COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – The Colorado Rapids won two games last week. By an aggregate score of 9-7, they defeated New York Red Bulls and Minnesota United, two teams currently fourth in their respective conference. It’s the first time they’ve won back-to-back games since March. Despite an underwhelming secondary transfer window, this could be the start of a perfectly timed turnaround. Head coach Robin Fraser praised the “playoff mentality” that led to these two wins. They’ll need more of it to make something of this season.
Colorado Rapids were ready to swing big in the transfer window, now relying on “playoff mentality”
The transfer window proved to be disappointing for the Rapids. They traded Mark-Anthony Kaye to Toronto FC for $2-2.5 million in total assets, including Ralph Priso. Sam Nicholson returned on a free transfer after two years at Bristol Rovers. Executive Vice President and General Manager Padraig Smith told MLSSoccer.com this after the Kaye trade:
“It’s folly, really, to look at these deals in isolation. This is not the last deal we’re going to make in this window. This is the first of what I certainly believe is going to be a very active window for us, and I think really what has to be done is it has to be judged in terms of the total package of what the overall situation looks like, what the roster looks like when we’re finished making those moves.”
Active but Selective:
The only move made after June 11 was bringing on Felipe Gutiérrez on loan till the end of the season. This was not their first choice move. A deal for another midfielder is believed to have been in the works, but fell through in the final week of the window.
“From a value proposition perspective, do we think we improved? We do. We would have liked to add another player [in addition to Gutiérrez]. Got very close to adding someone we were quit keen on. It didn’t work out in the end. We were very active from that perspective, but we’re also very selective,” Smith told Last Word on Soccer on Friday morning.
Assistant General Manager Fran Taylor added “there were a couple of homerun swings were were hoping came our way.”
Smith and the FO is not punt on the season by trading Kaye. But they did not go for a risky short term move at the expense of the long term. The Gutiérrez loan leaves the flexibility to reload in the offseason. It’s been at least three years since the Rapids had a bad contract on the books that they could not have gotten out of in the off-season. This has benefited the club significantly. The club could have proverbially swung for the fences, but none of the targets that they felt would have improved the team for this year and beyond panned out.
We’ll see if this comes back to haunt them in October or if a significant move in January proves their patience worthwhile. Rapids supporters are understandably upset this window passed with the club unable to get a rumored big target over the line.
Playoff Mentality to Make the Playoffs:
In the absence of a blockbuster signing, the Rapids must find internal solutions. With 11 games left, they can control their own destiny. It’s the business end of the season.
“Given how our season has gone, the inconsistency, the lack of back to back wins, it’s a big win for us in terms of gaining confidence. We need to have a playoff mentality at this point. And for a game like this night we didn’t play particularly well, but we had moments where we were very, very good and very clinical and in the end we win,” Fraser said after the Minnesota game.
The Rapids have underperformed this season. According the FBref, Colorado’s season xGD (xG-xGA) is +6.4. After the Minnesota game, their actual Goal Difference improved to -2. If they had eight more goals scored right now, that’d be enough for the four points to be in a playoff spot. Playoff mentality means this team needs to get results regardless of the circumstances. Find ways to win. Gradually build towards realizing your potential, something they did last year and have not yet done this year.
“That mentality has to be every week, every game. We need to have this playoff mentality already. We have 11 games. And I think we need to see it every game as a as a as a final right now,” leading goal scorer Diego Rubio told Last Word.
Captain Jack Price needs to stay healthy and get fit. The offense by committee needs to hold up (maybe not four or five goals a game, but two or three would do). The defense has not been locked in. They were at their best last year when they were intense and focused for 90 minutes. If the playoff mentality can bring that out of Danny Wilson, et al. they’ve got a chance to make something of this season, summer checked swings be damned.
Photo Credit: Mark Shaiken, Last Word on Soccer.