The Colorado Rapids’ 2013 season was expected to be a “rebuilding year.” The team lost several key veterans to early-season injuries, meaning budding players such as rookie midfielder Dillon Powers had to step in. To many people’s surprise, the Rapids’ talented group of a half-dozen newcomers helped propel the team back into the playoffs after missing the postseason in 2012. And MLS named Powers its Rookie of the Year. The only downside? The pressure to live up to the high expectations the young crew has set.
How did you hear about the Rookie of the Year award?
I was in the training room at Notre Dame doing some rehab, and I got a call from a random number in New York. I had heard they were going to make the announcement. Once I saw the number, I kind of figured that was it before I even answered. I called my dad right away. He said it was well deserved and to keep working for bigger and better things.
Was it difficult for you to make the adjustment from college to the pro game?
I really had no idea what to expect. I just tried to grasp the game as quickly as possible. I was lucky to have some good teammates, good guys to look up to and to help me through that. Pablo Mastroeni was here earlier this season. Hendry Thomas. I watched them pretty closely, especially in the beginning. [Former coach] Oscar Pareja challenged me to be a more dynamic player. Having that in the back of my mind really helped me.
How did this team evolve throughout the season?
We had a rough start at the beginning of the year; we didn’t get a win until the sixth game. It seemed like a lot of guys were worried, thinking, “Oh, here we go again.”
The team lost in the playoffs at Seattle, a notoriously difficult place to play. Is the atmosphere there as advertised?
I would say so. I think there are a lot of places with great atmospheres. That one, for me, was a little overwhelming. Maybe it’s because it’s one of the only [American] football stadiums we play in—just the sheer size of it definitely adds something.
What was the reaction to the team adding Panamanian soccer star Gabriel Torres toward the end of the season?
It gave us a little boost. Torres is a great player. It took him a little bit to get his feet here and get used to the league, which is natural, but toward the end of the season he was very dangerous. We’re excited to have him for an entire year and take on a little bit more responsibility.
What are the team’s goals for the upcoming season?
The ultimate goal is to get an MLS Cup. Ideally, we’d play more attractive soccer where we dominate possession, have the ball in the attacking half, but that’s not always the case in MLS because there’s so much parity. I think I can take on more of a leadership role, be more vocal on the team; now that I have a year under my belt, I feel more comfortable around some of my older teammates.
—Photograph by Aaron Colussi