Editorial (February 13, 2017) – Last Word on Soccer doesn’t really believe in open letters. I doubt Kevin Doyle will ever read this from start to finish, I thought it was worth acknowledging his impact to the Colorado Rapids and soccer in Denver. It’s worth giving those who haven’t watching him for the past few seasons some insight on what Kevin Doyle in Colorado brought to MLS, on and off the field.
The Impact Of Kevin Doyle In Colorado: His Mark Will Be Felt Beyond 2018
Kevin Doyle came to the Colorado Rapids as a DP striker in March of 2015. The Irish International played three total seasons in MLS, recording 16 goals and eight assists in 71 total appearances. He was a big part of what created the offense in 2016, a season in which the Rapids set a number of club records and nearly won the Supporter’s Shield.
The Rapids never really used Doyle in the most effective ways. He was often played as a withdrawn striker with limited service. At other times, he was played in the No. 9 role with limited service where his job was to create space and opportunities for those behind him.
Due to concussion concerns last season, he was forced to announce his retirement before the end of the regular season. Doyle was at times maligned for being one of the least productive DP strikers (by salary/goals) in the league. That said, Doyle still made a very positive impact on the organization.
Part Of Club History:
Doyle was a major part of the successes in the 2016 Colorado Rapids season. It was his most productive season and the season in which he played his most minutes. He was a senior voice in a locker room that nearly shocked MLS.
Doyle was an engine in the attack, often running at opposing center backs, taking them with him, and creating space for other teammates. That allowed the likes of Dominique Badji, Jermaine Jones, Shkelzen Gashi, and Marlon Hairston to have space to score goals.
He also scored a huge goal in the MLS Cup Playoffs at Seattle Sounders FC. It ended up being not enough, as the Rapids were eliminated in the Western Conference Finals.
While the defense and Sam Cronin will go down as being the story of the 2016 Colorado Rapids, Doyle had a role to play that year and he played it well. He was a significant part of the attack, even when it didn’t show on his stats sheet. He will always be a member of one of the most successful teams in club history.
A Mentor To The Rapkids:
Doyle shared a locker room with two primary groups of youngsters while with the Rapids. He showed up as ‘the Rapkids’ were coming into their own. Deshorn Brown and Dillon Powers were playing well and Head Coach Oscar Pareja was promoting a number of young players. The organization took a different turn as Pareja left for FC Dallas in the off-season and the organization hired club legend Pablo Mastroeni just before the season stopped.
Doyle was then introduced to a new group of young players, particularly on the attacking side. Badji and Hairston were becoming starters. Homegrown Dillon Serna was getting more involved in the offense as well.
“Doyle’s been great. Having him as a Designated Player on this team has been great for leadership. I was a young kid coming into this league and he took me under his wing, and the other young guys also,” Hairston told Last Word on Soccer.
He provided mentorship to several players, buying cleats for some of the newer (and lower salaried) players and working with them after training, as I’ve heard on several occasions. He provided mentorship, having once been a young player and having played in high pressure situations (internationally and in leagues with relegation).
In this, Doyle’s time with the Rapids is over, but his impact will be felt as long as Badji and Hairston are with the club.
Lack Of Achievements:
It should be stated that Doyle’s numbers are underwhelming. Just 16 goals in three healthy seasons (he played at least 20 league matches in all three seasons) isn’t great for a Designated Player making over $1 million a season. On a team that doesn’t score a lot, Doyle led the club in goals just once (2015, five goals).
I’v always felt that the Rapids didn’t use him in a way that maximized his production. Before coming to MLS, he was mostly a channel running No. 9. He wasn’t always in that role with Colorado and even when he was, the service he got was inconsistent. Even when he was a center forward, he was often asked to run at center backs to ultimately create space for others, thus his efforts led to scoring production for others.
In many ways, he was underwhelming. Decades from now, Kevin Doyle will not be talked about as one of the best DPs in Rapids history. For his salary, his numbers should have been better regardless of what else was going around him.
In three seasons in MLS, his numbers weren’t great, but his efforts led to production elsewhere. In a vacuum, his numbers weren’t great; numbers never lie, but they don’t tell the full story.
The end to Kevin Doyle in Colorado was bittersweet. He was forced to retire due to concussions and head injury concerns. Doyle ended his career earlier than planed (I would have been fine with the Rapids bringing him back in 2018 as a non-DP). That said, he leaves the club in in good hands.
“He’s an absolutely first class professional. He’s an absolutely fantastic person. He’s had a career at a top level. He’s represented his country a number of times and he’s played on the biggest stages. Every club he’s played for he’s represented very very well,” former Assistant Coach Steve Cooke said.
He made a positive impact on the club and in the community. He helped along the younger players, several of whom are set for big years in a new look team in 2018. In that, Kevin Doyle should be remembered for his time with the Colorado Rapids and Major League Soccer.