The Colorado Rapids entered last season as a mid-table team that was being picked as at most a dark horse playoff contender and at worst a contender for the #3 draft pick. They exceeded just about everyone's expectations by ending the season as the champions of MLS after some shrewd trades gave them one of the top squads in the league.
Colorado's offseason was a fairly quiet one at first, losing nobody to the expansion draft and gaining only aging defender Tyrone Marshall from the re-entry draft. A trade for allocation money with Vancouver gave them former Sounders winger Sanna Nyassi. At the SuperDraft 2011, Colorado selected right back Eddie Ababio to provide some depth for the position as Colorado will play several more games this season than they did last year. They selected central defender Colin Givens out of Michigan State as well, but a slow start to the training camps left him out of the picture. With depth for the Open Cup and CONCACAF Champions League games in mind they just signed Hull striker Caleb Folan to the squad as well. The Rapids only lost central defender Julien Baudet and left back Danny Earls to the offseason, a surprising feat for the defending champs with all of the drafts and trades that took place for MLS over the four months off.
Colorado will go into the 2011 MLS Season with the exact same starting line-up that they won the cup with last year, a strong squad with very solid role players. Jamie Smith will once again act as the service-man into the box to the best striker tandem in the league, Conor Casey and Omar Cummings. The defense remains a fine balance of size, skill, speed and technique and should battle to break their own record from last year of fewest goals allowed in franchise history. With the new playoff structure, five teams from the Western Conference will probably make the playoffs so Colorado has their work cut out for them in the tougher of the two conferences. Nobody is predicting that this team will win the Supporters Shield but if they can improve even slightly more on their already strong squad anything is possible. Certainly a shot at the MLS Cup or US Open Cup is assured for this team.
The first kick for the Rapids will be against the Portland Timbers on Saturday, March 19th at 7:00 p.m. MT at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. They will play the expansion Portland Timbers in the Timbers first ever MLS match.