The Revolution entered Saturday night's 2-1 home defeat to Colorado knowing they would face a significant challenge to win the midfield battle without Shalrie Joseph in the starting XI.
In the end, the New England’s inability to cope with the Rapids in the center of park proved decisive.
Watch: FULL MATCH HIGHLIGHTS
The Rapids adjusted their usual tactics in order to exploit Joseph's absence. Instead of fielding two natural wingers and deploying four midfielders, Rapids coach Gary Smith inserted Mehdi Ballouchy into central midfield and slid Omar Cummings into a wider role on the right side to give his side a numerical advantage.
By flooding the midfield and relying on Jeff Larentowicz and Pablo Mastroeni to obtain and keep the ball, the Rapids dictated the flow of the match and pushed further forward than they typically do away from Dick's Sporting Goods Park in the opening stages of the contest.
“You look at their formation, it was a 4-5-1,” Revolution defender Cory Gibbs said. “It wasn't really them trying to come at us and attack, but we gave them so much time on the ball with those five in the midfield that it impacted us.”
The extra man in midfield reaped dividends as one of those Colorado midfielders took advantage of the space for the opening goal on 14 minutes. Ballouchy streaked into the attacking third, found himself in space on the edge of the penalty area and slotted home to the far post to give the Rapids the advantage.
The Revolution adjusted their approach at the start of the second half and pressed higher in search of a second goal after Marko Perovic equalized with a stunning free kick after 19 minutes. While New England improved in possession in the second half, the Rapids still enjoyed plenty of space in midfield when they managed to break on the counter.
“It was a lot better in the first 20-25 minutes of the second half,” Gibbs said. “That was our biggest problem coming into half time. It was sorted, like I said, but ultimately, that's too late. There's a goal in the first half that happened already and then we're falling asleep on the second goal and a midfielder gets open again and scores.”
Mastroeni lashed home from distance in the 73rd minute to give Colorado a second consecutive victory, but the Rapids once again benefited from time and space in the buildup to the goal. After Cummings managed to scamper free down the left wing, he crossed into Conor Casey at the edge of the penalty area. Casey held off two Revolution defenders and teed up the unmarked Mastroeni for the match winner.
Revolution coach Steve Nicol felt his side shouldn't have had to cope with the situation because he thought there was a unpunished foul on Sainey Nyassi in the buildup, but he said the Revs didn't defend well on the play either.
“Conor Casey's had a lot of time on the ball to pick out who he is picking out and obviously Mastroeni has had far too much time to pick his spot,” Nicol said. “It's a great finish, but at the same time, with the amount of time Casey was holding the ball up, we should have been better defensively.”
Despite the amount of time and space conceded to Colorado in midfield, Nicol thought the Revs improved after they equalized, created a few chances they could have taken and deserved a point from a match.
“It's disappointing,” Nicol said. “We weren't great. We put the effort in. Again, I don't think we deserved to get beat, but we certainly need to get better.”