I was a reluctant convert to soccer and had the usual complaints. There’s too much flopping. Why can’t they just stop the clock when an injury occurs? Why do so many games end in ties? The lack of a clear winner, in particular, irked me. In a fit of blind patriotism, I even called it “un-American.” (I’m not proud of that.) It seemed wrong to pay for a ticket and walk away after a 90-minute match with no feeling of supremacy. Where was the satisfaction? The victory?
It took me awhile to understand the nuances of a nil-nil score. How it could mean that your team staved off an aggressive attack on the road. Or that you kept the ball out of your own net against a stronger side at home. Or that the one point that each team earns in a tie could wreak delightful havoc with the rest of the division’s standings.
You see, there’s a sort of beauty in a result that isn’t clear-cut. Even if your team draws, you can leave the stadium with a satisfying feeling of a battle hard-fought. There is a lot of gray area that allows you to see if the proverbial cup is half-full or -empty. (Writer’s note: This is where I particularly regret the un-American comment, as it seems to me that this choose-your-own-destiny attitude is quite American.)
But while I now appreciate soccer’s ties, even I can’t accept the record-breaking start to the Rapids season, which has resulted in an unprecedented streak of three consecutive 0-0 draws. Worse, the winless stretch is now at 17 and dates back to July 25, 2014. Yes, you read that correctly: Rapids fans haven’t seen their team win a game in more than 25 hours of playing time. (Believe me, I’ve watched them.)
There are plenty of ways to explain away the lack of wins: injuries, bad luck, or that a tie isn’t always so bad (see above). To be fair, that stretch covers two seasons and, as I wrote about in “Head Games,” a profile of head coach Pablo Mastroeni, a lot has changed with the team this season.
After just three games, there are some bright spots—and plenty of new faces. Juan Ramírez’s creative footwork should make for some highlight-worthy attacks and the signing of Kevin Doyle from England provides optimism that the goals will come. Six-foot, seven-inch Axel Sjöberg is a giant in the back line, although they’ve got to get him to work on corner-kick situations where his height should make him an undeniable asset (not just the highest point on the pitch). Returning for 2015, Gabriel Torres now looks trim and ready to play, although Mastroeni seems unsettled about how to use him (add Dillon Powers to that uncertain list, too). Goalkeeper Clint Irwin seems solid, even formidable, again, which helps to erase the memory of the 2014 season.
All of which should make Saturday’s matchup against the New England Revolution interesting. The teams drew—surprise, surprise for the Rapids—in a preseason game. And the Revolution also suffered from a goal drought this year, mirroring the Rapid’s three scoreless games. New England finally scored two in the last match. (The Rapids have only played three games thanks to a bye week.)
What is the Rapids’ gameplan then?
Score. To put the ball in the net at least once so that fans don’t endure a fourth scoreless game to open the season. While I commend the Rapids for filling up defensive holes from last season, the focus this week needs to be on offense, and, more specifically on finishing. There have been some decent attacks, beautiful passes, and a more exciting style of play than last year, but it is time for the cannon to boom after a goal at Dick’s. So I’m abandoning all I’ve learned about soccer: I just want a win. A definitive, goals-scored win. Just one, pretty please? Then I’ll go back to being a good soccer convert.