Gary Smith didn’t exactly go on the defensive on Saturday when his Colorado Rapids team played FC Dallas.
With his team still reeling from the previous weekend’s 1-0 home loss to D.C. United and their playoff aspirations on the line, the Rapids head coach brought out all his offensive big guns on the road against one of the strongest teams. Omar Cummings, Conor Casey and Macoumba Kandji all started for the Rapids, marking the first time Smith played the trio together.
If Smith had wanted to play this combination before, a mix of suspensions and injuries prevented him from doing so.
The lineup worked. The Rapids took the lead in the 13th minute on a Jeff Larentowicz goal in which Kandji played an integral part, breaking out of the defense with Jamie Smith to thread a ball in the direction of the onrushing Kosuke Kimura. Even though the pass didn’t make it cleanly through, all the Hoops defense could do was push it into the path of Smith.
Smith passed to Cummings, who finally set up Larentowicz with the goal.
“I just wanted our three general midfielders to work against theirs and our front three to be creative in whatever way they saw fit,” coach Smith told MLSsoccer.com after the game.
It was certainly an attacking venture from Smith to play all three forwards and something that he said he was considering when he first brought Kandji into the squad last month in a trade that sent Mehdi Ballouchy to the New York Red Bulls.
The game may have confused an observer trying to understand the Rapids’ tactics, with Jamie Smith appearing to play more centrally at times and Cummings drifting out to the wings. But it sure was entertaining.
Once the Rapids equalized early in the second half off a Larentowicz header from a Jamie Smith corner, coach Smith went more conservative and pulled Kandji from the field to replace the lanky striker with Brian Mullan.
By the 70th minute, the team seemed to have settled into a classic 4-4-2 formation with Casey and Cummings as the front pairing.
“Mac came off early for purely tactical reasons,” coach Smith said. “Brian offered more stability on that side.”
The Rapids could take the field against the LA Galaxy this coming Saturday night with their playoff position finalized if Kansas City fail to win their next two games, starting tonight against the Chicago Fire.
Whatever the situation, and whether the Rapids may still need something from the LA game, it will be interesting to see if Smith repeats his aggressive experiment this weekend.