With just THREE DAYS until the home opener, it’s time to catch up on what you might have missed with the Colorado Rapids in the offseason.
How did they finish in 2018?
I think it’s safe to say we are all ready to move on from 2018 and look forward to 2019, so let’s make this quick.
Last year, the Colorado Rapids set a record for fewest points in a 34-game season and only scored 36 goals, which put them last in MLS in GF. The Rapids managed to avoid the Wooden Spoon (thank you San Jose!) and finished 22nd overall out of 23 MLS teams.
What’s new in 2019?
There have been significant roster changes this offseason that have given fans hope that things will turn around. A big focus was bringing in players that have already proven themselves in MLS, reducing the adjustment phase that many international players experience.
Who’s in? Benny Feilhaber (LAFC), Matt Hundley (Homegrown/Academy), Clint Irwin (Toronto FC), Kei Kamara (Vancouver Whitecaps), Nicolas Mezquida (Vancouver Whitecaps), Andre Rawls (NYC FC), Keegan Rosenberry (Philadelphia Union), Diego Rubio (Sporting Kansas City), Andre Shinyashiki (Draftee/DU grad), Kofi Opare (DC United - just announced on Monday)
Who’s out? Zac MacMath, Marlon Hairston, Edgar Castillo, Enzo Martinez, Giles Barnes, Jack McBean, Kip Colvey, Mike da Fonte, Sam Hamilton, Ricardo Perez, Caleb Calvert, Andrew Dykstra, Yannick Boli
Who is the player to watch?
This is an exciting question to answer because we several players that could potentially stand out this year. Kamara could be the goal scorer that we’ve been praying for, but Rubio might surprise us. Feilhaber is surely looking to be the guy again and Howard is playing his last season of professional soccer ever.
The wild card is Shkelzen Gashi. He hadn’t done much of anything over the last two seasons, but seems to be getting back into form (and shape). It’s the last year of his contract and Gashi is almost 31, so he’s surely trying to impress someone so that his career doesn’t end when the season ends.
What’s the new jersey look like?
The “Black Diamond” secondary/away/community kit was released on February 19, 2019. The club had a fan photo shoot at Odell Brewing Company in RiNo instead of a jersey party like they’ve had the last couple of years.
What are we most excited about for this season?
For the most part, the FO has done the work to bring in guys that have proven themselves in MLS, adding key players to the offense, midfield, and defense. Howard is playing his last season in professional soccer and we’ve also got some younger new guys coming up. Gashi is looking like his 2016 self and seems to be more fit than ever.
We also know that Kamara and Feilhaber bring big personalities to the club and I’m looking forward to seeing the impact they can have on and off the field. I’ve heard Kamara is already emerging as a leader and the new guys are fitting in nicely. By all accounts, team morale is high and everyone is putting in the work.
What’s the biggest concern for this season?
The big question that remains on my mind is whether or not Anthony Hudson can coach these players. He spoke with ExtraTime Radio about how he underestimated MLS and learned some lessons. I’ve heard good things about the most recent preseason matches, but until we actually see the team in action, I’m not totally convinced.
Expectations for 2019?
Best case is the Rapids make the playoffs. With the experience and talent on the roster—and considering almost 60% of the league makes the playoffs—it’s definitely a reasonable expectation.
Worse case is that nothing changes and the Rapids finish at the bottom of the table again. Sure, the FO has improved the roster, but so has every other team.
Projected starting XI
Tim Howard; Keegan Rosenberry, Kofi Opare (?), Axel Sjoberg, Sam Vines; Benny Feilhaber, Kellyn Acosta, Nicolas Mezquida, Jack Price; Diego Rubio, Kei Kamara
So far, reported injuries include: Tommy Smith is questionable and Kortne Ford is out.
How much could this change after the season starts?
Honestly, I can’t seeing it changing all that much unless there are some injuries. I’d like to see some consistency along the back line (#TeamAxel), maybe move Benny into the #10 position, and bring Cole Bassett into the midfield, but this feels like a solid starting XI for now.
We have several (!) quality forwards this year, so we could see any combo of Kamara, Rubio, Gashi, Niki Jackson, and Andre Shinyashaki throughout the season.