Colorado Rapids 2002
2002 Club by Club
Following the tumultuous 2001 season, the Rapids looked to get back to winning ways with a new look team in 2002. With the contraction of Tampa Bay and Florida, the Rapids were able to acquire former Rapids midfielder Chris Henderson, as well as Kyle Beckerman and Pablo Mastroeni in the MLS Allocation and Dispersal Drafts. Colorado rounded out its new look midfield by trading for Mark Chung, one of the all-time leading scorers in MLS history.
On Mar. 30 the Rapids played the first ever match at the brand new Invesco Field at Mile High, and over 25,000 fans showed up for the event, which featured a doubleheader between the WUSA's San Jose CyberRays and Washington Freedom, followed by the Rapids downing the defending MLS Champion San Jose Earthquakes 1-0. Only a few days later, the Rapids hosted another doubleheader on Apr. 3, a treat for the 50,000 fans who attended to watch the Rapids defeat DC United 2-0 and the United States down Mexico 1-0 (Pablo Mastroeni played for both the Rapids and Team USA that night) in the two countries' last match before the 2002 World Cup.
Chung became the first player in team history to record double digit goals and assists in the same season while Carlos Valderrama, who was playing in his final MLS season, tallied a team record 16 assists. Most of those assists went to either Chung, Henderson or Chris Carrieri, who all tied for the team lead in goals with 11.
While those four were playing well for the Rapids, Mastroeni had the chance to shine on a larger stage as he was named to the United States squad for the 2002 World Cup in Japan/Korea. The first year Rapids midfielder played in three of the Americans' five games at the tournament as they reached the quarterfinals for the first time since 1930.
One of the major highlights of the season was striker Chris Carrieri recording the second hat trick in club history (after coming on as a sub in the second half) with a 3 goal performance on the Rapids' 4th of July extravaganza, played in front of the largest crowd in team history, 61,213 fans, in the Rapids' 32 victory over the Chicago Fire at Invesco Field. The Rapids used a strong opening and closing third of the season to get back into the playoffs after a one year absence. Once there, Colorado upset Dallas in the opening round to win their first playoff series since 1997. With each side collecting four points in the three game series, the Rapids and Burn went to a golden goal series decider with Mark Chung scoring his first goal of the postseason to advance the Rapids to the MLS Semifinals against LA. There would be no such upsets against in the semifinals as the Galaxy eliminated Colorado with 4-0 and 1-0 wins.
Although they didn't advance to the MLS Cup, the Rapids did clean up at the MLS postseason awards ceremonies. General Manager Dan Counce was named MLS Executive of the Year and 4 other Rapids front office staff were named as the best at their positions in MLS that year. Mark Chung was named to the League Best XI squad and also took home the MLS Fair Play Award. Finally, the Rapids ticket sales staff was named best in the league after the Rapids led MLS in average home attendance for the first time ever with an average home crowd of over 20,000 fans per home game.