Circumstances beyond my control have me writing this before seeing the Rapids game against Real Salt Lake. So hopefully we're now all basking in the glow of a big Rapids win with little MLS and Rocky Mountain Cups dancing through our heads. But as I write this, the Rapids are 0-3-2, and Rapids fans need a little optimism. So I'm turning off my inner cynic to look at some of the good signs we've seen from the team so far.
- For starters, the start is often irrelevant. As the team proved in their MLS Cup runs in 1997 and 2010, what's important in Major League Soccer is getting hot late in the season. Of course, the team needs to win a few games before then to stay in contention, but if the Rapids get healthy and find enough form to start winning their home games and maybe steal a couple late road games, the playoffs are still very possible.
- There are a lot of quality players on the mend, and if the team can stay within shouting distance of the playoff seeds, adding in fresh legs of guys like Martin Rivero, Matt Pickens, Pablo Mastroeni, Jamie Smith, Jaime Castrillon and Diego Calderon could make the Rapids a very dangerous team come the fall.
- Even with the frustrating uncertainty of Pablo Mastroeni's presence on the field, the Rapids have a solid core of experienced leaders and veteran role players. Hendry Thomas and Drew Moor are both able captains, as I suspect Brian Mullan and Matt Pickens would be. Vets like Marvel Wynne, Nick LaBrocca, Kamani Hill, and Smith have proven they--when healthy--can consistently play their positions and do what the team needs from them. A lot of MLS teams would love to have the Rapids' veteran depth.
- There's a youth movement afoot. The law of averages says that not all of these guys will continue to progress and meet their potential, but there are plenty of reasons to smile when you look at Dillon Powers, DeShorn Brown, Tony Cascio, Chris Klute, Shane O'Neill, Dillon Serna, Danny Mwanga, Kory Kindle, Clint Irwin, Kevin Harbottle, and Martin Rivero. Those 11 players have an average age of less than 22, and in five years that could be a formidable starting lineup.
- Speaking of young players, 2013 draft pick Charles Eloundou has yet to join the team. For all we know, the Cameroon international may be the second coming of George Weah, Roger Milla, or Daniel Amokachi! ...Wait, scratch that last one.
- Even in defeat, the team has played very well at times this season. And building toward something better takes patience. Our smog-ridden rocky mountain neighbors are a perfect example of that. Oscar Pareja seems to be managing the team well, keeping the Rapids in every game, and all with an eye on a larger plan. If the Rapids fans and front office can be patient and let this play out, even another disappointing season may end up being a positive step.
- And worst case, even if the Rapids embrace futility and lose out, at least we get to listen to a good announcer on Altitude! That is no small miracle.