Anyone who has been to a Rapids practice sees very little that's different in it from any other professional soccer practice. True, each team has its own methods and special secrets and some fun drills that foster club culture, but the Colorado Rapids aren't so very different from any other team. Practices can be intense, especially leading up to game day when guys are fighting to see who gets the starting spot, but that's the life of a professional athlete. You want your practices to be intense. You want to grow and be challenged, and you want everyone around you to be competitive, because that competition will ultimately make you a better player.
At least, that's the idea.
Some noise has been made about injuries, and how it could possibly be the training staff or technical staff working the guys too hard, or not working them hard enough. Either way, they must be doing something wrong. Or maybe they aren't at all. We got a hold of some tape of Oscar Pareja commenting on what's up with the injuries, and he had a lot to say about it.
Thanks to Rapids Media Relations Director Dave Lindholm for getting ahold of this tape and getting it to us here at Burgundy Wave.
Here's what Pareja said about the injuries:
First, he was talking about whether or not he's pushing some of the guys to come back earlier than recommended because he needs them.
"No. I think it would be crazy to do this. It's a long season. I need them, but we don't want to strain it. The other boys need to step up. It's a long season still.
"Our job is just to get through every injury. You know me, I don't believe in luck. It's the consequences of good work or bad work. Most of the injuries have been an accident: Matt Pickens, Diego Calderon, Martin. With Pablo, Pablo was a year away from the field, so sometimes it's difficult to measure the effort and how can you control that and if you play with that emotional part--when Pablo says he wants to be on the field--that part is difficult. But we understand now with Pablo it's about giving him more time and maybe measure his time on the field, things like that.
"With Deshorn and Marv, those are probably the biggest concern for us. Because it's a muscular thing. You have think about it just being part of the game too but I'd rather think that there's something that we can do better or something maybe we shouldn't do."
This was an interesting tidbit which Rapids fans might find of note:
"These young guys come in and they don't know the routines because their game for the last four years has been different. Now you have a kid who is doing so well, he's playing a lot of time, playing almost every game, and you think that he's going. You know? You hate to pull him out and say "you don't play tomorrow" "Why not? I'm scoring goals." "No. You're on a training break. You've got to take it easy. Just go home and then..." No, you cannot afford that. You are still hoping that these guys will just adapt to the job and keep pushing. The same with Dillon. That's the difficult part."
Pareja also talked about some more of the injuries, and basically lays out the problem that he has as a coach with regards to training "too much" versus training "too little":
"With Marv, it's a different concern because he is prone to have this kind of injury because of the way he plays and the way he is. It's a challenge. It's happened every year to him. We try to control that. It's our job and our responsibility to find the answers and make sure it doesn't happen again. But he has that tendency. That is what it is.
"With Edson it's tricky. Edson wants to train. He's got some pains that were not part of the plan.
"You have the choice with the turf whether you are going to train these guys or whether you're not going to train them at all. But if you're not training then they're getting on the bike and maybe they start gaining some weight or they aren't fit so you measure a little bit here and there."
Pareja also talked about the process of how they work with injuries with the medical staff:
"We make decisions together with the player. And they player has the final say. If the doctor says the player can go but the player says no, then the answer is no. Or if the doctor says he cannot do this stuff and sometimes the player comes to you and says "yeah I can do that!" and "I want to do that" that's where you come in and have to say "you know, the doctor is right." "You can do this little bit here, but not that" The players want to be on the field all the time."
Rapids fans are pointing to the artificial turf surface being a cause of some of the injury woes:
"Being on turf doesn't help, but that is what it is. We have to work. We have to go on the turf and we have to do it. We have been many times on the turf and nothing happened. You can not be certain that is the reason. We have been affected with many injuries in a short period of time, and you see the turf you use. You think it could be a big part. But we need to get this team ready. It's a young team. We cannot afford not to train."
The Rapids are on a break today (Thursday), why did that happen?
"Tomorrow we are going to give them an extra break. It has been a long run for the starters in the past few weeks. Getting the guys on the turf. We want to regen them a little. We want to do it this week, in the middle of the week. We cannot lose the rhythm of the training so we just give them a little break so that they can regen and pick it up there."
What does a typical training week look like for the Rapids, and how has that been affected by the weather?
"I can walk you through a routine for us in a week. You have the game on Saturday. Then on Sunday we have a regen. Then on Monday is a day off. Tuesday is a day when we bring the team back with some of our own stuff and technical but we try to get some content as well for the training so we can prepare for the weekend and Wednesday we push them, it's a high day for us, Thursday is when we do something functional and Friday is pregame. When you have the challenge of having to work under the dome and then you have a field that is 45x80 which is an inaccurate field and then you don't have full width and then you have to work different spots.
"Keepers hate it. It's hard with the players because you're used to working an hour and a half now you work and hour but you still have to get a warm up and then after the warm up... there's just many things that fight against what you want to get in the training. But certainly the size of the field is a challenge because you can't picture the whole field, you cannot see the whole area. The spacing is different. But we can't train in snow. And the boys have done a great job adjusting. You can say that maybe Deshorn or Marv could be affected by that. Edson's different."
Does Pareja like talking about injuries all the time?
"I don't want to talk about injuries! Especially because my personality is not one that runs through the possible excuses that we might have for not getting results. We got two wonderful results when we were training in the dome, you know! So let's go back to the dome, yeah? Let's do everything the same! After that, when we got back, I'm thinking "well, this isn't so bad, we just won two games..."
Pareja made a comment after the Seattle game that he's never seen anything like this before in his life. What did he mean?
"I just haven't seen that many injuries in such a short period of time. And key players. You may think, because the first thing you think as a coach is "what am I doing wrong?" but then I got to say that 80% of those injuries are accidents. How can you prevent what happened to Matt? How can you prevent what happened to Diego? Or Martin? Jaime's injury was from last year? Pablo, this is part of a normal situation for Pablo that we knew was going to happen? And then Edson gets out of US camp (with an injury).
"Marv and Deshorn's are the ones where I am most unhappy. Most uncomfortable."