View from the Booth: Irwin shows the club is in safe hands
Stare into space and shake your head in disbelief, because Clint Irwin's display against Vancouver Whitecaps is not among the 10 nominees in the Top 3 Performers in MLS.
If his numerous superbly-timed blocks are overlooked for the Save of the Week, then I would expect a carefully orchestrated C38 march on MLS HQ, with banners, fog-horns and loud-hailers at the ready - or at least a small gathering of like-minded folk in a downtown Denver bar, ready and willing to tut occasionally and shrug their shoulders at one of life's great injustices.
In all seriousness, Irwin was immense on Saturday. Still only 24, and yet the clean sheet against the Whitecaps - boasting the two most potent strikers in MLS (Camilo and Kenny Miller have 21 goals between them) - was his ninth of the season, and the Rapids still have eight games to go.
Full Match Highlights
On the day that the English Premier League kicked off its new season, showcasing some of the game's top talent, Irwin put in a top-class display.
As for Deshorn Brown, I was delighted with his goal. Here's a young man who now has seven goals for the season, and is desperate to get better.
All talented, all young and all raw, but all with a spot-on attitude. Without the right attitude, ability only carries you so far.
Powers stood toe-to-toe with Nigel Reo-Coker - who has more than 200 English Premier League games under his belt.
O'Neill kept 14-goal Camilo relatively quiet, and was also part of a defensive unit which - although it had its wobbles - frustrated Miller, who only three days earlier had scored for Scotland against England at Wembley.
Klute was … well, just Klute. Steady, consistent and dependable, but aware that he has weaknesses to work on and needs to keep improving, as he told me on last week's Rapids Podcast.
Much has been made by other clubs about them being 'in transition', or 'fielding a young, inexperienced team' and how praise should be given for the positives or, indeed, allowances made when results don't quite go to plan.
When has that line ever been trotted out by the Rapids? And yet look at the new faces, the young faces, the injuries endured, and marvel once again at where this side is in the Western Conference.
Drew Moor Post-Game
The Technical Staff had faith in the following, but how many of us could truly have envisaged starting XI's which would be built around the inexperienced Irwin, O'Neill, Klute, Powers and Brown, as well as journeymen Nathan Sturgis and Atiba Harris, or the returning Nick LaBrocca? It's fair to say the Rapids have worked wonders with the unknown, the untried and - in some cases - the unwanted.
I've always been one who, curious to appreciate the strength of a side, will often look to the bench. The Rapids bench on Saturday was impressive, and highlighted genuine depth to the roster.
The win over the Whitecaps was not as clear-cut as the scoreline suggests. Were it not for the agility and top-notch decision-making from Irwin, on at least three occasions, then the Rapids' unbeaten sequence would've ended at eight games.
There were still occasional defensive lapses in concentration, with players ball-watching and not aware of the danger lurking around them. Thankfully, a man-of-the-match performance from Irwin saved the day.
Questions have been asked in recent weeks, about how Irwin would react with the return to fitness of Matt Pickens.
Similar questions were posed when Marvell Wynne found himself watching on for a few games.
And the arrival of both Torres and Sanchez had many watching for a response from both Edson Buddle and Deshorn Brown.
Competition for places, in a competitive environment, is embraced by some yet resented by others. It's heartening, and maybe a sign of the characters assembled by the Rapids, that all those mentioned above have responded in a positive manner to the increased competition.
All those operating in the public eye can expect their body of work to be critiqued. The conscientious professionals are often their own worst critic (I would count myself in that category). I know my 'performance' for the Vancouver game was below where I want it to be. Likewise for leading soccer players. The Rapids' win over Vancouver was the perfect response to the frustration felt from their 1-1 tie at Chivas USA.
The players know where they want to be. They know what they're capable of achieving and - if you're a Rapids fan - that should fill you with great excitement … and not just for the remainder of this season.