Commerce City, CO (Sports Network) - It was always going to be tough for the
Colorado Rapids to one-up a 2010 season that brought an MLS Cup title to
Dick's Sporting Goods Park, but the Commerce City club will look to absolve a
disappointing finish in 2011 when it kicks off the new campaign this weekend.
There are several unknown variables that make it difficult to get a feel for
where the Rapids stand heading into the 2012 season, but they are certainly a
team in transition.
Colorado lost three potent offensive options in the offseason as Caleb Folan,
Macoumba Kandji, and last year's breakout star, Sanna Nyassi, have all left
the club. Their departures place added pressure on Omar Cummings and Conor
Casey to shoulder the scoring burden, something that could prove difficult
given what transpired in 2011.
Cummings, despite being selected as an MLS All-Star last year, managed just
three goals in 26 appearances during the regular season. He did tally six
assists, but with three quality strikers out of the mix, the Jamaican will
need to be on top form week-in and week-out.
Casey was on a roll early on last year, hitting for six goals in 14
appearances. But tragedy suddenly struck the American forward as his season
was ended early with a gruesome Achilles injury. Also undergoing hernia
surgery during the offseason, Casey is not expected to return to action
immediately this season.
But perhaps the biggest transition for the Rapids this offseason was at the
head coaching position.
Gary Smith was at the helm of the club since the start of the 2008 campaign,
but following Colorado's postseason exit to Sporting Kansas City in November,
the Englishman's contract was not renewed. He was replaced with former FC
Dallas midfielder-turned-assistant coach Oscar Pareja.
Pareja appears to have already implemented a contrasting plan to what Smith
Getting away from Smith's 4-4-2 formation, the league's newest head coach
appears to be more in favor of an attack-minded 4-3-3 lineup.
Pareja has brought in a small crop of new players to better fit this system
with the likes of Colombian defender Luis Zapata, Colombian midfielder Jaime
Castrillon, and Argentine midfielder Martin Rivero.
How well Pareja's new additions, as well as his tactics, can mesh with
returning stars likes Jeff Larentowicz, Pablo Mastroeni, and Wells Thompson
will go a long way toward determining the level of success the Rapids will
experience this season.
2011 IN REVIEW: The Rapids grabbed the last playoff spot from the Western
Conference, finishing fifth with 49 points. They went on to defeat the
Columbus Crew in a one-off play-in game before being ousted by Sporting Kansas
City, 4-0 on aggregate, in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
ACQUISITIONS: Tony Cascio (M), Jaime Castrillon (M), Hunter Freeman (D),
Martin Rivero (M), Kohei Yamada (M), Luis Zapata (D).
LOSSES: Caleb Folan (F), Macoumba Kandji (F), Sanna Nyassi (M).
OUTLOOK: Colorado could miss out on the postseason just as easily as it could
qualify. With an unbalanced schedule in 2012 that will see the Rapids play
more matches against strong Western Conference opponents, it may be too much
to ask of Pareja to drastically improve on Gary Smith's achievements in just
his first year in charge. But there is still enough quality in this team to
contend for a playoff spot down the stretch.
The Sports Network