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The burgundy malaise: A Front Office problem?

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Clearly 2017 has not gone to plan for the Rapids. How much of that falls on the Front Office?

MLS: U.S. Open Cup-Colorado Rapids at FC Dallas Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Rapids 2017 season has been a massive disappointment so far.

That is not a shocking or particularly earth-shattering thing to say. After setting a record for wins, points, home record, attendance, and nearly winning the Supporters’ Shield in 2016 - expectations were sky high for the Rapids.

Hell, the staff here at the Wave were all quite bullish on the chances of the team in 2017 (except me, but I am a massive pessimist when it comes to this team). Almost everyone predicted playoffs and a high finish.

However, and this requires a 35,000-foot look at it, what is going on is completely and utterly understandable. Take for example the following:

The 2-1 loss to Real Sandy in April had Alan Gordon striking the post with a shot and it rebounded out. In 2016, that ball goes in. The breaks and the good fortune that the team had last season was not going to carry over into this year.

Quite simply, we were due to a return to form. Karma dictated it. So no, this season should not be shocking.

But it is important to take a look and try and find reasons for the regression. Is it something in the water? Is it the Front Office? Is it a lack of depth? We are taking a look at it here at the Wave and would love to hear from you, our readers, as to what you think is up with the team.

But first:

THE PROBLEM IS NOT PABLO. LISTEN TO ME AGAIN, THE PROBLEM IS NOT PABLO.

Now that we have gotten through that, let’s take a look at one of the problem areas, and something that needs to be addressed: The Rapids Front Office.

November 2016

What a great time to be a Rapids fan, eh? Sure, we just got knocked out of the MLS Cup Playoffs by the eventual winners Seattle, but what a season. We made it all the way to the Western Conference Finals. The Rapids had arrived (again) on the scene in Major League Soccer!!!

Sure...we lost. It sucked, but come on. You all had zero expectations going into this season and we uncorked an undefeated home regular season record and we had two massive signings in Jermaine Jones and Tim Howard.

Holy Crap. What a ride.

As a refresher, and important for this article, is the lineup we trotted out that day against the puke green:

Zac MacMath, Eric Miller, Jared Watts, Axel Sjoberg, Marc Burch, Dillon Powers, Micheal Azira, Sebastien Le Toux, Jermaine Jones, Shkelzen Gashi, Kevin Doyle

NOTE: Howard was injured and Sam Cronin was suspended for this match.

Overall, that is a pretty solid lineup. But look at the departures from it since that game:

And what did we get to replace those losses:

  • Josh Gatt
  • Mohammed Saeid

So since the second biggest game in franchise history, the team has lost its Captain, its starting left back, the engine that made the team run, and a solid offensive bench player.

This is not a criticism of Gatt or Saeid, but they are not like for like replacements for the losses.

January 2017

This was a massive moment in the off-season and really should have sent up a major red flag for supporters. When your Technical Director leaves the club, this is a watershed event. Paul Bravo was the Rapids and bled Burgundy for well over a decade for this team. And to see him leave gave a sense of a schism in the front office.

And some legit questions needed to be asked:

  • Who is calling the shots on player acquisition?
  • Is this the reason the Rapids pretty much punted on the off-season? (Name me one major signing that has contributed this year.)
  • Was Bravo forced out? Yes, this is important. If that was the case, it shows there were problems in the Front Office.

Do not discount the importance of this departure.

March 2017 Part One

Nothing against the Loons from Minnesota, but this was a massive Red Flag for me. You do not give up two goals at home to any team, let alone an expansion team. And this game illustrated that the moves that were made in the off-season by the Front Office were inadequate, and showed a complete lack of understanding as to what this team needed.

March 2017 Part Two—The WTF moment of the year

Are you kidding me Front Office? Your solution to a craptastic start is to trade Burch and Cronin for Gatt and Saeid? Sure. OK. If you think that this is a solution to the problem, fine:

BUT DO IT IN THE EFFING OFF-SEASON AND GIVE GATT AND SAEID A PRESEASON TO BED IN WITH THE CLUB.

What were you thinking? You rip the heart out of the team after a few bad games? This was such a bush league move by the team and all I could say to my mates was this: That’s such a Rapids move. ‘Cause, you know, Rapids gonna Rapid.

June 2017

On June 1, it was announced that Rapids President Tim Hinchey was leaving the club for USA Swimming. It sounds like a dream job for Mr. Hinchey and I wish him the absolute best.

But it does create some sticky questions:

  • Who is running the team now, and who are they going to bring in to stabilize and revitalize this club?
  • If you bring in someone from the outside (aka outside of the KSE cartel), what does that mean for the coaching staff, players, and other Front Office staff?
  • Or do you go internal and promote someone? Quite honestly, there is no one already there that’s qualified, so it almost has to be external.

The Present

Right now, the Rapids have been eliminated from the US Open Cup after getting throttled by FC Dallas last night. Three starters (Sjoberg, Powers, Gashi) came off injured in this match. The Rapids also have matches against Houston Dynamo, Seattle Sounders, Toronto FC, and San Jose Earthquakes in the month of July.

This is not looking good for the Burgundy Boys.

And they still don’t have a Technical Director or President.

It feels like the team is back to the “throwing shit at the wall and seeing what sticks” method. That is not the Colorado way, but it sure feels like we are going back to that.

I am not giving up (I have loved this team for too long for that) but it is fair to ask the Front Office following questions:

  1. What is the “Colorado Way?”
  2. What is our style?
  3. What is the plan?
  4. How could your off-season be so poor that it takes a 15-win team to the cellar in a matter of months?
  5. Is there something wrong with the training and fitness staff that so many players have missed time with injuries?

The Front Office needs to shoulder much of the blame for this season. They have not equipped Pablo Mastroeni with the tools that he needs to be successful. It feels like they went with “well, it worked in 2016, so it should work now.” But when every other team in the West has made improvements to their team and the Rapids FO sits there on their hands, it makes you wonder:

What in the hell is going on in Commerce City?