Rapids Looking to Break the Cycle

The 2012 season is eerily similar to the start of 2013. Can 2013 bring change?
by Greg Moss   |   Thursday, June 06, 2013

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

One could make the claim that Denver has become a city for trial runs. It’s a place full of entrepreneurs and expansion, growth and chance.

The Colorado Rapids have come to be the essence of those titles. They have quickly grown into a team that replicates the city surrounding them, offering contracts and chances to players that are unproven, but hungry to change that. Ten players on the Rapids current roster have never played in the MLS, few of which have played in leagues of higher stature.

2012 campaign in comparison

The Rapids of 2013 are not so different from Oscar Pareja’s team of 2012, but they capture what he was attempting to accomplish – an attacking style of play encompassed into the phrase “pretty soccer.”

Last season was a year of adjustments attempting to climb to unreachable heights with the personnel that took the field week after week. The Rapids began their 2012 campaign as they did this season, in a 4-3-3 floating to a 4-2-3-1, which as we know, didn’t end the season well.

Interestingly, last year’s campaign saw the Rapids very close in points to where they are now. They had 19 points with a 6-7-1 record after 14 matches. The Rapids are 5-4-5 with 20 points after 14 matches this season.

The difference is that we know how the 2012 season ended for Colorado. The following 20 matches only held 5 more wins and 3 more draws for the Rapids, giving them 18 additional points, which didn’t even double the amount they had through 14 matches. And the fat lady had sung after 12 more losses for the mile-high soccer club, putting them in 7th place and well out of the playoffs with a record of 11-19-4.

The issues that destroyed Colorado last season are some of the same that have held them in the middle of the pack this season. But the defensive issue that was one of the top 2 concerns throughout 2012 has been repaired, as the Rapids have only allowed 12 goals thus far through 2013, and finished 2012 allowing 50 goals.

The issue that has found a way to persist is similar to the other top concern of 2012; that is the elusively problematic finishing. Articles and discussions have protruded even through the obvious improvements that the Rapids have made rising to the top of all soccer discussions in Denver, crowning any success stories, especially the new and improved defensive ramparts.

The current season is one that still holds intrigue, and its future is unknown. Though the first 14 matches hold a similar result, the following 20 may not, if the Rapids can perfect their ability to score.

Historically problematic

After Conor Casey checked out, and Omar Cummings went down with injury, the Rapids were left with no one with the ability find the back of the opponent’s goal. Even when the infamous duo of 2010 was on the pitch together, the Rapids still found problems scoring. It seemed to be a bug that had bitten them harder than any of us could have imagined.

Colorado picked up where it left off when 2013’s campaign was underway. Trying to find their scoring feet, the Rapids struggled through the first 2 months of the season only scoring multiple goals in a single match just once. It was a whirlwind of lineup and starter changes as the injuries piled up and new pieces were signed and put into place.

One of the few constants that stood tall up front was Atiba Harris. He had taken criticism from fans and a few analysts throughout the season, but battled through them. In the match last week against FC Dallas, the top team in the West, he scored 2 goals making him the Rapids top scorer of 2013 thus far. Both goals scored were one-touch finishes, something the Rapids haven’t seen much of in the last season.

Harris has been just about everywhere in the MLS, with 1-year bouts in RSL, Chivas, Dallas and Vancouver, never scoring more than 6 goals in a season. The 28-year-old winger/striker may have found a niche with the Rapids scoring 4 goals through only 14 matches, 2 scores behind his best season.

In an interview with Harris, he was asked how he is all of a sudden finding the net. He simply said, “I decided, something gotta change, so I stayed back for probably an hour, just finishing with Edson (Buddle) and Danny (Mwanga). I think I was just trying to change my luck, you know?”

The practice time that Harris has put in paid off in the match against Dallas. The 2 goals he scored were arguably 2 of the best one-touch finishes Rapids fans have seen all season. The question Rapids fans ask is whether or not he can keep it up. History would tell us “no”, as he’s never had more than 6 goals in a season.

But with rookie Deshorn Brown still working up to his potential, and Edson Buddle in and out with injury, it will be a likely scenario that Harris will have the season of his career if he can continue to find himself at the right place, at the right time.

NEXT UP: June 15 – Colorado Rapids vs. San Jose Earthquakes, Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City, Colo. 9 p.m. EST, MLS Live.

MHC PODCAST: Be sure to listen & subscribe to Greg and Bryan’s new SN podcast Mile High Club, every week!

Greg MOSS

Nationality:
USA
College:
Concordia College
Club Domestic:
Colorado Rapids
Club Foreign:
Everton
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
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