MLS- Colorado Rapids

What in the world is going on in Colorado?

Gary Smith 1 (ISIphotos.com) 

Photo by ISIphotos.com

When it comes to conversations about the most dysfunctional clubs in Major League Soccer, the New York Red Bulls often tend to dominate the conversations, but one club that needs to start being discussed is the Colorado Rapids.

The Rapids downright imploded in the final six weeks of the MLS season to miss out on the playoffs for a third straight year. They managed just four points from their final seven matches (and two of those points came courtesy of stoppage time penalties against the worst team in the West, San Jose) and for the second straight year the Rapids lost a match to arch-rival Real Salt Lake that helped RSL reach the playoffs.

In fact, there hasn't been much to smile about in Rapids land since opening Dick's Sporting Goods Park in 2007. In the three years since, Colorado has failed to reach the playoffs, has failed to land a shirt sponsor, has failed to sign a Designated Player and has failed to capture the imagination of the area's soccer fans despite opening a new stadium. All this while owner Stan Kroenke spends his time buying pieces of English powerhouse Arsenal.

If you're wondering why you haven't heard much about the Rapids it might be because there is virtually non-existent coverage of the team. With Denver losing one of its daily newspapers, the Rocky Mountain News, and the Denver Post all but ignoring the Rapids, there is really nowhere for anybody to find the criticism the club clearly deserves.

Will a third disappointing year lead to some heads rolling? You would think that Managing Director Jeff Plush would already be looking for a new job given his track record in charge, and Gary Smith may have already been on his way back to England if he were coaching some other MLS teams and let his team collapse the way he did.

It's a shame to see things remain the way they are in Colorado. The Rapids have a relatively new stadium and a nice nucleus of talent with Conor Casey, Omar Cummings, Pablo Mastroeni and Matt Pickens, but there is little reason to believe anything will change in 2010 (well, aside from Kroenke potentially being able to buy Arsenal).

That is a shame for the soccer fans in Colorado, where mediocrity continues to reign while the rest of the soccer-loving country doesn't even notice.

  • CO Caribou

    Spacemen 3 have a better chance of reuniting before the Rapids make it back to the MLS Cup which of course will not happen until Jason and Sonic are both wheeled into the same room at a Rugby retirement home 40 years from now.


  • CO Caribou

    I am going to guess that you do not know the history of Rocky Mountain Arsenal or the Western Tier Parcel where the Dick now sits.


  • RLW2020

    nailed it. people in denver are like sheep and the post blows. but that all sets up a chance at adding some fire to this club.


  • Jason

    Well, I think losing both starting wingers to injury (Clark and Smith) just weeks after waiving Cooke meant that there was not wing play for the stretch run, and it caught up with them.

    The D has been shaky all year, and Pablo ain’t what he used to be.


  • Andrew in D.C.

    I think SBI should get Kevin in Denver to do some freelance blogging work on the Rapids next season. I’m dead serious.


  • MM

    Season ending injuries to Colin Clark, Jacob Peterson, & Jamie Smith is the cause to the Rapids downfall. They all play the same position, and the injuries happened at relatively the same time. Without these players, they were dependent on defenders and defensive midfielders to get the ball to Casey and Cummings. It didn’t work. They were playing an empty bucket formation without wingers down the stretch. It was hard to watch.

    As far as some of the Terry Cooke comments, Cooke was extremely overrated by the fanbase. That said, he would have been useful to have down the stretch with all the injuries. He would/should have gotten cut this offseason if he hadn’t been waived in July.

    Gary Smith hasn’t been horrible. He had them playing well. His problem was he didn’t have the right players for his system when the injuries happened. He wasn’t able to adjust. The question is, will management supply him with the players this offseason? Ives is correct in that there is no pressure from press on Rapids management to produce anything. Local news shows might show a token goal if they have time. Some stations don’t bother to do that. Management has lots of other issues as well. Some are mentioned in the comments above. Hopefully, Kroenke will wake up to the fact that he has a team in Colorado and start improving the product.


  • Allen

    Some good points by Ives but in this case the devil’s in the details.

    minor point : Most fans don’t know or care about shirt sponsors. Does it have an indirect affect in that it brings in more revenue which could potentially be spent on a DP? Sure; nevertheless, that’s not a smile / no smile sort of thing.

    major point : The key word at play here used by Ives right off he bat is “dysfunctional”. Dysfunctional isn’t a merely an absence of success but that things are malfunctioning, they are broken.

    As frustrating of a season as the Rapids had, it’s laughable to say things with the Rapids are dysfunctional. That’s hyperbole. The team has some things to improve upon but that’s far, far from being a mess.

    What I find most peculiar though is that failing to capture the imagination of the local soccer fans is why we’re dysfunctional. With 2.4 million people in the Denver / Aurora MSA and 4 million but only when talking about a 150 mile corridor (bigger than some states out east) with 4 million people all having the NFL, NBA, MLS, MLB, NHL, indoor lacrosse, outdoor lacrosse, div 1 football programs, 3 div 1 hockeys, etc, etc along with wonderful mountains with world class hiking, skiiing, mountain biking, et al all competition for our attention, where is the proof that the Rapids have failed to capture the imagination of local soccer fans? How many soccer fans do we have in the first place? Keep in mind we have all those other things begging for our time and money. And metro Denver proper has less than 2.5 million people. So what are the numbers? HOw many fans are the Rapids missing out on? Or was that mere conjecture?


  • Richard Terry

    Ives, the soccer-loving country does notice the problems surrounding the Colorado Rapids. Now to use the term ‘dysfunctional’ might be a bit unfair, although is does bring to the forefront some issues that the Rapids organization are being forced to deal with.

    Pablo Mastroeni has been our long-term captain and leader. If the Rapids are going to be successful next season, he needs to shoulder this team and lead us to the playoffs. Sure, Conor Casey, Omar Cummings, Colin Clark, Jamie Smith and Cory Gibbs could also do their part to making this team better, Pablo is the heart and soul of the Rapids.

    Gary Smith was hired last season after he lead the Rapids on an eye-opening run that almost landed us in the playoffs. This season, the Rapids started off strong and some might agree with me that the 3-0 loss in Seattle in mid June was the turning point of the season. Omar had a chance to make it 1-0 on the road with a PK but missed off the crossbar and Seattle found their rhythm. One needs to evaluate what really went wrong with the stretch of not winning 1 out of their last 7 games.

    Jeff Plush should step down from the Rapids organization and Stan Kroenke needs to be present at Rapids games. The guy owns the Colorado Avalanche, Denver Nuggets, and continues to purchase shares in Arsenal. Colorado needs a playmaker in the midfield. Mehdi Ballouchy is not the answer and I agree that the trade that sent Kyle Beckerman to RSL was one of the biggest bone-headed moves that Fernando Clavijo did as manager.

    I have been a season ticket holder since last year and I will continue to have season tickets. I will support my club when they succeed and when they are mediocre. But, the excuse for the late season collapse this season rests on management, the players, and Gary Smith. Everyone needs to accept responsibility and their part of the blame. There are many soccer fans in Colorado and the majority need a reason to head up to DSG Park. Would a DP change that?? Possibly.

    Colorado also needs to cater to the die-hard football fans (soccer ultras). I am not talking about people that want to pick fights with RSL supporters, but stadium security need to lighten up when it comes to flagpoles. They STRICTLY enforce the 3 and 1/2 foot length on flagpoles which is ridiculous. We need to grow our supporters section and I feel that Rapids have kind of moved them in a corner. If one looks at Seattle, Toronto, DC United, Chicago, etc…the supporters are usually behind the goals or in DC’s case, the entire 50 yard line section.

    The Rapids have the potential to be one of the best teams in the league. Gary Smith foolishly called out his players after the 3-0 loss in Salt Lake City when he should have at least shouldered most of the blame. Salt Lake ran circles around us and stole the Cup from us too. (We beat them 2-0 in April at home, then had a 1-1 draw away in late May). The fans are behind Gary Smith and most of the players (usually with the exception of Ballouchy as he usually gets verbal abuse from fans during games).

    I know I went on a rant, but the Rapids need some playmakers in the midfield, they need management that has soccer experience and hopefully people that have won silverware with past clubs. Finally, the Rapids need to change their marketing and sales strategies. Even though the stadium is not in downtown Denver, they should be getting at least 15,000 (out of a maximum 18,000) fans each game.



  • Juna Carlos Osorio, Soccer Genius

    The Rapids have too many strikers. They need to play a 4-5-1 to contend.


  • jb

    We haven’t had an “attraction” except for the other team bringing in star players. There is no reason to take children to the games because you can’t teach them anything by watching the Rapids. The Rapid organization is filled with amateurs who seem to have different visions. Their current coach, I feel inherited all these problems–but there is no leadership at the top that would make the Rapids interesting, relevant, or important to the crowded professional sports scene in Denver. They really don’t even try to compete.


  • wahleyed

    Ah, SBI’s twice per year post on (swing at) the Rapids. I always wonder if he’s primarily frustrated that no one on the team gives him tips/insider info/time of day?

    Though, I suppose there’s usually not much intrigue going on with us…

    (SBI-Active imagination on you huh buddy? Interesting that you hadn’t made a single comment in a year but this makes you comment. I wrote the post because Colorado as a club is a mess and nobody else has written what I felt needed to be written. Contrary to what some people think, not every critical piece written is born out of a grudge. I write criticism when I feel criticism is warranted. Period.)


  • BellusLudas

    Come on….everyone know that the Rapids haven’t made the playoffs since they switched mascots…that and we don’t have cheerleaders! :-)


  • Brian Rants

    I remember being in the pressbox when I heard a loud collision and Peterson went down. A voice in the back of my head saying…that’s it, our last winger went down.

    If those freakish injuries don’t happen to all 3 wingers in a matter of weeks, right against the deadline…I daresay this SBI article is not written.

    That doesn’t mean some of the issues addressed above wouldn’t exist.

    I suggest 3 things
    1. Change in advertising. Give out hoodies to urban youth in Denver & Aurora. Hire graffiti artists to put the logo and Rapids art on the sides of buildings (legally).
    2. Appeal to true soccer fanatics. I’m usually surrounded by teams of 13 year old girls. I’m (truly) glad they are there, but what about the soccer fanatic friends I have here in Denver that won’t come to Rapids games. We need that passionate, educated fan coming, and we can do that by letting them make some noise and wave some flags.
    3. Give Gary Smith time. I think he’s the right man for the job. I believe in El Capitan.

    Don’t shoot the wounded Ives…MLS has an uphill battle here in the MLS…we are no more or less dysfunctional than all the MLS clubs except the few high-fliers.

    I love my club good or bad…but man that hurt the way things ended.


  • timothy

    There is a lot already said here, so I’ll try to touch on a few new points and back up some points already made:
    1. The team is playing significantly better and scoring goals with Gary Smith as manager. Their collective first touch has improved and they aren’t playing the horrific long ball on windy days like they did under Clavijo.

    2. If you drive from Denver, pass the trucker station, pass the middle of nowhere on your left and BF Egypt on your right, you will come across DSG Park. The point is that the Rapids put the stadium in the wrong place. How do we have 3,000 seat Infinity Park rugby stadium in a convenient location and the Rapids in the middle of nowhere? DSG is an amateur soccer complex first, a concert venue second, and a place for professional soccer third

    3. The atmosphere is pretty terrible. The games have been about half full all season and the majority of the people at the games are kids who are still wearing their team warmups. The worst part about that is that those youth players don’t even respect the Rapids! If you take a kid, raise him on free entertainment, why would he ever want to start paying for something that he is used to getting for free? Plus, those kids grow up thinking that Rapids games are something you go to if you’re a kid. As kids get older, they want to act older. In Seattle, the older kids are going to Sounders games. If you look at the Rapids fan section, they are pigeon-holed into the corner, while DC United puts them front and center in the middle of the field. This puts them in direct view when games are televised and it provides incentive for people to show spirit. When fans get crazy, they have fun. People who are having fun get people to join and they come back. DC United gives free season tickets to their loudest, most dedicated fans. That’s not a give-away, that’s an investment in atmosphere. It’s worth it.

    4. I think they have done a smart thing in working with bars like British Bulldog in selling a beer, a bus ride, and a ticket for $30. I hear it is a lot of fun and maybe I’ll do it one day. But that probably won’t be soon, because there are plenty on uninterested youth soccer players with free tickets who are willing to sell them to me for $10.

    5. The point regarding how many people are in the Denver metro area + the number of pro sports we have is moot. The Rapids need to try to compete with the other sports. Fact: the Colorado Mammoth games regularly out-attend Rapids game. Fact: How many people really care about lacrosse? Kroenke did Mammoth right. Why can’t he try with the Rapids?


  • Nats fan

    Wow, good comments Timothy. Colorado seems to be doing MLS 1.5 (I’d say 1.0 if they were still at Mile High): catering to youth teams and their parents (maybe they should hire babysitters at the game to help attendance), building no organic supporters group (do they even have one? I’ve never heard or seen them in the stands), sticking their product out into the outer boonie ‘burbs (who needs to take advantage of public transit in centrally located areas cuz cars solve everything), making their stadium a massive “complex” (really, the Rapids are just the biggest of the local youth league games), generating little to no buzz in the area and certainly none nationally (Denver resident: you mean Denver has a professional soccer team? I thought they only had those in Europe and Latin America), curious stadium cross-promotions (didn’t they have a “Faith” night with some Christian rock bands before a game this year because everybody wants some church with their football), and finally fielding a middling team with little creativity that’s a snore to watch, even admittedly by our own sometimes humble MLS standards. Really, how many people in Colorado would’ve even CARED had the Rapids made the playoffs? They’re stuck MLS circa 2001. Maybe they could bring back Alexi Lalas as a DP with his rockin’ cool orange goatee. Wasn’t Pele at the Olympics bid? Maybe he still has a good year or two left.

    Thing is, I seem to remember 2001 MLS mostly for bad, boring soccer (don’t worry, son, most long passes are SUPPOSED to go out of bounds), crashing attendance, few sponsors, next to no TV coverage, team contraction and a league swimming in red on the brink of oblivion. The weaker franchises with the antiquated business models in MLS are starting to reveal themselves and without a fundamental change in direction and approach they are only going to struggle much more in the future.


  • wahleyed

    Wow. that was a quick straw man construction…every critical piece is born out of a grudge?

    I said ‘I wonder…’. Beat that straw man, beat him!

    (I’d like to post more, but SBI is (unfortunately) blocked at work and by the time I get home, the comments section has deteriorated.

    (SBI-No straw man. If I had a nickle for everytime someone suggested a vendetta after a critical piece has been written I could have retired by now.)


  • Andrew

    Buddyhead just mentioned a rumor that they were offered $500k by the organizers of Coachella to reunite. Just need J. Spaceman’s (not-likely) approval.


  • Jason

    Actually the Rocky Mountain Cup was funded through auctions of team donated merchandise from both RSL and Colorado, and fundraisers held in both cities. Each side has an equal claim to funding it, and the Committee did not track which side paid more.


  • Beat Down Rapids Fan

    Touched a nerve Jason? Don’t kid yourself. The RSL fans paid way less than half on the cup. You know it we know it. Don’t try to act like you helped pay for it. A select few Colorado fans paid the majority of it. As far as your “committee” not tracking funding, there was nothing to track from RSL. Remember when your “committee” sprayed a 60 year old woman with a fire extinguisher. The fact is that your part of the “committee” is a bunch of chumps, who cry whenever there is money involved and we pick it up so we don’t have to listen to you whine…Money talks BS walks….maybe now that you actually have some fans you can START to carry your share of the load.


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