Thankfully, the 2019 season is winding down for the Colorado Rapids. It has been the most interesting—and most bizarre—year in recent club history.
Things started with a feeling of potential and excitement with Snow Clasico 3 against Portland, but went downhill quickly with the 9-game winless streak under former Head Coach Anthony Hudson. His off-the-cuff post-game comments in Atlanta most likely cost Hudson his job and he was fired on May 1st.
Conor Casey brought a sense of stability with 7 wins, 5 losses, and 4 draws in 16 matches. With Conor at the helm, we saw some impressive wins (like the 6-3 thrashing of Montreal), but also some embarrassing and confusing defeats in both the US Open Cup home game debacle vs. New Mexico United and another tough loss at Rio Tinto Stadium in the Rocky Mountain Cup rivalry.
Robin Fraser was named permanent head coach on August 25th and started off his tenure with a convincing 2-0 drubbing of New York Red Bulls and the club’s first victory at Red Bull Arena, followed by two wins at DSGP, and a solid effort against Toronto FC in Canada. Here we go again, with lots of potential and promise.
In short, this season reads as one of the greatest bouts of turbulence, but also plenty of optimism for the future.
Executive Vice President and General Manager Padraig Smith certainly has endured an interesting year. With each move he has made, the pressure to deliver on the promises made in the now-infamous Rapids Way op-ed in The Denver Post have mounted. Given how this year was supposed to be a playoff-contending season that went quickly awry with the Hudson era and its sudden end in Atlanta, it’s a fair statement that Smith is still on the hot seat.
In all fairness, Smith is responsible for both the successes and failures this season. Yes, he certainly had some great acquisitions: Kei Kamara, Diego Rubio, Lalas Abubakar, the return of Clint Irwin, Keagan Rosenberry, and Kellyn Acosta. Not to mention bringing in the best possible head coach, given the circumstances, by hiring Fraser.
However, he has also overseen the colossal whiffs of the last three seasons: Hudson, Stefan Aigner, Yannick Boli, and Benny Feilhaber, among others. And just for extra credit, the regression and eventual dismissal of Shkelzen Gashi. Financially speaking, Smith has been both a spendthrift and reckless with the money.
I will lean to the side of optimism, mostly because Smith did land the right manager on the second try. I think Fraser will bring about a real change in how we play. Having watched him in action at practice, I can tell you he is both a patient teacher and a demanding manager. The game against the Red Bulls showed us a small snippet of what is possible.
I expect the remaining games in 2019 to be very competitive. With any luck, we can finish up with 38-40 points.
How do you think the Rapids are going to finish out these last three games?