EDITORIAL – The 2019 Colorado Rapids season is over. For the third year in a row, they missed the playoffs. This year was bizarre in many ways, from three different head coaches, wild swings in form, and nearly making the playoffs. Let’s take a look back at 2019 and see what it means going into 2020.
2019 Colorado Rapids Season Review
The Pids had one of the worst starts in MLS history, going 0-9-2 to start the season. Anthony Hudson was sacked. Club legend Conor Casey stabilized the team by simplifying the formation and tactics. They went on a seven game unbeaten run against less opposition. Some bad results and the initial deep hole had them consistently playing catch up in the table.
Robin Fraser was appointed at the end of August. The team went in a nice run to put them in position to clinch a playoff spot on Decision Day. A loss to Los Angeles FC ended their year and Tim Howard’s career, but left the club with optimism for next year.
Lalas Abubakar. This team struggled defensively on so many levels especially at center back. Abubakar came to the team on loan and immediately earned a starting job. He was the most consistent and outstanding contributor to the team defensively. His work freed up central midfielders Kellyn Acosta and Jack Price to contribute more to the team offensively, further improving performances and getting results.
What went wrong in 2019:
The start to the season, costly defensive mistakes, and some critical late season results. The 2019 Colorado Rapids conceded seven own goals (the most in the league), seven goals from PKs (tied for 4th), and were given eight red cards. It became a running joke among fans and pundits that every Rapids home game required a red card, an own goal, or a PK, if not a combination of the three.
These mistakes, along with generally poor defensive play, contributed massively to the poor start to the season. This cost Hudson his job and forced the club to ask some serious questions about the direction they were heading in. Similar defensive mistakes in close games against good opposition saw the Burgundy Boys drop more points late in the year. These collectively prevented them from making the playoffs.
Oh, and all the prairie dogs at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park are probably dead.
What went right in 2019:
The middle part of the season, some mid-year acquisitions, and the attack. Abubakar and Jonathan Lewis joined the club at the end of the spring transfer window and were great contributors. Sam Nicholson was finally healthy and was a complimentary piece to a potent attack.
Kei Kamara and Diego Rubio were double digit goal-scorers, something the club hasn’t had since 2014. Andre Shinyashiki won the Rookie of the Year. Going into next year, the club is confidently four or five deep at striker.
Collectively, Casey and Fraser stabilized the team from a tactical standpoint. Both took a more pragmatic approach than Hudson, emphasizing defense over possession and the attack. Casey simplified things and got results. Fraser built on that and added some nuance on both sides of the ball that paid off. This led to the team going on a nice run towards the end of the year, nearly making the playoffs.
Ending on a high note is a good omen for the club’s 2020 campaign.
What they need to do to improve in 2020:
First of all, both Designated Players are off the books. Shkelzen Gashi was waived before the start of the year and Howard has retired. The club will have the opportunity to bring in two new impact DPs who should bring more value to the on-field result than Howard or Gashi ever did. Fraser will get the chance to put his stamp on this team, in personnel and system.
If they do this and the constructed young core improve next year, this team should absolutely make the playoffs in 2020.