EDITORIAL – The 2020 Colorado Rapids season is over. It was a wild ride of a year that saw the team have essentially four preseasons. The team won the Rocky Mountain Cup in dramatic fashion and won their final three games of the regular season. Their year ended in the opening round of the playoffs, a 3-0 loss at Minnesota United FC.
2020 Colorado Rapids Season Review: Progress Made in the Face of Chaos
The Rapids won their first two “regular” season games over D.C. United and Orlando City on late winners. COVID-19 then spread throughout the United States and Canada postponing the season. Colorado crashed out of the MLS is Back tournament after a 2-0 loss to Real Salt Lake and a wild and controversy-filled loss to Sporting KC.
Manager Robin Fraser’s men started slow in the restarted regular season. After three 1-1 draws, the team won three of four games. Rounding into form, the club would have a COVID outbreak that would see them not play a game for a month and have five of 23 regular season games cancelled.
After tough losses to SKC and Minnesota, the Rapids won three games in a row to make the playoffs. They dominated Seattle Sounders 3-1, then Kellyn Acosta scored a late goal at Portland Timbers.
The team wasn’t able to execute in their playoff game and they bowed out to the Loons.
Cole Bassett, or as he’ll be known from this year, Goal Bassett. The 19-year-old led the team in assists with five and tied for first on goals with Jonathan Lewis with five. The next highest goals + assists on the year with Diego Rubio with seven.
The Homegrown grew into the hype this season. His Soccer IQ showed with great situational decisions and good skill in tight spaces. He was great in build-up play and pressing. He created goals with late runs into the box and on set pieces. Goal Bassett arrived in 2020.
What went well in 2020:
The Rapids made progress in Fraser’s goal to turn this team into a perennial playoff team. If nothing else, that, the Rocky Mountain Cup, and actually making the playoffs were achieved. Fraser developed the culture and his tactical ideas in the (mostly) 4-3-3 that showed versatility. Many young players also got better this year, not just Bassett.
The team won back the Rocky Mountain Cup with their first ever win at Rio Tinto Stadium, in a shocking score line. Fraser helped navigate the team through three large gaps in matches for the season. Everything that could go wrong this year did for this club (#ThatsSoRapids). Once team training got shutdown on September 25, the team could have mailed it in. They showed spectacular resilience all season long.
What went wrong in 2020:
All the stuff that was outside the club’s control was PEAK 2020. But let’s focus on what went wrong from a technical soccer perspective.
The 2020 Colorado Rapids showed they aren’t a team that can get results without playing up to their potential. They took time to get in rhythm defensively, both in organization and individual play. Auston Trusty didn’t get as much playing time as expected.
Younes Namli is unlike any player Colorado has ever had. That said, as the only Designated Player on the roster, he’s yet to show he can be an elite match winner in MLS. Performances from the wingers were inconsistent throughout the year and many fans and pundits are wondering if Diego Rubio is a starting caliber center forward for an aspiring playoff team. He does a lot of really good work off the ball, but only scored three goals.
What they need to do to improve in 2020:
Firstly, they need clarity at the center back position. Is Trusty ready to be the starter next to Lalas Abubakar? Is it worth bringing back the maligned but improved Danny Wilson or an aging Drew Moor? This position needs to be secured.
The young players need to be put in a position to compete, progress, and succeed in 2021. Similarly to Trusty, is Lewis ready to start 20+ games in a 34 game regular season and play as well as he does off the bench? Does the team take calls from teams looking to buy Bassett and Sam Vines in January? Regardless, a backup to Vines who actually steps on the field is needed.
This team is really solid and Fraser’s said on several occasions he likes where it’s at. A few key positions could use some tinkering in personal and system. The Rapids don’t need whole-sale changes this off-season. They should be expected to make the playoffs in 2021 and use their experience from this year’s playoff loss to win in the first round, at least.