For a third consecutive season, the Colorado Rapids saw all their hard work throughout the entire 30-game season and all their postseason aspirations come down to the final weekend of play. The Rapids in 2009 showed stark improvement under the direction of Gary Smith’s first full season as head coach. Colorado posted their best-ever record at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park since the stadium's opening in 2007, going 8-2-5 at home. The team also displayed a more competitive nature throughout the year, earning 10 draws, which was the second most in team history.
A team’s success is always said to start at the top, and in 2009 forwards Conor Casey and Omar Cummings came through with career seasons that placed them among the league’s elite offensive players. Casey tallied a new single season Rapids record of 16 goals scored, finishing second in the league’s Golden Boot race, missing the top spot by just one score. His scoring prowess led him to earn three MLS Player of the Week honors, MLS Player of the Month for May, and his first-ever selection to the MLS All-Star Starting XI. Casey also became a fixture with the U.S. Men’s National Team, earning six caps throughout the season and scoring a pair of goals against Honduras on October 10 to help lead the U.S. into qualification for the 2010 World Cup.
Cummings’ breakout season included an MLS-leading 12 assists and a career-best eight goals. He also earned MLS Player of the Week honors, and was the lone player to be in contention for the league's 2009 MLS Goal of the Year Award with his 88th minute equalizer against Real Salt Lake on June 6. Quick starts became a theme for the Rapids this season, as Casey registered the fastest goal in Rapids history and the 2nd quickest score in MLS annals, recording a goal in a mere 16 seconds into the game against Los Angeles on April 4. Captain Pablo Mastroeni would later go on to score just 26 seconds in vs. Chivas USA for the 2nd quickest goal in Colorado history and 6th fastest in league history, on August 8.
Colorado hit their stride in late April, as the club set a new franchise record, going unbeaten in eight matches. Soon after, however, the Rapids saw a slew of injuries decimate their midfield, as wingers Colin Clark, Jamie Smith and Jacob Peterson all suffered season-ending knee injuries. For most of the year, the team stayed within striking distance of the conference leaders, but a late season slide saw the Rapids go winless over their last seven matches. Due to the team’s late form, the stage was once again set for Colorado to earn a playoff berth and reclaim the Rocky Mountain Cup with a win over rivals Real Salt Lake in the final regular season game.
In a worst case scenario, the Rapids fell 0-3, and combined with other league results, saw both the playoffs and the Rocky Mountain Cup slip away, as the team’s postseason absence reached a record three straight years.