A funny thing happened to Colorado Rapids’ supporters around Christmastime: We were involved in the CONCACAF Champions League draw. Thinking about the last two seasons makes this feel even more surreal:
- The Rapids were just one game away from making it to the MLS Cup finals in 2016 to play Toronto FC, ending an unlikely but magical season.
- Pablo Mastroeni’s contract was then extended for another three (!) years.
- The Rapids had a horrendous start to 2017 after trading team captain Sam Cronin and veteran Marc Burch to Minnesota United.
- President Tim Hinchey announced he is leaving the club. Padraig Smith and Wayne Brant were named to interim leadership positions.
- Midway through the 2017 season, the Front Office fired Mastroeni.
- The Rapids finished last year in 9th place in the Western Conference (9-6-19) with 33 points (barely beating the LA Galaxy by a single point).
- Anthony Hudson was named new head coach on November 29th, and just a couple of weeks later, assistant coach (and interim head coach) Steve Cooke announced that he had accepted a head coaching position with the USL’s Oklahoma Energy FC.
After such a horrendous season, the thought of our Rapids being in Champions League is a little mind-boggling.
But here we are, just two weeks away from the February 20th first leg match at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park with our foe, Toronto FC. For some, the excitement of being in a CCL draw was dampened by the Rapids having to play another MLS side, but here are three reasons why this may work to our advantage:
- Both the Rapids and Toronto FC will be in offseason form, whereas a Liga MX side would be in midseason form. Yes, yes, I know it was exciting to think of playing Tigres or Tijuana, and if the Rapids survive this round, those supporters will get their wish. But Liga MX just finished the Apertura and have now started the Clausura portion of their season. The Rapids finished more than two months ago and won’t play another official match until the first leg on February 20th.
- Toronto played late into 2017, and could be recovering from an MLS Cup “hangover.” This could be wishful thinking on our parts, hoping for a letdown on their part. Granted, MLS players are professionals, and everyone will be working hard to get ready. Toronto has the incentive to follow up the 2017 ‘treble’ with a 2018 ‘quadruple’ (Supporter Shield, Canadian Cup, MLS Cup repeat, and CONCACAF Champions League Winners). That run starts with the Colorado Rapids on February 20th.
- Anthony Hudson and the Rapids Front Office are in hyperdrive putting a competitive team together sooner rather than later. And are they ever! Players were told to arrive at preseason in top condition, and Hudson recently said:
We don’t really have the luxury of a honeymoon period, given the fact that we’ve got a four-week preseason. We need to focus on the process and making sure the players come in as fit as possible, making sure we are ahead of the game in terms of how I want to play.
The Burgundy Wave has been abuzz (or should that be splashing, since waves aren’t known to buzz? But I digress) with new additions to the squad. Now about that striker....
Are you pumped about the CCL match on February 20, even if it is against Toronto FC?