I’ve been waiting to write this because I’ve been waiting for things to stop changing in the 5280 (that’s fancy talk for Denver) for long enough that I might be able to write a decent season preview. I’ll give it a shot…
Out With The Old…
While a good number of people weren’t pleased with the lack of emphasis the Rapids placed (didn’t place?) on the CONCACAF Champion’s League and Open Cup last year, most still didn’t want to see head coach Gary Smith sacked just a season after coaching the Rapids to an MLS Cup. Nevertheless, we said goodbye to Smith and his right hand man Steve Guppy, and entered a roller-coaster of an off season.
The Rapids lost Mac Kandji in a trade to Houston (we’ll never forget your sacrifice, Mac), and released Caleb Folan (who has since signed to Birmingham City) leaving some definite gaps in the versatility of our front line.
And In With the New…
The Rapids named a new President, Tim Hinchey, who is trying his hand at creating a more open social media environment (I think he scolded me on Twitter..?), which I think is worth noting in a season preview, because the FO does have a direct effect on the fan experience and the season.
After what seemed like an eternity of waiting (I’m not being dramatic, it really felt like an eternity), Oscar Pareja, most recently of FC Dallas, was named the new head coach.
Pareja has promised to bring a more attacking style of play to Colorado, which we’ve gotten a taste of in preseason action at the Hawaiian Islands Invitational this past week. The Rapids only have four players on the roster that are technically forwards (including injured Conor Casey, whose return is awaited by many with bated breath), but we have plenty of versatile, qualified midfielders to fill in the 4-3-3 formation Pareja is trying out. With new signings Jaime Castrillon, Kohei Yamala, and Tony Cascio (who scored one of two preseason goals; Ironman Drew Moor scored the other) joining veteran forces like Omar Cummings and Jeff Larentowicz, I think we’ve got the potential for some real depth and exciting striking combinations.
Another Rapids fan (and I can’t remember who it was, or I’d give them credit here) commented that while attacking football fills your stands, defensive football fills your trophy cases, and I can see some validity in that statement. However, with Matt Pickens or Stew Ceus in the net and any combination of Kimura, Wallace, Wynne, Marshall, and/or new signing Luis Zapata on the back line, I think the Rapids can find balance and be a legitimate threat this season once they’ve settled into the new system, even without the ability to prey on the weaker Eastern Conference like we have done in past seasons.
I can’t write a preview of the season without my mind drifting to all the excitement of watching the game live, I feel like I need to add that if you’re reading this and have never been to a match, I’d like to personally invite you to experience the Terraces with myself and the Pid Army, or at least explore what Rapids supporter culture has to offer at www.nofanalone.com.
Glory, glory Colorado!
(image courtesy of coloradorapids.com)