While it hasn't exactly been the season the Rapids were hoping for, there is optimism to be found for Colorado in the form of rookie forward Tony Cascio.
The 21-year-old University of Connecticut product has been turning heads even without numbers that jump off the page. According to MLSSoccer.com's Chris Bianchi, he is one of the top players to watch in the race for Major League Soccer Rookie of the Year.
Each month, the MLS website puts up its rankings for the top rookies in the league. Cascio was once again second on the list behind New York's Ryan Meara, who is having an unfathomable season in the net for the Red Bulls.
Cascio's numbers may not be as high as other forwards, with just two goals and one assist through the club's first 13 games, but he is one of the most dangerous players in MLS heading into the attacking third. His 33 shots are the most on the Rapids and his 12 shots on target are second only to Omar Cummings' 13. Colorado are fifth in goals scored in MLS this season, with 10 players combining for 20 goals, so Cascio's two have helped contribute to an attack that is extremely balanced.
Cascio is only a rookie, so he is still adjusting to the professional game. With time will come more goals, though defenses are already nervous whenever the speedy winger gets the ball. Cascio seems guaranteed to keep his spot on the left side in Oscar Pareja's 4-3-3 formation, even with Colorado's top players getting healthy again. With Cascio on the left, Conor Casey as the striker in the middle and either Omar Cummings or Jose Castrillon on the right wing, Colorado could easily have one of, if not the best attack in MLS.
His ability has earned him notice for Rookie of the Year, but there have also already rumblings that Cascio may find himself in the United States national team setup before the 2014 FIFA World Cup. All focus is on World Cup Qualification, which began last week. US head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has been showing favor to a 4-3-3 formation, which fits Cascio, and experts from ESPN Insider believe he is one of the top young players likely to come into the fold soon. With this probably being the last go-around for the likes of Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan, the starting wings for the US, Cascio is seen as a potential up and comer for the national team.
The future is bright for Tony Cascio. The Arizona native deserves all the praise he is getting and it's only a matter of time before we're referring to him as an "MLS All-Star" and "American international."
Photo by Tim Fontenault