The team hasn't changed much since 2016 and not at all since I wrote this a week and a half ago. I won't repeat what I wrote there as far as our new additions. It seems the plan this year is to repeat 2016 with an increased focus on attack. The hope appears to be that Gashi, Doyle, Badji, Hairston, and company will step up another level and produce the missing goals from last year while the defense stays focused on repeating last year.
I think that's overly optimistic. Last year we had a very good defense on the road and a historic defense at home. That's hard to repeat even for a team with top players. Our defense last year was greater than the sum of its parts. We had career years from Burch, Azira, and Sjoberg (as short as his career has been so far) and one of Cronin's best seasons. all that combined with GK of the year play from the combination of MacMath and Howard. Add to that surprise early int eh year where I think a lot of teams overlooked us and momentum later in the year where we were flying high. Those aren't pieces that come together in back to back years.
So I expect our defense to take a step back this season. Not greatly, it should still be one of the tougher defenses in the league, but I don't expect to be setting records. I don't expect an equal improvement form the offense to compensate though. There's still nobody with that spark of creativity we can cont on game after game to generate opportunities. I feel we're in for another season of low-scoring games but I fear that a number of those 1-0 wins will be 1-1 draws this year
With that, on to the annual predictions!
- The Rapids will finish about 4th in the West with a point total around 50
- We'll win the one-off playoff game at home but lose in the conference semifinals
- Gashi will win the team Golden Boot with double-digit goals (barely)
- We win the Rocky Mountain Cup
- The Rapids make a move in the early season to add some offense, either a trade or a low-key signing
- In the summer transfer window the team makes a bigger splash with a signing, possibly DP level
- The Open Cup goes like the last couple of years where we beat a lower-league team (probably the Switchbacks) but lose when we face MLS competition
- We're going to have one lousy stretch during the year. Nothing like the end of 2014 but 4-5 games where the season appears to go south. We recover in time to save our playoff spot though