. There just some little things that we need to work on."
The "little thing" Wednesday night was some profligate finishing that saw the Rapids squander some clear chances. Forward Luchi Gonzalez twice had good looks inside the penalty area during the second half, but was stoned on each occasion by Quakes goalkeeper Pat Onstad.
"The ones we put on net were right at [Onstad]" said Rapids keeper Joe Cannon, who had some big saves of his own in an entertaining second half. "Pat is too good of a goalkeeper to put a shot near him. You're not going to beat him with anything in tight on him."
Still, the match saw a much improved performance from the Rapids midfield, especially after the introduction of Ritchie Kotschau in the 52nd minute. Up to that point, San Jose looked set to break through for the match's first goal, but once Kotschau entered the game, the Rapids enjoyed some extended spells of possession.
Despite the improved midfield play, Kotschau wasn't about to declare that it's a sign of things to come.
"We've had a lot of steps in the right direction this year, but then it kind of just fades away a little bit," said Kotschau. "We've got to find some consistency. We'll play well, and then we'll play well for half the next game. We're just kind of up and down right now."
On Wednesday, the Rapids came agonizingly close to putting together a full game, only to be punished for a mental error with two minutes remaining. A turnover in midfield gave San Jose midfielder Brian Mullan room to run, and after cutting inside and playing a one-two with Julian Nash, Mullan slid a through ball into the box that Dwayne De Rosario lashed home for the winner.
"You can't praise great effort because that should be the standard every night," added Cannon. "Our physical effort is fine, but mentally ... with two minutes left, you've either got to commit a foul there or try to contain Mullan by forcing him outside."
Still, Clavijo insists that efforts like Wednesday night's will lead to victories.
"If we play the way we played today, with the attitude we had today, we're going to win more games than we're going to lose, for sure," he said.
Jeff Carlisle is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.