Let's talk about 2010. You might remember it as the year where the Rapids came out of nowhere, bested the previous year's 10-10-10 record and, to the shock of the MLS-watching public, pulled out an MLS Cup run. How did they do it? Well, part of it was the smothering, though rather clunky, style of play that Gary Smith had his team running. That bit is almost certainly got them through the regular season through some rather sketchy months - who remembers that as late in the season as August, people didn't even think the Rapids would make the playoffs! - but it was the tremendous hot streak that Conor Casey and Omar Cummings went on that eventually saw them settle in as MLS Cup champions.
"Defense wins championships" is a common mantra repeated around nearly every sport, but in Major League Soccer it isn't exactly true. Defense certainly helps teams win championships, but it's nearly impossible to win the MLS Cup, at least historically, without some consistent goalscorers.
Only twice has a team won the MLS Cup with no 10-goal scorers on their team: the '02 Galaxy and the '08 Crew (The Crew, of course, were helped a bit by having one of the greatest playmakers in MLS history providing 19 assists throughout the season). Early DC United teams had guys like Raul Diaz Arce and Jaime Moreno. The 98' Fire had Ante Razov. The 00' Wizards had Miklos Molnar. Dwayne De Rosario helped carry Houston through two straight titles in the mid-00s, and Landon Donovan's (with a little help from Robbie Keane and Gyasi Zardes later on) repeated goal-drenched seasons kept the Galaxy powering title runs for nearly a decade. Last year, the champion Portland Timbers might not have even made it to the playoffs without Fanendo Adi scoring the bucket-full of goals he did throughout the season.
It's really hard to win an MLS Cup without consistent goalscoring, is what I'm saying. The Rapids, for all the plaudits about their defending and midfield power, do not have that. They don't have anything in the same zip code as that. And while there is a chance that the team could pull a 2010 FC Dallas and essentially draw their way to an MLS Cup final, that's unlikely to get the job done.
The Rapids need someone to get hot for the final few games of the season and carry the team over the threshold. We know that this team can defend, and defend well. Most games of the season, the opposing team has looked unlikely to score; the Rapids' likeliness to score being at the same level has been the crux of most of their issues, and they did little to inspire during the transfer window except to sign Sebastien Le Toux. The answer needs to be, unless it's Le Toux of course, someone who has been here the whole time.
We know there are a few players who have it in them to be that guy. Dominique Badji's play is frustrating because of his incredible pace and strength being undercut by some of the worst finishing we've ever seen on a Rapids player. If he remembers the net isn't 14 feet wide, he could be the guy. Le Toux isn't exactly that far out of his prime quite yet at age 32, and he finally tallied one for himself against Portland. If that taste of goal can get him started on a little run, maybe that's the key. Marlon Hairston has shown incredible flashes at points during the season, but has been streaky. If one of those streaks happens soon and stretches through November, that could be what we need. And, of course, there's always Kevin Doyle, who we're still desperately waiting to see earn his million dollars.
This team is better and smoother defensively than Gary Smith's teams ever were. If someone, anyone, can light aflame for the Rapids on attack, another Cup run might actually be a possibility.