Gloucestercitynews.net (December 2, 2019)--Tim Howard retired and coach Robin Fraser was handed the reins on a permanent basis. The squad made a sluggish start to the 2019 season, but in the end, they were unlucky to miss out on a postseason place after delivering a strong rally. Now it is time for a new chapter to begin and these are the top five reasons for Colorado supporters to feel positive about the franchise’s prospects:
Colorado Rapids endured an 11-game winless streak at the start of the 2019 season. They lost nine and tied two in a dreadful run of form that left them rock bottom of the Western Conference standings. The top-rated sportsbooks made them huge underdogs in every game and they were given no chance of reaching the playoffs. Yet they then secured 12 wins and four draws in their final 23 games of the season and they were ultimately unlucky to miss out on a postseason spot. That strong upturn in form should allow them to approach the offseason in a positive fashion, and it gives them something to build upon in 2020.
A Visionary Coach
The team went through three coaches in 2020 and that sort of upheaval is always going to dent results. However, they ultimately settled on former Colorado Rapids player Robin Fraser, who guided the team to five wins in their final seven games of the season. The 52-year-old is just the second African American head coach in MLS history, and he arrived with a big reputation. He was part of the coaching staff at Toronto FC during their domestic treble in 2017, while he previously headed up the coaching team at Chivas USA, and he was also an assistant coach at Real Salt Lake and New York Red Bulls. “I consider Colorado to be home, I’ve played here, coached here and I know the soccer community in this state,” said Fraser. I’m committed to the club’s vision and I’m excited to work with this strong group of players and especially the nucleus of young, talented players we have at the club.” He has the tactical nous and dynamism to drive this franchise forward, and he proved that in the final weeks of the season.
Tying Down Top Centre-Backs
The Rapids have moved quickly during the short transfer window that opened on Monday, signing the talented Lalas Abubakar on a permanent basis and making a move for Philadelphia’s Auston Trustly. They also signed center-back Drew Moor for the 2020 season, and that should provide them with a strong blend of youth and experience at the back. Colorado conceded 63 goals last season, the second-highest tally in the conference and the best way to generate an improvement in 2020 is to tighten up at the back. Abubakar will be key to that, as they conceded 1.5 goals per game when he played and 2.4 when he was missing this year. “We’re thrilled to have Lalas back and with us from the very start next year,” said executive vice president Padraig Smith after meeting Columbus Crew’s transfer demands. “I think Lalas himself was pretty open about the fact that he enjoyed his time here, he felt like he integrated into the group very well, this was somewhere he wanted to be and I think that's very important.”
Designated Player Spots
The Rapids have three DP slots to play around with during this offseason and that should allow them to add significant talent. These players operate outside of the salary cap, and it provides the franchise with a tantalizing opportunity to recruit the sort of overseas talent that can light up the league. Smith has spent time in South America on a recruitment drive, and we could see some stellar talent move to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park before next season begins.
Smith also has cap space and plenty of Targeted Allocation Money to use as he bids to build a squad that can end a three-year postseason drought. “We’ve brought in some great young players over the last 12-18 months, but we need a little bit of experience in this group,” said Smith in a recent interview. The best teams in MLS history blend youthful exuberance with the steady presence of some veteran pros, and it is good to see Smith recognize this. He is building a strong, enthusiastic group of players and it will surely benefit from a smattering of Latin American talent and a few season professionals to help steady the ship during tough away games. “This is the way we want to do this,” said Smith. “We’re building a young, dynamic, attack-focused team. Being able to add these new DPs will be huge for us.”
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