2017 Record: 9-19-6, tenth place in the Eastern Conference
Coach: Anthony Hudson
Key Additions: RB Edgar Castillo (Monterrey-loan), CB Danny Wilson (Rangers); CB Deklan Wynne (Whitecaps FC 2), CB Tommy Smith (Ipswich Town), MID Jack Price (Wolverhampton), FWD Joe Mason (Wolverhampton-loan)
Key Departures: DEF Bobby Burling (option declined), DEF Mekeil Williams (Richmond Kickers), Kevin Doyle (retired)
The Big Question: Is Hudson the right man for the job?
In November the Rapids made a interesting move naming former New Zealand head coach Anthony Hudson their newest manager. Hudson who had just brought the Kiwis to within a game of making World Cup 2018 was not exactly at the top of anyone’s list. Given that he is 36 (which makes him the youngest manager in Major League Soccer history) and that some of his previous stops aren’t exactly well-known destinations (Newport County, Real Maryland Monarchs, and Bahrain) it would be expected Rapids supporters might be a little apprehensive about this pick.
But there is also a lot to like about Hudson. First, he does have experience working within the North American system both with the Monarchs in the USL PDL and with an array of New Zealand internationals that play in MLS. He was also born in the United States in Seattle, Washington and is the son of Alan Hudson, the former Seattle Sounder. So Hudson does have quite a bit of background with the style of the play in the region.
He is also someone who knows how to get as much as possible with what he has. New Zealand held their own at last year’s FIFA Confederations Cup in part because they had an organized backline and could run the counter-attack rather effectively. The Rapids bread-and-butter in recent years has been a stout defense and taking their chances with Dominique Badji and Shkelzen Gashi.
But is that enough to get by in the Western Conference? Hudson can likely expect another standout season from goalkeeper Tim Howard but he is going to need more on the attack. Forward Joe Mason, who comes in loan from Wolverhampton, should help give the Rapids an additional attacking option. But it is Hudson that is going to need to step out of his shell and show a little more ingenuity to get things done.
Area to keep an eye on: Center-back
Center-back has always been an area of strength for the Rapids with Axel Sjoberg and Bobby Burling manning the middle for the last few years. But with Burling gone and a whole host of new CB options brought in it seems as though things are changing in Colorado. Sjoberg is back but he was plagued with injuries last season (just 19 starts) which seems to have opened up his spot as well. Both Danny Wilson (formerly of Rangers) and Tommy Smith (Ipswich Town) come with a vast amount of experience in Europe. But don’t count out Deklan Wynne either. The Whitecaps FC 2 product showed in limited time last season with the senior side that he can be quite the pest when necessary. The Rapids have never really had that type of energy so he may be a fresh of breath air to the side.
Outcome: Ninth place
There is a lot to like about this side with the duo of Badji and midfielder Marlon Hairston looking like they may set team records this season for goals and assists. But The back four is still troubling and given how much of an emphasis Hudson placed on center-back at the expense of their outside backs leaves them a little bare. Howard, as proven last season, can only pull out so many miracles. Given the strength of some of the other sides in the West it is going to be an uphill battle for the Rapids all season.