For me, one of the toughest parts of this 2017 season is not simply the play on the pitch (more on that later), but hearing that 2016 was a fluke for the Colorado Rapids.
To be fair, it's a natural conclusion. If 2014 stunk, 2015 stunk worse, and 2017 looks to rival the first two mentioned unless something changes, it’s not looking good. The Rapids walked the proverbial tightrope offensively last year, but still found ways to win and go for what seemed like an eternity with their streak of not losing at home from October 2015 until that RSL wreckage on April 15, 2017.
In a discussion board, someone made the comment that it was like "2016 never happened." Without hard data, no one can know if anyone else shares that sentiment, but it did happen. It's a part of our history. Thirty-four games plus three playoff games where we lost 1-0 in the Western Conference Finals to eventual MLS Cup 2016 champion Seattle Sounders did happen.
Now that’s out of the way, let's discuss another comparison
Another comparison bandied about is this: Rapids fans should take solace in the 2016 Sounders, who flipped a switch in August, went on an incredible run, then won the MLS Cup.
However, two things happened prior to this run:
Nicolas Lodeiro joined the team. As a result, it's been suggested that if the Rapids acquire someone of his caliber, we could see better days. A case could be made: the Rapids have their share of chances, but they just cannot find the back of the net. Colorado gave Minnesota United FC their first point and now their first clean sheet. Last year, if we were up 1-0, we had a good chance of winning. This year, if we're 1-0 down, we have a good chance of losing, especially on the road (unless something changes). Once guys return from injury and they pick up their 'Lodiero,' the Rapids could turn their fortunes around.
But there's one other thing the Sounders did - they fired Sigi Schmid. Leadership Expert John Maxwell noted that "everything rises and falls on leadership." While the Sam Cronin/Marc Burch trade may turn out rosy for the Rapids at some point, the short-term affect is that we lost leaders on the pitch. Cronin communicated and provided some experience and organization to a young squad.
Mind you, I'm not calling for Pablo Mastroeni's firing. He has provided so much to our club in his time as a player and his willingness to take the reins as a coach. I understand that, to many who are long time supporters of the club, that this could border on blasphemy. Did 2016 show that Mastroeni has potential to lead the Rapids to future glory? If Mastroeni had a full and healthy squad at his disposal, would we be at least middle of the Western Conference pack?
If we could only understand the philosophy
If we as Rapids fans could only understand the “Rapids way.” Seeing scorers with so much potential—like Marco Pappa and Sebastian LeToux (even Jermaine Jones)—just leave is tough, especially when none of us knows for sure what happened behind the scenes to make these marriages break apart (irreconcilable differences?).
I confess: I look at other teams with ownership all in and a clear philosophy in place, and wish I could “feel” that. In 2016, it was a stout defense and an offense that does juuust enough. This year? Rebuilding? Many of us were hoping to build on something great. But this year is giving those who hoped to build on 2016 a major case of disappointment instead, and those who feel 2016 was a fluke the right to say "see-I-told-ya-so!"
But can we at least try this
Can we at least relish 2016 as amazing season without discarding it because of 2017? Or 2015? Put 2016 on the shelf. Remember the amazing moments, but let's not tarnish it.
But please, FO. Please have something in the works that will provide 2017 with its own amazing moments.
Otherwise, I fear it'll be lonely in 121 again—just like 2015.