Where we left off last year
2023 season: 27 points, 14th in the Western Conference
Five. That’s how many regular season games the Colorado Rapids won in 2023 en route to finishing on the bottom of the West.
Colorado started the year under Robin Fraser, but the 57-year-old manager didn’t make it across the finish line.
Outside of Connor Ronan’s individual quality in midfield (which shined even brighter after Jack Price went down for the season in March) the Rapids didn’t have any definable strengths last year under Fraser. They didn’t lean in a specific tactical direction. They weren’t a quick-fire transition team, despite sitting fairly deep for most of the season, and they weren’t a careful possession team, either.
Fraser has since been replaced by former New York Red Bulls manager Chris Armas, who now has the chance to work with a handful of new pieces in Colorado.
What changed in the offseason
- Chris Armas, manager: Armas isn’t the flashiest hire, but he’s been given a clear mandate: create an effective tactical approach that helps maximize the Rapids’ roster. We should expect a transition-heavy system from the 51-year-old as he tries to give his new team some sort of differentiable factor on the field. He is a former Red Bull manager, after all.
- Zack Steffen, GK: It’s been a rough last several years for Steffen, whose shot-stopping ability has never matched the hype around him as a goalkeeper. Still, the 28-year-old is perfectly capable of giving Colorado league-average performances in 2024, which would be a huge upgrade after the Rapids’ goalkeeping unit allowed more goals than expected than all but four other MLS teams.
- Djordje Mihailovic, AM: Adding Mihailovic clearly raises the Rapids’ ceiling. Mihailovic is mostly out of the USMNT picture, but he was excellent for CF Montreal before a failed move to the Netherlands stalled his progression. It will be fascinating to see how much of Mihailovic’s success during his time in Wilfried Nancy’s ball-heavy system in Montreal translates to Armas’ more direct approach this year. Regardless, the 25-year-old will bring improved play to his new team’s attacking midfield group.
- Sam Vines, LB: Getting Vines back to Colorado from Belgian club Royal Antwerp was a no-brainer for the Rapids. Capable of quality distribution with his left foot in possession and solid one-v-one defending, the 24-year-old will be an upgrade at left back. Starting Vines will be a floor-raising move for Colorado in 2024.
- Lamine Diack, DM: With Ronan providing ball progression and creativity from central midfield, Diack was signed to help cover ground. The tape says Diack will do just that. The 23-year-old has spent most of his career in Turkey so far.