As we count down 2011, ColoradoRapids.com is taking a look back at the Top 5 Moments of the Rapids' 2011 campaign. It's by no means an exhaustive list, since we can think of many other highlights that will be remembered from the past year.
Top Moment #5: Records, honors, & milestones
Again this could - maybe should - be the Top Moment of 2011, but we're listing the Rapids' visit to the White House and meeting President Barack Obama as #2 on the Top 5 Moments of 2011.
After winning the first three matches of the year, the Rapids hit a drought which saw them win only two of their next 14 games - and both of those victories came on goals scored by defenders in the final minutes of play. Colorado closed out the month of June with back-to-back losses of 3-1 to the LA Galaxy and 4-1 to the Columbus Crew. It was a tough stretch in which the team was shutout five times, leaving many to wonder if the group could right the ship.
Top Moment #4: Routing of the Bulls
On June 27, the morning following the loss in Ohio, a dejected team flew to Washington D.C. where they were to be recognized by President Barack Obama for winning MLS Cup 2010. Once they arrived at the hotel, they were given their new matching tailored suits and their MLS Cup Championship rings. For many of the players, this opportunity came at a perfect time - allowing them to forget the previous night's loss and to remind themselves of what they could accomplish.
After touring much of the White House, including the East Wing, Blue Room, Presidential Library, and even State Dining Room, the player and staff where led back to the East Room and took their place on the three levels of risers in front a large gathering of military families and The White House press corp. With everyone in place, a voice addressed the audience by announcing, "Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States." Walking in with President Obama was Rapids head coach Gary Smith.
Top Moment #3: 2011 Home Opener
You could see the players' eyes light up when they realized where they were, standing behind the President as he acknowledged the team for being the MLS Cup champions. The President also called out several players by name, turning to each to acknowledge them personally. Back in Colorado and throughout the country, Rapids and other MLS fans proudly watched the web stream live on their computers.
Following the speech, the team conducted a clinic on the South Lawn for children of military families. They also stopped to soak in where they were and to take pictures of themselves and their teammates as they played soccer in front of the White House. Memories to cherish for a lifetime.
The honor and recognition was not only a career highlight for many, but it turned out to a boost for the team. The group was reminding once again that they were the defending champions and could win as they had done the previous fall. Following the visit, the Rapids lost only once in the next ten games while picking up 19 points and setting a new team record by scoring at least two goals in eight straight games.