(SportsNetwork.com) - The Colorado Rapids began the 2013 season in search of an identity, and it seems as though one is finally starting to emerge after seven months.
The Rapids parted ways with forwards Conor Casey and Omar Cummings prior to the season, while midfielder Jeff Larentowicz also moved on, leaving the team without three of the key pieces that helped Colorado win the 2010 MLS Cup.
Colorado's seventh-place finish in the Western Conference last season under first-year head coach Oscar Pareja did little to inspire confidence, and with a large number of new faces to integrate, expectations weren't exceedingly lofty in the Mile High City.
After claiming just one point from its first four games this season, Colorado had the look of an also-ran.
But as the season has worn on, a rookie forward has emerged to lead the team in scoring and provide the type of spark that could propel the Rapids into the playoffs and even make them a threat to some of the West's star-studded teams.
That rookie is Deshorn Brown, a 22-year-old Jamaican who was the sixth overall selection in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft.
Edson Buddle was looked at as the team's top option at forward prior to the season after he was acquired in an offseason trade from Los Angeles.
And while Buddle has tallied four goals in 21 games this term, the energetic Brown is the team's top offensive option.
"I'm just trying to work more consistently in front of the goal," Brown said prior to the start of the season when asked what adjustments he needed to make upon his arrival in MLS. "I need to get back that calmness I used to have in front of the goal. I know the guys (in MLS) are faster, stronger and think quicker, so I'm just going to have to adjust as quick as possible."
The adjustment period for Brown didn't last long as he assisted on a goal in his second MLS appearance and scored his first goal in the next game.
With nine goals and three assists, Brown has clearly adjusted to life in MLS, and has emerged as one of the leading candidates for MLS Rookie of the Year.
His skill set was on full display on Saturday in Colorado's most impressive performance of the season, a 5-1 thrashing of Seattle.
The Sounders came into the game as the hottest team in the league and riding a seven-game unbeaten streak.
But Brown scored just 14 seconds into the game and added another goal in the 31st minute as his team built a 4-0 halftime lead.
The first goal showed just how comfortable Brown has become in front of goal as he took a pass inside the penalty area on the left and calmly slotted his shot inside the far post.
With the Rapids already up 2-0, Brown scored again in the 31st minute by bulling his way through a Seattle defender and racing into the box before another clinical finish extended Colorado's lead.
At 6-foot-2, 170 pounds, Brown is a physically strong forward with good speed and has shown a natural instinct for scoring goals.
He is a handful for any defender and is even more dangerous with the arrival of forwards Vicente Sanchez and Gabriel Torres.
Both players came to Commerce City in the past few months, and they add another dimension to an ever-improving Rapids attack.
Sanchez has already assisted on four goals in his first six games, while Torres netted his first goal for the club on Saturday and also assisted on another in five games.
With three wins from their last four matches, the Rapids sit tied with Los Angeles in fourth place, only four points from the top of the conference.
Teams like Seattle, Real Salt Lake and two-time defending champion Los Angeles have talent-laden rosters, but Colorado is coming together at the right time and promises to be a tough out for any of those sides.
And at the center of it all for the Rapids is a rookie who has not only adjusted to life in MLS, but has thrived to it.