Colorado Rapids: 2007 Season Preview

You wore green, once....

Past 2006 Season Wrap Big Questions after '06
My Thoughts on Colorado's '06 (Know my biases)

2006-07 Off-Season Changes
Soccer New England's Ins & Outs for most roster changes

Colorado Rapids roster from their official site (what do they have against foreigners? Just look at it; you’ll see what I mean.)

And now, the Future

Key Men
Greg Vanney - The Rapids also picked up Brandon Prideaux and Ugo Ihemelu in the off-season, but one gets the feeling Clavijo picked up Vanney to lead the defense. With Colorado tying for the league’s worst defensive record last season, he’ll have plenty to do.

Kyle Beckerman - With much respect to Pablo Mastroeni, who does many things, good (tenacious) and bad (cards) for this team, Beckerman is the two-way engine for this team; enforcing is important, but Beckerman can make Colorado a better team if he can build on his impressive '06...and, say, ups his assists.

Terry Cooke - Last year’s chief supply line for the Rapids attack (such as it was). He’s got more to work with this time around personnel-wise, so a repeat for Cooke could spell serious trouble for the rest of the West.

Zach Thornton - So, I hear he’s an asshole with the media. I don’t hold that against him, but there’s no question Thornton is plugging a big, big post-Joe Cannon need for the Rapids (seriously; read the season review and “big questions piece above and see who the reporters talked to the most). On the upside, he’ll have very little patience for questions about how he stacks up against Cannon. And I can hardly blame him for that.

Additional Assets
New Ground in the Thin Air - Courtesy of playing a “mile high,” no team has a home-field advantage like Colorado. Add a new stadium to the mix and they could prove a tougher road game still. The idea of feeling pressure to win may render the home stadium advantage inoperable in the near-term, but they’ll have something special down the road.

Stacked D - I mentioned the importance of Vanney leading the defensive line above and, holy crap, will he have a lot of minions: I’ve already mentioned the new additions, but they join Mike Petke as well as up-and-comers like Dan Gargan, Hunter Freeman, Chris Wingert, and, though I don’t see him on the roster, there’s a guy named Daniel Wasson, who seemed to impress the coaches last year. This is a team deep on defense.

The Past - One of the bigger obstacles Colorado will have to overcome is a weird one. It’s true there are teams who have never reached an MLS Cup, but the Rapids one trip in 1997 doesn’t seem to do anything about what can only be called a kind of inferiority complex. I pick up on this as an observer of the league, which wouldn’t be nearly so valid if Cannon didn’t second that perception in the “big questions” column. Whatever it is, it plays a part when it comes to...

Scoring - I had originally plugged both Clint Mathis and Nicolas Hernandez into the “Key Men” space above, but there’s something about Colorado’s scoring record that compelled me to back away. The fact is, this team has struggled to score for as long as I can remember; personnel doesn’t seem to matter. Mathis’ “issues” are well known (and discussed below) and Hernandez seems to have a knack for clutch goals, though he doesn’t score nearly enough of them. Maybe the addition of Herculez Gomez, a pure scoring threat in a previous career, will give everyone else some space to make Colorado the team they can be. But there’s that past to overcome.

Back Four Conundrum - The ’06 review quotes assistant coach Steve Trittschuh as bemoaning the Rapid’s lack of consistency. As noted above, the Rapids tied for league-worst on defense, giving up - yikes! - 49 goals on the season; that’s 5 more than FC-freakin’-Dallas. In clarifying the problem, Trittschuh pointed to the instability at fullback, as opposed in the middle, where the Rapids tried a variety of players throughout the season. They’ve certainly got the personnel, but what about the right formula?

Clint Mathis - (DISCLOSURE: I’m something like the last unwavering Mathis fan on the planet.) I’ve got grand theories about art and think those apply to Mathis; he possesses talent no other American player has, but seems hampered by a lack of inspiration...which, of course, only builds on the “artist” theme. If he can find the switch in his head, Colorado becomes something big and scary. But “ifs” don’t come bigger than this.

Exotic Arrivals - Yherland McDonald, Roberto Brown: right now, they’re just names occupying space on the big list of MLS players. But who are these guys? I learned what I could through a Google search on each (McDonald and Brown), but that’s not enough to know how they’ll adapt to the league. Could be good, could be bad.

Prospects - Using Gambling Analogies
I don’t talk about it much, but I love craps. Think about Colorado’s 2007 this way: their point is 8 and I’m feeling sufficiently jiggy about their chances that I’m willing to say they’ll not only make their point, but I’m betting a hard eight to boot. They’ll repeat to the conference finals and, if they don’t make the final, they’ll scare the holy shit out of the team that does. I like nearly all their acquisitions and think Clavijo’s confidence in his squad is justified.

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