As we count down the hours to the end of 2016, many of of us are reflecting back on the year and all that happened. While the majority of people are ready to forget about 2016, there were some shining moments that are worth holding on to. The Colorado Rapids 2016 season was one of those things that I believe is worth celebrating. Let’s take a look back at some of the highlights, big moments, and turning points.
Coming off a horrible couple of seasons, many fans expected more of the same from both the team and the Front Office. This year in particular, the team said goodbye to fan favorites Clint Irwin and Drew Moor, while declining options on 10 other players at the end of 2015. Even though the FO cleaned house at the end of the 2015 season, there was still little hope that anything would really change this year.
Rumors started floating around about Tim Howard joining the team, and some thought that is was a panic move that the Rapids didn’t need to make.
At the end of the month, the team confirmed that Zac MacMath was their starting keeper. A rumor also went up that the Rapids were looking into Mekeil Williams, who could potentially strengthen the back line.
In case you forgot, on February 1, 2016, our very own Rapids Rabbi predicted Jermaine Jones coming to the Rapids. He actually said - “He's old, overpriced, and probably will only play 50% of the season. But Jermaine Jones is the train wreck the 2016 Rapids need.”
Shkelzen Gashi was signed as a DP from Swiss Super League team FC Basel. It was a big move, and people were starting to become cautiously optimistic.
The team also signed Eric Miller and Mekeil Williams, which looked great for the defense. The Rapids grabbed Conor Doyle from DC United for a 2017 3rd round SuperDraft pick.
The Rapids Rabbi’s prophecy came true, and it was announced that the one and only Jermaine Jones was coming to Colorado. Unfortunately, due to an altercation with a referee at the end of the 2015 season, he is suspended for the first six games of 2016.
Kevin Doyle gets injured on international duty with Ireland and needs surgery. He will be out for several games.
The Rapids officially sign Tim Howard, and we all know what this means for MacMath. But Howard can’t officially play until July, so MacMath is still the starting keeper.
The Rapids kick off the season with a loss to San Jose Earthquakes at Avaya Stadium. Here we go again.
But then, in the home opener vs. the LA Galaxy, Marco Pappa (who joined the team in December 2015 from the Seattle Sounders) boots in the game-winning goal in the last minute of extra time. Was it a fluke win? Nobody knows, but we are all pretty psyched to take out L.A.
The team went to D.C. United and tied 1-1. At the end of March, the Rapids were a straight 1-1-1.
The Snow Clasico II happened, Jermaine Jones finally played, and he scored a goal in his debut. The team rounds out the month with a 4-1-1 record (5-2-2 overall). The one loss was to Real Salt Lake in Rio Tinto when Zac MacMath made a really bad decision and got chipped. Ouch.
Things are starting to shift, though. There is something different about this team, and (dare I say it) people are starting to believe that we might have something good going on here.
After the RSL game, MacMath got it together and became a solid starting keeper. Tim Howard Day was still coming, but MacMath did not give up.
The Rapids were 3-0-2 at the end of May (8-2-4 overall) and hey, they were unbeaten at home! Despite being at the top of the conference, the team was still underestimated by the media and second to Toronto FC in the power rankings. C38’s “Keep Fighting” tifo was unveiled in week 10 at the beginning of the month, and it became the mantra for the rest of the season.
Jones, Williams, Gashi, and Doyle all go on international duty, and Pappa is still injured. It’s also announced that Bobby Burling will be out for five weeks for knee surgery. This leaves a pretty thin Rapids team to defend their place at the top of the conference. Rapids Rabbi is worried.
But with only two games in July, the Rapids manage to come out of the month with a win (vs. Chicago Fire) and a tie (in LA). Overall record is 9-2-4.
The Rapids get knocked out of the Open Cup by FC Dallas, and super sub Dillon Serna’s season ended when he got taken out by Agustin Jara and would need knee surgery.
After a ton of build-up, Tim Howard makes his debut for the Rapids on the 4th of July match. After all the fuss, the game ended in a 0-0 tie. But the firework show was pretty stellar.
Jermaine Jones got pulled from the starting line-up with a leg injury on July 10, likely sustained during USMNT play last month, and we all assume he’ll be out for a few weeks.
We had seen a bit of Marlon Hairston here and there, but he got real hot this month after scoring his first goal since 2014 against Sporting Kansas City. The Rapids also swept SKC this season.
The team ended a 15-game unbeaten streak at the end of the month with the nightmare of a loss against New York City FC, which ended 5-1. For the month, the team went 1-1-3, for an overall record of 10-3-7.
Luis Solignac is traded to Chicago Fire at the last minute during the secondary trade window and the Rapids acquire Sebastian Le Toux from Philadelphia Union. It was somewhat unexpected, but Le Toux is a solid veteran attacker. We found out that Zac MacMath was hoping to get traded (and who could blame him?), but the Rapids hung on to him as a backup.
We were still wondering when Jermaine Jones will be back. Even though he hadn’t played for the Rapids in weeks, he got an international duty call up. He returned to Colorado after being evaluated by the USMNT doctors. We were getting a taste of the saga that comes with having an aging Jermaine Jones on your team.
The Rapids only won one game in each of June, July, and August. Colorado Rapids’ fans can be a tough bunch to please, and quite a few people were thinking that this was it. It was all downhill from here and the season was pretty much over. I consider myself to be pretty optimistic, but it was getting tough. So. Many. Ties. They only lost two games in the last two months, but could we please just score some goals?
The Rapids finished the month 1-1-2 and 11-4-10 overall.
September was a mixed bag. Colorado got their first back-to-back losses of the season (August 26 and September 3). The team went 1-1-2 this month, but that one win was to defeat FC Dallas in Frisco, ending Dallas’ home unbeaten streak.
There was also the disappointing 3-3 tie in Vancouver this month. The Rapids finally scored some goals, but a hot mess of a ] breakdown at the end of game let the Whitecaps sneak a goal in during extra time. We were in the race for the shield, and three points would have been super helpful here. It was also during this game that Gashi scored on a free kick that would later win the MLS Goal of the Year award.
The Rapids September record was 1-1-2, for 12-5-12 overall.
With the playoffs looming, we really needed something good to happen this month. It was all but guaranteed that the Rapids would be in the playoffs, but we really wanted that #1 or #2 seed to get a bye in the knockout round. And with a 1-0 win over the Portland Timbers at home, the Colorado side locked down a playoff spot.
It seems as though just about everyone is finally healthy. Kevin Doyle and Bobby Burling were dealing with some issues but started practicing again. Marly had a quad injury, but appeared to be ready to go again. We finally found out that Jones actually tore his LCL almost completely off the bone, but he would be back for the playoffs.
MLS finally noticed that maybe the Rapids did have some players worth watching, and put together this video about Axel Sjoberg. Axel was also in the running for MLS Defender of the Year.
We were starting to talk about whether or not Pablo Mastroeni had done enough this year to earn a contract extension. Some say the team was doing well in spite of his interesting line-up and (lack of) sub choices, while others thought he had finally developed a culture in the locker room that was showing up on the field.
The Rapids lost the Supporters’ Shield, but earned a CONCACAF Champions League spot and remained unbeaten at home during the regular season, which is still pretty exciting.
Their October record was 3-1-1, for an overall regular season record of 15-6-13. They came in first in the league for fewest goals allowed (32), but came in almost dead last in the league in goals scored (39). The struggling offense was an issue all season, and we wondered how it would play out in the playoffs.
The first round of the playoffs for the Rapids was in LA on October 30, and the Rapids lost 1-0. Not a huge deal, as leg two is in Colorado.
The LA Galaxy comes to Colorado for leg two of the Western Conference Semi-Finals. The stadium is packed and the playoff energy is amazing. Gashi has another goal of the year score, only to get taken out at the end of the first half. He does not come back in. Regular time ends 1-0 Rapids, but puts the aggregate at 1-1, so the game went into overtime. No one scored for either side, which meant we were going to penalty kicks.
And this, folks, is why Tim Howard is paid the big bucks.
LA misses one PK and Tim Howard SAVES TWO PENALTY SHOTS to earn the Burgundy Boys a win and to move on to the Western Conference Finals.
In between the two rounds, there is international play. I thought it would be good for Jermaine Jones to get some playing time since he had just come back from his long-standing injury. Instead, pretty much worse-case scenario happened - Tim Howard went down. And got back up for a minute. And then had to be taken out of the game. He was diagnosed with a right adductor injury and a couple days later, it was announced that he needed surgery and was done. Now we see that hanging on to MacMath was a very smart decision.
Unfortunately, we all know what happened next. The Rapids lost to the Seattle Sounders in Seattle for the first leg, but got a coveted away goal. There was hope, until Jordan Morris scored in the second leg at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. Seattle won the Western Conference Finals, and then went on to beat Toronto FC in a penalty shoot-out for the MLS Cup.
Right after the loss, Jermaine Jones tweeted (and promptly deleted said tweet) about being a free agent. By December 13, the Rapids officially traded his rights to the LA Galaxy in exchange for a couple draft picks.
Pablo Mastroeni is given a new three-year contract.
The Rapids seem to be collecting SuperDraft picks, and exercise options on nine players. They didn’t lose anyone in the expansion draft.
Gashi and Howard are named in the Top 10 Acquisitions of 2016 and Sjoberg and Hairston are name in the Top 5 Breakout Players of 2016 MLS Season.
Colorado passes on both rounds of the MLS Re-Entry Draft, and a rumor starts circulating that the Rapids are close to signing Bismark “Nana” Adjei-Boateng, a 22-year old midfielder from Ghana (currently signed with Manchester City) that could fit into that #10 spot gap left by Jermaine Jones.
This is the Colorado Rapids’ current roster of signed players (there are 28 possible roster spots total):
Goalkeepers (3): John Berner, Tim Howard, Zac MacMath
Defenders (7): Marc Burch, Bobby Burling, Dennis Castillo, Eric Miller, Axel Sjöberg, Jared Watts, Mekeil Williams
Midfielders (5): Micheal Azira, Sam Cronin, Marlon Hairston, Dillon Powers, Dillon Serna
Forwards (4): Dominique Badji, Caleb Calvert, Kevin Doyle, Shkëlzen Gashi
I’m sure I missed some moments here (it would be impossible to cover it all without writing a novel), so what do you remember most about this season? What are you hopeful for in 2017?