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Colorado travels to New England for 2018 MLS season opener

Colorado Rapids forward Jack Price (19) corner kicks in the second half against the Toronto FC at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. (Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)

Following a 2016 season that produced the most successful regular-season campaign in team history — second in the Supporters’ Shield race and a deep playoff run to the Western Conference championship — the Colorado Rapids regressed greatly in 2017. They finished second to last in the West.

In the club’s mission to become a more attacking side, Colorado shipped off captain Sam Cronin and starting left back Marc Burch to expansion side Minnesota United FC in exchange for winger Josh Gatt and Mohammed Saeid. But despite creating chances, the duo only produced two goals all season for Colorado. Meanwhile, a once historic defense fell to middle of the pack in MLS.

The lack of results also resulted in the firing of fourth-year head coach Pablo Mastroeni. Assistant Steve Cooke replaced him, but Cooke didn’t impress enough to earn the nod as the Rapids’ permanent hire and the team conducted a “global head coaching search”.

Enter 2018.

The Colorado Rapids found their man in Anthony Hudson, former New Zealand National Team coach Anthony Hudson. The Rapids have also gone full steam with a rebuild of half the roster, adding nearly a dozen new players.

Will the new system, coach and players help Colorado move back into the playoffs in an increasingly tough MLS Western Conference? That remains to be seen.

Colorado travels to New England for season opener

When: March 10, 11:30 a.m. MST

Where: Gillette Stadium

Broadcast: TV – Altitude 2-Channel 27; RADIO – 950 AM (KKSE)

Live stream: MLS Live

The buzz:  Will Colorado’s complete offseason overhaul pay off? That will be the overall theme of the Colorado Rapids’ 2018 campaign following a busy offseason. After losing their CONCACAF Champions League series to reigning MLS Cup Champions Toronto 2-0 on aggregate — games Hudson approached as a “test” for his new roster and tactics — Colorado’s season-opening trip to New England will mark the first meaningful look at the Rapids’ new coach, roster and tactics.

Other key matches

March 24 vs. Sporting KC – Subfreezing temps, a late kickoff and a midweek game hurt Colorado’s attendance in their CCL home match against Toronto FC, but none of those factors will be present for their home opener against SKC. Former head coach Pablo Mastroeni seemed to have counterpart Peter Vermes number during his tenure with a 6-3-1 record during the regular season; success that Hudson would be keen to replicate.

April 7 at FC Dallas – Colorado’s April road trip to Frisco will mark the team’s first Western Conference test of the 2018 season against another side which saw an early exit to their 2018 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League campaign. That combined with an already intense rivalry should make this one to watch.

March 21 at Real Salt Lake, July 21 at RSL & Aug. 25 vs. RSL – No matter how Colorado’s seasons tend to go, matches against the Rapids’ Rocky Mountain Cup rivals are always ones to mark off on the calendar. After losing the rivalry series in 2017, bringing the RMC back to Colorado Rapids would be a good welcoming gift from Anthony Hudson to the fans.

Check out the full 2018 schedule here.

Quotes & Notes

“This is preseason for us,” Hudson said following Colorado’s CCL exit. “That’s the bottom line: it’s preseason. If this is a preseason game for us before we lead into our first game of the season, we’re very happy [with our performance].”

“All of our planning and thinking,” he added, “is around being ready for New England on the 10th of March.”

Hudson’s comments drew the ire from some fans and neutrals, perceiving them as writing off the importance of a competition many see as more important than the MLS Regular Season. Others saw it as a refreshing dose a realism from a head coach still installing a new system and trying to find continuity ahead of an important 2018 campaign for the club. Regardless, Hudson’s statement places a huge amount of importance on the team’s season opener, and anything short of a positive result would be a poor first impression for the new hire.

Injuries: Designated Player Shkëlzen Gashi was held out throughout the preseason with “calf tightness” according to the club.

Biggest offseason moves

  • Acquired left back Edgar Castillo from Liga MX side C.F. Monterrey on a one-year loan with an option to buy. The 31-year-old is the kind of pacey wingback required in Hudson’s 5-3-2 formation also brings USMNT experience (and familiarity with Tim Howard).
  • Acquired midfielder Jack Price from Wolverhampton in the English Championship League. After finding himself in and out of the lineup under multiple managers with his childhood club, the 25-year-old Englishman is trying his hand at MLS. Valued for his vision in passing, he should serve as Colorado’s primary linkage between the back line and attack.
  • Signed midfielder Enzo Martinez from USL affiliate Charlotte Independence. Signing a USL player to a first-team MLS roster isn’t your typical “key move”, but the 27-year-old Martinez proved his worth in two CCL games against TFC, helping kick start Colorado offensively in both passing and chance creation.
  • Signed defenders Kip Colvey (waiver draft from San Jose), Deklan Wynne (trade with Vancouver), and Tommy Smith (signed from Ipswich Town of English Championship). The trio of Kiwis familiar with Hudson and his system should prove vital in helping get their teammates up to speed, particularly Smith, who served as a captain under Hudson with the New Zealand National Team.

Roster breakdown

Forwards – Dominique Badji, 25; Jack McBeam, Joe Mason, 26; Caleb Calvert, 21; Niki Jackson, 22

Midfielders – Bismarck “Nana” Adjei-Boateng, 23; Stefan Aigner, 30; Johan Blomberg, 30; Shkëlzen Gashi, 29; Jack Price, 25; Enzo Martinez, 27; Dillon Serna, 23

Defenders – Edgar Castillo, 31; Kortne Ford, 22; Marlon Hairston, 23; Tommy Smith, 27; Eric Miller, 25; Axel Sjöberg, 26; Jared Watts, 26; Danny Wilson, 26; Kip Colvey, 23

Goalkeepers – Tim Howard, 38; Zac Macmath, 26

See full roster details here.

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