From the US Soccer's rebirth at the 1990 World Cup until the beginning of Major League Soccer in 1996, the best professional soccer team in the United States was the Colorado Foxes. Regularly competing for and winning APSL and A-League titles, the Foxes played in relative obscurity. Despite being good enough to play friendlies against clubs such as Kaiserslautern and Norwich City, many of their home games were at the "stadium" at Englewood High School--hardly the place you'd expect to see the best soccer this country had to offer. But this was a very talented and well-coached team, and without the success of the Foxes, it is arguable that Denver would not have been given a team when MLS was formed.
At the heart of this half-decade of success was head coach Dave Dir. Dir, and later Lorne Donaldson, coached a long list of quality players with the Foxes, including Marcelo Balboa, Dominic Kinnear, Shawn Medved, Chad Ashton, Mark Santel, Brian Haynes, Iain Fraser, Robin Fraser, Chris Martinez, Ted Eck, Tom Soehn, Jim St. Andre, Scott Benedetti, Rivers Guthrie, Kevin Koetters, Matt Okoh, and Rafael Amaya.
And those are just the players who went on to also play in MLS. The Foxes also featured Taifour Diané, Philip Gyau, Walter Boyd, Zico Doe, Steve Eise, Paul Krumpe, Kim Roentved, and Jeff Hooker.
And yet, when MLS came calling and the Rapids were formed, Dir and most of the Foxes players were mysteriously passed over by the Rapids. After the Rapids drafted Jean Harbor second overall in the inaugural draft, three former Foxes players were drafted in succession, including Foxes fan favorite and future two-time MLS Defender of the Year Robin Fraser. Oops. The Rapids then went on to pass on Mark Dodd five times before the soon-to-be 1996 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year was selected by Dallas.
Instead of scouting their own backyard and basing the team on the Foxes (whose pre-MLS roster almost certainly would have outperformed the 1996 Rapids), Colorado's management brought in Coach Bobby Houghton to orchestrate British long-ball soccer, and the Rapids were deservedly the worst team in the league. Dave Dir would have been a much better choice, both as a coach and because he would have brought in some of his old players, as he did in Dallas (Santel, Haynes, Eck, Dodd, Soehn, and Ashton).
So 18 years later, after he deputized for Oscar Pareja and Wilmer Cabrera last week against the Chicago Fire, congrats to Dave Dir on his long overdue head coaching gig with the Rapids. (If only for a game.)