The Colorado Rapids are a great football team, there's no denying that. It's pretty much impossible to win trophies in a league with even the medium prestige of MLS without having a team that's at least passable. Colorado's success last year pretty much hinged on the striking tandem of Omar Cummings and Conor Casey, known by many as the best strike force in the league. The defense and great midfield were also big parts of the Rapids cup win last year but goals win games and last year it was all Casey and Cummings providing them. During the summer swoon that the Rapids have been known for for years now, the goals dried up mostly because the duo up top - although at that point Cummings was still playing as a winger in a 4-5-1 formation - couldn't seem to find the back of the net and there was really nobody to back them up. I think we all remember that New England Revolution game where the Rapids needed Pablo Mastroeni of all people to get a goal in order to get a win.
After watching the Rapids play against the Portland Timbers last Saturday it's become pretty clear that the step to be taken in order to get the Rapids from a great team to a fantastic team is not just keeping the offense as effective as it has been, but to get other people into the goal scoring action.
As a team, the Rapids scored a respectable 44 goals last season, 28 of which came from the strikers on the team. (That's 14 for Cummings, 13 for Casey and a lone goal for Quincey Amarikwa.) That leaves only 16 goals total that weren't caused by one of the strikers, and only five of those sixteen were goals that actually mattered in the game - a large chunk of them came at the end of blowouts, including both of Wells Thompson's goals. Nobody other than the big two strikers had more than four goals, with a defensive midfielder of all people coming in third place in the golden boot race for the team, Jeff Larentowicz. The Rapids may have had a lot more than their 11 final wins if the team's secondary characters had been able to pull goals out when it mattered more rather than just piling on goals to blowouts.
Colorado actually had a tinge of what I'm talking about here last season in their most polished run that they performed the entire year - the playoffs. In the first game, Pablo Mastroeni got a goal while in PKs against the Crew guys like Julien Baudet and Jeff Larentowicz got balls into the net. Kosuke Kimura scored the lone goal for the Rapids in their Eastern Conference Final game against the San Jose Earthquakes. Against the Timbers, they got skillful goals from Jeff Larentowicz and Jamie Smith - they almost got one from Sanna Nyassi as well! - along with the usual antics of Omar Cummings.
Colorado is currently seen as a dark horse as best in the still incredibly early race for the supporters shield. While still being in the running early on in most discussions for the MLS Cup - no small feat for sure - it will take a more balanced offense in order to get a chance at the most prestigious trophy available in MLS, the Shield. We saw that kind of offense last Saturday, will we see it again as the season progresses?