All good things come to an end, and so it was that the Rapids’ unbeaten regular season home run halted at the weekend with the loss to Nashville SC.
Head coach Robin Fraser spoke of his disappointment in the team’s start, while skipper Jack Price labeled it unacceptable, such is the honesty of this group.
Fraser was spot-on when arguing that this team should not (and will not) be defined by one performance.
But let’s look at some of the impressive numbers from the club’s record-breaking run at DICK’S Sporting Goods Park to highlight how good it was while it lasted.
First of all, the 23-game unbeaten run has been bettered by just three clubs in MLS history - Houston Dynamo (30), Real Salt Lake (29), and Sporting Kansas City (24).
The Rapids’ 14-0-9 record included a 5-2 win over LAFC, which sent the club to the top of the Western Conference on the final day of the 2021 regular season. They also enjoyed a come-from-behind victory over Real Salt Lake last term, with then new signing Mark-Anthony Kaye heading home the winner.
And then there have been shutout successes this season over Atlanta United, Sporting KC, Portland Timbers, LAFC, and Seattle Sounders. No mean feat considering the opposition.
During that 2022 sequence at home, we had a goalkeeper who kept six teams off the board, and a defense which conceded one goal in seven games – and that was from the penalty spot. In other words, Saturday’s goals against were the first from open play.
Often after results such as this, it’s easy to take performances in isolation. And, yes, Saturday was bitterly disappointing.
But two things spring to mind. First, and however uncomfortable it was to witness at the weekend, few teams are going to go through an entire season without a few setbacks. It’s how a team responds to such setbacks which are an indicator as to what they’re made of.
Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait until June 19th, and a trip to reigning MLS champions New York City FC, for that response.
Secondly, despite the reversal, the Rapids remain just outside the playoff places, and very much in the hunt, and with more than half the season still to go. As has often been said to me, it is far better to put in such a performance at this stage of the campaign than with half a dozen games to go. This will serve as a jolt to the players, and a reminder to bring that intensity from the first whistle.
None of this is to diminish the disappointment, rather to add a little context. Plus, let’s not overlook the fact that a successful season is rarely – if ever – built on the strength of a home record alone. And so, as good as it was, and as crestfallen as we were at the Nashville outcome, the home form must now start to get a little support from road results.
A couple of wins from any of their six away games to date would have the Rapids sitting fourth or fifth in the standings. The team returns with back-to-back road games, at NYCFC and the Timbers. Let’s bottle the feelings felt post-Nashville, and have those sides suffer the backlash.
And then it’s back at DSGP on 4th July, to take on Austin FC, and the opportunity to begin a new unbeaten run at home.