The Colorado Rapids have their new manager: Robin Fraser. The speculation surrounding the Rapids new head coach has been confirmed. The hiring of the former player comes off the heels of the tenure of Coach Anthony Hudson who was fired on May 1st, 2019. The trend for Padraig Smith this year has been to look into the league for additions to the club and this hiring is no different. No “worldwide coach search” this time for the General Manager and Vice President. This in-league search for talent has really benefited the Rapids and one can assume that with Robin Fraser as head coach, more MLS-experienced and in-league players will be the norm.
“Who are we?”
“What do we stand for?”
“What do we want to achieve?”
These three simple questions introduced the famous (infamous?) Colorado Rapids op-ed, a letter to the fans by Padraig Smith and Wayne Brant published in the Denver Post. Titled “The Rapids Way” Smith and Brant outlined just who they wanted to be, what they wanted to stand for, and what they wanted to achieve. It’s now been two years since “The Rapids Way” was published and the Rapids have failed to make the playoffs since. Currently, Colorado are at a <1% chance after a horrendous, record setting, worst start in Major League Soccer. While it is technically and statistically still possible for the Rapids to make the playoffs (miracles do happen sometimes), I don’t think this is what Padraig Smith or any of the Front Office had in mind when outlining the ambitions for this team. Rapids faithful know the term “perennial playoff team” all too well as that is what was promised to us that August. However, we have yet to see playoff soccer make its return to Commerce City. So, two years to the date, it’s time to revisit “The Rapids Way” op-ed.
June and July feel like the weekend of the calendar year. If you’re a student school’s out, all the water and theme parks are open, and weddings, just like any other Rapids’ season, seem to peak right around this time. As we head into August and the summer season starts to wind down, we’ll look back to the eight league games the Rapids played in June and July. In addition to those eight, Colorado also played an additional two games: an Open Cup game and a friendly against New Mexico United and Arsenal respectively.
After a hopeful May, Colorado went in to June with plenty to look forward to. Interim Head Coach Casey seemingly had the Burgundy Boys playing with confidence, purpose, and with a clear identity. The Rapids went unbeaten in June if you exclude the US Open Cup Match. Overall, a very good record for the month of June. It seemed as though the wheels really started to spin for the Rapids as they started to climb the table, slowly, but surely. July, however, seemingly killed the Rapids playoff hopes and put right back at the bottom of the Western Conference. The Rapids went all of July without a win and the honeymoon phase of June came to an end. I’ll give a quick analysis of each of the games except for the New Mexico and Arsenal games. In quick summary, the Rapids lost the New Mexico game because its a competition the organization doesn’t care about as a whole. Tickets weren’t even available until a week before the match: they know it’s nothing to focus on so I won’t here. The Arsenal game can be simplified as a game where a dominant European team defended in a low block with very rigid positioning. The Rapids attack had zero ideas and as soon as someone in the defense made a mistake, Arsenal capitalized and made the Rapids pay. In hindsight, and in my opinion, the Open Cup Game and the friendly are anomalies. They were chances to see a rotated squad but apart from that, not really anything to write home about. The league games will be the main focus and we’ll see just how quickly the Rapids Summertime Hightime went to the Summertime Blues.
Where will you be seven years from now? Hopefully, by the time July 2026 rolls around, you’ll be in your seat at Broncos Stadium watching intently as two countries play the beautiful game in the world’s most coveted tournament: The World Cup. On July 11th, a coalition came together to reveal the plans for Denver’s bid to host World Cup matches. The coalition features Governor Jared Polis, Mayor Michael Hancock, Colorado Soccer Association President Nate Shotts, Committee co-chair Bob Contiguglia, Executive Director of the Denver Sports Commission Matthew Payne, and the Colorado Rapid’s own Executive Vice President and General Manager Padraig Smith. This coalition will look to make the case to FIFA why their city should host the World Cup.
Canada, Mexico, and the United States joint bid to host the World Cup leaves them with games to divvy up and spread across the continent. Canada and Mexico will have three cities each to host while the United States will have ten for a total of sixteen host cities. Currently, there are seventeen potential host cities but only ten will ultimately make the cut. Denver, among those potential cities, has a pretty strong case already.
Now that the midpoint of the MLS season has come and gone, it’s time to look at how the rest of the season will pan out for the Colorado Rapids. I wrote my 2019 Season Preview up to 17 games into the season. Upon reflection, I was excited and hopeful that this team had what it took to be a mid-table MLS side. I’ll admit, I was so optimistic that I was convinced Anthony Hudson was the right man to lead the Rapids to a playoff berth. Instead, Colorado went on to have two months without winning and averaged one point a month for a total of two points after 13 games.
The biggest turning point of the season came when the Rapids Front Office dismissed head coach Anthony Hudson on May 1st 2019. He had only won a total of 8 league games since being hired in November of 2017. After the firing of Hudson, Conor Casey was tasked with the position of interim head coach to right the course of what had been a terrible start to the season. Under Anthony Hudson, the Colorado Rapids went 0-7-2 and under Conor Casey they went 5-2-2 for a combined total of 5-9-4.
The Rapids find themselves in 11th place just 6 points out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference. My season preview had dubbed 2019 as a throwaway season and to some extent it still is. It’s hard to find it in myself to believe that the Rapids could possibly turn it around and become a playoff contender. However, they probably can. This weird balance of skepticism and optimism has overall clouded any clear prediction as to whether or not the Rapids can actually make a playoff appearance this year. So, this Rest of Season preview will attempt to see both sides and make the case for the optimists and the skeptics: How the Rapids could still make the playoffs and why they ultimately won’t.
The first day of May brought about the firing of coach Anthony Hudson and with it came the appointment of Rapids legend Conor Casey as interim head coach. Now a month later, and the Rapids are a fun team to watch, 9 points behind 7th place, and have some players with a lot of upside and excitement. The addition of centerback Lalas Abubakar, on loan, and winger Jonathan Lewis have also seem to ignite a new spark in this team that was missing in the beginning of the season. Could Hudson have gotten these results with them in place? Most likely not. This mid season Renaissance for the Rapids probably won’t result in much in terms of playoff soccer, but at the very least, this is a team that I don’t mind going to see even if we are out of the playoff hunt come September.
In the five games Casey has managed as interim head coach, the Rapids have a record of two wins, two losses, and a draw resulting in a total of 7 points which still leaves them in last place in the Western Conference, but better last place in the Western Conference with 9 points rather than a mere 2.
Trends in Major League Soccer are typically difficult to identify. The league’s salary cap structure, as well as the playoff format, is designed to ensure a level of parity and competitiveness to prevent the same parties from consistently hoisting MLS Cup over and over again. Take a look southwest towards Carson and you will find a Galaxy team, once the league’s darling, still struggling to rise from its stage of mediocrity – Ibrahimovic notwithstanding. Turn north and be reminded of Toronto F.C., a side which ascended from the pit of despair to host MLS Cup twice, before returning to the postseason-less wasteland a year later.
While the rest of the league experiences their relative ups and downs, it is appearing ever more likely that the Colorado Rapids – three seasons away from that mythical Supporter’s Shield run – will continue languishing in the race for the Wooden Spoon.Continue reading