Crestfallen Sadness: The 2022 Colorado Rapids have fallen off a cliff

colorado rapids sadness

EDITORIAL – Last night, the Colorado Rapids lost to Nashville SC 4-1. Last Saturday, they lost at Philadelphia Union 6-0. These losses are microcosms and exclamations on what has been a horrible season. The team that finished top of the Western Conference last year has eroded. They are a shell of the team they were. Their playoff hopes are dwindling at best.

Crestfallen: The 2022 Colorado Rapids have fallen off a cliff

There’s so many reasons this season has been a mess. Long term injuries have eliminated depth at every field position. Several of those happened before the season started. Jack Price has played in one game since mid-June due to calf and chest injuries. Bryan Acosta’s done a yeoman’s job at holding midfield. But Price’s leadership and presence in midfield are missed. The team’s failure to sign reinforcements in the summer have only exacerbated the issues in midfield. The club insists they were active, but selective, and things didn’t work out. These excuses have fallen on deaf ears. Supporters are weary of transfer windows where the Rapids have targets but then don’t get them done. Significant signings are needed in January for them to bounce back in 2023.

Every defender has regressed from last year. In 2021, this was one of the best defenses in the league. They were tied for fifth in goals against. Goalkeeper William Yarbrough led the league in clean sheets. Yarbrough has made big saves throughout this season, even in games when he concedes several goals due to what’s happening in front of him. Lalas Abubakar commits turnovers that lead to counter attacks. Danny Wilson’s marking has regressed. They’ve been disorganized on defensive set pieces. Keegan Rosenberry has not been the reliable defensive stalwart. Gustavo Vallecilla and Lucas Esteves are liabilities, goals waiting to be conceded.

“More than anything, I’m disappointed in the individual mistakes. The only thing that matters is our engagement. If we’re engaged, everything will take care of itself. How we played the first half is how we need to play the rest of the season,” Robin Fraser told Last Word.

Maybe their deficiencies were shielded last year by a much better midfield that had a healthy Price and the now departed Kellyn Acosta and Cole Bassett. Trading Acosta has aged poorly.

In the attack, this team is reliant on Diego Rubio. He’s one of the most underrated players in the league and on merits should have been an All-Star. Gyasi Zardes has 10 goals and two assists. Take out his hattrick against Minnesota, and that’s 0.42 G+A/90 over 1511 minutes. For the highest paid player on the team and a DP striker, more is needed. Jonathan Lewis and Michael Barrios are inconsistent. The attack is Rubio and a group of players who’d be a fine third or fourth piece added to a good attack.

Manager Robin Fraser has turned into a broken record when diagnosing issues. They’ve been hard done by referees at times this year. I’ll agree with him on that. But they keep discussing the simple defensive mistakes. It’s been months. If it was so simple, they would have fixed this already. Internally, they think they need another 15 points (47 total) to make the playoffs. They have six games remaining. What makes one think they’ll suddenly become much better at a thing they haven’t been good at in 12 months?

One of Rubio’s mantras is “every game is a final.” Pretty soon, games will turn into must wins to stay mathematically in the playoff race. Effectively, they’ve been playing finals and losing them for weeks.

“We’ve still got 6 games left. Mathematically, we’re still in it. Three home games, we take care of business, that’s 9. We think 15 points gets us in the playoffs. That’s 2 wins on the road. You just have to keep fighting. It’s crunch time,” defender Steven Beitashour said after last night’s game.

At some point, you are your record. This team isn’t good. They do not deserve to make the playoffs. They need their best six performances of the year to make it. Given the limitations this club has spending wise, last year was their ceiling: Win the conference with some teams that are better on paper underperforming. Again lose in the playoffs to a team with experience and star difference makers.

If this season is their floor, where is their average? The club has built up so much good will and belief in the Robin Fraser Era. Did they build all this up just to be a one-off paper tiger like 2016? We won’t have that answer until next year. But this season has gone so poorly that it’s coming into question.

Photo Credit: Mark Shaiken, Last Word on Soccer.