By Ryan Fleming
It is hard to notice the Colorado Rapids. I mean that with all do respect. They don’t have any stand out players or names that shout MLS stardom or the best it has to offer. In other words, no names jump out at you. But again, maybe that’s the point of it all?
The Rapids most noticeable player is Conor Casey. Some might know Casey as a United States international, a rather hulking forward who uses his hard work and body to get the better of defenders. In the last three years, Casey has produced an impressive 42 goals in 90 appearances for the Rapids. What is so baffling is that no one really notices. It might his lack of glitz or glam, but no defender can really solve him.
This season the reigning MLS Champs are 3-0-0, and have forced a league-high eight goals. Now, you can point to their opposition, mainly the newly expansion Portland Timbers or lowly Chivas USA, but you cannot take away that their defense has allowed a mere two goals, while the offensive production continues to flourish. In the offseason, the Rapids added Irish international Caleb Folan to help bring out the best in Casey up front and to assist in help boost the offense production. Despite the oft-injured career that Folan’s can unfortunately be characterized, the Irish forward has bagged two goals, including one in the most recent 4-1 win over United.
Of course, though, it will be seen if Folan can stay healthy long enough to be an actual asset to the club. If Folan wasn’t enough, the Rapids also acquired ex-Seattle speedy winger Sanna Nyassi in a draft-day deal after Vancouver selected the forward with the first pick in the expansion draft.
Not only does Nyassi bring an automatic eye for the goal and distribution to boot, he also deserves extra attention on the field, which can prove daunting especially if Folan and Casey are ahead on the field waiting for him. It also has to be said that Omar Cummings, Casey’s usual partner, is a threat as well. The duo have paired up for more goals than any other duo (51). If one goes down the other is right there waiting.
The Rapids midfield is also something of a wonder. With former Revs midfielder Jeff Larentowicz completely bossing around the midfield, the 2010 All Star coupled with Pablo Mastroeni bring a complete package that even Landon Donovan and David Beckham would open their eyes to.
What Colorado coach Gary Smith has done for the club is also a bit of a wonder. With one the of deepest benches in the MLS, not to mention the league’s Champs trophy sitting pretty in Denver, Smith is, depending how they see this year through, on the verge of creating one of the league’s most talented teams in league history. In less than three years, Smith has brought the Rapids from the middle of the Western Conference table to MLS Champions.
With a stingy defense, led by league veteran Chad Marshall and the versatile Kosuke Kimura, the Rapids have a defense that goes rather unannounced, but always deserving of more credit.
What Smith has created in Colorado is a exclamation point that needs to be noticed. With one of the deepest benches in the league, the Rapids are poised to have quality starters on the field at all times. Donning new additions, and old reliable veterans, the Rapids should be convinced that the Cup is still theirs, while the rest of the league plans ways to claw it away.
Ryan Fleming can be reached at Ryan.Fleming@thesoccerguysonline.com.