Colorado Rapids Profile
|Major Honours||MLS Cup (1)|
Former MLS champions are, like Premier League Arsenal, under the ownership of Stan Kroenke.
Colorado Rapids are one of the 10 founding members of Major League Soccer. They were originally owned and operated by the Anschutz Entertainment Group and played at the Denver Broncos' Mile High Stadium before moving into Dick's Sporting Goods Stadium in Commerce City in 2007.
The Rapids originally used green as their primary colour. Their logo had the word 'Colorado' written above snow-capped mountains with the word 'Rapids' emerging underneath the mountains and atop a raging river. In 2001, they changed this to a circular logo with a soccer ball in the middle and the words Colorado Rapids in a blue ring around the ball. After changing to black and blue kits in 2003, the Rapids went through a complete overall in 2007. The rebranding was done at the same time as their move to DSG Park, with burgundy and blue colours and a new shield logo. The logo features a mountain under the team name. There is a soccer ball embedded in the mountain and underneath this '96' is written, denoting the year in which they first played.
Kroenke Sports Enterprises, led by Stan Kroenke, purchased the team in 2004. The group also runs the NFL's Los Angeles Rams, the NBA's Denver Nuggets, the NHL's Colorado Avalanche and Arsenal FC, of the English Premier League.
Colorado Rapids lost in the MLS Cup final in 1997 and won the title in 2010. They also made it to the US Open Cup final in 1999 but finished runners-up.
Colorado Rapids' first seasons
For their first season, Colorado Rapids hired Bob Houghton as manager. Houghton had managed in Europe for more than two decades, including stints at Malmo FF, Bristol City and FC Zurich. They were assigned USMNT defender Marcelo Balboa along with Roy Wegerle and England goalkeeper Chris Woods. Balboa scored the first goal in team history and the first-ever at Mile High Stadium, but the 1996 season saw Colorado Rapids finish in last place in the Western Conference and Houghton was fired.
Dan Counce took over as general manager and hired Glenn Myernick as boss for the 1997 season. They added goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann along with Paul Bravo, David Patino and Wolde Harris. The Rapids clinched their first-ever play-off spot when they finished fourth in the West with 38 points from 32 games. In the play-offs, Colorado upset top-seeded Kansas City Wizards with a 3-0 win in the opening leg and a 3-2 victory in the second leg. They beat the Dallas Burn in the Western Conference finals with a 1-0 win in Dallas and a 2-1 win at home as brothers Chris and Sean Henderson both scored in the two-legged tie. In the MLS Cup final, Colorado Rapids faced defending champions D.C. United with the game in Washington D.C. on October 26. The Rapids fell behind in the 37th minute and went 2-0 down in the 68th minute before substitute Adrian Paz scored in the 75th. However, the game finished 2-1 and the Rapids ended the season as runners-up.
The Rapids made the play-offs again in 1998, losing to Chicago Fire in the first round. The 1999 season featured another play-off appearance with a loss to LA Galaxy in the opening round. The 1999 season also featured a run to the US Open Cup final. They beat A-League's Seattle Sounders 1-0 in the fourth round, Tampa Bay Mutiny 1-0 in the quarter-finals and A-League side Charleston Battery 3-0 the semi-finals. In the final in Columbus, the Rapids faced A-League side Rochester Rhinos and were stunned 2-0, marking the last time a non-MLS side won the trophy.
The 2000 season saw Colorado make the play-offs with a win in their final regular season game through a 97th-minute goal from Bravo. They lost in the first round to Kansas City though and Myernick was let go.
The 2001 campaign was led by Tim Hankinson and he added veterans Joe Cannon, Carlos Valderrama and John Spencer to the roster. Balboa was traded to New York before retiring and Colorado missed the playoffs.
The 2002 season was a strong one for the Colorado Rapids as they and the Denver Broncos moved into Invesco Field at Mile High, next door to the old stadium. Pablo Mastroeni and Kyle Beckerman joined from Miami, with the former going on to have a spectacular 2002 FIFA World Cup for the USMNT. General manager Counce was named MLS Executive of the Year while the Rapids led MLS in terms of game attendance for the first time. Colorado made the play-offs and beat Dallas in the first round before falling to the Galaxy.
Spencer set a team record in 2003 with goals in six straight games and 14 goals over the course of the season. Chung scored 11 goals, and both players made the MLS Best XI, a first for the Rapids. However, Colorado again lost in the first round of the play-offs and did the same in 2004.
The Stan Kroenke takeover
Late in the 2004 season, Kroenke Sports Enterprises took ownership of the team and cleaned out the front-office staff. Charlie Wright was appointed general manager and Fernando Clavijo was hired as the new team manager. They added Jeff Cunningham and Terry Cooke for the 2005 campaign and improved as the season progressed. The Rapids won the first Rocky Mountain Cup against new rivals Real Salt Lake and made the play-offs. In the first round, they had to go to penalty kicks to beat Dallas before falling 2-0 to the Galaxy in the conference finals.
In 2006, Colorado again won the Rocky Mountain Cup and made the play-offs in the final spot. They upset top-seeded Dallas on penalty kicks again but lost in the conference finals to Houston, 3-1.
The 2007 campaign featured a move into the brand new Dick's Sporting Goods Park, which came at the same time as the rebranding of the club's colours and crest. They hosted the 2007 MLS All-Star Game - a 2-0 MLS win over Celtic in front of 18,661 fans. The Rapids lost the Rocky Mountain Cup and were eliminated from the play-off race that season though.
The 2008 season started with a 4-0 loss to the Galaxy and didn't get much better as they failed to win two games in a row before Clavijo resigned with 11 games left in the season. Assistant manager Gary Smith, who had come out of the Arsenal program, took over on an interim basis, but they were again eliminated from play-off contention by RSL.
The Rapids win their first major trophy
Smith's first full season was in 2009, when the team re-signed Mastroeni while also adding Matt Pickens and Ivan Guerrero. They finished the season tied for the last play-off spot but missed out on a tie-breaker.
Before the 2010 season, the Rapids made a bunch of roster moves and also gave Conor Casey a new contract. Casey scored 13 goals over the season and Colorado Rapids finished fifth in the West, qualifying for the play-offs. In the first round, Mastroeni scored in a first-leg win and after a second-leg loss, they beat Columbus Crew on penalties. In the conference finals, Kosuke Kimura scored the only goal in a 1-0 win over San Jose. The 2010 MLS Cup final was in Toronto and Colorado Rapids beat FC Dallas 2-1 in extra time to win their first major trophy. Casey scored in the 57th minute and an own goal from FC Dallas in the 106th minute proved to be the game winner.
They again beat Columbus in the first round of the 2011 MLS Cup play-offs with a 1-0 home win. Colorado lost in the next round to top seed Sporting Kansas City, with both legs finishing 2-0. They also played in the CONCACAF Champions League for the first time but didn't get past the group stage.
Colorado Rapids post-Smith
The Rapids didn't renew Smith's contract for the 2012 season and hired Oscar Pareja as manager. They went on to finish seventh in the West, missing the play-offs. They bounced back in 2013 as all-time leading goalscorer Casey was released and Omar Cummings was traded. The team won 14 games with nine draws and finished in the last play-off spot. In the knockout round, the Rapids lost 2-0 to Seattle and Pareja left for FC Dallas.
Former Colorado Rapids player Pablo Mastroeni was hired as manager for the 2014 season. They won just eight games and missed the play-offs thanks to a 14-game winless streak to end the season. In the summer of 2015, the Rapids brought in USMNT goalie Tim Howard on a Designated Player contract from Everton and also added Shkelzen Gashi and Jermaine Jones. They finished in last place in the West with just 37 points from 34 games.
The 2016 season saw a big bounceback for the Colorado Rapids with Howard's leadership in goal contributing to a 15-game unbeaten streak. They led the league with just 32 goals conceded in 34 games and finished second in the West. After a 1-0 loss in the first leg of the conference semi-finals, Colorado beat LA Galaxy 1-0 in the second leg and won on penalties as Howard made three saves. In the West finals, Colorado Rapids lost both legs to Seattle and were eliminated 3-1 on aggregate.
Jones left in the 2017 season and Mastroeni was fired during a campaign that ended with a 10th-place finish in the West. Former New Zealand manager Anthony Hudson took over for the 2018 campaign and the Rapids were knocked out of the Champions League by Toronto FC in the last 16. In MLS play, they finished 10th again with just eight wins.
For the 2019 season, the Rapids added Kei Kamara, Diego Rubio and Benny Feilhaber but didn't win any of their first 11 games and fired Hudson. Former Rapids player Conor Casey was named interim coach and the team missed the play-offs with a ninth-place finish. Howard retired at the end of the 2019 season with exactly 100 appearances.
Rapids hire former defender Fraser
Former Rapids defender Robin Fraser was hired as manager on August 25, 2019, and the 2020 campaign was his first full season in charge. Fraser managed Chivas USA from 2011-12 and served as an assistant for Red Bulls and Toronto FC from 2013-19.
The 2020 season started with two wins before the league was put on pause due to COVID-19. When it resumed in July at the MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando, the Rapids lost twice and drew once in group play.
COVID-19 hit the Colorado Rapids hard in October and they had five straight games postponed between September 23 and October 24. They lost two straight after coming back before winning the final three regular-season games to make the play-offs. In the MLS Cup play-offs, Colorado fell 3-0 at fourth seed Minnesota United in the first round.
Colorado Rapids' rivals
Real Salt Lake, who joined MLS in 2005, are the Rapids' main rivals. The teams are in neighbouring states and compete for the Rocky Mountain Cup. The Rapids won the cup in its first two seasons, winning all three games between the teams. RSL took the cup in 2007 and claimed it six successive times, although the series was tied in 2008. The Colorado Rapids have won the cup just twice since 2013, in 2015 and 2020.
The teams have never met in the MLS Cup play-offs but have faced each other twice in the US Open Cup. Colorado Rapids eliminated Real Salt Lake in the fourth round of the 2006 tournament, 1-0, and beat them 2-1 in the second qualifying round in 2007.
Colorado Rapids' top players
Colorado Rapids have inducted six players into their Gallery of Honour: Marcelo Balboa, Paul Bravo, Chris Henderson, John Spencer, Pablo Mastroeni and Conor Casey.
Casey is the all-time goals leader with 53 between 2007 and 2012. Bravo is next with 46, while Spencer scored 43 times for the club.
In their history, the Rapids have only had six Designated Players. Panamanian Gabriel Torres was the first from 2013-15, followed by Argentine Juan Edgardo Ramirez and Ireland's Kevin Doyle. Albanian midfielder Shkelzen Gashi was a D.P. from 2016-18 and USMNT goalkeeper Tim Howard was on a D.P. deal from 2016-19. In 2020, they brought in Danish midfielder Younes Namli from Russian side Krasnodar.
Among the other big-name players to play for Colorado Rapids in their history are Kyle Beckerman, Edson Buddle, Joe Cannon, Jeff Cunningham, Raul Diaz Arce, Herculez Gomez, Clint Irwin, Sebastien Le Toux, Zac MacMath, Clint Mathis, Tony Sanneh and Carlos Valderrama.