It’s been awhile since the Colorado Rapids could optimistically look at a season and think something along the lines of ‘we got this’. They have been facing rough times, even in MLS’s ever-fluctuating landscape. Nobody scored less goals than the Rapids last year. The year before that, nobody gave up more goals.
This year got off to a rather – for lack of a better word – interesting start.
The Rapids had clearly made the attack their priority, as they nabbed Kevin Doyle in the summer of 2015 and added Shkelzen Gashi, who was coming off two straight years of winning the Golden Boot in the Swiss Super League. Toss in Marco Poppa from Seattle and the pieces of a trifecta were in order.
But Doyle got hurt after three games and Poppa was looking like a one-man machine, as he has accounted four of their five goals. Someone had to step up and everyone was looking at Shkelzen Gashi, the Albanian Designated Player, who had yet to notch a goal or an assist.
Going into Sporting KC, that was the issue. Even coming away from Sporting KC, the Colorado attack could still be fathomed as a bit dull. They went into the match with three goals for and three goals against – hardly sounds like thrilling soccer. That mostly comes from having so many new pieces all shoved together at the front of an attack that was completely rebuilt.
It all starts with Gashi.
Gashi is the heartbeat behind this offense already, as he leads in just about every statistical category except for goals and assists. Nobody fires more shots or creates more chances. Gashi also loses possession less than any of his other attacking mates. How then does he not contribute more hard stats to the Rapids cause?
Fortune and timing. Gashi’s chances are not being converted, his shots are not finding the back of the net and his possession retention is for naught. But that’s okay because these things have a way of evening out and we will see that out of Gashi. Even against Sporting KC, easily Gashi’s best game, we started to see the pendulum returning a bit.
Gashi’s goal was a fortunate rebound, but he still put it away. Meanwhile all three of the chances he created could easily have ended up in the back of the net. His work rate also has to be commended. Again at the top of his attacking class, nobody attempts or completes more duels than him on the ground and aerially, only Doyle has him beat. His influence is seen all over the pitch.
Essentially, Gashi is the all-in-one package that Colorado has lacked over at least the past two years.
He is going to justify that designated player tag. It will be a bit easier to do when Doyle comes back and he has an aerial threat to aim for on crosses.
It’s just a matter of time before Gashi starts clicking with his team mates on a regular basis like we saw against KC.