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Oscar Pareja's Road Mettle Will Be Tested Early In 2014

Oscar Pareja's Rapids team was disappointing on the road in 2013, and some of that seemed to come down to coaching. We'll get early chances to see if things have changed in 2014.

Doug Pensinger

There were a few minor annoyances that the Rapids had to deal with in 2013 despite the solid overall package that the season provided. One of the most notable issues was that, as the season started to wear down, the Rapids seemed to go more and more negative on the road. At home, they never seemed to stray from the style of play that got them to the playoffs, but on the road we got repeated games that featured names like Nick Labrocca and Atiba Harris in the striker spots and a sit-back approach that kept the Rapids a step farther down the field than they usually were at home. It most famously led to the 3-0 loss at Vancouver and the 2-0 loss at Seattle that ended Colorado's chance at a good playoff seed and then ended Colorado's season in general, respectively.

Why did Oscar do that? We'll never know for sure. Perhaps after a season where he was accused of being too do-or-die, he was instead going conservative to earn points where he could away from DSGP. Perhaps he didn't completely trust his young team to get the points away from home if they were playing their usual attacking style, or trust his team to do much without Vicente Sanchez and Dillon Powers in the stretch run. Maybe Atiba Harris knows where the bodies are buried.

One of the most pressing questions going into 2014 is if that's going to continue. Colorado will likely never be a Supporters' Shield contender with that sort of road tactic every time. Fortunately, the season is starting with two games on the road that aren't just away from home, but are also against opponents that Colorado will need to be at their very best to beat. If Colorado lines up against San Jose with Harris and Labrocca on the field on opening day and loses another 1-0 blahfest because they're sitting back and creating nothing on the attack, it's probably not going to be a great sign. If it happens again vs. New York, there may be cause for concern.

It's an interesting storyline to watch when March comes around.