Coach knows it’s must-win time

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By John Meyer Denver Post file John Meyer: jmeyer@den­ver­post.com or @john­meyer

COM­MERCE CITY» With hopes of ris­ing from the Western Con­fer­ence cel­lar into play­off con­tention dim­ming by the week, Rapids coach Pablo Mas­troeni con­cedes ev­ery re­main­ing match be­comes a “must-win” propo­si­tion, even though eight of the fi­nal 13 are on the road.

“The men­tal­ity has to be steely,” Mas­troeni said. “Ev­ery game be­comes the most im­por­tant game of the sea­son.”

Since their last win July 1, the Rapids have lost two matches and tied two, leav­ing their record at 612-3. Af­ter Satur­day’s game at Dal­las, they have a home game the fol­low­ing week against DC United, then four more on the road.

They got tal­ented winger Shkelzen Gashi back from in­jury last week, which helps, and newly signed Ger­man winger Ste­fan Aigner is ex­pected to be­gin train­ing with the team next week. Aigner will be counted on to break down de­fenses by at­tack­ing the wings and cross­ing balls into the box, but Mas­troeni also is hop­ing his ex­pe­ri­ence will make the Rapids bet­ter at clos­ing out games.

Mas­troeni has no com­plaints with his team’s ef­fort, but he is ex­as­per­ated with poor game man­age­ment, es­pe­cially late in games. He wants his play­ers to con­tinue pres­sur­ing the op­po­si­tion, even when they have the lead. In­stead, the Rapids have shown a ten­dency to be­come con­ser­va­tive, re­treat­ing to main­tain pos­ses­sion rather than at­tack­ing. That em­bold­ens op­po­nents and squeezes the game in the Rapids’ end where mis­takes can be costly.

The Rapids came from be­hind with two goals to take a 2-1 lead last week against Van­cou­ver, but the White­caps were the more assertive team in the sec­ond half and equal­ized on a goal by Fredy Mon­tero in the 73rd minute. It was yet an­other ex­am­ple of fail­ing to “kill the game” by play­ing with hes­i­tancy.

“When you score the sec­ond goal at home, keep threat­en­ing their back line,” Mas­troeni said. “Keep mak­ing them go back (on de­fense) so their at­tack­ing play­ers have to drop, and if they don’t drop, you’ll get pos­ses­sion in the good ar­eas of the field. The more ques­tions and prob­lems the (other team’s) cen­ter backs have to solve late in games, the more likely they are not go­ing to be able to an­swer them quickly be­cause they are tired.

“You’re not only win­ning the game from a tac­ti­cal per­spec­tive but from a psy­cho­log­i­cal per­spec­tive — at­tack­ing teams as op­posed to re­leas­ing pres­sure.”

The Rapids were bet­ter at killing games last year when they had vet­eran U.S. na­tional team mid­fielder Jer­maine Jones, who missed a chunk of the sea­son with in­juries but was ex­cep­tional at set­tling the mid­field and tak­ing com­mand when he was healthy. Colorado chose not to bring him back this sea­son be­cause he was look­ing for a ma­jor salary bump, and as it turned out, the 35-yearold Jones has missed much of this sea­son in Los An­ge­les be­cause of in­juries much like he did here.

Mas­troeni is hop­ing Aigner, a Bun­desliga vet­eran who is 29 and can or­ches­trate the way Jones did, will help im­prove the team’s game man­age­ment in crit­i­cal sit­u­a­tions.

“It’s about un­der­stand­ing those mo­ments,” Mas­troeni said. “That’s why ex­pe­ri­ence is worth its weight in gold.”

Rapids coach Pablo Mas­troeni says ev­ery re­main­ing game is a must-win.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.