Colorado Rapids gaining confidence from strong start to season
There are few things that give a team more of a confidence boost than winning a championship, and for the Colorado Rapids, their surprising MLS Cup title run in 2010 looks to be paying major dividends as the Rapids roll into 2011.
Last season, Colorado had just the seventh-best record in MLS and wouldn’t register among anybody’s list of top MLS teams. After running through a weaker Eastern Conference playoff field, and winning the 2010 MLS Cup final in overtime, the Rapids could have been primed for a return to reality.
What we’ve seen instead is a new reality, with the Rapids dominating opponents in its first three games of the season. Colorado is off to a 3-0 start and has outscored opponents 8-2, doing so despite having star strikers Omar Cummings and Conor Casey miss matches.
So what is different? Consistency is key, something the Rapids struggled with at times last season. Three games into this season the Rapids have been strong defensively and dangerous offensively, with some new additions stepping up. Midfielder Sanna Nyassi and striker Caleb Folan have impressed, giving Colorado some much-needed offensive depth.
As impressive as blowout wins against Portland and D.C. United were, it was Colorado’s 1-0 win against Chivas USA without Casey and Cummings that was arguably the most impressive of the bunch.
It should be noted that Colorado’s fast start hasn’t exactly come against MLS powers. An expansion team and two clubs that missed the playoffs in 2010 isn’t the stuff of legends, but it should also be noted that last season the Rapids dropped their share of points against weaker competition.
Tougher opponents await, with the next match coming against the same team the Rapids beat in the 2010 MLS Cup Final. If the Rapids have used their championship for motivation, FC Dallas has gone in the opposite direction, limping to a winless start. The 0-2-1 start is a bit misleading because the team’s consecutive losses have come in games where Dallas had players issued red cards.
Facing a desperate Dallas team at Pizza Hut Park will provide the toughest test today, but the Rapids will really get to measure how strong they are a week later, when they take on MLS Cup favorite Real Salt Lake. A win against RSL would cement the Rapids as a real threat to repeat, while an RSL victory might temper expectations and keep Colorado a notch below Real Salt Lake and New York.
Those matches will tell us more than the first three matches of 2011 have about Colorado, but the Rapids do have a championship swagger and right now look much more like a team capable of repeating than a team destined to be a one-year wonder.
DeRosario’s debut a good one for New York
Dwayne DeRosario hadn’t even practiced with the New York Red Bulls, and had just arrived from Toronto the morning of Saturday’s match against Houston, but he still managed to take his first touch and deliver a beautiful pass that set up the Red Bulls lone goal in a 1-1 draw with the Dynamo.
The DeRo era in New York couldn’t have started better, though the Red Bulls’ failure to take three points served to remind us that their star-studded team still has work to do. New York’s offense has managed just two goals in three matches, and Thierry Henry has yet to show the brilliance expected of him.
The Red Bulls are banking on DeRosario changing all that. The Canadian star will fit right in with a New York attack that has struggled with underwhelming midfielder Mehdi Ballouchy at the helm. DeRosario’s ability to hit the killer pass, as well as score from anywhere in the attacking third, should create space for new teammates Dane Richards and Joel Lindpere, while also giving Henry and Juan Agudelo chances they haven’t seen enough of early in the season.
DeRosario could very well have been wearing the opposite uniform on Saturday if not for Toronto FC’s bizarre handling of the trade process. TFC actively shopped DeRosario around the league, and sources tell SBI that Houston was approached and agreed to Toronto’s trade demands for DeRosario only to have TFC walk away from the negotiating table and wind up dealing DeRosario to the Red Bulls.
Toronto’s decision could wind up helping New York win its first MLS Cup title. Real Salt Lake remains the favorite in MLS, but adding a player like DeRosario, who has won four MLS Cups and is one of the most clutch post-season performers in league history, makes the Red Bulls a team that stands a very good chance to be playing in the MLS Cup Final in November.
Player of the Week
Caleb Folan scored a pair for Colorado, and Camilo Sanvezzo netted a pair of stoppage time goals for Vancouver, but this week’s best MLS player was Sporting Kansas City’s Teal Bunbury, who scored a pair of beautiful goals in Sporting Kansas City’s 3-3 tie against the Whitecaps.
Bunbury boosted his chances of a summer Gold Cup roster spot by scoring two stunning goals. Sporting Kansas City blew a three-goal lead, but that didn’t take away from the fact that Bunbury has now scored three goals since returning from an elbow injury.
Rookie of the Week
New England Revolution midfielder Stephen McCarthy was the weekend’s top rookie after delivering a quality strike for his first career goal in the Revs’ 1-1 draw against Portland. McCarthy has worked his way into the starting lineup for a New England side that stands unbeaten after missing the playoffs in 2010.
Team of the Week
The Los Angeles Galaxy didn’t put up four goals like Colorado did against D.C. United, but the Galaxy did shut down Philly’s attack while also scoring the first goal allowed by the Union this season. Philadelphia failed to muster a shot on goal as the return of Omar Gonzalez helped boost a Galaxy team that looks ready to keep its place among the league’s top title contenders.
Ives Galarcep is a senior writer for FoxSoccer.com covering Major League Soccer and the U.S. national team.