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Boring and Stagnant: The 2017 Rapids’ Biggest Crime

The Colorado Rapids are in desperate need of a spark that they seem uninterested in providing.

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Colorado Rapids
The scene of the crime.
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

I've used the "I picked the wrong year to quit drinking" joke a lot this year. (It is generally followed up by someone saying they picked the wrong year to stop sniffing glue. My friends are good people.) Looking back on, say, the 2012 season, it was a lot easier to get through because of the ocean of Strongbow that followed me through the deep canals of tragedy that Oscar Pareja's side provided. I fondly remember the final match of that season, a 2-0 bore-fest against the Houston Dynamo, where the only highlight was Tally Hall overhearing me talk about how awful he was in Football Manager and yelling back that he was pissed off about that too. Prior to that match, the British Bulldog held a Strongbow drinking contest, which was really just a (successful) attempt to get people at the bar to buy more Strongbow. Whoever drank the most pints of it in a two-hour period won a soccer ball emblazoned with the cider company’s logo. I won the contest. The game was surprisingly watchable as a result. I'm not going to say that I recommend watching Rapids games after drinking nine pints in a two-hour period, but I am going to heavily imply it.

Sobriety, when faced with this current iteration of the Rapids, is not a fun experience.

Saturday's game against the Vancouver Whitecaps was, on paper, an exciting match as draws go. Four goals were scored, after all, and David Ousted made a batch of splendid saves. That said, I can barely remember a single damn one of them. People who know me well know that my calling card is remembering all sorts of stupid details about Rapids games of the past - I vividly remember just about every minute of the 4-1 win over the Philadelphia Union in 2010, little things like Jeff Larentowicz's "yap yap" motion to Sounders fans after his goal in the 2011 match where Conor Casey tore his Achilles tendon, and every Rapids goal that Caleb Folan ever scored. (Remembering Caleb Folan at all should probably count for something.)

I could rattle off 100 more random moments in matches even just since I started this site that I remember for absolutely no reason. Literally the only thing I remember about the match on Saturday was laughing at Kevin Doyle basically being slide-tackled by his own teammate while scoring a goal. This is the greatest crime of this Rapids team; unless they are pulling off a stunner with a late Alan Gordon winner, they are spectacularly boring. (Despite their best attempts to do so by playing him every single match, they will not be getting a lot of those this season.)

Say what you will about Gary Smith's 2010 Rapids team, but at least stuff happened during their matches. The Pablo Mastroeni and Jeff Larentowicz duo in central midfield was fierce, fantastic at pressing and involved in every play. Conor Casey and Omar Cummings were a joy to watch, perfectly balancing their skills with each other to produce a surprising amount of goals for an ostensibly boring team. Dominique Badji and Kevin Doyle, by comparison, are the Chinatown knockoff version of that duo, sitting next to the "Rolox" watches and dirtied quartzite jewelry on a shady dealer's table. Gary Smith's teams also made the playoffs two of his three years here, and it would have been three for three had Real Salt Lake not fallen as ass-backwards as possible into that final playoff spot in 2009 (which, you know, is something to tout).

Mastroeni's "greatest team in Rapids history" has been his only playoff team, and that team was still mired in 0-0/1-1 draws and scrappy 1-0 wins more than the dominating performances that the eventual Supporters' Shield winners from Dallas were defined by.

Attendance is dwindling for the Rapids this year; the fact that the team was actually doing well along with perhaps a slight Tim Howard interest bump saw attendance spike in 2016 up to an average of over 16,000 fans a match, featuring a string of sellouts and near-sellouts to finish the season out. It was the first time that the Rapids had ever hit the 16k mark since Dick's Sporting Goods Park opened in 2007. With Colorado's attention on them for the first time since their MLS Cup victory—the Rapids failed miserably to capitalize on that, too—they had a chance to make their presence known and finally perform that push forward as a brand and team they'd been talking a big game about since Tim Hinchey's hiring. Just like 2011, the Rapids made no new major signings, refused to acknowledge that luck played a part in their 2016 magic, and took only a few listless games to change their story to it being "a rebuilding season". Thanks to their often unwatchable soccer and bungling of their storylines, they're actually averaging fewer fans per match this year than they were in the dreadful 2015 season (15,358 to 15,657).

A new coach, a major signing that isn't a goalkeeper, a new style of play to finally match the ambitious attacking style they've been, quite frankly, lying about trying to implement since Pablo's inaugural season, or anything really to inspire something of a spark in this team would be a breath of fresh air for a team stuck in a mire of mediocrity.

Instead, in a league where first-year manager Curt Onalfo got canned with a 6-10-4 record from a franchise clearly in transition that still accepts nothing less than a yearly MLS Cup contender, the Rapids are signing new players in the only position they're ostensibly strong in, keeping a coach with a 38-50-34 record on a seat not hot, but cold as ice, and playing soccer as boring as ever. Those who have watched for years have fallen back into the familiar reality of seeing a single decent season followed by a quick descent back to nothing. Those who haven’t can't be blamed for immediately shifting their interest elsewhere.

Seriously though, I picked the wrong year to quit drinking.