SANDY, UT - JULY 21: Head coach of the Colorado Rapids Oscar Pareja yells at his players during a game against Real Salt Lake during the second half of an MLS soccer game July 21, 2012 at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah. Real Salt Lake beat the Colorado rapids 2-0. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
We live in a very strange world over here in the American sports culture. We're a sporting culture that strives for parity to the point of actually rewarding teams for not only being bad, but being the worst.
I support Crystal Palace over in England. They actually had a season strikingly similar -- though not quite as bad overall -- to this one from the Rapids a few seasons back when they were in administration. It was a time to panic, I spent nights worrying about the fate of the Eagles as the losses started to pile up. Of course there would be no trophies for the club that season, but the threat of relegation was far worse. They did miraculously stay up, but the worry was palpable.
So why am I not worried about the Rapids right now? Well, because the worse the team gets, the more likely they are to pick up a Darren Mattocks style player to add to the corps for next season. 2013 will be when the true grades for Pareja get marked down, after getting a season to teach the players what he needs them to do and to assemble most of the squad that he feels can play his style of ball to perfection.
Welcome to America, truly the land of opportunity for a team down on their luck.
We already have a moderately good idea of what works (Martin Rivero, Luis Zapata, Conor Casey) and what doesn't (Scott Palguta, Edu, Scott Palguta, Scott Palguta) on this squad right now. Take finding out those things to the highest extent with no regard for trophies left on this squad.
I say, let the experiments begin. Let Pareja play Edu enough to see if he can actually do anything in this squad. Let him try Joseph Nane and Wells Thompson together as a holding midfield duo -- a pairing that worked surprisingly well against RSL, I might add, who knew?! -- and let him keep bringing in players like Harrison Henao until he finds one or two that stick as well as Martin Rivero did.
There will be a shiny new top 5 pick for the Rapids waiting at the SuperDraft to start the 2013 season, along with a group of players that will have a lot more chances to prove their worth and learn the systems under Pareja if the goal shifts from 'must win' to 'must learn'.