It’s hard to fact-check my gut-driven observations of the Colorado Rapids on Saturday night before, during, and after they beat the Vancouver Whitecaps 2-0 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. But the body language of players on and off the field speaks volumes about the team as a whole. Pablo’s post-game answer to a question about working Buddle and Gabby into the rotation echoed the same message that his players shouted throughout the battle.
“The most important thing for me is not one individual,” Mastroeni said. “The important thing for me is to stay true to the team. Everyone knows that. That’s why they come off the field huffing and puffing because they’re dying for each other. That’s the kind of commitment we need. It’s not about individuals.”
During warm-ups, the starting 11 popped like popcorn, appropriately peaking for kickoff. The subdued subs looked quietly ready.
Vicente Sanchez sizzled and sparkled during the game. He scored the penalty kick that Deshorn earned by out-sprinting Nigel Reo-Coker in the box. He ran after plays on defense, dribbled and distributed, and set up his own bicycle with a sombrero, forcing David Ousted to save the left-footed shot through a crowd.
When Marlon came on for Vicente, Rapids fans, coaches, and teammates applauded his effort. Gabby ran over from the warm-up zone near the corner flag to greet Vicente. He ran back alone.
Long after the final whistle, most of the 14,798 fans had left the stadium, but Cooke was running players through the warm-down. Even though Marlon and Edson put in time on the field, they ran multiple sprints from penalty box to penalty box along with the unused substitutes. Gabby lagged behind on every sprint, significantly alone. His body language says he’s not fully fit, he has a compromising injury, or he’s not feeling part of the group for some reason. Jose Mari was in street clothes, but he congratulated every player. Berner was at the end of the field going through his own goalkeeper workout, but Marc Burch, John Neeskens, and Thomas Piermayr raced hard with Marlon, Edson, and Gabby.
The first team, meanwhile, circled the field for a long time. Cooke let Marlon and Buddle go, and after the substitute sprints ended, everyone joined the jogging cluster except Gabby. He finally took up a caboose position by himself, set apart from the group while slowly circling the shortest route six or seven times. Marlon rejoined the group near the back, talking with Dillon Powers. Gabby remained alone. I don’t know what it means. The Rapids looked worthy of MLS Cup on Saturday, and it’s not hard to imagine an even more powerful performance with a fully engaged Gabby. Imagine him firing off bikes like Vicente or otherwise pulling off plays worthy of designation. Gabby is a mystery to me, with answers far more complex than body language can convey.