With just two matches left in the 2019 MLS regular season, the Colorado Rapids are still in the playoff chase for one of the final spots in the Western Conference. Think about that for a second… it’s a statement that seemed inconceivable just a month or two ago.
Midfielder Sam Nicholson credits the resurgence to the men beside him in the locker room.
“Considering how bad a season we started with, we’re not far off the playoffs. That’s a pretty good turnaround,” said Nicholson with a smirk and an air of disbelief. “You can’t say we’ve turned it around, because we’re not in the playoffs and that’s the target, but we basically turned around.”
“We were stone-cold bottom of the table and now we’re not far off playoffs – it’s crazy. I know it’s very difficult, but there’s still a chance. Looking at it now, guys are looking back and credit to the players because it would have been easy to give up a long time ago and not one person did.”
Colorado began their late-season turn for the better under interim coach Conor Casey, and one could tell from the outside that the players felt like they’d turned a new page. The old air of disappointment was lifting and players were enjoying the game. “We could see after the first win everyone’s mood changed, everyone was happy being around the place,” he said.
“After the first eleven games, we were sitting here thinking, ‘what the hell is going on here?’ We were playing well enough to win games, obviously there were some games we weren’t good at all, but when we turned things around it just shows you one win gives you so much confidence, you know?”
“It’s difficult because when you’re getting beat it doesn’t matter how strong you are, how positive a person you are, mentally it does take its toll eventually,” Sam admitted to Burgundy Wave. “It was very, very bad for us at that time. When we started getting wins everyone was smiling, everyone was getting on a lot better, it was a totally different turnaround. We started thinking we’re actually not a bad team here.”
They’re certainly not, and adding a positive, MLS-experienced coach like Robin Fraser has continued the upward trend in Colorado’s results and belief in themselves, even when going down in matches. “It’s strange because there’s been times when we’ve been 2-nil down and we never as a team think we’re out of it,” Nicholson assured fans. “We’ve got a good group, strong mentality, and I think we’ll keep building on it as well. If we stop conceding early on, we’ve got some team here.”
The speedy Scotsman hopes that even if the run doesn’t continue and allow the Rapids to sneak into the playoffs this season, that the team’s form and promise for 2020 give the burgundy faithful something to tide them over through the off-season. “It’s good for the fans to start paying them back because they were very loyal to us in some dark times to start the year,” Nicholson said. “Hopefully, they’re enjoying this little bit of success and hopefully we can pay them back even more next year.”
As far as the rest of 2019 goes? Even the staunchest of naysayers can’t deny that the Rapids are not the same side that looked woeful at times early on in the season, and maybe, just maybe, success will continue into October. “We’ve got a chance,” Nicholson reminded everyone. “We’ve pushed other teams, the majority of teams in the playoffs — very good sides — we’ve proven that we’re good enough. I think we need to take this into the last two games, and hopefully into next season as well.”