On May 1, 2019, the Colorado Rapids fired manager Anthony Hudson after getting just two points in the first nine matches of the season. After that firing, first under Conor Casey, then Robin Fraser, the Rapids went from the basement of the Western Conference to just missing out on the playoffs on the final day of the season.
It seems as though the Burgundy Boys have turned their fortunes around, becoming a dark horse candidate in the Western Conference. After making it to the postseason only once since 2014, the Rapids appeared poised to finally return to the playoffs again before play was suspended in March, as they were off to a 2-0-0 start for the 2020 season.
Despite this renaissance of sorts, they are still merely an afterthought to most MLS supporters. But that could be changing.
Interesting trends for the #MLSisBack tournament:— Pete Watt (@WattAreTheOdds) July 7, 2020
The odds for the @ColoradoRapids to win it are +4000 (2.44% implied chance) and they are 16th-favorite with the oddsmakers.
But that hasn't stopped bettors from backing them more than any other team; 36% of bets in the market.
According to Oddschecker, the Rapids have a 2.44% chance of winning the tournament, yet people are flocking to bet for the Rapids to win. Oddschecker spokesperson Pete Watt said that “the Rapids being the most popular choice in the market is somewhat of a surprise given that they are 16th favorite with the oddsmakers.”
Why, then, are so many people pulling for the Burgundy Boys to win it all? We can think of three reasons.
Roster depth will be crucial in this tournament and it’s no secret that the Rapids possess a plethora of options. Even with the departure of Sam Nicholson, they are at least two deep in each position. This depth could prove to be a difference maker in this tournament, as fixture congestion, heat, injuries, and low fitness will all take their toll on MLS clubs in Florida.
As Head Coach Robin Fraser said in May about the possibility of a modified season: “I think it bodes well for us. I like the depth of our team, and I like the ability to mix and match, and potentially with even more subs that’s something that’s being talked about. I think we have the ability to push games, kind of game in and game out. I feel like we’re really well-positioned for that and the more I think about what this truncated season may look like, I get kind of excited about that because I do think that we have a number of players—at least two players in each position—that on any day we’d be comfortable starting. I don’t know that every team feels that way, but I think this format could suit us really well on certainly like to think so. Based on what we’ve seen and the quality of what training sessions have been like and when all the players are firing on all cylinders, I feel like it could really help us down the stretch.”
Young Argentine attacker Braian Galvan has also joined the club in Orlando, further boosting the depth. It becomes clear that this is a place where the Rapids hold a big advantage over the competition.
Similarly, the Rapids will likely be more fit than other sides, considering that their pre-tournament training took place a mile above sea level. Being more fit than other sides will be a crucial part to this tournament, allowing Colorado to get more out of starting players, as well as substitutes bringing a spark late in games. Combining the depth with the club’s fitness, it’s clear why the Rapids seem set to succeed in Orlando.
As Matt Doyle claimed in his “MLS is Back Tournament contenders ranked by tier” article, the Rapids could be “the best team on attacking set pieces MLS has ever seen.” Colorado has a reputation for being deadly off of set pieces, scoring 17 goals off restarts in 2019.
But all of that together and we might see the Rapids as an offensive juggernaut for the first time in years.
With the first game just days away, the Rapids may finally get the credit they deserve—and their incredible turnaround since the sacking of Anthony Hudson is getting the attention it warrants.