Today is first kick, and Burgundy Wave is finishing off our countdown of the ten most important things to watch on the Colorado Rapids in 2012 if they want to get themselves a run at their second MLS Cup.
Come on, you knew this was coming.
The Rapids didn't have a very good year in 2011 when it came to injuries. After good health for the first three games of the year - three games that the Rapids won by combined scorelines of 8-2 - the injury bug bit and bit hard, crippling the Rapids all season long. A lot of big names went out with huge injuries like the Jamie Smith ACL tear and the Conor Casey Achilles tendon tear.
Heck, all you need to look at is the last game of each year's playoffs to see how healthy the team was in the last few years. Here was the starting XI for the MLS Cup final in 2010:
Now, the team kept all of those players in 2011 and in fact that was the starting lineup for the opening match against the Portland Timbers... but here was the lineup that we saw against Sporting Kansas City in the 2-0 loss that finished the Rapids off in the playoffs:
That's right, five players were in common with the 2010 final, one of which was the goalie. Wells Thompson, a midfielder, was playing left back. Eddie Ababio was forced to get his first ever minutes with the first team in MLS play as a sub because there was literally nobody else to go to when the weakened team started to get tired. Yeah, we were injured to hell in 2011.
Today we see the start of a new year, hopefully a much, much healthier year. If Anthony Wallace's Achilles tear is the worst thing the Rapids have to endure all year, we certainly won't complain.