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Colorado Rapids executed early from CCL, what will their 2022 MLS season look like?

MLS: Los Angeles FC at Colorado Rapids Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Rapids are coming off one of their best years in club history, going best in the West during MLS’ regular season.

2022 has already started sour due to a slow offseason that lacked a spotlight signing and an early bump from Concacaf Champions League earlier this week. In two legs against Comunicaciones F.C., the most significant issues the Burgundy faithfully thought may pop up this year did. The Rapids scored one goal in 180 minutes of play, including nearly 80 minutes in which they were up 11 on 10. Their Round of 16 set went to penalty kicks, and then again, the Rapids struggled to put the ball in goal, missing on four of their seven chances.

Head coach Robin Fraser snarkily said postgame that all Colorado was missing against the Guatemalan side was a second goal. He went on to say that his club “just needs to execute.”

Over 180 minutes of competitive play, the Rapids showed solid defending and an ability to create. They just didn’t finish. For the club that has been best in the league at knocking in set-pieces over the last few years, a big bruising striker with some verticality seems like a must.

Despite our reporting of the Rapids targeting a striker and closing in on a few targets, a deal was never executed for a No. 9. Something that may haunt the Rapids come playoff time.

Colorado Rapids 2021: 17-10-7, No. 1 in the West, lost in the second round of MLS Cup Playoffs after advancing via bye.

Head coach: Robin Fraser

Key additions (just a list the players): Bryan Acosta, Max Alves da Silva, Aboubacar Keita

Key losses (just a list of players): Kellyn Acosta, Cole Bassett, Dominique Badji, Younes Namli and Aston Tusty (loaned back to Colorado but leaving in the summer)

Projected Best XI: This was the group Colorado ran out there for their opener in Concacaf Champions League, and their start of the season MLS group should be about the same.

Best offseason move: The Rapids snagged free agent Bryan Acosta. The midfielder could be a great piece next to Mark-Anthony Kaye and Jack Price. Acosta replaces Kellyn Acosta and Cole Bassett, who were each integral to the Rapids’ midfield last season. The new Acosta is a former Designated Player who didn’t have a great run in Dallas. It’s just another move from the Rapids where they get a talented player from another club where they’ve struggled. Could the Rocky Mountain scenery be just what Bryan needed in getting away from Dallas? It worked for Kellyn and Michael Barrios.

It is worth noting that in Max’s first start, he scored and may have been Colorado’s best player. Acosta is the more prominent name but Max may have a more significant impact.

Best reason to pay attention: The way Colorado’s front office has built the Rapids is to be good and fun to watch. The Rapids have been putting in goals in various fun ways for several years, but under Fraser, the club has become one of the stronger defensive teams in MLS. The Rapids play an all-around style centered around MLS veterans and internationals you probably haven’t heard of. They’re scrappy and even the underdog when they’re not—which they are not this year as reigning Western Conference regular-season champs. This season will be all about if the Rapids can sustain success and stay winning after a round of selling. If Colorado can still stay near the top of the West, they’re vying for long-term success in the league. If the Rapids falter, its’ the same old flash in the pan club we’ve seen for much of their existence.

The one glaring weakness: The Rapids are not using any of their three Designated Player slots and lack a striker. The obvious move would’ve been to sign a big name forward, especially after being bounced from two straight postseasons without scoring a goal. Colorado has yet to add that piece, despite insisting they were targeting that position this winter. The club scored a-middle-of-the-pack 50 goals last season, 13 of which were tallied by players already off the roster. Another two came from Braian Galván, who will miss significant time due to knee surgery. The biggest question for the Rapids is, where do the goals from? And ‘moneyballing’ goals for a regular-season may work, but it’s proven to be a weakness in big matches, so now what? A lot of hope is in Diego Rubio, who scored five goals last season and only three the year before that but lit up for 11 in 2019. Even still Rubio is small for a striker and the Rapids best way of scoring goals is off of set pieces. Price has nailed free kicks for several years, making Colorado the most dangerous deadball team in the league. But without a true No. 9 can they keep going in?

One fact you can use to impress your friends: The Rapids have earned 1.68 points per MLS match under Robin Fraser; that’s the best mark by a manager in club history. Fraser is entering his third full season and fourth overall with a whistle in Burgundy.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe character who most personifies this team: Hawkeye, just a regular dude with no powers, but he’s still an Avenger.