The Colorado Rapids started off the year with a three game stretch featuring two games in Commerce City at DSGP as well as a game against Chivas USA in HDC and came out of that gang of games as the most efficient team in the league when it came to offense. With a goal differential of +6 after only allowing two goals to be scored on them as well as the highest shot percentage to goals ratio - a staggering 34.8% of their shots had wound up in the back of the net by the time the DC United game was over - and guys like Jamie Smith, Omar Cummings and even new signings Caleb Folan and Sanna Nyassi were showing some great stuff on the pitch.
Time has passed a bit and after the 3-0 start with a 8-2 overall score for the Rapids they've stumbled out of the gate as they faced three tough tests in FC Dallas, Real Salt Lake and the Seattle Sounders. Out of those games they got zero points and scored zero goals, losing the three games by a combined 0-5 score against. We saw improvement against Seattle in the offensive side of the ball despite being down a man, which can probably be attributed to the appearance of Pablo Mastroeni back in the game, the man who gets the ball through and up pretty much everywhere on the pitch. Still, the Rapids went scoreless with not as many chances as such a potentially great offense should be scoring.
What's the catalyst here for the Rapids offensive inefficiency? It might partially be a lack of our favorite bald, elbow-flying target forward Conor Casey. Yes, the same Conor Casey that currently has no goals in league play.
Unfortunately, Conor Casey was injured during the DC United game. Concerns were slightly settled by the great performance we saw out of Folan in that game as he scored a brace with some surprisingly good looking stuff from the big guy who was supposed to be experiencing a period of adjustment as he moved from fringe Premier League side Hull to the different style of play in MLS. Since then it's looked like the performance was due more to the fact that he was playing against a DC patchwork defense than his actual ability. Folan has looked somewhat out of position and a bit slow on the pitch throughout his last three starts with Conor Casey missing, although he showed improvement during the Seattle game. Sadly, all this has accomplished is letting the people on the 'No, seriously. Conor Casey is better than Folan and why the heck are you convinced otherwise' bandwagon have a cheap laugh. (You know who you are, people who have argued with me about this!)
Getting Conor back will probably be the first step to getting the offense back to the top efficiency that we saw earlier in the season. He may not have had any goals or assists to his name but you can't always peg that sort of thing down with Conor. As the target forward in the Rapids system he was not just taking flick-on headers in the box and shooting with power from close range, but also drawing defenders, taking balls well and making plays happen near the front line. And hey, guess who Folan was paired with when he scored that fantastic goal of the week candidate against DC? None other than Casey, who was doing his thing farther back in the attack and helping to keep Folan in a 1v1 situation. With Folan now underperforming after the DC United game, it's starting to look like Conor is more of a luxury than we had expected. Remember last year when he was out and we had to endure Quincy Amarikwa starting a few games? This situation is better but not by an incredible amount.
Even without Conor, all is not lost. Is it time to start burning the city down and nail-bitingly worrying about another of the Rapids' now famous 'summer swoons' that this team has turned into a science over the years? It's hard to say if that's the case. These last three games have come under some trying circumstances far different from the first three matches played. The team had relative ease in their first three matches not just in opponent - although both the Timbers and DC United have since shown that they're not quite as terrible as first thought - but injury wise. After losing both Pablo Mastroeni and Casey, this team was hurt quite badly, we saw that when Joesph Nane stepped in and got eaten up against FC Dallas. The terrible call in the Real Salt Lake game that should have by all means been a tough 0-0 draw didn't help matters either. The Seattle game was played with 10 men for 87 minutes and still didn't look all that bad out there all things considered.
There will be better days for the Rapids offense than these last three, we've seen what they can do in the first three games and allowing five goals in three games against tough sides like Seattle, Salt Lake and Dallas shows that the defense is surely trying their hardest to keep the games close. Lest this devolve into another summer like last years - I shudder at the thought - let's hope that we get our #9 back soon. He may be one of the most underrated players in the league as to what he provides this offense other than goals.