It was another tough night wearing my Burgundy (actually I had on the $12 shirt from the last home match) at my house in the North Metro of Denver. I was all geeked up for this one....I had assorted scarves next me on my couch and a Rapids blanket to keep warm. My Rum and Diet was in my Rapids pint glass. I WAS READY.
And then Jose Mari hits a wonder strike that baffles the mind as to how he can shoot a ball like that.
It simply sucked. I turned the TV off, went to check on the kids and both of them were sleeping with their Rapids mascots (the stuffed animal versions) and it made me think a bit and gave me some perspective on this loss. Yes, it happened, but the world did not end. But more importantly I started to look back at the history of this club and its rivalry with Salt Lake. And it made me remember a particular loss that I continue to call the worst in team history. And how that loss may have been the best thing that could have happened to our Rapids
The loss in question occurred on October 24, 2009 in Sandy, Utah.
I remember this one vividly because I went with three other lads and made it a proper weekend. We left Colorado early in the morning and drove to Sandy and checked into our hotel and geared up for the game. We were within walking distance of Rio Tinto and on the walk over we spoke about how a result would get the Rapids into the playoffs. There was some excitement in the air.
However, the Rapids played some of the most putrid soccer I have ever seen. They were beat to every ball, they were out coached, the were out played. It was so terrible that I had RSL fans saying how bad they felt that we drove out there for that. When we needed a result that would have gotten us into the playoffs, we blew it so bad that it was incomprehensible. I don't know if I was ever so angry at the team. A 3-0 loss felt closer to 6 or 7 nil. It was that bad.
To add insult to injury, RSL made the playoffs at our expense and we all know what they did in 2009. Imagine, our inept and uninspiring play led to our greatest rivals getting their first (and only) trophy.
I remember driving back to Denver the next day convinced that I was done with this team. Hell, if they could not care enough to show up for a must win match, why should I show up to a match ever again.
Shortly after the season ended, the Rapids hosted a forum for Season Ticket Holders with a few people from KSE and then head coach Gary Smith. There was a lot of good things said that day, but what I took the most from this was a personal conversation I had with Smith after the forum was over. I introduced myself and I told him that I drove out to Salt Lake and I witnessed the game. He looked at me with a pained expression and said this:
"I am very sorry John that you witnessed this. I promise you that it will never happen again and this team will be a winner."
We won MLS Cup a year later.
The team in 2010 came out with more passion, fire and desire and began to learn to play together. Smith was able to bring in his players and get them to buy into his system. And they rewarded all of us with the trophy that to this day makes me cry when I see it.
The point of all of this is that through the darkest time as a Rapids supporter (for me) there was light at the end of the tunnel. The crushing defeat in Sandy that night in 2009 led to changes being made: Smith got his players, got them to play his system, and led the team to a Championship. When I look at the star on my jersey I remember that loss in Salt Lake. Because nothing is earned in this league easily. It took a complete team effort to accomplish what they did in 2010. But it also required patience. A lot of it.
So why am I telling you this? To preach patience with this team. There are growing pains with every transition and every change that clubs make. And losses like Friday are going to happen. This is the first year for a coach and a system and everything it new. Patience is required. There are going to be days like this, but I believe that better days are ahead for this team. I thought all was lost after the debacle in Sandy in 2009. But what it taught me is that I needed to be patient with my club and my team. And it is the same now. I just refuse to give up on them as I can see the vision. Does it need to be tweaked and molded differently? Perhaps. But one thing it does require is for us to be out there in full voice on Saturday.
And I cannot wait for it.