Is Colorado Set Up for Another MLS Cup Run?

MLS Cup 2010 Toronto 24

Photo by Nathan Forget

Looking back on Earl’s preseason preview of the Colorado Rapids, you will see the following players listed as anticipated starters:

Pickens (10)
Kimura (10) – Wynne (8) – Moore (10) – Wallace (5)
Mullan (5) – Larentowicz (10) – Mastroeni (8) – Smith (9)
Casey (2) – Cummings (6)

With pretty much the entire team coming back from last year’s MLS Cup winning side and the key additions being for depth, this team was expected to compete again for a championship.  And while they are in the race for the playoffs (4th in the tough Western Conference with 15 points), their lineup has seen various changes throughout the year.

The number in parentheses next to each player’s name is the number of starts they have had so far this season.  Mainstays like Pickens and Larentowicz have played in every game, but where this team has broken down is on offense.  Omar Cummings will miss a few more weeks with an ankle sprain and Conor Casey is finally coming back into playing shape after a long lay-off.  Brian Mullan was obviously suspended, and Pablo Mastroeni, a key cog in the midfield, has missed some games with a calf injury.  Injuries have also caused the team to shuffle players – as The Burgundy Wave pointed out even healthy players have had to shift to cover for injuries; against the Revolution a few weeks back Kimura and Wynne played new positions on the backline just to provide cover for missing teammates.

Look at the bench, and Colorado’s injury woes become even more pronounced.  In addition to long-term injury Macoumba Kandji, Caleb Folan has a groin injury and is currently out of the lineup.  In DC this past weekend, the last two strikers on the bench (Akpan and Amarikwa) were playing up front and Ross LaBeaux came off the bench as a late substitution.  Even players who have played all ten games, such as Matt Pickens, have been playing with injuries.  In short, this is a wounded team.

MLS has not helped the situation with a brutal stretch of scheduling.  The DC United match Saturday was the Rapids’ third straight road game and in five of the last seven they were the visitors.  In that stretch they had one win, three draws, and three losses.  But they took five points in their last three road games, which included two matches on the East Coast.

But things have begun to turn around for Colorado, and there is reason for hope in this squad, even to think about another MLS Cup run. First, the schedule does get easier.  Eight of the next thirteen matches are at home, including three of the last four, and the Rapids finish the season playing three potential playoff teams (Dallas, San Jose, and RSL) at home before going to Vancouver.

Second, the players are starting to come back from injury.  Casey made his return in DC and looked healthy, and his presence will make a major difference for the Rapids’ offense.  In about two months Cummings and Folan will be back, and baring any additional injuries, the team will begin to be back at full strength.  Brian Mullan has also served about half his suspension and will be back within the next month and a half.

I asked Gary Smith on Saturday about whether the injuries were actually preparing the team for an MLS Cup run:  “I think the guys who are playing who might not have had too much football are going to benefit hugely from it,” he said.  “[The young players], come the latter stages of this season, they’ll be able to draw on what they’ve been able to achieve in this period and hopefully their form continues to improve and they develop.”

One June 1, 2010, Colorado sat in fifth place in the Western Conference with a record of 5-3-1 (15 points).  As of today, having played one more match, the Rapids are 4-3-3 (15 points).  With expanded seeding Colorado is likely to make the playoffs unless there is a major implosion or other massive injuries.  This team has the experience and ability to make another Cup run and if they are a “wild card”, they may take another trip through the Eastern Conference to make the finals.  The Rapids are healing and the next few matches are an opportunity to keep the bench players, “nice and bright and lively, and hungry to play when you’ve got a bit of a rotation,” as Smith told me.  “At the moment we’re having to endure some difficulties… the position we have in our conference at this point is a very good one given circumstances and of course the fact we’ve gone on the road for four games we’ve got a lot to look forward to.”

Colorado is quickly becoming the team not to face in the fall.

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30 Responses to Is Colorado Set Up for Another MLS Cup Run?

  1. Charles says:

    Dallas, Salt Lake, LA ( if healthy ), Seattle ( if no one dies…you think Colorado has injury problems !?! )

    They are all setting themselves up. Colorado went through a weak East in a playoff format I don’t like, won’t happen again.

    An injury problem season for a non-deep team playing in CCL too, is not MLS Cup material.

    • Cooper Morris says:

      I think Colorado will finish 4th or 5th in the West and get bumped over to the East again. Why can’t it happen again?

  2. Alan says:

    I hope not. It’s not that I don’t think they are a good team, but I really hate their style more than most MLS teams. Way too much long balling it to the forward to make a mad dash to score. I will take practically anyone but them.

    • wahleyed says:

      I don’t think that’s a fair characterization of the Rapids’ playing style. They do play that way on occasion, but primarily when facing a team that tries to overload the middle of the field to try and control possession, combined with a high defensive line (gambling vs. Cumming’s speed).

      The Rapids (as with a lot of other MLS teams not named Houston and Portland) have been playing more of a possesion style and don’t lump the ball down the field praying for a set piece.

    • wahleyed says:

      I don’t think that’s a fair characterization of how the Raps play. The Rap’s play more of a possession style now that they have in years — BUT, they face teams that try to keep the ball from them with 5 man midfields and play a high defensive line trying to further clog the middle. The Raps respond by trying to get Cummings (or lately Amarikwa) behind. Yes, Casey is a classic 9, but that doesn’t mean the Rapids are a route 1 team.

      • wahleyed says:

        sorry, didn’t think the 1st post made it through…

      • Alan says:

        Maybe it’s not fair. It’s just what I have seen the few times I have seen them play. Perhaps I am just unlucky. Anyway, I will try to catch some more of their games in the future.

    • Fernando says:

      Gary Smith have prove to the NAYSAYERS that a REAL COACH does not need know DA USA SYSTEM to come a whoop the status quo…Gary is a living proof of this statement…Now…Is Gary prepping up another AMBUSH to the naysayers…mmmm….Look like

  3. The original Tom says:

    Colorado have a really good first 11, but not a consistently deep squad. CONCACAF Champions League (which starts in August, I believe) will play a part in lowering the Rapids’ regular season ranking. I could see us being a low seed and making a run again (the wild card teams can switch conferences again, can’t they?), but then again, things might not work out the way they did last time.

    • wahleyed says:

      Is Colorado deep? who knows? the bench players are all new in the past couple of years and without a Reserve League — and the Rap’s bowing out of the Open Cups early — don’t get matches. But, that’s the point of this article right? the Rapids are having to rely on depth now, the bench guys are getting playing time and experience, and the team is accumulating points. Are they the deepest team? probably not, but things are looking up.

  4. Alex says:

    The supporters shield, the real championship, no. That will belong to either LA or NJ, hopefully LA.

    The post season tourney, maybe. It’s all random no one is a clear cut winner.

    • Charles says:

      And the MLS Hater Trolls are baaaaack.

      Random. What a joke. I should do a “Best of MLS Hater Trolls”
      Random is sure to make it in the Top 10.

      • SSReporters says:

        It is random. The favorite almost never wins the MLS Cup.

        • Alan says:

          The team that is the best at the end of the season wins when it counts. If they can’t then they are not the best. The favorite going into the World Cup was Brazil. Barcelona better win the Champions League because they are the favorites. Otherwise its random.

          Anyways, back to that thing called the topic of this blog post. The hardest team to beat if they remain at their best is RSL. By the end of the season who knows. I’d say the favorites are RSL, NY, LA, and Dallas. I’d love to see a team like Colorado come back and prove they can beat the best when it counts the most.

          • SSReporters says:

            “The team that is the best at the end of the season wins when it counts.”

            Thanks for clearing that up, bud! I’ll be sure to tell the 7-9 Seattle Seahawks that if they had won the Super Bowl they would’ve been the best because they would’ve won when it counted!

            Real Salt Lake barely got into the playoffs and won the MLS Cup. Best team? Hardly. Getting hot at the right time /= Best team.

            Speaking of RSL, I think they’re the team to beat. Very sturdy side.

          • Alan says:

            Considering they had the second best record the next year and almost caught the galaxy, I will say that they can make that case. Anyways, I definitely think that there should be less teams in the playoffs too.

        • Charles says:

          LA is leading the league in points right now ( not on PPG ) and won the Supporters Shield last year.
          This year they lost to Salt Lake ( again ) and Dallas ( again ) who are better teams, IMHO.

          There are two sides to your random/not random “arguement”.

        • Charles says:

          Salt Lake winning more games in 2009 than any other team = Random MLS Cup Win ?


      • Andy says:

        cup matches have an element of randomness to them. Case in point: Look at the FA Cup final over the last 10 years. Lots of teams made it that wouldn’t even be considered top 10 teams. There’s nothing troll-ish about pointing this out.

        • Alan says:

          The FA Cup and MLS Cup are completely different. The FA Cup is not taken nearly as seriously as the MLS Cup. The MLS Cup is do or die for all teams. The FA Cup is nice to win if you are a top club, but not essential like a bottom club. It is better to compare the FA Cup to the US Open Cup. There is nothing random about the MLS Cup. Two teams compete their absolute hardest, one team advances and competes against another team. They play their hardest and then the best team advances again. If you truly are the best, you will be on your A game and be a favorite to win. It is not about “getting hot”. You can be better than you were at the start of the season and beat every other team on the field. That is called improving and working hard. A lot of great teams have a bad start to the season. Random is basically rolling dice to determine the winner. In the MLS Cup you have to compete and be the best. Nothing random about that.

          It is trolling because it is off-topic. Whining about the Supporters Shield and crying about randomness is off-topic. The question was whether or not Colorado can make another RUN for the cup. A better, non trolling response might have been “It is possible, but i don’t think you can really pick a winner. I can see why someone would consider for another run at it though”. Instead, you get the same crap from people that won’t post on actual soccer. I’d call that trolling.

          • Andy says:


            Teams like Man U don’t lose to lesser teams in the FA Cup on purpose. They lose because in soccer the best team doesn’t alwats win the game. Thats what we mean by randomness. Soccer is not the NFL.

            btw the FA cup is taken far seriously by fans than the MLS cup . The latter which has yet to convince the soccer public in this country that it is a legitimate way to decide a league champ.

          • Alan says:

            I never said they did. I said they don’t take it as seriously, which they don’t. You can’t argue that. And that is not randomness. Your last statement is false. Just because people didn’t care for a Colorado/Dallas final means that they feel that way.

            Btw, what did you think about the actual article that was written, or are we just going to turn it into another pointless debate?

          • Andy says:

            what do u think of the actual article?

            any team can make a cheeky run and win the MLS cup and therefore be crowed MLS league champion. It’s a joke system supported by ignorant Americans

          • Alan says:

            …and Mexicans and South Americans.

            I only see one ignorant person right now. If you hate it, quit trolling. Only people that are ignorant and have no life do that.

    • Alan says:

      I said the same thing about Monterrey when they beat RSL, Spain when they beat Holland, and Inter when they beat Bayern last year. Completely random. I say the same thing about Mexico and some of the South American countries. Don’t they realize they are disgracing the world’s game by having playoffs? Stick to your guns. Don’t let anybody tell you different. Save the playoff-loving crowd from themselves.

  5. Alan says:

    Wah Wah Wah, I’m so upset that MLS is not EPL. Wah Wah Wah, I’m going to come on MLS blogs and cry about it instead of talking about the actual topic. Wah Wah Wah, I’m going to try to turn every discussion into a pity party that MLS doesn’t follow other big footballing countries like Mexico and Argentina. Wait, don’t they have 2 tournaments a year with 2 champions? Wah Wah Wah, I’m just going to ignore that because they are not EPL and cry anyways while other people are trying to post on the topic at hand. Wah Wah Wah.

  6. Fernando says:

    @ Andy…Lets a game on the field clear the air…Ajax is comming to a modest DC United…Manchester was whoop last year by Kansas with 10 players …so…

  7. Charles says:

    @ Andy

    I understand that it might be easier to win 5 games to win the FA Cup than it is to win the regular season. Obviously, I am for MORE playoff games for that reason.

    But it is not random. The winning team of a SOCCER game goes on. To quote the league I now hate….Win or Go Home.
    It isn’t get lucky or go home. It is win or go home.

    Remember 2009 ? Salt Lake won more games than any team, but since they finished 8th during the regular season, the Playoff haters used it as their mantra. They were wrong then, and they are wrong now. Salt Lake now will probably win the SS. So what if Dallas wins thoughout the playoffs the rolls will probably be reversed with Dallas winning the most games.

  8. Charles says:

    Just to be clear you are not trolling ?

    After listening to your misguiding me about that I am supposed to listen to you on how to run a league….Give me a break “educated” Troll.

    Please go away. -“Ignorant” American Charles

    >>> 23 Andy May 21, 2011 at 11:31 pm
    what do u think of the actual article?

    any team can make a cheeky run and win the MLS cup and therefore be crowed MLS league champion. It’s a joke system supported by ignorant Americans

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