COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — Last time out, on June 26, the Colorado Rapids took the lead against the Columbus Crew behind Conor Casey’s fifth-minute goal. But then defensive mistakes led to some soft concessions, and the Rapids ultimately fell 4-1 at Crew Stadium.
Colorado haven’t forgotten nor forgiven the result. After Colorado handed the Philadelphia Union their first home loss of the season last week, goalkeeper Matt Pickens said that the Rapids owed Columbus “a good spanking” in their match on Friday against the Crew.
“We started so well by scoring the early goal and then we freakin’ collapsed,” Pickens told MLSsoccer.com this week. “All of us were embarrassed and we want to pay them back for that.”
If they wish to do so, they will need to shore up their defensive unit. The offense has been on fire lately, but the Rapids have conceded 14 goals in eight games since their loss at Columbus.
Colorado’s defensive line was criticized for playing too high against the Seattle Sounders in a 4-3 defeat on July 16 and too deep in their latest outing against the Union.
The defense has also found itself under pressure from 10-man opposition. Colorado were able to pull out the win against Philadelphia after Sheanon Williams was given his marching orders for abusive language in the 64th minute, but their man advantage couldn’t keep the New England Revolution from notching a last-minute equalizer in their July 23 encounter in Commerce City.
“It is a bit of a work in progress,” goalkeeper Matt Pickens said of the Rapids’ defense. “We were 2-0 up against Philadelphia and we didn’t feel like we needed anything more from that game. The Seattle game, we want to throw it out the window because it was just horrible. During the game, we didn’t realize how high we were and it wasn’t until we saw the videos that we understood it.”
Pickens will be able to backstop Colorado’s defense on Friday after experiencing grogginess toward the end of the first half against Philadelphia. Though he needed assistance from the Rapids bench, the 'keeper recovered to play the second half, but admitted he was spent by the end of the game. The heat and humidity in Philadelphia certainly didn’t help, but Pickens said it was more a case of a low blood-sugar attack.
“I was going dizzy and felt very light-headed — it came right after I had screamed at Omar [Cummings], I felt it then,” he said. “At halftime, I drank a lot of Gatorade and I remembered not having had any sugar in the previous four or five days.”
Colorado’s defense, complete with a fit Pickens, will need a solid display on Friday night as they continue to seek the perfect positions on the field to suit the match situation. And if the club are to deliver on that “good spanking” that Pickens said is owed, they will need to do it quickly.
“We are trying to find that balance,” the keeper admitted. “We aren’t there yet.”