The Colorado Rapids lost their first game of the 2013 Major League Soccer season. They lost their second as well. They didn't record a win until April 6, a full month and half a dozen matches into the campaign.
Four months later, the Rpaids are riding high on a seven game unbeaten streak. They've marched up the standings to second in the crowded Western Conference and on Saturday, they wrested the Rocky Mountain Cup trophy away from arch-rival Real Salt Lake for the first time since 2006.
Midfielder Nathan Sturgis has a simple answer to those scratching their heads about Colroado's remarkable turnaround. In an exclusive interview with Goal ahead of the 2013 MLS All-Star Game, the 26-year-old explained that his team's recent upturn in form was down to a combination of increasing familiarity and working to build on a solid foundation.
"We didn't start off too hot back in the beginning of the season, but I think even though we didn't start too well, we were still kind of building some positive things. It took a while for everyone to kind of get on the same page.
"There was a lot of work that we started in preseason, I was one of the new players, there were a lot of new players coming together, so I think what you've kind of seen the last several games, the last 10, 15 games we've done better is kind of what we built early on finally start to come together."
This season has been a memorable one for the midfielder on a personal level as well. Saturday's 2-2 draw against Real Salt Lake was his 15th start of the season, just the second time he's achieved that mark in a nine-year professional careeer. His 18th-placed ranking in Major League Soccer's Castrol Performance Index has him as the top-performing Rapids player and places him among the league's elites.
"I don't know if there's a whole lot different about Colorado from other teams, I think it's just being able to find a system and a team that I kind of fit into," Sturgis said. "Obviously, in the last 10, 15 games or so I've gotten a chance to play and start and kind of find a rhythm and get some confidence.
"I think that's been the biggest thing, getting the opportunity to play consistently. And with the shape of the team and the style and all that, I think I've fit in pretty well so far this season."