Chris Sharpe: Defensive gamble paid off for Colorado Rapids
We go to the champions with our tails up after last week's victory over DC United. I said it was a 'must-win' game for us and the guys managed to live up to the occasion with a great performance. It's set us up nicely for our trip to Houston. Facundo Erpen was absolutely delighted after the match, having scored against his old club. Another former DC player, Christian Gomez, was outstanding and had an assist. So all in all it was a very good day for the former DC players. Christian was a much-loved player in DC so I am sure, as it always is for those who play against their former clubs, it was very difficult, but they both were outstanding for the Rapids. We controlled the game very well right from the start. We created lots of chances, controlled the tempo and minimised their chances. There was pressure on us, absolutely. We had gone two weeks without a result and being back at home the fans wanted to see some entertaining football, with a result at the end. There was also the added bonus that results on Saturday went our way and with three points we went back to the top of the League. There was plenty of relief afterwards, a much deserved win and the changes the Gaffer made worked. But as has been said all week, we can't let all the good work go to waste with a loss away this weekend. Ugo Ihemelu and Jordan Harvey were given a chance at the back by Fernando Clavijo and from my point of view I thought the changes were good. Ugo is very strong, very quick and wins everything in the air and it just gave us another settling dimension back there. Jordan had a great game, defended very well - but he also loves to get forward and support the midfielders. He whips balls in and he has a great left foot. It was his MLS debut and he had every right to be very pleased with his performance. Here in the MLS they don't really have a debut ceremony before or after the game like you see in Europe. From what I've experienced, you will get something like a scribed bottle of Champagne or a club pennant. But here it's just a pat on the back, a good luck and off you go! Jordan was well pleased with his own performance afterwards and he rightly deserved to be. He actually spent last season on-loan at the Seattle Sounders in the A-League, which is the 'States' second tier comp below MLS. Personally I don't know much about the A-League. I know they have alot of good players and a good handful of clubs with alot of money - which can draw very good crowds of over 15,000. I think what they try to do here in the MLS is use that competition for not only finding talent, but loaning out young players they have drafted to gain good playing time and experience. We have the champs this weekend - and I don't know if it's good time to playing a team of such quality or not! Houston have had a tough start to their season and haven't yet won a game. I believe this makes them a big threat in some way, but also very vulnerable in others - and that is the factor we have to exploit this weekend. They are a very good and well organised team, who know their strengths and weaknesses - and that is why they are two-time MLS champs. We see two at Houston as their key players, Brian Ching up front, great goalscorer, very smart and a talented player. He holds the ball up very well and brings the rest of his team into the game. He is on the US National Team roster. The other is Dwayne De Rosario, a Canadian international. He consistently pulls off the unexpected. He is a scorer of spectacular goals and is very effective in distributing the ball for scoring opportunities. What we players at Colorado are given before each game is a wealth of information on our opponents. The staff are great in reviewing the teams we play against. We have full scouting reports on the teams we play, we look at what they do, with their strengths and weaknesses stuck up on the board and then they use video to break down everything, from set pieces for and against, to patterns of play. It's all very, very good. My first team prospects are quickly coming to a head. I believe Bouna (Coundoul) leaves in the next two weeks - or he is expecting to. There's no official word from any of the coaches yet and, as I mentioned in my last column, I am sure there won't be as we have very important games between now and then that we have to stay focused on before discussions of that nature come up. Coach (John) Murphy is always telling me to be ready and prepare for every game as if I am playing - just in case - as you never know what will happen. But I feel my chance will soon arrive.