Hendry Thomas headed home the opening goal for the Colorado Rapids at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on Saturday night, a 2-0 shutout fraught with good and bad. His goal in the 41st minute brought fans to their feet (15,765 in attendance for the gaLAxy contest). But his yellow card in the ninth minute silenced everyone who knew it was one yellow too many, an automatic disqualification from the Subaru Rocky Mountain Cup finale next week when Real Salt Lake comes to Commerce City.

No yellow card is “necessary,” but this one was particularly unnecessary and deserved more, well, “caution.” Thomas already brought the stretcher crew to their feet with an earlier tackle on Hector Jimenez before his ninth-minute yellow card, so he should have known better.

Thomas wasn’t the only Jekyll/Hyde coin in the Rapids purse. Others flipped from good to bad throughout the match. Edson Buddle was half gold, half tin. He deserves praise for his precise one-two return pass to Dillon Powers* for the closing goal in the 47th minute. He seemed energized when he saw Atiba Harris preparing to enter the game in the 35th minute, turning a Drew Moor long ball into a chest-trap quick shot over the bar from distance. Nick LaBrocca followed moments later with a long shot off the crossbar, and then Harris replaced him. From that point forward, Buddle gave more than one pass to Harris with the same kind of gift-wrapping that Powers tore open in the box.

LaBrocca, by the way, suffered a left groin injury, immediately getting ice from Jaime Rojas when he hobbled to the bench.

Then the bad. It wasn’t a memorable play for most people, but I’ll never forget the sight of Buddle, Harris, and Deshorn Brown slowly retreating, all of them significantly offsides while Nathan Sturgis labored to win the ball back. Being offsides isn’t necessarily bad, just like placing Buddle in the offsides position adds danger to free kicks.** But all three lolly-gagged like men who didn’t mind missing the bus and looked content to sit down and read patiently until the next bus happened along. What’s worse: Each was headed to his own bus stop a block away from his nearest teammate. Harris can flick a dangerous ball consistently, but other than that I don’t see these three clicking as a cohesive unit. They seem to take turns taking chances on their own.

On the particular play when all three forwards missed the bus, Sturgis won the ball, looked upfield, and dribbled a tight circle before playing the ball square to Thomas. On an earlier play, captain Moor threw up his hands because he couldn’t see any options going forward.

When asked if Hendry Thomas should tone down his ferocity, Rapids head coach Oscar Pareja said, “I don’t want him to change. It’s the play that I want. It’s the play that I like. The league has to get used to this player. For me, they don’t see him as much. He is always committed to getting the ball back. Tackling is a law in the game. You see in the major leagues this kind of play at the high level. They say they’re afraid he’s going to hurt someone, but he’s getting the ball.”

With Thomas definitely out, Pareja plans to replace the personality and the position, rather than adopt a new alignment or prepare for a less-destructive tackler in the center of the field.

“I am thinking already to replace Hendry with somebody who can do the job on both sides of the ball,” Pareja said. “Somebody who can get the ball back for us and help us with distribution. We have some options.”

Pareja said he heard many players discussing the Real Salt Lake game in the locker room only moments after beating the gaLAxy, Marvell Wynne said they’ll still celebrate. “We do one thing at a time,” Wynne said. “We’re going to enjoy this. We’ve had pressure on us for a while.”

++++

* Along with Shane O’Neill, Powers was pure gold. The only Rapids players worthy of low ratings are the forwards, and I don’t blame them individually. Collectively, they can do more to click as a clique.

** Now that other teams will prepare for the Buddle placement, he can add twists to confuse them more, like slowly back closer to the goal, and then sprint in the opposite direction. Any movement will throw them off if they think he’ll just stand still.

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