COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – The Colorado Rapids, unbeaten in their last six games, have been very strong in defense this season. For most of the 2010 MLS season, they have been right up there behind the stingy LA Galaxy defense in terms of goals conceded.
But, lately, the shine has come off that sparkling defense a little. The Rapids, having only let in seven goals in the opening ten games, have allowed five in the last three and slipped to joint third in fewest goals conceded in MLS this season. Those five goals have coincided with three straight ties for the Rapids.
Head coach Gary Smith said he wasn’t unduly concerned about the recent tally. While there was a little worry about the team’s first half performance against Chicago before the World Cup break when they let in two goals in the opening 45 minutes, the defense was generally more solid in the 2-2 tie against Houston on June 26.
As for Sunday’s frustrating 1-1 draw with New York, the goal was a soft one, especially coming off a set piece, Smith said.
Drew Moor, ever-present in the back four this season, missed a header from a corner. The ball sailed over to Juan Pablo Angel, who controlled it beautifully before slamming it into the net for the Red Bulls’ equalizer.
“The set piece is a complete schoolboy error,” Smith said after training this week. “Drew’s been one of, if not, our best defender throughout the season and he’s really disappointed about what happened. The goal gives them a big incentive and galvanizes their group to muster through some tough times in the last 25 minutes.”
Moor, who seconds before the goal executed a great defensive header to rob Angel of the ball - a move which led to the corner- said he misjudged the ensuing cross.
“He made a great first touch,” Moor told MLSsoccer.com “It’s disappointing. It’s about individual battles, and unfortunately I lost one there. It’s not an easy thing to mark a player like Angel. He lives for situations like that.”
The only thing to do for Moor and his defensive partners is to move onto the next game. Talking of individual battles, the 26-year-old Texan may be the one to keep tabs on another impressive forward, Dwayne DeRosario, for this Saturday’s trip to Toronto. The Rapids’ defense will be doing what they can to stamp out their own unforced errors and get back to their clean-sheet ways of earlier in the season.
“We were very stingy for a good run of games, but I think a couple of set pieces have hurt us as the season has gone on,” Moor said. “It’s as personal to us in the back as it is to anybody.”
With Julien Baudet still out with a hamstring injury, Smith has five first team players to choose from for his back four now that Kosuke Kimura has found his way back to full fitness. You can bet that Drew Moor will be in that back four Saturday as he has been all season. Kick off in Toronto is at 12 noon ET.