1997 Club by Club
The Rapids rang the changes for the 1997 season as several new players arrived to replace the departing Shaun Bartlett, Jean Harbor, Chris Woods and Dominic Kinnear. Established star names such as Adrian Paz, Peter Vermes came through the door and youngsters Paul Bravo, Joey Di Giamarino, Marcus Hahnemann, Wolde Harris and Ross Paule were blooded into the Rapids side. The biggest acquisition was perhaps new head coach Glenn Myernick entering the building, replacing the departed Bobby Houghton.
After a large transitional period over the offseason, the early stages in 1997 were a struggle for the Rapids. However Myernick’s side gelled and quickly became a force in the league as five of their top-six scorers were in their first season with Colorado. Bravo finished the season as the sides top scorer with eight goals as he led Colorado to the postseason, where they certainly flourished beyond anybody’s expectations.
In the first round they came up against the top seeded Kansas City Wizards and dispatched with them after two games, largely down to Bravo’s three goals over the series. Another upset then ensued in the Western Conference finals as Colorado swept Dallas, as Chris Henderson scored a mid-air volley in the 87th minute to seal Colorado’s passage to the ’98 MLS Cup. Goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann stood on his head and conceded just once over the two game series, to set up the matchup with defending MLS Cup champions D.C. United.
The Rapids travelled to Washington D.C. for MLS Cup in front of a huge crowd of 57,431 at RFK Stadium, looking to pull off yet another upset after being true underdogs for the 1997 title. They knew they were just 90 minutes away from winning the franchises first ever championship. However D.C. were becoming a dynasty and quickly surged into a 2-0 lead, with goals either side of the half proving pivotal. In the 75th minute Paz hit back for the Rapids, setting up a tense finale as the D.C. fans watched on anxiously from their home stadium. Yet United held on despite the Rapids coming agonizingly close to sealing a sensational MLS cup win.