2013 Rapids: Ambiguity at its Finest

Rapids continue their protean 2013 season, leaving fans wondering which personality will take shape next
by Greg Moss   |   Thursday, July 04, 2013

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

Shapeshifters, polymorphs, transmuters, transmogrifiers and changelings all describe creatures with the ability to change form, shape, color and appearance.

These usually describe mythological creatures both in ancient civilizations and fantasy/sci-fi worlds and stories. All of which are legends, myths and all around fiction. Nowhere in our world are there such animals that fill those roles. There are certain things, however, that have some qualities that parallel these beings.

Of course I’m talking about the Colorado Rapids.

Many teams throughout history in many different sports often display the same characteristics as the Rapids have over the last month or so, with a Jekyll and Hyde type mentality. Some would call this adaptability; some would call it either strength or a weakness.

I would call it both, but in two different ways.

Adaptability as strength

The scale of change the Rapids incurred from the 2012 season was massive. No other team in the MLS could have guessed what they were going to look like, including the Rapids.

Experimentation and hope were the 2 words at the forefront of the Rapids’ vocabulary. Many expected them to have a slow start to the season as they found their feet, unsure of what the Colorado identity was going to be. Injuries upon injuries piled up immediately on the Rapids, causing them to have to adapt to the situation that they were inevitably left with.

Soon, experimentation was no longer an option; it was a necessity. The Rapids would be forced to discover what talent they had on the bench, and that they did. The matches that followed the injury of goalkeeper Matt Pickens were the most consistent the Rapids had seen in some time.

Adaptation was the reason why. Teams couldn’t predict what Colorado was going to put on the field. The players were so young and so new to the league that MLS clubs didn’t know what Colorado was going to look like. Adaptation turned into consistency, and consistency turned into winning. The ability to turn lemons into lemonade became the Rapids forte and they enjoyed it, for a time.

The Golden Age of 2013 was a surprise to everyone, especially after their failure in the second half of the 2012 season. The young 19-year-old Shane O’Neill had become the pillar in the backline in front of high-flying rookie goalkeeper Clint Irwin. The team had tweaked their way to winning plugging in pieces to complete their makeshift team.

And to everyone’s surprise, it was working. Starters like Martin Rivero and Hendry Thomas began to return causing even more of a guessing game for opponents that faced the Rapids. Eventually, so many changes had occurred that not even the Rapids could keep up, and then, the impending fate caught up with them.

Adaptability as weakness

After the Rapids’ break, self-destruction ensued. It appeared as though the Rapids couldn’t keep up with all of the talent they had on the sideline and were throwing pieces in at random. Players returning from injury and expulsion returned to play with players they hadn’t played with in months. Lack of cohesion had revealed to opponents that rather than adapting to what the Rapids were doing, they could play their own style of soccer putting the Rapids on their heels.

Adaptation is a defense mechanism, or even an act of desperation to survive. Each opponent had been enacting that form against the Rapids for the 1st half of the season. They realized that the teeth that the Rapids were bearing were nothing but an illusion confusing them and causing them play defensively. Once on the attack, the opponent’s fear all but disappeared, and they played their own style.

The attack of Colorado became desperate acts to salvage even just a point from nothing. The chameleon had been caught and stuck in repetitive trap that it couldn’t escape.

The Heart of the Chameleon

The blame can be put in many different places in the Rapids lineup. Irwin has begun to feel pressure from Pickens’ return. The defense has been extremely inconsistent without the steadfast Shane O’Neill. The midfield has been timid to shoot from outside the 18-yard-box. The strikers have never found the ability to finish. Some of these aspects of Colorado’s game have been fluent throughout the 2013 season, and they were lucky to get away with it.

It was only a matter of time before it all caught up with them.

The Rapids have never been the predatory team that they appeared to be, but rather disguising themselves as one, confusing other teams as well as themselves. Reality always sets in, and everything is exposed for what it truly is.

The Return of the Rapids

The reality for Colorado is that they truly do have talent, they just haven’t figured out how to use it.

If one looks at the team when they found consistency, they were taking points left and right. But with a midseason identity crisis, the Rapids have forgotten who they are and what they can do. Once the players remember who they are once again, they will be a threat. The return of Shane O’Neill and Martin Rivero may prove that. Irwin will feel more comfortable with O’Neill guarding him and the strikers will be free with Rivero taking on traffic.

The Rapids will become the predator once more. Adaptability will be something of the past, and the attack minded Rapids will forget about survival and defense mechanisms as they begin to play as a team rather than individuals on the field.

NEXT UP: July 4 – Colorado Rapids vs. New York Red Bulls, Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City, Colo. 9:30 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!


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