What did our beloved Claret and Cobalt do the evening of March, 10th? They did what they trained for. They did what they most wanted. They did what they are capable of. They “came to score” (The Aggrolites).
When taking my daily stroll through the Opta chalkboards — something I've become quite prone to doing, really — I noticed something all-too-interesting about the win over Colorado. The player leading our side in tackles won wasn't Kyle Beckerman, it wasn't Will Johnson, it wasn't even a defender. It was Luis Gil.
That, on its own, though, doesn't say too much until you take a few other things into account. We completed 21/26 tackles. That's more than against Montreal (13), against the Galaxy (13), against New York (15), against Chivas (11), and against Portland (12).
Even that on its own doesn't tell you too much, but such is the problem with mounds of data. We've got to delve in a little more: Why in the world did we attempt 26 tackles, and why were we successful with 21 of them? There seem to be a few factors.
1. Jason Kreis set us out a little different tactically than we might normally set out. Our tackling was largely occurring just inside the Colorado half or on the flanks in our half. The four from Luis Gil came inside the Colorado half. This enabled us to win the ball back a bit more quickly and proceed with our attacking game.
2. The match was particularly tackle-heavy and a bit light on called fouls on both sides. Colorado, for their part, had 23/25 tackles successful. A large cross-section of them came deep on their right side — which, not coincidentally, is where Fabian Espindola was stationed.
3. The Espindola factor. Now, when I bring this up, it's not to slate him, but he was often tackled in attacking play, and it was often high up the pitch on the left side. At any given moment, you might see Fabian up there waiting for a long ball to run on to — and sometimes, he's quite successful. Other times, he's not, but you have to play those odds a bit when you're a striker. Regardless, when you play those odds, you're prone to losing a few tackles on that end of the pitch.
However, by forcing Colorado — and so many other sides when we play them — to turn their attention toward Espindola, we're put in a situation where other players can find openings and space. With those openings and space, we can move forward onto goal, and while those situations didn't lead directly to a goal against the Rapids, there's no reason why we can't expect something like that to happen. It's happened before and it'll undoubtedly happen again, and to my mind, it's one of those things we can do to beat heavily defensive teams.
The next time you're slagging off Espindola for another jinxing run that, in the end, didn't hit the back of the net, because he didn't shoot, his shot was fluffed, or the defense got back too well and he lost the ball, keep in mind that he's doing more than just going on a solo run: He's opening space and creating chances for other players. When you urge him to shoot from impossible angles, keep in mind that he's never likely to make those — he's magical but he's not that magical — and he's likely to try to find a player in a better position. One, you see, that opened up.
Why, then, did Luis Gil lead our side in tackling? There are a number of factors, no doubt, and some of them will have been tactical and others not. Through his tackling, we were able to win the ball higher up the pitch and, at the same time, protect our defensive shape. But it wasn't just little Luis setting out to do this: Sebastian Velasquez (3/4), Will Johnson (3/4), and Kyle Beckerman (3/4) played their part, with the midfield accounting for 16 successful tackles (in addition, Steele had one, Yordany Alvarez had two) — and what happens when you win the ball back high up the pitch? You keep possession and you protect a lead. It's no coincidence that this is exactly what happened.
* * *
Right, that's about all, I believe. For now, at least, until I decide I've not rambled enough. At any rate, 'til tomorrow, then.