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There’s the great, the OK, and the downright ugly when examining the current state of sports in the Mile High City: The Broncos just won the Super Bowl. The Nuggets and Avalanche have both been, for some time now, toiling in mediocrity. And lacrosse-wise, the Outlaws won a Major League Lacrosse (MLL) title as recently as 2014, while the Mammoth have made the National Lacrosse League (NLL) playoffs five years running.
And then there’s the city’s pair of embarrassments, the Rockies and the Rapids. And while in most comparative cases the Rockies are almost always the lesser franchise, the Rapids take the cake for the worst professional sports team in Colorado.
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The Rapids have been atrocious under the guide of Pablo Mastroeni, a former star for the franchise who has yet to prove he has what it takes to coach at the professional level. Colorado has won just 18 matches in two-plus seasons under Mastroeni, not to mention that the team finished second-to-last in 2014 and dead last in 2015 in the Western Conference. Public interest in the team has clearly waned in the wake of the poor play, as the Rapids finished at the very bottom in Major League Soccer (MLS) in average attendance last year.
However, if recent roster moves are any indication, the Rapids’ ownership (Kroenke Sports Enterprises, which has long skimped the Rapids on attention and finances in favor of the other, more lucrative teams it owns) may finally be starting to wake up and smell the wilting roses. The Rapids signed stalwart defensive midfielder Jermaine Jones in early March, and now it’s been reported they’re adding Tim Howard at goalie this summer when the English Premier League season ends. Both players starred on the U.S. Men’s National team in 2014, and Howard was, not too long ago, widely considered one of the best keepers in the world.
But will Howard and Jones be enough to bolster the Rapids’ playoff prospects for the still-young season, much less generate buzz at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park? Probably not. The acquisitions are a good sign that ownership is finally willing to shell out some money for top talent, and while these names carry weight with fans who tracked the latest U.S. World Cup run, these guys are past their prime.
Jones (34 years old) was injured for most of his 2015 season with the New England Revolution; meanwhile, Howard (37) was benched by Everton due to shaky performances, a big factor that led to his move back to the MLS. And while the two’s collective star power will surely peak the interest of some fans, a pair of defensive players isn’t exactly a recipe for excitement.
What the Rapids really need is at least one quality, big-name striker. They need a guy who can put the ball in the net to help boost a dismal offense that was last in the MLS in 2015 with 33 goals in 34 games—and they also need a guy who can become the new face of the franchise. The offseason additions of forward Shkëlzen Gashi and midfielder Marco Pappa—two players with international experience—give the team an offensive boost, but it’s not near the firepower the Rapids need to become a contender again.
On the bright side, even if this season is another lost campaign, the Rapids are making a good-faith effort to show the city they’re trying to turn things around.
At least they’ve got the Rockies beat in that department.