Inconsistent Colorado Rapids seek remedy to poorly-timed slump: "It's not April and May anymore"

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – Consistency for a young team like the Colorado Rapids isn’t exactly a given. Far from it, in fact. But lately, the Rapids’ consistently inconsistent performances have seen the club slip worryingly, both in terms of recent results and their subsequent position in the standings.

Slow starts and a general failure to capitalize on opposition mistakes – including a man advantage for nearly half of their 1-0 loss to Real Salt Lake at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on Saturday – have left the Rapids with just five points from their previous six matches, dropping them into the fifth spot in the Western Conference standings, just a point ahead of the Vancouver Whitecaps for the final playoff spot.

“The mindset was to go out and start playing from the beginning. I think it took us getting scored on to really open up,” a surprisingly optimistic Rapids head coach Pablo Mastroeni told reporters after Saturday’s rivalry defeat. “It’s a level of comfort. Players on the ball have to want to have it, and have to want to play. For whatever reason, after we got scored on everyone woke up and wanted to get on the ball.”

Despite Mastroeni’s positivity on Saturday, part of the problem, at least of late, has been consistently starting off on the wrong foot. The Rapids have allowed a goal in the 16th minute or earlier in three of their past five games, managing just four points from those matches partially as a result of those early goals allowed.

Slow starts are never easy to get over, but perhaps Saturday’s slow start, fresh off a 3-0 midweek thumping at the hands of the New England Revolution, was most troubling.

“I think they just started brighter than us,” Rapids captain Drew Moor said postgame on Saturday night. “They won a couple tackles down our right-hand side and it allowed them some space in the box and [Javier Morales] had a good finish. After that it was a completely different game. This is one of those where you can’t wait to get punched in the mouth before you start going.”

From dire struggles on the road – the Rapids haven’t won on the road in nearly four months – to inconsistent defending, there’s little doubt the Rapids are mired in their biggest and most prolonged slump of the season.

But whatever is plaguing the Rapids, they know they have to fix it with two tricky road fixtures ahead of them, starting Saturday against Western Conference foe FC Dallas (9 pm ET, MLS LIVE), who sit three points ahead of Colorado in fourth place. Eight days later, a visit to Eastern Conference standouts D.C. United awaits.

“I tell these guys it’s not April and May anymore, it’s August and September’s coming up, October’s coming up,” midfielder Dillon Powers said on Saturday. “The little things make a big difference right now.”

Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.