For the second time in eleven days, the Rapids faced bitter rival FC Dallas, but with the added intrigue of possibly being able to move the visitors down the playoff ladder with a win. Colorado started off brightly with crisp passing, good movement, and enough energy to keep Dallas on their heels early on.
Axel Sjoberg hit the post off a 6th minute corner-kick to give Rapids fans an early jolt to life. Nine minutes later Josh Gatt, who was up the flank all night long giving Dallas fits, streaked down the right in possession looking for Stefan Aigner. The newly signed German ended up at a tough angle near the endline but deftly hammered it through the touch of the Dallas keeper to take the lead.
Missing Michael Azira due to injury, Jared Watts due to suspension, and Tim Howard and Mekeil Williams to international duty, Head Coach Steve Cooke needed all hands on deck Saturday night requiring some players to move to different spots on the field than their norm. Dominique Badji slid to the wing, Marlon Hairston moved to fullback, and Stefan Aigner played in the middle with Alan Gordon up front alone.
Colorado didn’t seem to miss a beat, however, as Cooke praised the adaptive nature of his squad. “I appreciate all the players moving positions and helping us out because together we are collectively very strong. It’s about all of us being strong together.”
Midfield engine and link-up key Mohammed Saeid said this wasn’t a problem and also liked seeing guys in different spots more apt to move around confusing Dallas defenders. “The picture changes all the time. Sometimes what I see is not on, and they make that move, suddenly someone’s open and for me that’s great,” Mo told The Voice of C38 postgame.
“The more options I have, the more movement there is, it’s going to cause confusion in the backline for them and the midfield. That’s how we got in a few times in the first half.”
Another advantage of the lineup adjustments was that Cooke was able to provide more speed on the wings initially, as well as later on when Mike DaFonte came into the defense for Gordon allowing Harirston to move up a line and Badji to take over the striker role. “If we didn’t have pace on the wide spots, we would suffer again. Their fullbacks had to be respectable and honor the fact that we had fullbacks that could hurt them.”
This became a distinct advantage according to Saeid, especially coupled with the fact that one of the areas that was clicking for the Rapids was moving the ball quickly. “How quickly were on the ball-the thinking was already there. We knew what we were going to do with the ball before we got it and that kind of saved us a lot of time and space.”
“Once we got into the wide areas, to (Stefan Aigner), we were dangerous and we hurt them going forward.”
In fact, Colorado hit the woodwork again as Gordon popped a perfectly placed header to the far post but saw Dallas’ Gonzalez get a fingertip to deny the 2-0 potential lead. Shortly thereafter, Dallas converted a corner-kick of their own early in the second half and made the scoreline hold to take a valuable point for their playoff run.