It’s that time of year again! We’re going through each team in the Western Conference to see how they ended last year, how things have gone in the offseason, and what we might expect from them in 2020. You can find all of the team previews here.
How did they finish in 2019?
9th place in the Western Conference. After a terrible start (0-9-2 in their first 11 games) led to the firing of Anthony Hudson, they ended up narrowly missed the playoffs.
What’s new in 2020?
For starters, it will be Robin Fraser’s first full season as a head coach since Chivas in 2011-2012.
With Tim Howard and Shkelzen Gashi off the books, the Rapids have signed a new Designated Player, attacking midfielder Younes Namli. The 25-year-old has spent time with Dutch Eredivisie clubs HC Heerenveen and PEC Zwolle, and most recently played for FC Krasnodar in the Russian Premier League, who finished second place in the domestic standings. While he hasn’t proven himself in MLS yet, he’s fitting into the team nicely from what we saw in preseason.
The Rapids have also brought in other reinforcements to build a roster that is a balance of young players and experienced veterans.
Tim Howard, Kofi Opare, Tommy Smith, Dillon Serna, Sam Raben, Axel Sjoberg
Auston Trusty, Lalas Abubakar, Drew Moor, Younes Namli, Nicolas Benezet, Abraham Rodriguez, Braian Galvan (in the summer)
What’s the new jersey?
The Nine Six kit and it’s a beaut:
Who’s the coach?
Robin Fraser, former Rapids defender, signed on August 25, 2019.
How summer tournaments impact the squad?
After getting his first USMNT senior cap after the January training camp this year, Sam Vines surely has his sights set on making the Olympic squad. Another Rapid that could potentially make the Olympic team is Jonathan Lewis.
Technically, Chile could choose Diego Rubio as one of their over-23 players, but he has mostly featured as a substitute for the national team, so it’s not likely that he would make the Olympic roster.
This is how I think things will start, but Auston Trusty is definitely in the running for Drew Moor’s spot at CB and Braian Galvan will likely start at right wing once he gets here. I think Sam Nicholson and Jonathan Lewis could switch off until then. I could also see Diego Rubio getting the start over Kei Kamara at some point.
Expectations for 2020?
Playoffs feel like a very reasonable expectation for this squad.
What did we learn last season about this team?
That this is a decent roster. Anthony Hudson was driving this team into the ground and once Conor Casey stepped in and gave them the freedom to think on their own and play their preferred positions, we saw a team that could’ve made the playoffs.
Who is THE player to watch on your team, and why?
All eyes will be on Namli. He is Padraig Smith’s first big DP signing as GM and how he does will be a huge factor in swaying the fanbase’s opinion of Smith. The team has also been in need of a true attacking midfielder for years and we are hoping that Namli can be a difference-maker. Last year, they figured out scoring with Kei Kamara and Diego Rubio, but time will tell if Namli can strengthen the offense.
What’s the biggest concern for this season?
There are unproven players in important positions that make it difficult to predict who will make a difference. I’m not as concerned about this after the preseason, but there are also some battles for positions, like Trusty and Moor to play centerback opposite of Abubakar. What I can tell you is that I expect a strong defense and they are going to score goals.