Rapids Season a Story of Survival

Despite injuries, Colorado seems to be making things work
by Greg Moss   |   Thursday, May 30, 2013

Mile High Club – column on Colorado Rapids & the Denver area and Colorado soccer scenes.

The word “plague” a long time ago was a word that held unrelenting fear. People would evacuate towns at the first hint of its presence fleeing as far as they could. The disease travelled quickly from one person to another.

Nowadays, the word doesn’t hold such strong meaning, though it is still a word that should not be taken lightly.

Plague hit Commerce City, Colo., in 2013. The Colorado Rapids were the bearer of its manifestation.

In the case of the Rapids, “plague” meant “breakout”, one in which fans wish could have been quarantined. They watched as one player after another fell to injury. It spread quickly throughout the ranks of the Rapids. Match after match fans watched the tireless injury plague ran rampant moving from one Rapid to the next.

I could list all of the players that were lying in a field hospital, but that might be rather long winded. I will say that the Rapids had more than enough injuries to cover each position on the field of the starting XI, and then some. Hope had faded from Rapids fans, too early in the season.

But what fans didn’t realize was that the players who had been named to the pine at the start of the 2013 season would be the players that would hold the Rapids in the top 5 of the Western Conference, and in playoff contention.

As is true with any tragedy, there is always a sort of enlightenment or coming together, if you will, that evolves from it. Doubt had implanted itself in the minds of the viewers, unsure of what the Rapids future would hold. Little did they know at the time that in the midst of the injuries to beloved players, others would rise up in their stead and prove that they could hold their own in a league that increases in talent every season.

Here we are, in that future, where it seems that the depth in Colorado is deeper than most would have expected.

The biggest surprise to rise from that depth is rookie keeper Clint Irwin, whose story is an adventure in itself. He is as surprised to be an MLS starter as anyone else, as he was signed by Colorado after a preseason trial. In his wake came many other players that were hungry for playing time and have stepped into larger shoes to keep the Rapids afloat.

Chris Klute, who came out of the NASL’s Atlanta Silverbacks backline, has risen to the top to become the sure starter at a Rapids historically problematic left back position.

Homegrown Rapid Shane O’Neill has proven himself to be a hotheaded, yet quite competent center back when Diego Calderon fell to injury.

The list continues with players that have raised their value with the league by stepping in for the Rapids starters. Many speculate that these players could start with many other teams within the league.

All of this excitement from the parting storm clouds leaves fans with a sense of relief, but also curiosity. The Rapids finally have a sense of consistency and cohesion built among the players on the field. But now, the team is nearly healthy, and the starters who opened the season have begun integrating themselves back into the fold.

Do the Rapids have to start over to build the on-field relationships again as these players return? Or will they only raise the level in which they are capable of playing?

These have been difficult questions for many Rapids faithful. Players like Matt Pickens, who was arguably one of the top 5 goalkeepers in the MLS last season, may not see playing time for the remainder of 2013, even if he is 100% fit. How many other players will be placed on the bench for these “back-up” players? It is difficult to know who the regular starters will be, if any, and what the Rapids will look like in the 2014 season. I can guess that we will see a blend of the old starters and the new as time goes on, and as players become fit again.

It truly is a blessing in disguise for the Rapids staff to discover the amount of depth they have on their roster, allowing them to plug any player in at anytime making them extremely dangerous for any opponent. With the return of the injured, it can only raise the talent level in which they play, vying for a spot in the MLS playoffs, and making a postseason appearance that much more realistic.

No one is sure what the team will look like several weeks from now. But I speculate that we won’t often see the same look from the Rapids each week, which makes them exciting and spontaneous, and allowing them to plan for each opponent each week. To have a healthy roster again means that fresh legs rejoin those that have held them in place for the last three months. Their dubious issues ideally will disappear with their injuries, polishing them to the well-oiled machine they can be.

NEXT UP: June 1 – Colorado Rapids vs. FC Dallas, Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City, Colo. 9 p.m. EST, MLS Live.

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Concordia College
Club Domestic:
Colorado Rapids
Club Foreign:
Producer of "From the Pitch" with Marcelo Balboa and a personal Rapids podcast. All personality with a face for radio and profile pictures. Born a midwesterner, thankfully transformed into a Rocky Mtn dweller. Covering Colorado Rapids with words and voice