After bringing in a few exciting players in the offseason and filling some much-needed gaps in the roster, the Colorado Rapids fanbase was feeling hopeful that the 2019 season was going to start strong. Many of us predicted that the club would finish somewhere near the playoff line, which would be a huge improvement over last year.
Instead, at just eight games in, the Rapids are on track for their worst season ever and the fanbase is getting restless already.
First, the defense
While we are seeing more goals for the Burgundy Boys, Colorado’s defense is absolutely leaking on the other end, averaging 2.9 goals per game. After the 4-1 loss in Chicago last weekend, midfielder Benny Feilhaber said, “it’s not a secret, everybody in MLS knows we have been gouged. What is it now, 14 goals in four games, is that right? Four, three, four, four? Or four, three, four, three? Something like that? Whatever it is, I think it’s 14 goals in four games. If you’re giving up 3.5 goals a game, you’re going to win literally no games. Until we figure that out, there is not much to talk about.”
The team has actually given up 15 goals in the last four games, while scoring seven.
To be fair, it’s difficult for the defense to develop chemistry when the only real consistency we’ve seen it the backline so far is Keegan Rosenberry on the right side. There’s been a bit of consistency on the left in that it was Dillon Serna for a few games and then Sam Vines for the last two, but there have been SEVEN different centerback pairings in the eight games: Axel Sjoberg/Deklan Wynne, Axel Sjoberg/Tommy Smith, Deklan Wynne/Danny Wilson, Kofi Opare/Tommy Smith, Kofi Opare/Deklan Wynne, and Kofi Opare/Axel Sjoberg (these last two were in the Orlando City match, thank you @AMountainTiger!).
But there’s also the issue of players not knowing where they need to be or how to move off the ball. For example, Serna did a fine job at left back for the first couple of games, but got absolutely burned by Alberth Elis in the Houston game. Sam Vines also got caught too far up the pitch, drifted too far from the centerbacks, and also left the backline exposed. Then we have the red cards, the silly mistakes, and the lack of focus from the centerbacks.
No one is off the hook for this, but honestly Tim Howard is probably our best defensive player so far this year. There has been some blame thrown his way, but if you look at the goals, there’s not much he could’ve done on most of them.
So who is to blame?
Everyone managed to stay positive for the first few games and we heard Anthony Hudson say things like “the biggest problem for us was the start of the game again” and “there were situations where we weren’t as brave and positive as we should’ve been.”
The tone has since shifted from general frustration and disappointment to calling out the players: “we gave away some bad goals” and “I clearly have to make sure I pick the right back four, and as of yet, I haven’t. No one’s convinced me. No one is showing me they should be starting.”
On that note, Marco Cummings reported that they are looking to bring in another player before the Primary Transfer Window closes on May 7th.
Last year, one of the biggest things we wanted from Hudson was to hear him take some responsibility for what was going on. To his credit, he did just that in a conversation with the Denver Post’s Jake Shapiro, saying “I don’t think it’s about pointing the blame to anyone. I’m the one who takes responsibility. I’m the one who is accountable. I’m so unhappy about this situation, so unhappy about where we are. I have no doubt in our abilities as coaches. In terms of what we’re doing, I know what we’re doing now is not good enough.”
Speaking of the coaching
In his 42 regular season MLS matches, Anthony Hudson has earned an 8-25-9 record, which is a 19% winning percentage. The graph below likely includes the two CCL and one Open Cup loss, pulling the percentage down even more.
It’s worth mentioning here that Pablo Mastroeni’s first season as head coach of the Rapids was almost identical, with a final record of 8-18-8 in 2014. Under Mastroeni, the Rapids got one win in their first eight games the next season, but also managed five draws. The club finished the 2015 season with a record of 9-15-10.
I am not about calling for people’s jobs because we’re all trying to make a living one way or another, but at some point, we have to admit that this just isn’t good enough. Pablo had the one good run in 2016, but was fired the year after—do we really need to go through a few more years of poor results for the FO to realize that coaching matters?
If they do let Hudson go mid-season, are we back to rebuilding with a new coach who will surely want to bring in his own players and make his own mark?
When we are told that the goal is for the Rapids to be a perennial playoff team and things look the way they do, it’s laughable to think that we’ll get off the bottom of the table, much less make the playoffs.
Atlanta has to be make or break
After last weekend, many fans have been questioning whether or not Anthony Hudson should be fired. It’s highly unlikely that he would have been let go in between away matches, which is why the match this weekend against Atlanta United has to be make or break for the head coach.
ATLUD is having a rough season themselves, sitting at the bottom of the Eastern Conference with a record of 1-3-2 and still without a win at home. They’ve only scored five goals and have been struggling with the loss of Tata Martino and Miguel Almiron in the offseason.
The Rapids absolutely have a chance to go in there and get three points.
And let’s say they do. Let’s say they go in and win 3-2. Does that indicate that things are turning around or does it just buy Anthony Hudson a couple more games? If they lose, is there any hope for this season? After Atlanta, the Rapids come back to Colorado to host the Vancouver Whitecaps (who are 1-5-2, with a win against Western Conference powerhouse LAFC) and Real Salt Lake (3-4-1).
If the Rapids want to salvage this season, it’s obvious that they have got to start getting some points. But instead, every game seems to bring more questions than answers about the direction and future of the club.
If you are part of the disgruntled fanbase, what would it take for the club to win you over? A couple wins? Firing Hudson? We want to hear your thoughts in the comments below.