In a clash of conference bottom dwellers Saturday evening, Atlanta United hosted the Colorado Rapids. After going scoreless for the first half, the hosts finally broke through, with Darlington Nagbe dribbling and setting up the cross for Julian Gressel, who put Atlanta on the board in the 74th minute. Atlanta doubled their lead in extra time, but closed out the match with a 1-0 win, handing Colorado its sixth defeat in a row.
Here are three takeaways from the Colorado Rapids’ 1-0 loss to Atlanta:
Slow the bleeding
Anthony Hudson and the Rapids did their part to try to put an end to the defensive woes that have plagued them all season. Colorado adjusted by coming out in a 5-4-1 formation with converted centerback Danny Wilson playing as a defensive midfielder to replace the suspended Jack Price.
Conceding just a goal to an Atlanta team that has proven to be potent (although less so this season) was a marked improvement over the past five matches in which the Rapids have conceded at least three.
Apr 27, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta United defender Julian Gressel (24) celebrates after a goal against the Colorado Rapids in the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
“I don’t think there was any danger,” Hudson said of the formation adjustment. “Coming into halftime, there was no danger. I didn’t feel there wasn’t any real scary moments in terms of what they created. I think we defended a lot better. Individually, they defended a lot better, and as a group, they defended a lot better. So coming into halftime, it was a case of us staying in the game as long as possible. There were a couple of situations where we felt we could create some chances ourselves. I think there was that spell in the second half right before the goal where we were pinned back a little bit too much, but look, defensively, I thought we were a lot better.”
Colorado Rapids Homegrown Sebastian Anderson made his first career professional start Saturday, featuring at right back while Keegan Rosenberry moved more centrally in the 5-4-1.
Despite being only 16-years-old, and having just signed a professional contract weeks ago, Anderson fared well. Defensively, he managed an interception, six clearances and eight ball recoveries in 80 minutes of action.
“Definitely for the first five minutes it was kind of, ‘just do the right thing, be super aware of everything.’ Then once the game kind of settled in it was more of like, ‘I’m playing around with some of the guys I watched on TV, this is crazy.’ But I have a job to do and I know what I need to do to help the team,” Anderson said of his first competitive minutes with the first team.
Anderson joins teammate Sam Vines as the second Homegrown to get their first career start this season.
The Bad and the Ugly
The Rapids formation adjustment was needed, and Anderson’s debut was a positive for the club, not just in the short term but for the future of the club. But it’s impossible to sugar coat how bad Colorado has been this season, having secured just two points in nine matches.
Hudson tried to deflect criticism following the team’s latest loss – the sixth in a row – by pointing to the team’s budget and roster building compared to other sides in MLS.
“I think this is another game where I hear a lot of people around the place and media and these types of things talk about where we’re at,” Hudson said postgame. “It’s almost like people see us at the same level as Atlanta or as on the same level as Orlando or DC, but the reality is, I think, every game we’ve played in, it’s been the DPs (designated players), big money players up front that are making the difference.
“Every game that we’ve played in, people think we have those players and we don’t. Today was just another example of the real gulf in class. I think every single game we’re playing against teams and their DPs are making a difference. People think we are on the same level, we’re not. We’ve compromised our attack slightly today because we had to come here today and get a result. The approach was right. I think the approach worked, and in the end, we were unfortunate.”
Despite promising playoffs to the fanbase for two consecutive seasons, Colorado is actually worse than it was under previous head coach Pablo Mastroeni, who was fired for not performing to standard. Under Hudson, Colorado now has three separate winless streaks of eight games or more during his 17-month tenure.