2019 has not been kind to Colorado so far as the Rapids remain winless after their first seven matches, with just 2 points from four at home. However recently, in losses to Orlando City and DC United, the Rapids have shown their prowess on the offensive side of the ball which is something sorely missing from 2018. Is that, though, coming at the expense of defending for Colorado as they have given up leads multiple times within those high-scoring contests?
“In the last two games I think we’ve shown that we can start a game and be positive, be brave, and we can go after teams and we can cause them trouble,” Head Coach Anthony Hudson told The Voice of C38. “Then, it’s we go a goal up and we then haven’t had the confidence in each other as a unit-it’s not just the back four, it’s the whole team that needs to defend together.”
Hudson has at times looked exasperated with Colorado’s defensive lapses that have allowed multiple goals in short time-spans to lose valuable points early in the season. He and the Rapids staff have just about tried everything with their personnel to get back to a stingy defense, or dare say it, a shutout of an opponent.
So, what does Coach see as the issue and how to reverse the outcomes?….”We look at preparation, are we preparing the players physically for Saturday, are the tactics right, are the way we want to set ourselves defensively right, and if they are, if we’ve seen them work before, is it an understanding issue?-we look at all of that.”
“Everyone knows how we need to play, everyone knows how we want to play, everyone knows how we need to set up. For me the biggest part is a psychological problem. We start the game very well, then there’s something in us then that either gets scared holding on to a lead, and I don’t think we’re as a team so confident that we’re going to keep a clean sheet, so it’s a psychological issue.”
This is a bit of a head-scratcher since Colorado does have veteran defenders amongst some younger players stepping in, but Hudson says the consistency plays a bigger part amongst the back four than does age and experience. In one recent training session as the team worked on defending 1v1s, as well as being outnumbered, Hudson needed to step in and have a “colorful” conversation with players, to which he agreed made a positive difference. “After that, we saw response and people were defending like for their lives. Some of the defending was very good at the end.”
“What we look at is selection, being brutally honest in the meeting rooms and on the training pitch keeping players accountable. It’s very hard to say this, but it’s a combination of things,” admits Hudson trying to put his finger on the lapses that have been surrounded oftentimes by stretches of very good defending by Colorado against some dangerous teams.
“What we can’t do is keep changing the back four but we’ve had to because of red cards, we’ve had injuries to Deklan (Wynne) and Sam (Vines), Sam is ill, Dillon (Serna) has filled in, there’s been necessary changes. Then it’s performance. I’m telling them, ‘look, I need this and if we don’t get this I’ll get someone else to do it’. The reality is we need some consistency and some cohesion at the back. The biggest thing now is the psychological and we have to do whatever is necessary to make sure players aren’t fearful, because on the other side we’re creating chances, we’re scoring goals.”
So, as Colorado prepares for a road trip to Chicago, Hudson is taking a step back to reinforce the positive things his team can do and getting the players to realize they have the performances in them. “This week’s been about looking at everything-preparation, physical side, tactical side-and then looking at older games where we’ve been defensively organized, and the reason we were because we had a certain mentality, we had a certain shape which we’ve not deviated from, but what has changed is a couple of personnel.”
“Also, the mentality-we were brave, we were solid, we were aggressive. We know the way we’re setting ourselves up is right for us, because we’ve got new players in, so this week’s been about hammering the basic principles of how we defend. The players know how to do it.”