It's well-documented by now that the Colorado Rapids had a better-than-expected 2013 season. There were plenty of titillating moments for Rapids fans, which was a stark contrast to the 2012 season when there were far more points of frustration.
Here's a recap of the top five plays or moments from the season gone by.
5. Colorado beats L.A. on the road (Sept. 7)
The Rapids faced a difficult schedule down the homestretch of the 2013 season, a situation exacerbated by the fact that pretty much every Major League Soccer team had a game in hand or more on Colorado late in the season. That made many of their last few games almost a do-or-die situation. Few counted on a victory against the L.A. Galaxy late in the season on the road. Maybe a point, but probably not a victory. Yet Colorado went up on a 75th minute goal by Edson Buddle to break a scoreless deadlock and held on to seal an unexpected victory. True, the Galaxy were missing key players like Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane, but the win was a crucial one in an environment that isn't always kind to Colorado.
Irwin was still an unknown quantity when he took the field at Dicks Sporting Goods Park on April 6 against Real Salt Lake. Yes, he came on in place of injured Matt Pickens just weeks before and delivered a reasonable effort during that game and was serviceable in the next two games that followed. But it was a 1-0 shutout against Real Salt Lake where he stopped a penalty kick from offensive maestro Alvaro Saborio to preserve the narrow lead that caused Rapids fans to wonder if they were seeing the goalkeeper of the future. Colorado held on to the lead to beat their rivals en route to a Rocky Mountain Cup victory later on in the season.
The Montreal game looked like a grim matchup for the Rapids. Colorado was on a three-game skid prior to that game, having most recently gotten flogged in Portland on national television. It was shaping up to be a midseason swoon a la 2012 campaign. Montreal at that point in the season was one of the top Eastern Conference teams. Colorado and Montreal played a thrilling, topsy-turvy game with Deshorn Brown scoring late to tie the game at 3-3. That result would have suited Colorado fine, but Cascio's goal in stoppage time was the type of development that changed the Rapids' fortunes midway through the season (it also strained the high notes of Richard Fleming's vocal chords). Colorado got hot after that moment and cemented their position in the playoff chase.
Colorado needed a victory badly at home against Vancouver in the second-to-last game of the year to give the Rapids a reasonable shot at the postseason. The pesky Whitecaps scored first, and then tied it 2-2 after the Rapids briefly fought back for a lead. A tie wasn't going to be good enough for Colorado. But a tie wasn't going to happen after Torres collected a cross, outmaneuvered his mark and fired a blistering shot that rang off two goalposts to deliver a critical 3-2 victory. It was Colorado's goal of the year, aesthetically.
1. Deshorn Brown scores 14 seconds into the game against Seattle Sounders (Oct. 5).
Brown's lightning fast goal was the first step in a complete beatdown of the Sounders. It wasn't the most important moment in delivering the Rapids to a postseason berth, but it opened the floodgates to perhaps the most satisfying Colorado victory since their 2010 Major League Soccer Cup victory. Colorado has historically not fared well against Seattle, and the game at Dick's Sporting Goods Park didn't figure to be a sure thing in terms of a result for the Rapids. But Brown scored a beauty 14 seconds into the game (at the time the second-fastest goal in MLS history) and would later out-duel DeAndre Yedlin for another goal that would finally put Yedlin's Rookie of the Year prospects to rest. The end result was a 5-1 result that put Colorado in a pole position for a playoff spot and humiliated the Sounders.
What were your top moments of the season? Share yours in the comments below.