COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – 2023 was in many ways the worst year in the history of the Colorado Rapids. Early season injuries to Jack Price and Diego Rubio saw them get off to a slow start. Defensive issues from 2022 remained. Their new signings were a mixed bag at times. DP forward Kévin Cabral had three goals all season, none of which were that impressive. They went through a summer stretch that saw them win one game in 15. They crashed out of Leagues Cup and then lost three in a row by an aggregate score of 9-0. That was it for Robin Fraser as head coach. Interim manager Chris Little did a yeoman’s job but they had too much ground to make up. They narrowly avoided the Wooden Spoon as a supporters’ protest marred the end of the season. Writing this Colorado Rapids season review will not be fun, but here we go.
2023 Colorado Rapids Season Review
By season’s end, most of the new signings had hit. Across the 34 game season, it wasn’t great. Connor Ronan was brought in to play with Jack Price, and did a really good job filling Price’s role at times. He was an engine in the midfield and decent in position. Andreas Maxsø has not lived up to the DP tag as a center back, but he finished the season strong. He was physical, limited mistakes, and scored a few goals. Like Maxsø, new goalkeeper Marko Ilić looked good by season’s end. Andrew Gutman immediately was fantastic at the left back position. Rafael Navarro finally getting a goal in the second to last game of the year was much needed.
The kids were good enough to have fans optimistic for 2024. Cole Bassett led the team in goals with six. He ended the season well, like a number of players, under Little. Moïse Bombito was a breath of fresh air at center back, though he had some tough performances in getting there. Calvin Harris’ has his year come full circle when he scored the winner against New England Revolution in September. Sebastian Anderson worked his way into the first team off his performances with Rapids 2 in MLS NEXT Pro.
The 2023 Colorado Rapids had many weaknesses. Let’s start up front. Cabral was the big attacking acquisition in the winter. He scored three goals. Two of them were in league play where a teammate did all the work to create an open play and pass him the ball for a tap in. The other was in Leagues Cup where Gutman’s shot deflected off of him and found the back of the net. He was low on confidence most of the year. He could not hold the ball up when out of position as a false No. 9. He’s fast but cannot finish. His season was summed up in League Cup against Toluca when he got a break away and passed the ball rather than shoot 1-v-1 with the keeper.
The rest of the attack just wasn’t good enough until after Fraser’s firing. Harris and Bassett came full circle by September but were not scoring enough earlier in the season. Michael Barrios was a bright spot off the bench before he was traded to LA Galaxy, but the 32-year-old clearly lost a step. Jonathan Lewis was hurt most of the year. Darren Yapi had a hype train in preseason but did not score one goal for the first team. Rubio’s several injuries limited him to 1,080 league minutes and seven goal contributions. Without the talisman, no one else was able to step up.
Not only did they struggle to finish, they went through long patches where they barely created chances. They were poor in possession, especially building out from the back through Yarbrough, the center backs, and Ronan. The midfielders were poorly positioned for dealing with turnovers, especially Ralph Priso. They became predicable, poor, and unwatchable. Getting into the final third was so hard. When they got there, they did not execute. The defense made mistakes to give the opponent several high quality chances. They rarely could create them for themselves. The tactics, quality, and energy dropping off from 2021 ultimately cost Fraser his job.
Oh, and there were a bunch of injuries throughout the year and maybe the players filed a grievance with the MLSPA because the facilities were so bad that they didn’t feel safe.
Game of the Year:
The September 16 2-1 win over New England Revolution was the most memorial match on and off the field. For starters, it was the first game under Little and it saw them get their second home win. They were compact, hard to beat, and better in transition, a hallmark of the Chris Little Effect. The Revs weren’t great on the night, but the Pids put forward a performance and result that were in the right direction.
The story of that night was supporters protest. Centennial 38 encouraged fans to wear black and they walked out in the 20th minute. Section 117 was left vacant with black banners reading “The Badge, The Players, The Fans Deserve Better.” This was a reference to an open letter from the supporters group that was released earlier that week. They complained about the club’s historically terrible season and the inaction from the front office and ownership to correct it. They lamented KSE being cheap absentee owners. They called for action on the sporting and business side.
The Rapids got a win on the pitch but they took a loss on social media, at the water coolers, and in the media in the following week. And rightfully so.
This was the worst year in club history. Pretty much everything that could have gone wrong did. There’s nowhere to go but up for the last place team in the Western Conference. Chris Armas is in as head coach. The fanbase was underwhelmed by the hiring to say the least. It’s not obvious that ownership will be taking action because of the poor results on the field and in the stands. They’re locked into three Designated Players. The roster announcement yesterday did not signal this will be a full rebuild. The first team needs to do better with what they are in 2024. The front office and ownership need to reconnect emotionally with the community.
Photo Credit: Mark Shaiken, Last Word on Soccer.