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Backpass: A obituary for the 2017 Season

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A bad season is now over.

Aigner’s windmilling volley was a Rapids highlight. Probably the only one for the match.
John Babiak, @Photog_JohnB

The 2017 Colorado Rapids, a bad soccer team that played mostly bad soccer for eight futile months, was laid to rest on a plastic soccer field in Seattle, Washington Saturday afternoon. And most fans can agree: the end could not have come soon enough.

The cause of death was a combination of many factors, but included; anemic offensive production, injuries to key players, a total breakdown by a rotating cast of left backs, an absence of pass-making and play-making out of midfield, below-average performance at the wings, the notable physical decline of their once-impermeable goalkeeper, an awful early-season trade, a failed mid-year attempt to revamp the team’s tactical identity, and an overall statistical regression to the mean after over-performing all expectation in 2016. Taken all together, it made for a toxic stew of less-than-mediocre soccer that left our club near the bottom of the MLS table.

In the end, the club finished with 9 wins, 6 draws, and 19 losses over the 34 games of the season, totalling 33 points. That was good enough for 20th out of the 22 teams in MLS.

That result for Colorado, an MLS original club in its 22nd season, was worse than both of the new MLS expansion teams, Minnesota United and Atlanta United. They were worse than the woeful 2015 Rapids, who finished with 37 points on a 9-10-15 (WTL) record, and bettered the awful 2014 edition of the Rapids by only a point. But worst of all, they were bad only one year after proving that they could be good. The team had been one game away from playing in MLS Cup, and looked capable of spending another year registering 1-0 wins on the back of an unbreakable defense that would simply spend 75 minutes grinding you into dust before nicking a goal at the death. Instead, the Rapids finished 2017 14th out of 22 in Goals Allowed.

Meanwhile, the Rapids tallied a paltry 31 goals scored on the year, the fewest in the league. That’s the fewest goals scored by the Rapids season since 2007, when the MLS season was only 30 games long.

A more straightforward analysis of the team’s woes was given by one Rapids fan during Saturday’s match as a few of us diehards gathered to watch this final game together. She summed up the team’s situation, in both this game and the entire season, thusly, “No one knows how to do anything.” Yup. Pretty much.

The season’s defining moment was the firing of head coach Pablo Mastroeni on August 15th. Mastroeni, a club legend as a player, was instrumental in crafting a physical and disciplined defensive side that constantly struggled in the attack. When that defensive toughness evaporated, it wasn’t long until Mastroeni’s future the club evaporated too. The Rapids under Pablo stumbled to a 5-4-12 record. The Rapids under Mastroeni did not win a road match in 2017 in ten tries.

The replacement manager, former Assistant Coach Steve Cooke, fared only slightly better, with a 3-2-7 record over the final stretch. His initiation into being manager of the Rapids occurred when Jared Watts passed the ball into his own net for a goal, giving the Rapids a 1-0 loss to fellow cellar-dwellars DC United. It got marginally better from there, but not by much.

Cooke rolled out a number of different lineups and formations, and the team experienced a few bright spots under his leadership. The Rapids got their first road win with a gutsy performance in Houston on September 10, and then spent the month of October tormenting other low-performing MLS teams, hammering nails into the coffins of Montreal, then Dallas, and finally Real Salt Lake.

And now, the season is mercifully dead.

A full report on the specific cause of death is pending a complete autopsy, to be performed for the next few months by the staff here at Burgundy Wave.

In lieu of flowers, the Rapids front office is hoping you’ll see it in your heart to renew your season tickets for 2018.

Maybe the Gif that summarizes our season

Dominique Badji had a chance to get his tenth goal of the season. That would’ve made him the first Rapid to tally double digit goals since Deshorn Brown in 2014. How’d that go?

This opportunity materialized because Harry Shipp committed a handball in the box on a lovely service to the front of goal from Stefan Aigner. It would have been nice for Dom to have nailed this shot, since it would have knotted the match at one goal apiece. He didn’t. Figures.

Deuce gets a Red - Let’s see what else happens

The most important thing that happened in this match was Clint Dempsey being stupid. Dempsey threw a wild elbow at Mike DaFonte and, upon VAR, was given a straight red by referee Chris Penso. At that point, Dempsey is likely going to have to serve a one game suspension.

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But Clint decides to sarcastically applaud the ref, stay on the field, and get into an altercation with Mike da Fonte as they literally go nose to nose.

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This is Mike da Fonte’s peak moment for the 2017 Rapids. Based on his up-and-down play in defense, most of us will not be surprised if it is his last moment in burgundy.

Because he gets physical with another player and because he does not immediately leave the field of play (not to mention the petulant clapping) , Dempsey deserves a two or three game ban for the playoffs. The MLS Disciplinary Committee, however, might elect to keep him on just a one game suspension.

That’d be some shady business by MLS if you ask me: going easy on a top player on a popular team right as they head into the playoffs. If that happens, we know that the occasional complaint that MLS is in the tank for the Sounders is true.

No matter the length of the suspension, if the Sounders lose one of their first couple playoff games while Dempsey is suspended, the Sounders forward will have only himself to blame for making a really stupid decision in the heat of the moment.

Then Axel pulled down Bruin and got a red, and the Sounders converted the PK, and it was 2-0.

And Mohammed Saeid made this face:

‘I’m gonna show her my Mo face.’

We all made that face a lot this year, Mo. Own goals. Red cards. Blown set piece defenses. Hapless possessions. Late game collapses.

The good news is that it’s over. This season is dead. Before we bury it, let’s hope we’ve learned some instructive lessons from it on how to plan for success in the modern MLS. So that next season will be happier, healthier, and end with the shiny steel of a trophy or a shield, and not the cold metal of a coroners table.