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Game Changers: Union shut down

Colorado's tough defense earned them a point on the banks of the icy Delaware River.

Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Rapids held the Union scoreless in frigid conditions on Saturday. These are a few reasons why.

  1. The central midfield pairing of Marcelo Sarvas and Lucas Pittinari did a great job of denying space in the center of the park. As a result, Vincent Nogueira did not have the time and space to pick out long passes as he would have liked. While the Union planned to circumvent the central midfield from the start, lining up in an empty bucket 4-2-4, Colorado's midfield duo forced Philadelphia to use the wings even more.
  2. The Union created no chances from the center of the field in the first half, largely due to Sarvas and Pittinari's presence. Maidana came on for Sapong in the second half, which I thought would signal a switch to a 4-2-3-1. Instead, Sebastien Le Toux slid into the striker spot alongside Fernando Aristeguieta, and Maidana took up a spot on the wing. After Chaco's influential first few minutes in the second period of play, he was pretty anonymous. He struggled to find the ball, and the woes of the first half persisted throughout the rest of the match.
  3. The 4-2-4 is very bad. The last two points were beating around the bush, but here it is: This formation is a bad one. The midfield combo of Nogueira and Maurice Edu couldn't connect to Aristeguieta or CJ Sapong, as Colorado's destroyers clamped down on them with ease. There was no link in between, and Maidana's presence in the second half didn't fix anything. The only way of moving the ball forward was through combo play on the wings, and every build-up resulted in a cross that was eventually cleared away. This brings us to our next point.
  4. Colorado's center backs matched up with the Union very well. Rapids coach Pablo Mastroeni knew that he'd be facing a 4-2-4, so he put Bobby Burling (6'5) and rookie Axel Sjöberg (6'7) on the back line. The pair outjumped and outmuscled Aristegueita and Sapong, whose physical and aerial abilities were relied upon greatly in the Union's gameplan.
  5. The Union just couldn't get a good chance. Colorado bunkered in for pretty much the duration of the 90 minutes, and it worked to great effect. They simply sat back and watched as the Union struggled to unlock them. This squad was designed to counter, and they had no real answers when the Rapids refused to come out and play.