Colorado Rapids

Like the geographic feature for which they’re named, the Rapids are occasionally capable of thrills and terror.

Trophies: 2010 MLS Cup

Fan personality: Subdued. Colorado has struggled to establish a true supporters culture. In early years, the club shared Mile High Stadium and its successor, Invesco Field, with the Denver Broncos. Attendance always got a boost in those years from massive July 4th crowds. Without those games distorting the average, the numbers have seemed thinner at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. But things should be on an upswing now — weather permitting. Owner Stan Kroenke also owns most of the other teams in town — Nuggets (NBA), Avalanche (NHL), Mammoth (NLL) — along with the NFL’s St. Louis Rams. He also owns a really large share of Arsenal and has flirted with owning the Premier League mainstay outright. Given all that, it’s easy for Rapids fans to feel like an afterthought. But the guy bought a perennial underachiever and immediately went to work on a stadium, so fans aren’t going to get much sympathy from elsewhere.


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Stadium situation: Dick’s Sporting Goods Park is certainly scenic, with a distinctive roof mimicking the nearby mountains. It falls into the “giant soccer complex” wave of stadium development, with a whole bunch of fields around it. Downtown stadium snobs may scoff, but it’s a fairly vibrant home. Needs to be filled more regularly.

History

The Rapids have never finished higher than third in their conference, even when the conferences had four teams. They’ve never had a league MVP. And yet they have two improbable playoff runs, one of which gave them their first trophy.

The early years featured 1994 World Cup standout Marcelo Balboa, classy winger Chris Henderson, forward Paul Bravo  and goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann. That group put everything together in the 1997 playoffs, winning four straight games before losing to D.C. United on a cold, wet day in Washington. After that, the Rapids struggled to make an impact aside from the occasional Balboa bicycle kick, “phone home” celebration from Jorge Dely Valdes or scoring outburst from John Spencer.

Until 2010, when the Rapids made another improbable run to the Cup final, winning on PKs in Columbus and getting an unlikely goal from defender Kosuke Kimura (a favorite of those of us who like soccer and martial arts) to knock off San Jose. This time, the Rapids won it. Purists hated it — the Rapids were technically considered Eastern Conference champions in MLS’s convoluted bracket, they had won only 12 games in the regular season, and they beat an impressive Dallas team on an own goal in extra time. But it was a talented core that could be more than the sum of its parts.

Naturally, that core was blown up. Coach Gary Smith departed after the 2011 season. New coach Oscar Pareja tried a damn-the-torpedoes 4-3-3 approach. Then the Rapids parted with the fearsome strike force of Conor Casey and Omar Cummings.  Bruiser Pablo Mastroeni may be the only recognizable face remaining.

2013 previews: MLSSoccer.com, ESPN, Soccer America, SB Nation

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