The Colorado Rapids were the surprise team of the year last year. The preceding seasons of mediocrity were erased with a stout defense that gave up the fewest goals in MLS, propelling the Rapids to the playoffs for the first time in years and even getting them past the LA Galaxy in the second round to make it all the way to Western Conference finals.
That magic seems to be gone this year. The Rapids are leaking goals, in no small part because they traded away Sam Cronin and Marc Burch, two veteran players that made up the backbone of their defense, to Minnesota United. They did this, it seems, so that they could play Mohammed Saeid as a number 10 and put Josh Gatt on their bench. Stunningly, that has not worked, and they most recently lost 1-0 to...Cronin, Burch, and Minnesota United. The team who have given up 24 goals this season. Nice.
Minnesota has improved drastically since giving up 10 goals in 2 games to start the season, but one could argue it was precisely thanks to Colorado’s willingness to trade meaningful parts of their operation for peanuts. Meanwhile, Colorado’s 2016 season looks more flash in the pan than recipe for long term success. Pablo Mastroeni needs to switch things up. I don’t think he’ll get the boot this season barring utter disaster, but Western Conference finals to last place isn’t a good look, and you never know when MLS owners will get trigger-happy.
Speaking of Which...
Look out, Curt Onalfos and Jim Curtins of the world, because Daddy Franky is here to turn your cellar-dwellar struggler into an elite, defensively rope-a-doping punching bag that will squeak into the playoffs every other season!
Seriously. Yallop just resigned as head coach from the University of Phoenix Online Didier Drogbas™. Will any fan be particularly excited about getting him as their new head coach? Probably not, but it wouldn’t surprise me if some under-performing club begins eyeing an experienced MLS coach known for shoring up defenses in the next few weeks. Just something to keep an eye on. Also, lock your creative midfielders in storage for safe keeping.
Player to Watch: Dax McCarty
This is an easy one. Dax is back in New York with Bastian Schweinsteiger in tow and Chicago Fire red splayed across his chest. It’s his first time back at Red Bull Arena and first time playing the Red Bulls since his rather unceremonious trade to Chicago in the offseason, and everyone’s a little bit curious as to how McCarty plays this one.
This is also an interesting game because both teams are still in transition mode. Chicago saw early success with the McCarty-Juninho-Scweinsteiger triangle before being soundly defeated by Toronto FC. Meanwhile, the Red Bulls have bounced back and forth from a 4-2-2-2, which has not been good, and a 4-2-3-1, which has looked consistently better every single time they have used it. Dax’s place in the Red Bull midfield has been taken up by 18 year old wunderkind Tyler Adams, and that battle will interest Red Bull brass as much as any other. All in all, there will be some sloppy play, some intense battles, and possibly even a moment or two of brilliance. McCarty is guaranteed to be a part of it.
Games to Watch
Toronto FC and Houston should be a fun one to watch, what with TFC’s offense finally kicking into gear over the past few weeks and the Wilmer Cabrera-Cubo Torres reunion tour going so well for the Dynamo. As an inter-conference game, this one should be a nonpartisan favorite.
For some games with more heft around the league, first and second place in the West go head to head in Dallas when the Portland Timbers come to town. Portland will be without unquestioned team MVP Diego Valeri for this one, so Darlington Nagbe and Sebastian Blanco will have to pick up the slack. Lucky for them Nagbe just did this last week.
Orlando and Colorado might also be fun, mostly because I just want to see how many goals Cyle Larin can score on them.