Colorado Rapids Lose 1-0 on Late Cristian Espinoza Goal in San Jose

Mar 12, 2023 - 5:56 AM
MLS: <a href=Colorado Rapids at San Jose Earthquakes" src="" />
Mar 11, 2023; San Jose, California, USA; A general view prior to the match between the San Jose Earthquakes and the Colorado Rapids at PayPal Park. Mandatory Credit: Robert Edwards | Robert Edwards-USA TODAY Sports

Complaints about the lack of goals aside, it was almost a valuable and deserved point on the road. The Colorado Rapids went into PayPal Park on Saturday night with an altered lineup and nearly got a result. Without Diego Rubio at all and Jack Price as a second half sub, they failed to score their first goal of the season.

Robin Fraser came out with a back five with Danny Wilson making his first start of the year and Alex Gersbach back on the right. Kévin Cabral made his first start as well up top with Darren Yapi. Brian Acosta was in for Ralph Priso in midfield.

This allowed the Rapids to be fluid defensively with the three center backs able to pursue at times. Acosta and Connor Ronan took turns being the No. 6 as well to press. They did not deal with their left flank at times.

San Jose had the better start with Jamiro Monteiro nearly getting a great opportunity 15 minutes in. Cristian Espinoza could have scored a Goal of the Week candidate on 35 minutes with a screamer from 30 yards out. Goalkeeper William Yarbrough got a touch to the ball, which then went off the crossbar.

The Rapids had periods of possession and control, but it was too meandering and slow. Anytime they counterattacked, Cabral was outnumbered. They struggled to open up the home side.

Andreas Maxsø had a great header chance on a free kick but it put it well wide. Later in the half, Darren Yapi went for the far post in transition but missed.

Another injury popped up as Lalas Abubakar went down in the 37th minute. Sam Nicholson subbed on for him as Keegan Rosenberry moved inside to fill Abubakar’s spot at right center back. Fraser confirmed postgame it was a “not too severe” hamstring knock.

Rodriguez had a great look inside the six yard box on a corner moments into the second half but could not get good contact on the ball. The game turned into moments of transition. Monteiro and Cade Cowell had moments but could not threaten Yarbrough.

In the 59th minute, Gersbach got forward and picked out Nicholson on the box. The Scotsman chested the ball down and fired just wide of the near post. Jack Price made his season debut on 64 minutes. His first corner led to a Cole Bassett flick on. Jackson Yueill barely beat Yapi to the ball inside the six yard box.

The game seemed destined for a draw unless one individual did something spectacular. That individual was Cristian Espinoza. In the 78th minute, Espinoza got the ball at the top of the box and tucked it over Yarbrough and underneath the crossbar. It did appear to take a deflection off a defender.

San Jose possessed the ball and saw the game out as Colorado’s offense remained inert. The match ended 1-0. Monteiro was given a straight red for a hand to the neck of a Rapids player in stoppage time as Price sent Tommy Thompson to the ground for a yellow.

“As the game went on, we got a bit more confident. Got a sucker punch that done us in. We’re bitterly disappointed. Looking forward to the next game,” Sam Nicholson said postgame.

Changes in personnel:

The back five was mostly good. Wilson and Maxsø cleaned things up well. The right side wasn’t weaker with Abubakar subbed out. It was a more conservative gameplan from Fraser, but the defense dealt with the added pressure better. Acosta did fine in the midfield and his physicality and movement were as good or better than Priso’s in the first two games.

Cabral and Yapi had 6.1 ratings on FotMob, tied for worst among Rapids starters. They didn’t get much service or help, but Cabral created little on his own. He wasn’t much better than Nicholson or Michael Barrios were in the first two games.

No Rubio, no threat:

At best, the Rapids had four threatening chances in this game. Two were off of set pieces. The other two were in transition via a wingback. They’ve created little with possession through three games. Fraser feels the mentality in those critical moments could be improved.

“We’re definitely building something good here. You can tell by the way we’re playing football. Having that final cutting edge, that’s on all of us, to be honest. Especially the forward players. We need to be more direct. Play with a bit more risk in the final third, which we do have the freedom to do,” Nicholson told Burgundy Wave.

“It’s going to click. We’re all positive that’s going to happen soon.

Yapi is getting good looks and it’s fair to criticize him for lack of finishing. Cabral was absent in the second half. Without Rubio, this team is not a threat from the run of play right now. Price’s return will hopefully help the team find their first set piece goal.

Weakness on the flanks:

San Jose caused the most panic playing through the wide areas in the final third. Espinoza was fantastic, even without the goal. He and Carlos Akapo beat Gersbach more than once. Nicholson understandably was the more aggressive wingback, leaving space for Cowell. In the season opener, Seattle did most of their damage Gersbach’s flank.

“Keep the ball better is the biggest thing. The goal comes off a turnover that shouldn’t be a turnover,” Fraser said when asked how the team could have prevented chances in transition.

“They were more threatening in their moments when they were able to get forward quickly than we were in ours.

It’s not all on the Australian. Committing numbers up the middle of the pitch to try to control the tempo is a calculated risk. Cabral did not support Gersbach much. Rosenberry then Nicholson were on an island on the right. The numerical advantage out wide let San Jose play out. Without Price and Rubio to provide a stronger spine thus allowing for wider spacing, this issue could continue.

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