Expectations in 2020 are definitely higher for the Rapids... who last made the playoffs when they were the surprise package of the 2016 season. Playoff contention is surely the bar for a team that has made significant improvements to a squad that just missed out on the postseason in the Western Conference by a mere six points.
Head coach Robin Fraser took over last August and began to implement a dynamic, attack-minded playing style that saw the Rapids turn into a team that scored at a clip of two goals per game. By adding an elite playmaker (Younes Namli) and another skillful winger (Nicolas Benezet) to the bunch, the Rapids are primed to become a must-watch team in 2020.
- MLS Reg. Season: 42 points (12W-16L-6D), 9th in West / 16th overall
- MLS Cup Playoffs: Did not qualify
- U.S. Open Cup: Eliminated in 4th Round (vs. New Mexico United)
- Younes Namli — The Rapids have eyed the Danish playmaker for two years and they finally nabbed their playmaker on a two-year loan deal. Early reports from preseason indicate he's already shining in the Rapids' system.
- Kei Kamara — No matter the coach, no matter the system, Kei always gets his goals. A 20-goal season would lift the 35-year-old to No. 2 on the all-time MLS goal scorer list.
- Lalas Abubakar — After his breakout season with the Rapids in 2019, it's no wonder that he and the club worked out a permanent deal for him to stay. Put simply, he makes plays.
Extratime Analysis: Colorado Rapids
Key acquisitions and departures
- IN:Nicolas Benezet — After his rancorous exit from Toronto FC, the Frenchman lands with his ex-assistant coach in Canada (Rapids head coach Robin Fraser), who is instituting a playing style that should fit Benezet's skill set to a tee.
- IN:Auston Trusty — His trade from the Union to the Rapids proved to be one of the surprise moves of the offseason. At 21, the promising center back has already shown plenty of potential with still more room to grow. Fraser, a former elite MLS center back, should help him continue that development.
- OUT:Tim Howard — After a promising start in 2016, Howard's tenure as the Rapids' starting goalkeeper came to a close with the 40-year-old now fully dedicated to his role as Memphis 901 sporting director.
- OUT:Dillon Serna — The emergence of Sam Vines at left back and new options on the wing made the homegrown Serna expendable. His left foot is sure to land him opportunities elsewhere.
- OUT:Tommy Smith — Although he was a strong aerial presence on both sides of the field, Smith was also a liability on occasion. His replacement, Trusty, offers the Rapids an upgrade when it comes to speed and athleticism.
Projected Starting XI
- Goalkeepers (3): Clint Irwin, Andre Rawls, Abraham Rodriguez
- Defenders (10): Lalas Abubakar, Sebastian Anderson, Kortne Ford, Drew Moor, Keegan Rosenberry, Abdul Rwatubyaye, Auston Trusty, Sam Vines, Danny Wilson, Deklan Wynne
- Midfielders (5): Kellyn Acosta, Cole Bassett, Nicolas Mezquida, Younes Namli, Jack Price
- Forwards (8): Nicolas Benezet, Matt Hundley, Niki Jackson, Kei Kamara, Jonathan Lewis, Sam Nicholson, Diego Rubio, Andre Shinyashiki
Armchair Analyst: Strengths and weaknesses
- Strength: They developed a clear and murderous tactical identity in damn near record time under Robin Fraser, doing their damnedest to play across the zone of density and get out into transition at every possible moment. They should be able to refine that under their coach for a full preseason, and have both youth and depth basically everywhere (especially center back).
- Weakness: Set pieces were their biggest strength in 2019 as they scored 17 goals off restarts, easily the highest total in the league. But it’s basically impossible that they’ll match that number (I’d put money against them even coming close), and being that good on set pieces masked some deficiencies elsewhere. The defense, which shipped 63 goals last year – second-worst in the West and third-worst in the league – has to be better.
- Ben Baer: 8th in West
- Marcelo Balboa (Univision): 6th in West
- Calen Carr: 12th in West
- Charlie Davies: 10th in West
- Matt Doyle: 11th in West
- Kristian Jack (TSN): 9th in West
- Frederic Lord (TVA Sports): 11th in West