The 2017 Major League Soccer season is upon us. The Colorado Rapids are coming off of their best season since winning MLS Cup. There haven’t been many chances to the squad since 2016. But there are new expectations for the Burgundy and White. And they are now a known quantity to the rest of MLS. Here are the major questions burning for this writer for the 2017 Colorado Rapids season.
Three Questions For The 2017 Colorado Rapids Season
How Will The Attack Improve?
The one weakness the Rapids had last year was that they didn’t score much. When you’ve bot the best defense in the league, that isn’t a huge problem. That said, a stalled offense ultimately was their undoing in the Western Conference Finals.
The club parted ways with Jermaine Jones and Marco Pappa, but every other noteworthy offensive piece is back for this year. The young kids like Marlon Hairston and Dominique Badji are looking to improve on breakout seasons. Dillon Serna has almost made a full recovery from his serious knee injury.
Emperor Shkelzen Gashi is back. Designated Players (especially forwards) tend to improve significantly from their first year in MLS to their second. Gashi was great down the stretch and he’ll need to be that all year long. Kevin Doyle is also back and he’s looking to have a statistically improved season. The Irish international scored only six last year. The club has also added a super sub in No. 9 Alan Gordon.
This looks like an improved offense by committee. Still, other than Gashi, someone is going to have to step up. Who does that is the big question if the Rapids are to win a trophy this season.
Can They Avoid A Regression Now That They Aren’t A Surprise?
We’ve seen this before in MLS. Teams make a few changes in the off-season and have a spectacular following year. All their moves end up paying dividends. Every player has a career year. Then the bottom falls out the following season. Look at the Portland Timbers 2013-14. Or the Columbus Crew 2015-16.
The Rapids came out of no where last season. Everyone had them finishing at or near the bottom of a stacked Western Conference. They were almost the Leicester City of MLS. And they earned it.
Now, they’re a known quantity. They’ve got a very specific style of play. And unlike last year, no one is going to underestimate them. What if they have a few injuries? What if teams figure out how to beat them and the #KeepFighting mystic is lost? What if the club individually and collectively regresses to the mean?
I’m not predicting this will happen. But this might be the biggest question about this season and last season collectively: Was last year a fluke?
If it was, how can the Rapids prevent a drop off? If it wasn’t, can this team turn last year’s disappointment into silverware?
When Will Tim Howard Be Back?
While this is a big uncertainty, it’s by far the least significant or worrisome of these three questions. The Rapids defense is in good hands. Axel Sjoberg is a rising star center back. They’ve got plenty of youth and depth. They didn’t lose one player last year who played significant minutes.
Make no mistake, Zac McMath is not Tim Howard. McMath can keep you in games. Howard can single-handedly keep a clean sheet. That said, McMath is a starting caliber goalkeeper in this league. He’s ready to go. At worst, he’s holding down the fort to help his team have a great start to the year. At best, he’s providing a showcase to potential landing spots should the Rapids use him as trade material.
There’s no rush or time table for Howard’s return. Because the Rapids have a solid goalkeeper, he can take his time and come back only when fully healed.