COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — When Oscar Pareja took over as Colorado Rapids head coach 17 months ago, he wanted to build an offensive-minded team built around playmaking midfielders and clinical finishers.
Seventeen games into the 2013 season, and the Rapids have just 17 goals at the season’s midway point, the third-lowest goal total in the Western Conference and 14th in MLS overall. The lack of goals, usually accompanied by numerous botched chances, isn’t sitting well with Pareja, and if things don’t change soon, a lot of other changes up top could be just around the corner.
“The [players] that are here, they make it happen, or we need to work and bring someone else who can do it,” Pareja bluntly said Wednesday.
Perhaps nothing better illustrates the Rapids’ scoring struggles than the team’s scoring leader. Halfway through the season, an attacker who’s played 12 games in the last two seasons, Atiba Harris, leads the team with four goals. A defensive-minded midfielder, Nathan Sturgis, is tied for second with three goals. The Rapids, in short, haven’t received the scoring punch from their strikers and attacking midfielders that they want and expect.
As a result, club brass has made it clear that they will be seeking additional help during next month’s international transfer window. Technical director Paul Bravo told MLSsoccer.com this week that the team will actively seek a young international attacker to attempt to jumpstart the lackluster offense. But until then, the Rapids need goals and, subsequently, points from the players they currently have when they make the long trip to Stade Saputo for Saturday’s showdown against the top team in the Eastern Conference, Montreal (7 pm ET, Univision Deportes/watch on MLS Live).
“We’d like to add a couple more difference-makers,” Bravo said on Wednesday. “I think it’s safe to say that’s where our focus has been, in the international market. We continue to speak with other clubs around the league, but it’s so difficult to unlock the good players. You get a good one, you want to keep him. You don’t want to go crazy and overspend on a player, whether it’s in the international market or making a trade here in the league. We’re cautious with that approach right now, so we’ve kind of focused on the international market more so.”
Injuries have plagued the Rapids strike force all season. Top target Edson Buddle has been in and out of the lineup, managing just two goals in nine games. The midfield’s top playmaker, Martín Rivero, has missed 10 of Colorado’s 17 games so far and will also miss Saturday’s showdown with a quad injury. Last year’s leading scorer, Jaime Castrillón, returned to the lineup less than two weeks ago. Chilean newcomer Kevin Harbottle has also battled injury and has disappointed when healthy.
“You can fix [the lack of goalscoring] two ways: First one, work,” Pareja said. “The other one, you have to keep working and bring somebody else.”
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.