COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – Their first title is barely in the books, but the Rapids must look immediately forward. At a recent MLS Cup victory rally in downtown Denver, Colorado managing director Jeff Plush said the club was looking for “sustained greatness.”
With an extended MLS season next year due to more league games and participation in the CONCACAF Champions League, the club is going to have to strengthen its depth by investing in both new and existing players.
Here’s the club’s to-do list as it aims for such “sustained greatness.”
Keep hold of Omar Cummings
Head coach Gary Smith knows he must keep the core of his MLS Cup squad intact. The club has already negotiated a new multi-year deal with central defender Marvell Wynne. The next priority has to be keeping hold of Cummings. While the Jamaican, who scored a club-high regular-season 14 goals this year, does have two years left on his contract, he has received much interest from abroad. The club needs to make him feel loved and persuade him to stay.
Make strong signings to add depth
Smith has made it clear he feels the way to go forward is to keep his core intact and add young players with potential to back up and challenge his starters. The club has already added defensive midfielder Joseph Nane from Toronto who, along with Ross LaBaeux, may serve as a backup to Pablo Mastroeni and Jeff Larentowicz.
“He’s a big strong boy who is very physical, and I think he will be a great addition,” Smith told MLSsoccer.com recently of Nane. Smith also said he is looking outside MLS in Europe, at January’s SuperDraft and in the US semi-professional ranks to unearth some extra talent.
With a trophy on the mantle, now is the time to secure a jersey sponsorship deal, which could release more funds to strengthen the squad. Plush told MLSsoccer.com last week that he is expecting a deal to be in place by the start of the season.
Add to fan base
The club has rightly received several plaudits for improving the fan experience at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in 2010 – for example, the installation of European-style terraces at the north end of the stadium. Denver is not traditionally a soccer town like Seattle and has to compete with Broncos mania (yes, even when the team is 3-10), but it has to find a way to build on the momentum of MLS Cup success.
Keep hold of Gary Smith
Not a small issue. Smith has built a highly competitive squad and the group believes in his philosophy. With increasing acknowledgement of his success in his native England, the club would be wise to reward the head coach for taking this team to new heights before he gets snapped up by a club back home.