COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – In an effort to increase the club’s transparency and connect with fans, Colorado Rapids executive vice president and general manager Padraig Smith sat down for a live Q&A with supporters via Reddit and in person.
Smith addressed fan questions, which covered a variety of topics, in addition to elaborating further on the disappointing 2018 campaign, its vision for the future and the roster building process.
Here are just a few of the topics covered from Thursday’s Q&A:
Youth development and new Homegrown signing
Several questions brought up by fans questioned whether the Colorado Rapids are properly developing the youth within the club’s system.
Smith rightfully pointed out that the idea that Colorado isn’t playing or focused on younger players is somewhat of a misnomer. Of note, 15, or more than half of the Rapids’ current first-team roster is under the age of 25.
“I think sometimes people forget about our players and how old they are,” Smith responded. “Nana Boeteng will come in next season at 24. Kellyn Acosta is 23. Kortne Ford is 21.”
Smith also used the opportunity to reveal Colorado’s latest Homegrown signing: midfielder Cole Bassett. The 17-year-old played over 200 minutes with the Rapids’ U-23 side in the PDL, notching a goal and an assist against much older competition.
“Cole is one of the most talented players, not just in our development academy, but in the country,” Smith said. “I think being able to bring someone like him at 17 speaks volumes to the work that has gone on at the development academy.”
No more bunker ball
“When I think of the mistakes, I think of a couple of games; Montreal away, Houston away,” Smith explained. “I think we got away from the type of team, philosophy and vision we have as a club.”
In those away games, Colorado rolled out a bunkered 5-4-1 formation, appearing to play for a draw from the start, yet losing both matches. Against both Montreal and Houston away, Colorado managed only two shots, while failing to gain more than 31 percent possession in either contest.
It was a pair of performances which went against the philosophy which Smith branded as “The Rapids Way.”
Said Smith, “We want to play this attacking football, this entertaining brand of football, play with intensity, urgency, play with boldness.”
The value of Tim Howard
Fans in Colorado have been frustrated with Tim Howard, whether for his perceived lack of production in net and responsibility on “soft goals”, his high salary, or his off the field antics.
While it’s true that the Rapids have received middling performance from the highest paid goalkeeper in the league, Smith explained that Howard offers residual value beyond his on-field performances.
“He’s been a huge help to me, certainly in terms of recruitment, as well,” Smith said. “If you look at his relationship with Jermaine Jones back in 2016…certainly he spoke to Edgar Castillo and Kellyn Acosta. These are people that look up to him and can talk to him. At this club, he’s had a role to play in that.”
Smith was asked during the Q&A what can be done to involve more women in the Colorado Rapids community.
He responded, saying, “I think one of the things that has been really exciting is our youth club has merged with Colorado Storm. It brings the number of players that wear our badge to over 19,000 and the girls’ side It’s something that’s a massive part of that. It will be hugely important for soccer in the state and something we’re very interested in for sure.”
Colorado is certainly a hotbed for women’s talent on the pitch, producing U.S. Women’s National Team players such as Lindsey Horan and Mallory Pugh, but Colorado is one of several MLS markets currently without an NWSL team. The previous incarnation of a professional women’s side, Colorado Rapids Women, played in the USL W-League but ended operations in 2014.
To Smith and the Rapids’ credit, Colorado hired Ena Patel at the beginning of the season as the club’s director of player personnel. Patel is the highest ranking female club executive in MLS. But whether it be through more fan involvement or the eventual formation of another professional women’s side, Colorado could certainly do more in regards to women’s involvement with the club.
Is the best yet to come?
The Q&A session came just days after Colorado earned its fifth win of the season, winning 2-1 against the L.A. Galaxy while putting forth one of the better performances seen under first-year Rapids head coach Anthony Hudson.
For Smith, it’s a sign of better days ahead (although he acknowledged there may also be more bumps in the road along the way).
“I like the idea of turning the corner,” said Smith. “You really have seen what we’re capable of over the last couple of games. We certainly believe there’s a lot more of that to come. There’s going to be ups and downs. But what we think we’ve got now is the ability to do what we did on Saturday on a consistent basis.”