In the weeks leading up to the start of a fresh MLS season, I cannot help, but be excited for my club. I am admittedly a homer, but will try to be as objective as possible throughout my writings for Total-MLS. Seeing as this is my first publication for Total-MLS, please allow me to introduce myself prior to the Colorado Rapids season preview. My name is Tyler Whitesides. I live in Fort Collins, CO. I am an avid member of the supporters’ group Centennial 38 of the illustrious Colorado Rapids, as you may have noted, but I am also a goalkeeper for a semi-professional PASL premier indoor club, FC Denver. I have recently been appointed as the General Manager of the club, since my playing days are numbered. While I am not going to go the route of self-promotion, I do want to allow you to know where my writing position will be coming from. I am a member of a clubhouse, albeit not one as grand as an MLS club, but I do understand the psychology that goes into being a part of a competitive club. I also have a good relationship with several members of the Rapids’ front office, and communicate frequently with several of the players. I am an objective person, one who will always speak my opinion and said opinion will not be persuaded by any outside sources for personal gain. My twitter handle is @ProtectYourNet. If you want to know more about me, just ask.
That is enough about me; let’s get on with the show.
In what should have been a very nerve-wracking lead-up to the season, the Colorado Rapids seemed to be quite cavalier about the fact there was no head coach at the helm of this team. That was the case, of course, until this past weekend. The Rapids added former Rapids great, Pablo Mastroeni to the rank of head coach at Centennial 38’s kickoff party on Saturday, March 8th. However, prior to naming Pablo the coach, there were many people negatively voicing concerns about this. Major news outlets made mention of it; it even became a joke around the league. The funny thing about that is the Rapids did not seem fazed at all. Why would they be? Technically, Pablo had been around for a few months and was handling all of the first-team duties, anyway. As it turns out, they knew he was going to be the head coach longer than a month prior to the official announcement; which means they were holding out for their supporters’ group party or some other reason (e.g., press, contract issues, et cetera), but in an effort to make myself feel special, I choose to believe the former. They had Pablo sign his official contract on live TV and in front of the SG (supporters’ group). I think the announcement was pretty awesome for the club, the supporters, and Pablo. I was in the room and it felt great to be there, but there is still uncertainty that surrounds Pablo as the head coach. Perhaps that was the play; suppose they wanted to distract people from the obvious point that Pablo is unproven as a head coach, and in turn, get free publicity for the club. Clearly, this is conjecture, but the truth is, Pablo is an unproven coach, so that woe looms.
The Rapids had a couple of major turnovers within the club this offseason, and with that came scrutiny. Obviously, losing Oscar Pareja was a blow to the club after they had adamantly insisted that he was staying. While I was a supporter of Oscar, I can understand the desire to go coach for not only a former club, but also where his family is living. After the club had been knocked out of the playoffs last season, there was a stir that Oscar was in talks with his former club. These talks were denied by the Rapids FO (front office), but clearly, something was amiss. As a supporter, I did not want him to leave; especially, after he had helped most of our young talents exceed expectations last season. I mean, Colorado had the top two candidates for MLS Rookie of the Year in Deshorn Brown, and the eventual winner, Dillon Powers. That fact alone would say something about the talent at the club and Pareja’s ability to showcase, or use, that talent. Granted, most of the accolades should be given to Paul Bravo, Tim Hinchey, and the rest of the FO for scouting, drafting, and compiling these guys from a kludge of players to a team, but I think it would be unfair to say Pareja had nothing to do with their growth throughout the year. We also saw the emergence of a few players, as well; Chris Klute (my personal favorite), Clint Irwin, and Shane O’Neill, to name a few.
Pareja was not perfect in his management, and there were rumblings all season of various issues that went on, including the departure of Pablo Mastroeni to LA midseason. I am admittedly one of the people who were skeptical of Pablo coming back because I questioned his loyalty to the club. By him leaving, he appeared to be chasing something in a mercenary fashion. What came to light later on, which I will not discuss here, changed my mind to the point where I have completely reversed this view on Pablo. No, it is not because he came back. I was pretty unhappy with his return, actually. I realize this is difficult to understand, but Pablo did not leave to be a “merc,” he left because of a major issue he had with a certain individual (one who is no longer with the club, go figure). If Pareja were the only loss we suffered during the offseason, I would have been fine with it, but we also lost Wilmer Cabrera to Chivas USA, who was a good soccer mind in his own right.
Now that all the drama (hopefully) has been handled, we can talk about the roster for the 2014 season. The Rapids lost a few players and gained a few players, but the core remains, save for Hendry Thomas, who went to FC Dallas soon after Pareja. The club also saw the departure of a few contributors in Martín Rivero and Jaime Castrillón. With many of the role players leaving, it is up to the draft picks, Jared Watts, Marlon Hairston, and Grant Van De Casteele to make an impact in any way they can. Joe Nasco and John Berner were added as GKs, while Matt Pickens is enjoying his one-way ticket to Norway. The Rapids did add a few good signings, like CDM Jose Mari from Real Zaragoza in La Liga, presumably to replace Hendry Thomas; Marc Burch from the re-entry draft; and Mavin Chavez from San Jose for the woeful Atiba Harris. With so little turnover at key roles, however; I feel the club is poised to be better this year.
I want to make a prediction about a player, because I feel this guy is going to blossom this season and is worthy of a little bit of attention. Dillon Serna will become one hell of a player this year. He may not get a ton of starts, but he is a player to watch.
Let’s take a look what a starting line-up could look like:
Clint Irwin; Chris Klute, Drew Moor, Marc Burch, Shane O’Neill; Jose Mari, Nick LaBrocca, Dillon Powers; Deshorn Brown, Gaby Torres, Vicente Sanchez
This is just my Starting XI, and I am unsure where the decisions will be different, but even in doing this, I feel there is some serious depth everywhere, except RB.
I am not delusional and going to say that the Rapids are going to win it all, but I do feel great about this team. My prediction for the club: 15-9-10, this will be good enough for third in the west. I would like to think they could get to 16 or 17 wins, but I do not think it will happen this year.
P.S. I look forward to working with the Total-MLS team to promote a great site, league, and club. Thank you for the opportunity.
(image courtesy of coloradorapids.com)