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Colorado Rapids

Colorado’s on track to become the laughing stock of MLS


The 2015 Colorado Rapids were depressing. They finished last in the Western Conference, last in goals scored and last in attendance. They continued to replace young talent with veteran mediocrity. Even technical director Paul Bravo, amidst all the spin, acknowledged that the team was a mess once the ball crossed midfield.

Instead of firing head coach Pablo Mastroeni, who has won an abysmal 19 of 71 games during his time in charge, Colorado decided they’d stick with their embattled coach and add a new assistant to focus on reviving the offense. On Thursday, the Rapids announced John Spencer, a man who has been out of coaching since being fired as head coach of the Portland Timbers midway through the 2012 season, would be added to Mastroeni’s staff.

Spencer, in what will be a role akin to offensive coordinator, isn’t exactly a slam-dunk hire. His attack in Portland was straightforward, extremely direct, and not especially effective, not unlike the type of attack Colorado is, apparently, trying to shed.

Still, compared with the rest of this Rapids offseason, the Spencer hire looks like a stroke of genius.

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To recap: Big pickup Marco Pappa, previously with the Seattle Sounders, was allegedly stabbed at his apartment by Miss Washington; potential Designated Player signing Alan Pulido may be facing a two- to six-month ban; and the team traded up to the number one spot in the MLS allocation order during the Superdraft only to find FC Nantes unwilling to part with Alejandro Bedoya.

Colorado has also struck out in their pursuit of Carlos Vela, lost captain Drew Moor in free agency and shipped fan favorite goalkeeper Clint Irwin off to join Moor at Toronto FC.

If the Rapids did, in fact, clear out Irwin to make room for Tim Howard, the situation in Colorado is even more dire than we thought. Howard, at 36 years old and in the worst form of his career, would be an absolutely farcical signing. Goalkeeper was the one place this team didn’t need help.

And remember, this was the offseason in which the Rapids were going to turn things around by spending and thinking big. Instead, this offseason has been a rambling sideshow. With the Western Conference continuing to get better, Colorado remains rooted to the foot of the division.

This organization has no clue. They’ve recommitted to Mastroeni for reasons beyond understanding yet continue to undercut him by with the likes of Director of Soccer Claudio Lopez and now Spencer. It’s been Chivas USA-esque.

The absolute destruction of this club happened in two years flat. Remember, in 2013, Colorado was heralded as one of MLS’s most exciting young teams as it made the playoffs under Oscar Pareja. Things began to fall apart when Pareja decided he wanted to return to FC Dallas. The Rapids delayed the move for as long as they could before force-feeding the job to Mastroeni, who had just retired and had no coaching experience.

Since the midway point of the 2014 season, Colorado has systematically and ruthlessly driven away the core of that 2013 playoff team. They’ve made an obsession of acquiring mediocre veterans who they deem to be “leaders,” resulting in a team that looks readier to battle Premier League relegation than contend for MLS Cup.

The idea, as stated by embattled technical director Bravo in November, that the Rapids can build a winner around Kevin Doyle, Sean St. Ledger, and Sam Cronin is simply an affront to the team’s dwindling fanbase. The league has changed. Against the likes of Portland, Seattle, LA, Dallas, and Vancouver, the likes of St. Ledger and Cronin aren’t ever going to cut it.

This team has no idea how it wants to play. Bravo has consistently stated that he wants an attractive, possession-oriented style, but he’s also praised the defensive fortitude of Mastroeni’s route-one kickball approach. The movement this offseason, in which the Rapids have lost 12 players and brought in midfielders Michael Azira (Seattle), Zach Pfeffer (Philadelphia) and Pappa, hasn’t communicated a coherent strategy.

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Colorado is only slated for two national TV games in 2016, one on ESPN2 away at DC United in March and another in late August on UniMas at Real Salt Lake. Factor in Colorado’s poor attendance and it’s easy to see why the Rapids have sought attention by doing things like inquiring about Howard.

But going for that type of name isn’t how you win games or fans. And no one in this dysfunctional organization – which is over-concerned with its reputation and went as far as to seek beat writer Chris Bianchi’s dismissal at the end of the 2014 season for criticizing the front office – appears to understand that.

Owner Stan Kroenke, a Missouri native who just yanked the NFL’s Rams out of St. Louis to move them to Los Angeles, is an absentee landlord. Bravo and with team president Tim Hinchey appear out of touch, while Mastroeni still in over his head. Chicago and Philadelphia recently blew up similarly doomed regimes, and you have to figure that the Rapids will be next to clean house.

Maybe Howard comes in. Maybe Pulido avoids suspension and arrives as well. But nothing will change. Soccer clubs need direction and intelligence at the top. Colorado has none of that, and as a result, the Rapids are on the verge becoming MLS’s laughingstock.

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  1. "Mike"

    May 22, 2017 at 4:02 pm

    Rapids will never do well as long as Kroenke holds the purse strings. He doesnt care about the team, it is just another team he can add to his collection. Everyone of his teams are doing badly since he took them over. Fans dont like him,listen to the Rapids and Arsenal fans at what they are saying. Last year we had Jones and played like a winning team with Spencer as Asst. coach. This year we have let go Jones, Burch and Cronin as well as Spencer and brought in Casey and several young players (and signed Mastoeni to a long term contract!) and again we are holding up the rest of the Western Conference. We deserve a coach who knows what he is doing, an owner who cares about the team, and a couple of strikers who can be RELIED ON to score goals.

  2. Jay C

    March 24, 2016 at 9:45 am

    Fairly new to the MLS scene but its a very fascinating league and obviously growing rapidly with some of the best players that has played the sport going out there towards the end of their career.

    We love the soccer in the UK as most will know but its nice to see more attention coming to the sport from the US. I work with a lot of US players at the moment on improving their soccer ability and I envy the environment most of them get to play in such as Florida etc. Over in the UK we are used to the bad weather and boggy surfaces, but what I would of given to have the opportunity to play in the sun and nice firm grass fields.

    Overall I enjoy reading these articles because I am constantly learning about the US league and also learning a lot from my US students.

  3. pauline

    January 28, 2016 at 10:18 am

    Why is the era Gary Smith was coach never mentioned ? You had a really good coach a lot of talented players and an M.L.S cup, but you chose not to build on that like other clubs . when talking about the club Oscar Pereja appears to be the last coach you refer to. Very strange !

  4. Jim

    January 26, 2016 at 7:48 pm

    Worst Sports Owner Ever. KSE is a joke. People need to understand that Kroenke is not even interested in MLS except as a potential hedge against any downturn in NFL ratings, due to the violence and long term health issues that seem to be keeping some folks away from the game. But in Denver, the Broncos always have and always will be kings. But I don’t think Kroenke will actually put any money into the Rams either. Richest family in the world and they buy these symbols of civic pride as if they mean nothing to the people that care. The Rapids are a joke. And the reason is Stan Kroenke. Please sell to someone who cares.

  5. led veritan

    January 26, 2016 at 10:56 am

    of course the rapids are a laughingstock. in the u.s., soccer is, always has been, and always will be a laughingstock. it’s appropriate for a sport that is the most boring one on earth, and that has zero relevance in the states.

  6. seth Israel

    January 26, 2016 at 9:28 am

    If relegation was in place. You bet the Rapids would have shaken up player rodster, coaching and front office. But no…here we see another example failure by USSOCCER federation would rather see a close system franchise go under and disappear like so many other clubs under the helm if Mr. Sunil. Pro religation would force ownership to invest wisely in their organization or face relegate.

  7. VicBklyn

    January 25, 2016 at 8:56 pm

    A MLS club with an owner of a PL team. #silentstan wondered why MLS didn’t want him to buy Chivas. They rather let the franchise dissolve. Arsenal fans take note. It’s all about the NFL stadium in Los Angeles. An owner who has no cares about being #1 & winning Championships. When is the world of sports going to direct more attention towards #silentstan.

  8. Bobb

    January 25, 2016 at 8:11 pm

    It was almost funny when Pablo Mastroeni had the Rapids tie the all time MLS record for longest losing streak, and then got suspended and the Rapids won the very next game. April 10, they went to eventual #1 see FC Dallas, and crushed them 4-0! Then, his team having avoided the humiliation of setting the record, Mastroeni came back, and they won just 1 of their next 12 games (a 1-0 squeaker).

    So to recap, Mastroeni finished 2014 on a 14 game losing streak. In 2015 the team won 1 of their first 16 games with Mastroeni as coach… that’s 1 win in 30 games!! And he managed to keep his job!

  9. michael petruccelli

    January 25, 2016 at 7:00 pm

    This is a solid explanation and argument for why the rapids need a new leadership from stem to stern. Its been embarassing to support the team when not even they want to be here.

  10. Paul

    January 25, 2016 at 6:24 pm

    You sound like a CO Rapids (ex)fan. About as disgusted with this bunch of bozos running the Rapids as anyone I know. I think players are avoiding coming here b/c they know the coaching and mgmnt are so bad. You know Juan Ramirez is off to Almera in Spain, right?

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