Here we are, Rapids fans. We’ve reached the end of the season. The Colorado Rapids will play their final match of the year before heading off into their off-season hibernation. We’ll all follow the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs, the World Cup in Qatar, transfer windows opening and closing and the much-anticipated beginning of preseason in 2023.
But there are still 90 minutes left in 2022. 90 minutes to create some positive feelings, go for goal and play together. This is the final time this iteration of the Rapids will be together. When the boys lace up their boots in the locker room of Q2 Stadium in Austin, Texas, it will be the last time for Drew Moor, and it will be the last time they all do so together. The 2023 Rapids will inevitably feature different faces. This is one last hurrah.
The swan song will be against the second place team in the Western Conference, Austin FC. In their second MLS season, the Verde and Black have clinched a playoff berth for the first time, they have a dynamic MPV candidate in Sebastian Driussi and they’ve announced to the MLS world they’re legitimate MLS Cup contenders.
In 2021, Austin scored 35 goals and conceded 56. Through 33 games in 2022, they’ve scored 64 and let in 48. Their defending is still their achilles heel, but they’ve made it practically irrelevant by scoring in buckets. Who cares if you give up two goals if you score three every time out? They are maybe the most intriguing playoff team, because they could run the table and win the Cup with ease, but they could also be bounced in the first round while losing by multiple goals.
So here are my final keys to the game for 2022:
The Argentine has 21 goals and five assists in 33 matches in 2022. He’s the key cog in the machine that is the Austin FC attack. He is at times unplayable on the pitch, and all anybody can do is watch and hope he trips over his own feet. He’s that good. The Rapids can help themselves by denying him the ball, sticking to him when he has the ball and generally disrupting everything he does. He’s the one player on the pitch that, if he beats you, you tip your cap and say, “Well done,” but you do everything in your power to make it impossible for him.
Forward Diego Rubio already broke one club record this season. He has the most goal contributions in club history with 22. Fifteen goals and seven assists. It’s been a career year for the Chilean, but there’s still one more record he undoubtedly wants in his bag before winter sets in: single-season goal record. The current owner of the most exciting record for every soccer club is Conor Casey and his 16. Rubio needs one to tie, and two to make the record his own. He already has the confidence to strike from anywhere on the pitch, but I can’t wait to see what magic moment he pulls out as he attempts to break this record.
The Rapids can win, lose or draw and it won’t affect their 2022. It ends Sunday regardless. And regardless the result, the points won’t count in the 2023 table. But despite the statistical insignificance of the game, there is plenty to play for. The guys can go into the offseason with a victory that will be a mental boost. They can lay to rest their 2022 and begin preparing for 2023. It’s easier to feel good about the offseason when you don’t have a sour taste in your mouth at the final whistle of the final game.
In closing, this hasn’t been the season we all wanted for the Rapids, but it has still been another year of soccer and all the good things that go with that. It’s been another season of watching these guys give their all every time out, doing it for each other, and doing it for the badge. I’m grateful to each and every one of you who have taken the time to read these previews before each match. I’m grateful there are so many kind people who support this club, and who will reach out to me to say they read the preview and just want to talk some ball. It’s been an absolute pleasure sharing the 2022 season with you all. I cannot wait for 2023.