COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — After gaining a new head coach and playing style over the offseason, the Rapids’ 3-2-0 start has been a fairly positive one.
But one Achilles heel continues to nip at the burgundy: slow starts away from home.
“That first 10, 15, 20 minutes [away from home], we haven’t been good enough,” defender Drew Moor told MLSsoccer.com after the Rapids’ latest 2-0 road setback against Real Salt Lake this past Saturday night. “I don’t think there’s one thing you can put your finger on, we just need to start better.”
In their three matches away from Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, the Rapids have been out-scored 3-0 in the first halves, and all three goals have come in the opening 20 minutes. Colorado were fortunate to stay level at 0-0 in their road opener against Philadelphia on March 18. Taking on the Red Bulls in New York on March 25, two goals in the game’s first seven minutes set the tone for a landslide 4-1 defeat for the Rapids.
HIGHLIGHTS: RSL v COL
Recognizing his team’s slow road starts, Rapids head coach Oscar Pareja attempted to jumpstart his squad by moving center back Moor into the midfield, shifting newcomer Jaime Castrillón to striker and demoting impressive rookie Tony Cascio to the bench.
To cpmplete the reshuffle, veteran Tyrone Marshall came in off the bench to start at center back in Moor’s place. However the drastic changes failed to make a difference, with another slow start dooming the Rapids to a 2-0 defeat at Rio Tinto.
“We have a challenge playing on the road,” Pareja told MLSsoccer.com on Saturday night. “We weren’t sharp in the first half. It is a concern for me.”
Controlling possession, a staple of Pareja’s 4-3-3 formation, was a struggle in the opening 45 in Utah as Real Salt Lake had over 60 percent of possession in the first half. Salt Lake turned that dominating possession into Álvaro Saborío’s 20th-minute go-ahead strike. The Rapids settled down in the second half and have done so in each of their road matches, but the early hole they dug themselves was too large to climb out of.
“There was no sense of fluidity in the first half and we didn’t appear to be a real dangerous team,” Pareja said following the loss. “But this is a long season, and overall I feel that we are still in a good position.”
The Rapids will look to reverse their troubling first half road trend when they take on Seattle on Saturday afternoon at CenturyLink Field (4 pm ET).
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.