The signs were obvious.
Midfielder Jose Mari, possessing the ball early in the first half of the Colorado Rapids’ 4-1 loss to the Seattle Sounders on Saturday afternoon at CenturyLink Field, yelled at his teammates to get open as he looked for someone to pass the ball to, shrugging his shoulders in obvious frustration as he failed to pick out an open teammate. Defender Thomas Piermayr did the exact same thing just minutes later.
Saturday’s 4-1 loss might appear on the scoreboard to be more of a failure on defense, but for the third straight week, the attack looked disoriented and confused for large portions of the game, a growing concern for the offense-starved Rapids.
“It’s an individual thing, I don’t think it’s a collective thing,” Mastroeni said of the offensive woes postgame, putting emphasis on Saturday’s offensive struggles on the Rapids’ inability to hold possession. “The moment you get higher up the field and you lose possession early, psychologically, the guys that are supposed to join in don’t have the trust in guys up front and they no longer join in, and it becomes hard for the guys up top to hold it. It’s a vicious cycle that happens when there isn’t good possession up the field.”
Up top, the Rapids failed to take advantage of early mistakes from the Sounders defense, with a lack of possession and poor passing largely to blame. Strikers Edson Buddle and Gabriel Torres saw little of the ball, and when they did, even less was done with it. Aside from Nick LaBrocca’s terrific through ball to Homegrown player Dillon Serna for the Rapids’ lone tally in the 62nd minute, Saturday was almost exclusively a display of offensive ineptitude.
“We made too many mistakes up top,” Torres said postgame. “I think today, as forwards, we needed to hold onto the ball a bit better. We have to work on that for the next game.”
Heading into Saturday’s loss, the Rapids were 3-1-2 on the season, a positive start that also perhaps masked the club’s struggles on the offensive side of the ball. Of Colorado’s middling eight goals through their first six games, five came through penalty kicks (including Deshorn Brown’s goal off a penalty rebound), two came via Jose Mari’s spectacular golazos in Vancouver, and only one goal all season came from the striker position – Buddle’s winner in a 1-0 triumph at short-handed Toronto two weeks ago.
Mastroeni said earlier this week that the offense needed time to click as they adjust to a new 4-4-2 tactical spread (they played primarily in a 4-2-3-1 to start the year). But Saturday’s blatantly obvious show of frustration on the offensive side of the ball made it clear that offensive changes are needed, and they need to come quickly.
“If we can just continue working on keeping good possession, quality possession higher up the field, we’ll find ourselves closer to the goal of creating more chances and being more dangerous,” Mastroeni said.
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.