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Colorado Rapids: the MLS team we aren’t talking enough about

May 13, 2013, 4:31 PM EDT

Colorado Rapids v New York Red Bulls Getty Images

Back in the day, we would call this a “MacGyver” bit.

“MacGyver” was a TV series that became a cultural icon in the 1980s and early 90s, based on a spy guy’s preternatural problem solving and improvisation with materials at hand. You know, the guy who could disable an armored personnel carrier using nothing more than his girlfriend’s super cute capri pants, an extension cord and a half-eaten box of Twinkies.

Well, Colorado Rapids manager Oscar Pareja and his Rapids are pulling a serious “MacGyver.”

In MLS circles, we are all talking a lot about Seattle rising. And about Portland rising. And about “Jack Mac” in Philadelphia. And about the streak busters at Sporting KC. All rightly so, by the way.

But isn’t there some room to talk about the Rapids, a team that is (quite anonymously) 4-1-1 since March?

The only loss in that time has been to Seattle, which was getting it together at the time and is now playing as well as any team in MLS.

Here’s where the MacGyver comes in: The Rapids are getting it done despite horrible injury luck, through improvisation and sheer will. They are slowly gaining collective health but remain measurably depleted. Martin Rivero just made his first start of 2013, for instance, and his ability to keep possession in midfield means so much.

Pablo Mastroeni got on the field for 10 minutes over the weekend, but he is far from ready to make a steady impact.

Edson Buddle is back after missing six matches, and scoring now. He had the opener in Colorado’s most recent flourish of success, Saturday’s 2-0 win at Columbus. That was the Burgundy’s first win in Columbus since 2004. Heck, the 44-year-old Pareja was still a key midfield man for FC Dallas back then.

He’s a man with lots of answers right now. Because Jaime Castrillon has yet to play, and he was a key midfield building block around DSG Park in 2013. So was goalkeeper Matt Pickens, who now remains sidelined long-term. And Hendry Thomas, who was making the DSG Park midfield so uncomfortable for opposition in Mastroeni’s absence, is on the injury shelf now.

So, what’s the story here? Guys like Dillon Powers have stepped in forcefully; he must be a Rookie of the Year leading candidate with two goals, an assist and lots of defensive grit out of Colorado’s midfield.


Speaking of rookies (who may deserve some ROY consideration), how about goalkeeper Clint Irwin, who has four shutouts in his last six matches? Don’t forget, Irwin had exactly zero minutes of MLS soccer (or even big-time college soccer, no offense to you good folks of Elon University) before Pickens broke his arm back in March.

Left back Chris Klute (pictured  left), 23, has been a wonderful surprise, brimming with potential and having delivered some big nights this year, although certainly still lacking some consistency.

The versatile Nathan Sturgis is showing what everyone always thought he could be when healthy.

Mostly, though, this is about a stubborn mentality that prevented Pareja or any of his men from ever feeling sorry themselves through the most ridiculous stretch of that injury woe. The second-year manager never talked about those injuries, even though it was obvious how much his team suffered for them.

And it’s about adjusting. Pareja came to Colorado with visions of flowing, possession soccer, probably a lot like the good stuff we’re seeing flourish in Portland. But they can’t do that at the moment around DSG Park, so they wisely got stingy and more protective in the back and became adept at winning the 1-0 tight ones.

The Rapids, by the way, are .500 for the first time in more than a year.

  1. mkbryant3 - May 13, 2013 at 4:47 PM

    I’m pulling for Pareja to succeed just because he was one of the most stylish MLS players of his time. I hope he gets to instill the same into his team.

  2. smgraff4 - May 13, 2013 at 5:59 PM

    How about a major hat tip (hat tip, plus a few bottles of Johnnie Walker Black) to Colin Reese of World Soccer Source (@FutebolSource) for that.(Follow him at @COLINREESE,) Or you can go to his website…. and find a similar post from much earlier. Trust me, it’s the best series of reads (and most unique read) I’ve found with regards to covering soccer here in the US (though MadAboutFutbol/ SimplyFutbol comes in a close second),

    • charliej11 - May 13, 2013 at 10:02 PM

      I went on that site…there are two arcles in the MLS catagory. It is the best site for covering soccer in the US…but they don’t cover MLS. Man I do not get some US soccer fans.

      • mogogo1 - May 13, 2013 at 11:28 PM

        Even their articles on the MLS aren’t always on the MLS. The article “Graham Zusi improving his game in the MLS” doesn’t even mention his team by name nor detail a single specific play he made in MLS. It is entirely about him and the national team.

      • smgraff4 - May 14, 2013 at 7:25 PM

        @mogogo1, He assumes that most people are already familiar with MLS players and their teams. It’s much more of a die-hard’s guide to understanding their teams. You might need to have a Wikipedia page besides you if you don’t know what team Graham Zusi, Omar Gonzalez, or Chris Klute play for.

  3. smgraff4 - May 13, 2013 at 6:00 PM

    And a link to the article (About a month ago)

    • pctrips - May 14, 2013 at 3:18 PM

      You lost me here

      Freddy Adu and Benny Feilhaber in the top 5 best American players?????? haha

      • smgraff4 - May 14, 2013 at 7:24 PM

        They (He, actually) consistently have a few things which most of the player pool (at least the players Klinsmann is selecting right now), which is creative technical ability to not only get past defenders, but to release players into the Box. At the NT level, the Yanks have a glut of finishers, just not a whole lot of true creative playmaker/attacking players/midfielders to get those finishers good service to be able to finish.

        There are other players that fit this mold that are at the U-20 level right now or in the NT pool–Benji Joya, Mixx Diskerud (who was instrumental in the USA’s comeback against Russia), Joe Corona (like Mixx and Joya, a technical, incisive playmaking midfielder that have abilities that few players in the pool have). If you want to chat him up and ask, follow him (@COLINREESE). He can explain to you why they are better (perhaps despite the club situation). Freddy Adu is like Jozy Altidore. He needs the right club situation to land at, and get his career going—and some luck with coaches not getting sacked. (Thankfully, thanks to Bahia’s situation, he’s the most popular man in Salvador right now.) And what you need to watch him for are the tricks, and the little ways he can delay to better time crosses, make defenders worry about his 1v1 ability (which opens up other lanes for other attackers), etc.

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