Over the years, the road has rarely been a fun venture for the Colorado Rapids.
In 2012, a brutal 3-13-1 record away from Dick’s Sporting Goods Park doomed Colorado to a seventh-place finish in the Western Conference standings.
But in 2013, the road tables have suddenly and drastically turned in favor of the men in burgundy. Following an impressive 2-0 win in Columbus this past Saturday, the Rapids have almost as many points on the road so far this year (eight) as they had all of last year (10).
And second-year Rapids head coach Oscar Pareja thinks he knows why things have been so different on the road for his team so far this season.
“The mentality has been improved,” Pareja said after the win on Saturday. “I see more confidence [from] the players. They know they can get points on the road.”
Defender Drew Moor agreed with his coach.
“We believe that we can go on the road and get results,” Moor said on Saturday. “We proved that [Saturday] night, we proved it a couple of other times so far this season. Road game is the same as a home game, you want to go try and get as many points as you can, and tonight was no different.”
It’s not even the two victories that stand out as Pareja’s and Moor’s evidence to the changed mentality, which has led Colorado to a 2-2-2 road mark. In an April 28 1-1 draw at Houston, despite missing a slew of regulars to injury, the Rapids also had to forget about the Dynamo’s then-35-game home unbeaten streak in order to collect an impressive point in steamy Houston. There was also the 1-1 draw at rival Real Salt Lake, where Colorado overcame the gruesome fourth minute loss of starting ‘keeper and veteran leader Matt Pickens to a broken forearm.
Despite all that, the Rapids have rarely been thoroughly outclassed in road games as they so often were in 2012.
They haven’t always been pretty – on Saturday the Crew had 22 attempts on goal to the Rapids’ four – but the feisty Rapids have thus far simply found a way to get the job done away from home, and its bred a new-found sense of confidence in Pareja’s young squad.
“On the road we have to play like that,” Rapids striker Edson Buddle said on Saturday. “We did a good job, [goalkeeper] Clint [Irwin], the back four, we have to be scrappy; it doesn’t have to be pretty on the road.”
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.