Updated: Nov 24, 2020
First of all we have to say congratulations to the Colorado Rapids staff and players on a good season. It has been challenging giving the circumstances with COVID-19. Coach Robin Fraser has done an excellent job as the players seem to be “bought in” as they say. Making the playoffs was an achievement but of course nobody likes to finish with a bad loss.
Like most fans I’ve gone through a roller coaster of emotions during this journey in 2020. For the Burgundy Boys it’s a shame they went out with a whimper in the MLS Cup Playoffs losing 3-0 to Minnesota United. Losing Sam Vines to a hamstring injury was a major blow although Kellyn Acosta performed very well in his stead. Curiously we did see Vines sub on with about 10 minutes to go. After the game Fraser said “Vines was hurt, we were being cautious and didn’t want to play him. Kellyn did a really good job, his decision making very good”.
Otherwise we saw pretty good performances from Abubabakar, Price, Namli, Rosenberry and Cole Bassett who missed on a few opportunities to score at the beginning of the second half. In the end the performance wasn’t good enough on the whole. Lacking urgency and execution in the attacking third at times. Not consistent enough all around. Defensively we seemed to lack focus in the key moments of the match.
Emanuel Reynoso was untouchable for the Loons and assisted all three goals. After the early goal for Minnesota, they sat back and absorbed pressure and hit us on the counter. This young Rapids squad had one or two shouts for a PK but didn’t receive one. We finished the season as the only MLS team not to be awarded a penalty. It simply wasn't our day. Plenty of learning experiences from this match and this season. As captain Jack Price reiterated post-game, "We just got to learn from this. We got to come back stronger next year".
Now for the post-mortem
This squad needs a few key changes despite showing a core group that looks good enough to compete. The first and most obvious change wouldn’t cost the Rapids any money and in fact free's up wages. Danny Wilson has to go. Auston Trusty needs more playing time. In the final match of the season Wilson summed up his performance by being overly confident on the ball, giving it away by dribbling or a risky pass (commonly avoiding the simple pass instead). Some fans would say Wilson was at fault on all three goals as he was clearly out of position or didn't close down the ball carrier. It seems clear that Trusty is good enough and being so young can improve with more playing time. With a healthy Kortne Ford behind Lalas Abubakar our center back position doesn’t require spending big. The homegrown defender from Greeley, Colorado provides excellent competition after returning from a lengthy injury. He is physically dominant and showing mmetal strength overcoming adversity in his journey too.
The next most pressing need and obvious position to change is at striker. Diego Rubio did not show enough to be a regular starter with 3 goals in 17 matches this season. As a stand alone striker it simply did not work. When paired with Kei Kamara as a second striker, making late runs or linking up with play he performed better last season. However, Head Coach Robin Fraser is not employing that same system and clearly needs a #9 out and out striker. The Rapids supporters are hopeful we’ll see a new starting striker going into next season. Being frugal spenders we could very well see a current MLS player on the move but we’ve seen signings from South America and Europe previously, so who knows!
The Loan Army
One of the revelations this season was in the net. William Yarbrough has solidified himself as a solid keeper and worthy starter. His loan from Mexican club Leon is ending so making that a permanent deal should be a priority. This would likely mean we’d see Clint Irwin on the move. Looking at our youth we can bring in a backup from the Colorado Springs Switchbacks, loanee, Abraham Rodriguez. In 7 matches he had one shut out but definitely looks the part.
Speaking of the Switchbacks we have a number of players on loan in the USL like Sebastian Anderson at right back, Niki Jackson at striker, Abdul Rwatubyaye at centerback, Will Vint at defensive midfield and Matt Hundley at left winger. It remains to be seen if any are recalled to the first team and get more playing time moving forward. Seeing as though we now have 3 right backs I would guess Anderson will remain on loan. I would expect Niki Jackson to either return or be sold at this point. Hundley shows promise (in 10 appearances at Memphis 901 FC he scored twice)but hasn’t seen much playing time. We seem to have depth at winger so imagine he’d go out on loan again.
One more player that is on loan with the Rapids from the Russian league, although for one more year, is Younes Namli. The Dane had a 71% take on success percentage, winning 51 of the 72 attempts this season. He’s proven himself as a very slick player on the ball and we certainly hope to see him continue to flourish next season. Versatile enough to play right wing or in the #10 role, he brings another level of quality to the squad.
Now that we’ve gotten through the loan army. Deep breathe. Because we could see one of the best young players in the league leave us. The 19 year old from Littleton, Colorado. The youngest player in league history to lead his team in goals and assists. Central midfielder Cole Bassett. He could be fielding offers from Europe. Brace yourselves. It could happen.
If Bassett departs for his European dream, we wish him nothing but the best and fully understand. I would not expect a big signing to replace him. We are building with youth development but could see more of a veteran central midfielder come in too.
Additional needs for this team come at left back. And I don’t mean a starter as I expect Sam Vines to stay. But we need cover, as evidenced by his injury on Sunday. Although we have plenty of wingers and central midfielders we could see another defensive midfielder come into the fold. Nicolas Mezquida could be on his way out as well as one of our wingers. Although a more attacking midfielder could come in to replace players I expect to see more playing time for Braian Galvan moving forward. He is agile, quick, very skillful, young and capable of contributing more.
There hasn’t been any news on transfers at this point, it’s all speculation. To reiterate the priorities, we have to get a true #9 striker. Sell Danny Wilson and start Auston Trusty every game if possible. Brace yourself for a potential Cole Bassett departure. No surprise here but don’t expect any big spending despite having two DP slots open. Trust the process. Trust the youth. Trust Coach Fraser.
Until next time, stay safe out there soccer fans!