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Colorado Rapids season preview: 2019 opens with visit from Western Conference champ

The Colorado Rapids open the 2019 MLS season against the Portland Timbers. (Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports)

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — The 2018 season was one of growing pains for the Colorado Rapids, finishing second to last in the Western Conference with 31 points in 34 games – the worst total for a 34-game season in club history. That, along with a couple lengthy winless spells, was just one of the many growing pains under then first-year head coach Anthony Hudson.

In 2019, Colorado is looking forward, not just on the calendar, but in the team’s tactics. With a focus on attack, the Rapids spent the offseason adding several proven MLS goal scorers, with Kei Kamara, Diego Rubio and Benny Feilhaber being among the more notable names brought in.

Will it be enough to push them over the hump and into the MLS Cup playoffs? The regular season will bring the answer to that question, with the Portland Timbers providing the initiation.

Rapids face defending Western Conference champ Portland Timbers

When: March 2, 6:00 p.m. ET, 6 p.m. ET

Where: Dick’s Sporting Goods Park

Broadcast: TV — Altitude-Comcast Channel 25, Dish 413, DirecTV 681; RADIO – Altitude 92.5 FM (KKSE), 950 AM

Live stream: ESPN+

The buzz:  Colorado’s abysmal 2018 campaign prompted mass changes from Rapids vice president and general manager Padraig Smith, who sought out to sign proven attacking options and players with MLS experience.

There are few challenges harder than Colorado’s first regular-season test. The Portland Timbers won the Western Conference Championship last season before bowing out to MLS Cup winner Atlanta United. Normally, altitude could be on the Rapids’ side entering a match like this, but having spent the entire preseason at lower elevations, it could be equally challenging for the home side.

 

Colorado’s coach and front office touted 2018 as “playoffs or bust,” but failed to deliver. In year two, the same sentiment holds even more true, particularly for Hudson, who could find himself in the hot seat should the Rapids’ improved roster fail to deliver results in an expanded playoff format.

Other key matches

May 11 & Aug. 24 vs./at Real Salt Lake – The Rocky Mountain Cup rivalry matches, along with the corresponding trophy are always important to supporters of both Colorado and Salt Lake. Last season, Colorado was dominated in the Rocky Mountain Cup series, outscored 11-2 in three matches, including a record breaking 6-0 home loss at home in late August.

Taking back the Rocky Mountain Cup, which Colorado has only one once in the past five seasons and twice in a decade, will be an important step for both Anthony Hudson and the club to win back supporters.

July 4 vs New England Revolution – The Fourth of July game is always an important one for Colorado as a home match that always sells out (partly due to the postgame fireworks). But this year’s edition is set up to be a classic. Aside from the clever scheduling of the Revolution, there are real personal rivalry implications. Left back and former USMNT teammate of Tim Howard Edgar Castillo was shipped to New England in a three-way deal which brought Diego Rubio to the Rapids, and could have something to prove in his return to Colorado. Additionally, there seems to be some lingering bad blood between former USMNT keepers Howard and Brad Friedel, the Revs’ head coach.

Check out the full 2018 schedule here.

Quotes & Notes

“I’m never going to be totally content. It’s been a strange preseason because of niggly injuries. I always feel uncomfortable by that. I never feel fully ready when we’ve not had a real preseason like that. This week is about recovering the lads and feeling fresh. Fitness-wise I feel like a few of us need to get 90 minutes under our belt, so that will come.” — Anthony Hudson

“It’s going to be a long season, but I think we’re ready. It’s been a good preseason. Everyone’s been working so hard, but it’s never easy. We just can’t wait to kickoff next week at home in front of our home crowd.” — Kei Kamara

Colorado Rapids Week 1 Injury Report

Player Injury Status for 3/2
Kortne Ford Knee Injury Out
Kofi Opare Foot Injury Out
Sam Nicholson Back Injury Questionable
Tommy Smith Knee Injury Questionable
Jack Price Knee Injury Questionable
Sam Vines Quad Injury Questionable
Danny Wilson Calf Injury Questionable
Deklan Wynne Groin Injury Questionable

Biggest offseason moves

Roster breakdown

Forwards – Shkëlzen Gashi, 30, Niki Jackson, 23, Kei Kamara, 34, Diego Rubio, 25, Andre Shinyashiki, 22, Matt Hundley, 18.

Midfielders – Kellyn Acosta, 23, Bismark Adjei “Nana” Boateng, 24, Cole Bassett, 18, Benny Feilhaber, 34, Nicolas Mezquida, 27, Sam Nicholson, 24, Jack Price, 26, Johan Blomberg, 31, Dillon Serna, 24.

Defenders – Kortne Ford, 23, Sam Raben, 21, Keegan Rosenberry, 25, Axel Sjoberg, 27, Tommy Smith, 28, Danny Wilson, 27, Sam Vines, 19, Deklan Wynne, 23.

Goalkeepers – Tim Howard, 39, Clint Irwin, 29, Andre Rawls, 28.

See full roster details here.

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