2018 Colorado Rapids Season Review: The more things change, they stay the same

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Editorial (November 30, 2018) – The 2018 Colorado Rapids season is over. It was one of the most disappointing and statistically worst seasons in club history. First year manager Anthony Hudson led the squad to an 8-19-7 record, good for 31 points and second to last in the Western Conference.

2018 Colorado Rapids Season Review: The more things change, they stay the same

The Rapids season started out with much promise. A wave of new players came into the squad. Hudson was preparing the team to play in a 3-5-2, a rare formation in MLS. They took flyers on a few strikers and became a mid-table team in terms of spending in the league. It all ended up being for not.

Team MVP

If nothing else, Edgar Castillo was fantastic in his first year in MLS. The left wing back came in on loan and immediately was an offensive catalyst. He was fast, he had skill, and linked up with everyone he played with. Despite being in a role that emphasizes defense, he was one of the most significant offensive contributors all year. He scored big goals in key moments. And the Rapids desperately need to bring him back next year.

What went wrong in 2018

How much time do you have? Outside of Jack Price and Sam Nicholson, every international acquisition was a disappointment in 2018. The defense was poor collectively and individually. The unit didn’t provide enough stability in possession and individually was slow and weak at 1-v-1 defending. Every big mistake led to a goal.

The offense struggled with Stefan Aigner and later Yannick Boli in the dog house with Hudson. A rotating cast up top was unable to create chances for themselves or others. The top two goalscorers (Dominique Badji and Joe Mason) departed in the summer and Tommy Smith ultimately won the team Golden Boot. With four goals. The team never found a way to make the 3-5-2 work offensively or defensively.

What went right in 2018

The Rapids did find a few small victories later in the season. The summer brought two big changes that immediately yielded results. In trading Badji, the club acquired Kellyn Acosta and shifted to a 4-4-2 diamond. This simplified roles in the midfield and fit the personnel better. This helped provide more chance creation and protected the backline more, leading to positive results.

Nicholson moved up top and had some good performances. Niki Jackson scored a few goals and gained confidence in the final months of the season. In a feel good moment, the club signed 17-year-old Cole Bassett in July. He scored a goal in the final game of the season to end the year with a 2-1 win over FC Dallas.

What they need to do to improve in 2019

Again, how much time do you have? The Rapids need improvements across the board to make the playoffs in 2019. Every international player who was in their first year in MLS needs to improve from this past year. Hudson needs to figure out if the club is sticking with the diamond midfield, going back to the 3-5-2, or going to a new formation. The tactics need to be better established and developed with the squad.

Colorado also needs to hit on signings in January and have the squad assembled by the start of preseason to hit the ground running. Castillo needs to be brought back if the money works out. The club needs to figure out an answer for the right back position and that can’t be “play a central midfielder there until Marlon Hairston snaps out of his funk.”

Lastly, the team needs offensive contributors. No striker who finished the season in Commerce City had more than two goals in league play. Badji is gone as are the expensive forwards that came in this year. The club needs to get a TAM and starting level forward or No. 10. If that signing is a bust, the Rapids are probably toast in 2019 even if they do everything else mentioned above right.