With only 10 days remaining until first kick against FC Dallas, Burgundy Wave is counting down the 10 biggest keys to the 2013 season.
If you ask most Rapids fans how the offense was last year, they'll most likely spin you a story of missed opportunities in the six yard box, hit posts and only an occasional, opportunistic goal once in a while to save face. That's a pretty good way of putting it -- in all honesty, the Rapids weren't all that bad at creating chances last season. Guys like Martin Rivero and Tony Cascio helped inject some flair into the final third, and chances were plentiful.
In fact, the Rapids were sixth in MLS last year both in terms of shots taken total and total shots on goal. That's not a bad number of shots to get on your foot at all.
Unfortunately, that brings us to the finishing, which I also had pegged as a worry last year around this time. At that point, it was only a worry because I noticed that the team seemed to be having trouble during the preseason. This time around, we're looking to last year and saying 'Uh oh, hope that doesn't happen again!'
What went wrong? Well, there were a few problems with the team last season, not the least of which was Omar Cummings seeing hundreds of minutes at a completely unnatural center-forward position that he couldn't do anything at. Guys like Rivero and Conor Casey racked up large shot numbers, but didn't knock any of those shots into the right side of the twine. The fact that Edu was on the field at any point probably didn't help that out.
Fortunately, the Rapids got a couple of guys who are both fit to play in the 4-3-3 and know how to finish over the off-season. Edson Buddle may be past his prime, but with the right service he's proven to be a fine goalscorer. DeShorn Brown lit it up in the college ranks, and Kevin Harbottle has some golazos in the highlight reel we passed around after signing him. Even Nick LaBrocca, when played as an attacker, has proven he can stick one past the keeper if he needs to do so.
The big finishing questions will lie with the guys who were already here last year. Rivero and Cascio especially should have spent as much of the off-season as possible figuring out that final touch, because we can't be seeing another 3% shot conversion ratio from an attacking player and expect to do big things offensively this season. That's especially true with Jaime Castrillon not on the field.