The Republic play their first game of the year this Saturday when they host the Colorado Rapids at Bonney Field. To get a better feel for what the Rapids are bringing to the table, I spoke with Burgundy Wave's Managing Editor, John Patrick Rosch, who will be in attendance at Saturday's game.
Indomitable City Soccer: What are some things you can tell us about the Rapids for those out here that might not be familiar with them?
Burgundy Wave: The Rapids are one of the original ten franchises in Major League Soccer and have played at Dick's Sporting Goods Park (a soccer specific stadium located in the Denver suburb of Commerce City) since 2007. They are a team that prides itself on playing tough, hard nosed soccer and can definitely be considered a blue collar team. They won their lone MLS Cup Championship in 2010 but have missed out on playoffs the last two season. The Rapids are coached by former USMNT player and Rapids legend Pablo Mastroeni who carries a 19-34-18 record in his two years as Rapids Gaffer.
ICS: Burgundy Wave recently ran one of the most amazing rants I've ever seen. How did things get to that point and have they gotten better in the three weeks since that was posted?
BW: Well, things are not good in Colorado and it is headlined by the 19-34-18 record of Mastroeni. Simply put, the Rapids have been a dumpster fire in the last two years and are working on becoming the laughing stock of Major League Soccer. The fact that they are being compared to Chivas USA is an embarrassment.
But how did it get this way? In 2013, the Rapids were one of the youngest and brightest teams in MLS and they set franchise records for points (51) and wins (14). They were led by 2013 Rookie of the Year Dillon Powers, Deshorn Brown, Shane O'Neill, Vicente Sanchez, Chris Klute, Gabriel Torres, Jaime Castrillon, Marvell Wynne, Edson Buddle, Clint Irwin, Drew Moor and had one of the best coaches in the league in Oscar Pareja. Of that list of players I just mentioned, only Powers is still with the Rapids.
At the end of the 2013 season, the FC Dallas released their head coach and made it very clear that they wanted Pareja, who played for FCD and for whom Dallas was still home. The Rapids denied FCD permission and it got ugly and led to Parjea resigning his position with the Rapids in early 2014. Eventually a deal was struck that allowed Pareja to coach at FCD, but due to the stubbornness of the Rapids front office, they were left with little options and elevated Mastroeni to first team head coach. And since that point the team has been gutted of talented players who were either sold, traded or released as they did not fit into the Mastoreni system. The problem is that no one seems to know what that system is. The Rapids would get rid of exciting young players for old retreads and the results speak for themselves: just 19 wins in their last 68 MLS games.
Have things gotten better since the epic rant? That depends on how you define better. The Rapids have signed Shkelzen Gashi as a designated player and the dude is someone who can score goals. But the club is still painfully thin in a number of areas, and appear to be rolling the dice on who they can sign at this point.
ICS: What are you expecting from the Rapids this season? They've struggled in recent years, is this is the year they turn it around?
BW: Right now....the Rapids are a tenth place team in the Western Conference. That is not to say that things could not improve going forward, but taking a snapshot of the team, they are just not a good team at this point. If they can bring some experience along the back line and they can score goals, the Rapids *could* be competitive enough to stay in the playoff hunt until September. But being realistic and objective, I just can't see that happening. So much of this season is riding on the ability of Mastroeni to be a quality head coach...and he has been an abject failure in his tenure. As such, unless he greatly improves, the Rapids miss the playoffs for a third straight year and Mastroeni is unemployed by June.
Predicted Starting XI: (4-2-3-1)-- Zac MacMath, Marc Burch, Sean St. Ledger, Axel Sjoberg, Marlon Hairston, Micheal Azira, Sam Cronin, Dillon Serna, Dillon Powers, Zach Pfeffer, Kevin Doyle
Predicted Scoreline: Republic 1:2 Rapids
You can find my answers to John's questions over at Burgundy Wave.