Just about everyone associated with the Colorado Rapids would agree that expectations were high going into 2019, so it was a huge disappointment when the club started out winless in their first 11 MLS matches. However, the last few months of the season brought many fans back from the brink and has them more confident than anyone could have imagined back in May. The finish under new Head Coach Robin Fraser was enough to convince fans to start believing again that their club is headed in the right direction.
“If we can continue the pace we had the second half of the season, playoffs are very doable next year. I think we’ve got a great team,” Colorado Rapids fan Ryan recently told Burgundy Wave.
“In the second half of the season, I feel like that was the first time I saw where playing at altitude, then going away, actually benefited us,” admitted April. “This is the first time since we’ve been season ticket members that when we were down 2-0 I didn’t feel it was a loss. I felt like there was a chance.”
Some feel there are a couple of roster moves that need to happen, but all in all, playoffs are the benchmark according to fans like Christian. “Bringing in a solid DP, whether that be in midfielder or solid defender, or making the playoffs, or both—I’d take both. We’re going to shoot for mid-table so let’s say 4th or 5th, and hopefully see if Robin [Fraser] succeeds as well.”
“Playoffs definitely, but just not digging ourselves in a hole, make it easier. Can’t go the first two months without a victory. Starting off on the right foot,” said John. “We need some new leaders, some senior guys to come in and help with the young guys. You look around the league, they’ve got players with a ton of experience and leadership on the field that can help groom the young guys.”
Developing those younger players is one area in which Colorado has been able to show some success recently. Homegrowns Cole Bassett, Sebastian Anderson, Sam Vines, combined with players brought in such as Jonathon Lewis and 2019 MLS Rookie of the Year Andre Shinyashiki, are forming a strong base for the future up the spine and on defense for the Rapids. “It’s awesome to see people like Shinyashiki coming up playing really well, the young guys, that’s the future of the club,” said John.
There is plenty of hope to go around as Rapids fans look ahead a few months to the start of 2020, with many agreeing that bringing back Rapids Defensive Player of the Year Lalas Abubakar on a permanent move from his loan being paramount. “As long as we keep Lalas I’ll be happy. If you keep him, you don’t need a new centerback and that frees up a spot so now you can add an attacking midfielder or another forward, because Kei [Kamara] is going to need more help,” Ryan points out.
That move could prove key in shoring up the defense, with which Colorado struggled early on in 2019, but really saw Sam Vines, Keegan Rosenberry, Tommy Smith, and Lalas come together towards the latter half of the season. Ryan agreed, saying, “Vines and Rosenberry I thought did such a great job, and Smith I wasn’t too keen on until this season when I felt having Abubakar beside him helped.” Another piece that may help is 2019 Colorado Springs Switchbacks Fan Favorite award winner Abdul Rwatubyaye, a centerback on loan from the Rapids last season.
Many fans also see that the budget will take a huge step up as dollars, freed up as higher-paid players have departed, will now be available to try and entice other top-notch talent to come to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. “With money freeing up, we’ve got so much money for DPs, I’m really excited to see what they do,” said Ryan. “I don’t want to say I don’t have reservations, but I feel like the team is there, the team is ready. We just need that little bit of extra something on the field and I’m hoping with the DP slots we can get that.”
“You’ve got to loosen up the purse strings. You’ve got to spend some money,” John agreed. But, he also went on to say what many fans have described in past seasons as what they see as a lack of commitment from KSE. “I don’t want to beat up on Kroenke, but we need to have a little bit more ownership involvement. He’s a businessman, and maybe bite my tongue, sell the club to someone else who may want to take it to the next level.”
All in all, Rapids fans are weary of being outside looking in at the MLS playoffs the past three seasons, as evident in John’s statement, “Looking at the history, we’ve had the talent but we just haven’t been able to put it together. That’s been frustrating to me.”
However, fans like Ryan and April also see enough in what should carry-over in the roster to believe the team can end the drought. “The way the team played, every game they came and played, never gave up. That’s my biggest hope is that these players don’t seem to want to give up. If we can get the crowd behind them, and start winning more regularly, I think it’s better.”