After an incredible run in the playoffs last season, expectations are high for the Colorado Rapids in 2017. For the most part, fans are trying to stay optimistic and trust the Front Office, but there are still some concerns about how Head Coach Pablo Mastroeni and the Burgundy Boys plan to kickstart the stalled offense. The team hasn’t been sitting around doing nothing, though. So far, the Rapids have signed two Homegrown players with tons of potential, made some solid draft picks, and brought on two exciting players: veteran Alan Gordon and unknown speedster Nana Adjei-Boateng. They also hired former striker Conor Casey to join the coaching staff, who happens to be the Rapids’ all-time leading scorer.
Unless something changes between now and March 4th (and it totally could - the arrival of Shkëlzen Gashi, Jermaine Jones, and Tim Howard were all announced in February or later), this is the squad we’re going into the season with.
Which makes you wonder, what are they doing to improve the offense with the players they have? How are they going to score more goals?
“We’re one of the best defensive teams in the league, so we can rest assure that we have a good starting point for this year. The attacking side of things, we want to continue to improve, add a little bit more structure to, be a bit more determined and dynamic in the way we attack,” said Mastroeni at the preseason camp in Boulder last week. He explained that they’ve been focusing on the offense since day one, but when it comes down to it, “you’ve gotta be the best defensive team when you don’t have the ball and you need to be the best attacking team when you do [in order to win games].”
Last season, the Rapids scored just 39 goals, tying Houston Dynamo for second fewest in MLS, but Mastroeni sees the preseason as “opportunity to emulate the regular season. You’ve gotta take it step-by-step... we’ve got 5 weeks, we’ve got it all mapped out – we know where we’re going, we know how we’re going to get there.”
He’s not the only one feeling confident in the preseason plan. “Last year we were really good defensively,” said Forward Dominique Badji, who scored six goals in 2016. “This preseason we’ve been banging it home of trying to create more attacking chances, starting with the guys that play higher up the field - having them try to stay high and not come back so deep to get the ball. These first couple days of preseason, that’s what Pablo has been trying to instill in us, and so far it looks really good.”
Midfielder Marlon Hairston agreed: “We’re going to have an attacking-style mentality. Last year, we were defensive a lot and we defended with heavy numbers, but this year I think we’re going to be heavy up top, and a fast team with a lot of counter attacks, so that’s definitely something that’s going to help us score goals.”
He also said that “Pablo told us to work on 1v1s... work on finishing... and just make sure we come back to preseason fit. Last year we had a great run, and coming into this year we just want to start off where we ended last year and have a good beginning of the season.”
While Alan Gordon is a new face for the Colorado side, he is ready to take on whatever role the team needs to make an impact on the offense. Saying that Pablo’s coaching style and Sam Cronin’s persistence were a couple of the reasons he came to Colorado, he thinks the Rapids are “a young group, and it’s an exciting group, and I think this team is on an upward trend, so I want to be a part of that.”