COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – Despite boasting the league’s best defense throughout the 2016 campaign, it was offense that let the Colorado Rapids down on Sunday night, as they fell 1-0 to the Seattle Sounders in the second leg of the Western Conference Championship and saw their season come to an end.
Colorado needed a 1-0 result at home, but that important goal eluded the Rapids throughout the first half, despite producing 11 shots in the opening stanza as well as bossing the possession with a 60 percent advantage. However, none of those first-half shots – nor any of Colorado's five efforts in the second half – hit the target, and the 16 total shots were the most taken by any team without getting a shot on goal in an MLS regular- or postseason game.
“We executed our plan; we got into positions where I thought we were dangerous. I just thought that in the final third, we weren’t clean enough,” Rapids head coach Pablo Mastroeni said postgame. “The opportunities I thought at times were hurried, at times we just didn’t get the right bounce. But I thought the effort and the commitment from the guys was fantastic. In a game like this, we just needed that final pass and a bit of fortune.”
In an effort to find that much needed goal, Mastroeni opted to deploy Jermaine Jones in the No. 10 role, one which Jones excelled in in the early part of the year. In, the early goings, it appeared to work, with Jones creating several of those offensive opportunities.
“I thought he was a catalyst to what we did on both sides of the ball,” Mastroeni explained. “From a defensive perspective he was able to really get after [Sounders midfielder Osvaldo] Alonso and the guys in the midfield there, who had a good run in the first leg. Today, he did a good job of keeping them and bay and winning the ball higher up.
“He won 50-50 balls. He did just about everything you expect a player of that caliber to do, except score. It was one of his better performances and unfortunate we couldn’t get a result.”
Kevin Doyle was also deployed in his natural No. 9 position, but unlike Tuesday’s effort which saw him come through with the opening goal at Seattle, the Irishman was also unable to get his name on the scoreboard.
“We were just trying to do the same again; as we’ve done a lot this season, get that goal in the second half,” Doyle explained.
But Morris’ 56th minute goal threw that plan out the window, and took the momentum away from the hosts.
“They got that breakaway goal in the second half and that really sucked the wind out of us,” said Doyle. “That breakaway goal was tough to take. In a week or two, we’ll look back and get over this game and think it was a great season. But at at the moment, it doesn’t feel like that.”
For Mastroeni, it amounted to a microcosm of how cruel the game can be. But given Colorado’s success throughout the 2016 season, he remained confident that Colorado will continue at that level going forward, despite Sunday’s result.
“We did everything we set out to do and to get beat on a counter, it was a strange play, but that’s football,” he said. “I think this moment is obviously a difficult one for all of us, but it’s these moments in life that allow you to sit back and reflect. Now we’ve raised the bar, and I expect it to be a standard that we maintain.”