Sports

Rapids working on “taking care of both boxes,” see weaknesses in Austin defense


The Colorado Rapids attacked their off-week by not attacking anything.

Winger Omir Fernández went home to New York to see his family. Coach Chris Armas, when he wasn’t watching soccer, spent time with his dog.

Returning to training this week after a week away, both of their tanks are full. With the rejuvenated energy, the week of training leading up to Saturday’s home match against Austin FC will be dedicated to righting the wrongs that led to a four-game winless streak heading into the international break.

The main focus: Shoring up play in the penalty box on both ends of the field. Those moments led to some disappointing results at the end of May and into June, but Armas says it’s just part of the process of improving as a team.

“We are becoming the team we want to become. We make young mistakes, but we are a young team,” Armas said. “When I look at it, taking care of both boxes (is important). We think we’re pretty stingy in many ways defensively. Can we get a little more urgent around our own box, stepping into plays and putting out little fires? And then (offensively), can we get a little more ruthless, make an extra pass to score more goals?

“We’re going to get there. We have a good group.”

Those sorts of issues have become a killer for the Rapids, whether it’s a matter of execution or just misfortune. Take the most recent game against Vancouver, when the difference between a win and a loss was a curling shot from Fernández that hit the post and went out with the game tied in the 85th minute.

Six minutes later, Vancouver won the game when Keegan Rosenberry and Sam Vines were a split second late to push the offside line up, keeping Damir Kreilach onside for the game-winner.

For Fernández, some struggles can be traced to earlier moments in possession that can make or break an attack: the first touch, whether on a long ball or key pass. Either way, he said, it’s just another one of the little actions the Rapids have to perfect in order to swing momentum in their favor moving forward.

“As much as it doesn’t seem like it in a game, it’s our first touch that can kill or create attacks and that’s one of the small things we’re harping on,” Fernández said. “Small details, at the end of the day, cost us or give us goals and if we get better each game, we’re going to concede less and score more.”

There’s no better opportunity than a home match after a two-week break, which might mean a little bit more given Austin will likely feature two former Rapids in Gyasi Zardes and Diego Rubio.

Austin sits two spots and one point ahead of the Rapids in the Western Conference at the halfway point of the season. A win at home against another team jockeying for a middle position in the playoff race would be huge, particularly for a struggling Rapids team.

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Source:: The Denver Post – Sports

      

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