The 2020 Colorado Rapids have been assembled with clear purpose. Under the leadership of General Manager Pádraig Smith, the club’s Front Office has quietly built a team with a combination of exciting young prospects, reliable first team contributors entering their prime, and key veteran leaders. The missing pieces? The players that have yet to fill Colorado’s Designated Player roster spots.
This moment is very much intentional.
The prevailing narrative from management since the penning of “The Rapids Way” has been explicit: 2020 is the make-or-break season for The Process. It’s why the Rapids secured long-term contracts with Kellyn Acosta, Diego Rubio, Keegan Rosenberry, and Jack Price; it’s why the team has bet on up-and-coming youngsters Sam Vines, Cole Bassett, Andre Shinyashiki, Jonathan Lewis, and newly-acquired Auston Trusty; and it’s why the club cut ties with high budget busts like Shkëlzen Gashi and Tommy Smith.
Make no mistake: the Rapids are now built to compete. The Burgundy Boys are primed to be one of the breakout sides in the Western Conference come 2020 under a manager that still has yet to hit a ceiling. However, the jump from merely competing to becoming a “perennial playoff contender” in Major League Soccer often rests in the quality brought into a team’s most coveted roster positions.
Those who have closely followed the Rapids have been anticipating this moment for quite some time. For many, the promise of better things in 2020 has represented a chance for Colorado to fully transition into a more modern MLS side. Certainly things are trending in the right direction, but the season will be decided by the level of quality brought into the fold over the coming weeks.
A cynic might argue that it’s already too late for the Rapids to break into the upper tier of clubs in MLS. With other small market sides finally beginning to make big splashes in the global transfer market, Colorado isn’t alone in a desire to bring top talent to an ever-growing, ever-competitive MLS. The calculated decision to bring homegrown players en masse to the club is also far from unique.
There’s also the quandary of Colorado’s past failures to extract talent from outside of MLS. It’s true that the Rapids have demonstrated an exceptional ability to secure bargain deals for talented assets in the domestic market, but there’s no disputing that the club has had more busts than booms when looking abroad.
But the run of form from the Rapids in the final months of 2019 was real. While Robin Fraser’s 2.14 points per game will likely falter over the course of the coming season, the run under both post-Hudson managers proved that the Front Office had constructed a roster worthy of making the playoffs in 2019.
Above all else, supporters are anxious: anxious to see management make statement in the transfer market, anxious to see new players join the squad, and anxious to see whether or not this offseason edition of optimism will last.
Colorado’s expected offseason acquisitions still remain to be seen, but I can’t help but feel that ever-present Rapids refrain: “This year will be different.”
Follow Joseph on Twitter: @jspsam
Image Credit: Colorado Rapids via MLSSoccer.com