EDITORIAL – Last Word on Soccer continues to come up with evergreen reading material with COVID-19 shutting down the soccer world. This includes visiting a few topics we previously did not have time for. The decade of the 2010s was a mixed bag for the Colorado Rapids. They started off lifting the only major trophy in club history in 2010 and the club fell off into several rebuilds, mixed with a few playoff appearances and several bottom-of-the-table finishes. Let’s take a look at the Colorado Rapids Decade Team.
2010s Colorado Rapids Team of the Decade Best XI
Goalkeeper: Matt Pickens
This is a pretty tough decision. The Rapids have had several good goalkeepers in the last decade. Matt Pickens won MLS Cup. Tim Howard put Colorado on the map internationally and had probably the most iconic save in club history, defeating LA Galaxy in PKs in 2016. Zac MacMath and Clint Irwin were both serviceable as well.
Pickens won MLS Cup. He played the most game of any keeper in the decade. Including playoff games, he has the most clean sheets of any Pids keeper in the decade. Much respect to the others mentioned in the previous paragraph but Pickens has the numbers to back up me picking him.
Defenders: Marc Burch, Drew Moor, Axel Sjoberg, Marvell Wynne
These picks are straight forward to me. They were all defensively sound and at their peaks, were the defensive backbones of their respective Rapids teams. Drew Moor is second all time in appearances for the club and represented Colorado when they hosted the MLS All-Star Game in 2015.
Sjoberg had probably the best individual defensive season of the decade in 2016 that saw the Rapids have the best home defense in MLS history. He finished third in the Defender of the Year vote. Sjoberg’s performance dropped off after that, but he was the most-sabotaged existing player when Anthony Hudson took over the club. That said, few center backs of the decade have the peak or the longevity the departed Swede had.
The fullbacks are straight forward as well. Marvell Wynne‘s probably the best right back in club history (pending Keegan Rosenberry‘s career with the club). He was a fantastic overlapping outside back and defensively solid. Seventh most appearances in club history, all in this decade, and he won MLS Cup.
Marc Burch was a key piece to the 2016 season. He’s probably the only good and memorable left back of the decade. Anthony Wallace was on the Cup winning team but only played 27 games (regular season and playoffs) in four years to Burch’s 65 in the same number of seasons. More over, just look at how the team and left backs did in 2017 after he was traded. You don’t know what you got till it’s gone.
Midfielders: Deshorn Brown, Pablo Mastroeni, Jeff Larentowicz, Marlon Hairston
Pablo Mastroeni lifted MLS Cup as captain to start the decade. He and Jeff Larentowicz formed one of the most solid and painful defensive midfielder partnerships in league history. They were starters and field generals for the Burgundy Boys till they were traded. Jack Price and Sam Cronin are the only two players who get close to these two in terms of tenure and quality with the club.
Prior to 2019, Deshorn Brown was the most recent (2013) 10 goal scorer in club history. He finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting, losing out to teammate Dillon Powers. He’s one of the most dynamic wide midfielders of the decade for the club. While his tenure with the club was short, he achieved a rare feat by Colorado standards, in earning the club a transfer fee.
At right midfielder, Marlon Hairston. One could make the argument I’m playing him out of position, as he fluctuated between wide midfielder and outside back throughout his career with the club. That said, these ten years don’t have many good right midfielder options. Hairston played 68 league games and took part in all four playoff games in 2016. He had 7 goals and 13 assists, tied for third most of the decade.
Was he inconsistent? Yes. Was his entire game at times just about speed? Yes. Was he dynamic and fun like Brown? Also yes.
Forwards: Conor Casey, Omar Cummings
Write these two into the Starting XI in permanent marker. Conor Casey and Omar Cummings were the best striker due in club history. They were key attacking pieces in 2010 and scored 23 and 24 goals respective in the decade. Dominique Badji got 24 and Deshorn Brown had 20. Badji needed almost another season worth of games to get that many goals though.
Bench Players and Snubs
Tim Howard‘s my backup goalkeeper. Yes, there are certain stats that suggest Irwin or MacMath were better, but Howard at his Colorado peak (hehe) is better than any other keeper in club history. He made saves throughout his tenure that no other Rapids goalkeeper would make.
My bench defenders are Kosuke Kimura and Bobby Burling. Kimura was solid with the Pids and had success in MLS elsewhere. After he and Wynne left the team, it was a rotating cast at right back for years. Burling was the most reliable and veteran defender of the decade after the starters, even though he was only with the club for three years.
I hear the shouts for Brian Mullan. He has more league appearances in the decade, 73 to Burling’s 50. That said, Mullan made the most reprehensible individual plays in club history and certainly of the decade, basically ending Steve Zakuani’s career with a gruesome tackle in 2012. He was given the longest suspension at the time in league history and had some pretty tone deaf comments afterwards.
For those reasons, Mullan is suspended from my Colorado Rapids Team of the Decade.
At bench midfielder, I have Sam Cronin and Dillon Powers. There stats have been previously mentioned. Cronin’s a Mastroeni like-for-like and Powers brings some offense off the bench.
Neither saw their team objectives with the club through to fruition and things got worse once they left. Cronin struggled with head injuries with Minnesota United, leading to his retirement. Powers rode the bench at Orlando City before signing as an out-of-contract player with Dundee United FC in the Scottish second division, arguably a step down from MLS.
At forward, I have Shkelzen Gashi and Dom Badji. Badji’s tied for most goals in the decade and lead the team in scoring in 2016, the best regular season in club history. He never achieved his 10 goal season goal. But he’s about the best 4th Round SuperDraft Pick ever. He outperformed and outscored many a DP attackers who had better resumes and higher wages.
Gashi’s imperfect, that’s for sure. But he scored Colorado’s only MLS Goal of the Year and had a golazo against the Galaxy in the 2016 playoffs. He couldn’t stay healthy and appeared to lack motivation at times, which is why he’s on the bench. But he’s done better than several Rapids DPs of the decade, many of whom would make the Rapids Worst XI of the decade.