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Colorado’s dreadful defense and other takeaways from 4-3 loss to Orlando

Colorado Rapids goalkeeper Tim Howard (1) makes a save from Orlando City SC forward Dom Dwyer (14) during the second half at Orlando City Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday’s match between the Colorado Rapids and Orlando City was an exciting and high-scoring affair for spectators with seven combined goals in what ended a 4-3 victory for Orlando. After Kei Kamara opened the scoring to move into sole possession of 5th place on the MLS all-time scoring list, Orlando saw goals from Nani, who scored his first in MLS, and Tesho Akindele to give the Lions a 2-1 lead at the half.

Following a lengthy rain delay, Colorado came back to score two unanswered goals from Nicolas Mezquida and Cole Bassett to take a 3-2 lead, but a late goal from Chris Mueller and a PK from Nani (conceded by Rapids defender Axel Sjoberg) helped the Lions to the comeback win. 

Here are three takeaways from the Colorado Rapids’ 4-3 loss to Orlando City SC:

Deteriorating defense

Not even three full seasons removed from possessing a defense that cemented itself in MLS history books, the Colorado Rapids now have one of the worst defenses statistically in the league. Through six matches, the Rapids conceded an average of 2.67 goals per game. Their 16 goals conceded also ranks as the worst in the league.

Of those 16 goals, 18.75 percent have been own goals. Rapids centerback Deklan Wynne leads the way with 0.33 own goals per 90 minutes. That’s not good.

Mismatches, lack of communication and mental lapses were a common theme for the Rapids last season, and those same issues reared their ugly heads in this one. After a brutal outing last week against the Houston Dynamo, converted left back Dillon Serna bounced back with an assist on the Rapids’ opening goal. But on defense, Serna again struggled mightily against a bigger, more physical threat in Orlando midfielder Nani.

As Rapids head coach Anthony Hudson looked to tighten up that side of the field, Serna was subbed off and Axel Sjoberg made an appearance at halftime. Sjoberg likewise continued his early-season struggles, conceding the game-winning penalty with a handball offense in the 89th minute.

“Well we have to not give away soft goals like we did,” Hudson said postgame. “We give really not good mistakes.

“All the goals were really good football. Kei’s [Kamara] goal, Cole’s [Bassett] goal, there some of the runs, and movement, and passing. The cross from Cole, Niko’s header, the goals were brilliant. We have to work for it. But then we make mistakes and individual errors, and we gift teams goals. And then, once again, I have to talk about it because it happens every game.”

The good news? There are still 28 games remaining for Colorado to correct these issues.

Bassett hounds the competition

Despite the Rapids’ deficiencies, and the limelight casted on Nani opening his account in MLS, 17-year-old homegrown Cole Bassett once again shined for Colorado.

His goal in the 71st minute put the Rapids ahead briefly – and it was a world class strike.

Perhaps more impressive was his continued ability to take responsibility following losses when speaking to the media — in contrast to blaming refs, the other team, and other factors outside his control.

“I had a rough first half personally, but the second half I tried to step it up a bit. But the team played a lot better offensively, and scoring three goals on the road is definitely an improvement from where we came from,” Bassett said following the loss. “But at the end of the day, we can’t be giving up four goals when we’ve scored three away. So we need to get a result. When we score three goals away on the road, we should be getting at least a draw or should be getting a win.”

Nani issue

Rapids fans and those within the locker room felt hard done by this one: what looked like a headbutt from Orlando’s designated player, Nani, to Kellyn Acosta in the 74th minute.

It prompted a rebuke from Hudson in his postgame comments.

“At 3-2, if we do what Nani does to us — I’ve stood here asking questions, why we can’t keep our discipline and we are down to 10 men,” he said. “And it seems to be every week, and it seems to be where it’s easy for them to, you know, for that to happen against us. My guarantee is you’d be asking me about our discipline if we do what Nani does. We’d be 10 men. So we’re 3-2, they should be down to 10 men, and we can’t ask anymore of the players.”

Acosta also took to social media to vent on the issue.

Nani went on to win the game with his PK effort just under 15 minutes later.

The MLS disciplinary committee may review this, but in a sad twist of irony, Nani’s absence would only aid Rocky Mountain Cup rival Real Salt Lake, which faces Orlando next Saturday.

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