PREVIEW – The 2023 MLS regular season begins today, though Colorado Rapids will have to wait till tomorrow night when they play at Seattle Sounders FC. The Burgundy Boys had a busy offseason, getting a number of players healthy and signing players at nearly every position of weakness. They still haven’t spent big, but Robin Fraser is bullish that last year will not be repeated. The Pids want to get back to the playoffs and give the bigger teams in MLS a run for their money.
2023 Colorado Rapids Season Preview
Key players departed: Gyasi Zardes, Lucas Esteves, Drew Moor
Not that many players departing the Rapids were significant nor surprising. Drew Moor finished a fantastic 18-year career. He was a great locker room presence but mostly a bench player. Gyasi Zardes did fine in one year as a DP striker for the Rapids but left for greener pastures in Austin FC. When the MLSPA releases the first round of salaries, if Zardes is making $1 million this year, Rapids fans shouldn’t be disappointed he left.
Esteves is an amazing talent but proved to be hotheaded and was not work the reported purchase option of $1 million from Palmeiras. All other departures were the Rapids jetisening dead weight.
Key players signed: Kévin Cabral, Andreas Maxsø, Connor Ronan, Marko Ilić
Colorado reloaded this offseason. Cabral is probably the biggest reward/biggest risk as far as the club seeking out distressed assets within the league. The big questions for him will be whether he can improve his finishing and work well with Diego Rubio. The Rapids need a reliable secondary scoring option outside of their talisman Chilean.
The Rapids have rebuilt their entire backline after conceding too many goals last year. Maxsø comes in as the first DP center back in club history and looks to be well worth it. He passes well out of the back, is good defensively and physically, and is a leader. Alex Gersbach will be the likely replacement for Esteves at left back. Ilić comes in on a short term loan from Belgium. If he challenges or beats William Yarbrough for the starting goalkeeper position, the Rapids will likely purchase him in the summer.
Ronan joins Cole Bassett, who returns after a year on loan in the Netherlands. Add a healthy Jack Price, and the Rapids will have more bite and quality in a well-rounded midfield.
Young Players to watch: Cole Bassett, Darren Yapi, Max Alves
Bassett comes in with something to prove. His time at Feyenoord and Fortuna Sittard didn’t seem him play enough. He’s back home and brings everything the Rapids lacked last year with him and Kellyn Acosta gone. He should have his best club season yet.
Yapi has grown leaps and bounds the last two seasons as a Homegrown. He started much of last year with Rapids 2 but gradually made his way into the first team, starting on Decision Day. The 18-year-old could have a significant role if he keeps this up. He might be the starting center forward and get 5-7 goals this year.
Max Alves has improved his English and understands MLS now. Look for him to fulfill the David Gass Theorem and be much better in 2023 in the midfield as a creative player.
Can the Rapids bounce back and make the playoffs?
Absolutely. The expanded playoff format help significantly. They only missed out on the postseason by four points last year. They had five long term injuries. All but Dantouma Toure is back in training from that group.
The financial gap continues to widen between Colorado and most of the league. Other than Rubio, they don’t have a game changer or reliably great attacker. But they still have a good core of young and veteran players for how much they do spend. If they bounce back, Fraser manages well, and the new signings hit, this is absolutely one of the nine best teams in the Western Conference.
All this said, their ceiling is well defined. Winning one playoff round would be a success for this team. They’re unlikely to threaten for a trophy.
Conclusion and Prediction for the 2023 Colorado Rapids:
The Rapids will make the playoffs, finishing 7th in the Western Conference. They will make it no further than the Conference Semifinals. They get no further than the Round of 16 in the U.S. Open Cup. With Toluca and Nashville in their group, they will not make the knockouts of Leagues Cup.