For the first 50-plus minutes of the Colorado Rapids' 2-1 loss to Real Salt Lake on Saturday night at Rio Tinto, it was the same old dormant Rapids offense that had produced just three goals in its last five-plus games. Chances were few and far between, and those few chances were all squandered.
But then, as if with the wave of a wand, the offense sprang to life in the second half.
Perhaps ignited by a controversial penalty awarded to Real Salt Lake's Javier Morales in the 52nd minute and the Argentine's subsequent goal to put RSL up 2-0, Colorado awoke, producing chance after chance, finally ending in Drew Moor's 83rd minute header that cut the Rapids' deficit in half. And while the Rapids were unable to come back and ultimately fell to RSL, there were plenty of positives to take away from the defeat, starting and ending with the offensive awakening.
"I think the guys battled like warriors out there," Rapids head coach Pablo Mastroeni told reporters postgame. "I think they really imposed themselves on the game. The guys were on the front foot, finding ways to score. I think our lack of finishing today was the difference and let us down."
There's no question that the offense has been a sticking point for the Rapids the last few weeks. Entering the match tied for last in MLS with just seven goals from the field of play, Mastroeni tinkered with his offensive formation on Saturday night in an effort to jump-start his dormant attack. The first-year head coach pushed Dillon Serna and Deshorn Brown further out wide, looking to create width that had been lacking in recent weeks.
It took a while, but Mastroeni's juggled lineup appeared to pay off. Serna was at the heart of several big scoring chances, using his creativity to open up space as he kept RSL 'keeper Jeff Attinella on his toes for the final 35 minutes of the match. Moor missed two free headers earlier in the half but he connected on his third opportunity on net. Substitute Kamani Hill nearly scored on a low drive just outside the penalty box, all examples of a struggling offense that the team hopes came alive on Saturday night.
"We can't wait to take a punch in the face before we start playing in a game like this," Moor told reporters postgame. "You can't complain about the last 70 minutes. I thought we were the better team and created more chances and on a better day we probably score a couple more [goals]."
Now, the key for Mastroeni is taking Saturday's positive attacking spell and building off of it moving forward.
"This is all a process," Mastroeni said. "It's not about doing really well one week, and the other week not showing up. It's about how do you become more consistent. It's a fairly new group, fairly new coach, and the idea is to every week get better as a team, whether it's defensively or offensively, and now, [the question is] how do we sustain this type of offense."