Sometimes, it just pays to ask.
We came out with an article a few weeks ago about the Rapids support staff, more specifically, the lack of a support staff. If you need refreshing, here was the checklist:
[_] Assistant Coach
[_] Assistant Coach
[_] Fitness and Nutrition Coach
[_] Performance Analyst
[_] Massage Therapist
[_] Yoga Instructor (I threw that one in there for you, Jurgen)
After that we got a reaction from some fans in the comments and on social media channels like Facebook and Twitter asking where the Front Office priorities were in relation to this. Did we just put this out in the ether only to be ignored?
Well, we wanted to find out. So we called up and asked Rapids President and CEO Tim Hinchey about what this offseason is going to look like.
We also couldn't help ourselves and asked him about other topics, like the possbility of tapping Wilmer Cabrera as another assistant and the banner flown at the last home game and what his reaction was to that.
Let's get right in to Hinchey's comments. There's going to be very little commentary, because I think a lot of these answers are going to generate plenty of discussion in and of themselves.
What did you think of our checklist? Did you look at it?
Yes, and [the observation that we don't have a full support staff] is spot on. I think we've been operating somewhat behind [other clubs] from day one because once we got the Oscar [Pareja] situation sorted and once Wilmer [Cabrera] wasn't interested in being our interim coach we offered Paul [Caffrey] an opportunity stay on as a long term coach and fitness person, but he chose to go with Wilmer instead. That was up to him. It left us not only without a head coach but also the other coaches left at the same time, that's including Dave Dir, who all left us at the same time. So we brought in Chris Sharpe and Steve Cooke from our Academy and Alliance areas to step in.
Cooke had already been doing some work with the first team. [He] wasn't officially a first team assistant the whole of last year but he was there at every at every training session and was there for every road game and participated in the home matches. He was basically an extension, as any of our Academy people will be, of our background staff. Because in the integrated nature of what we are trying to accomplish in this project we don't want big gaps between what we are trying to do with our Academy and what we are doing with our first team. In fact when we started this project two years ago, that was a big difference. The previous team although it had been terrifically successful in 2010 and then continuing in 2011, there was a disconnect between what our first team was doing in terms of kinds of players and style of play and what the rest of our organization was doing.
So when we chose to hire Oscar, part of that objective as we began the project was to get full integration, and we're don't think there's a lot of clubs currently in North America that are fully integrated. I think you've pointed out a couple that have done fantastically well. RSL is one that I think does a great job, and there are some that certainly have their style and their way, which we certainly respect. But for us, as we fast forward to last January, it wasn't just losing Oscar, it was losing four experienced first team backroom staff members. The first thing was to focus on Steve and Sharpe stepping up. They have always been part of our Academy and our scouting and been part of our drafts, specifically the collegiate. They coached Shane, Dillon, and Davy. They got somewhat of a battlefield promotion right away to help us. I went out and got John Metgod to come over and help us. Ultimately that didn't work out and he left but we tried to fill those spaces, but he certainly helped in the beginning of the season.
[_] Fitness and Nutritionist?
The other piece we needed is we worked with the University of Colorado Anschutz Health Wellness Center, and we hired them full time to be part of our, to take over our sports fitness and sports science programming. Rather than having a full-time coach take over that position we went out and tried to get more significant experience and intelligence in that area.We have an entire group now that runs that part of our first team operations. They do work for CU, they work for the Rockies, the Avalanche. But Doctor Inigo [San Milan] and his team run that setup and they are on track to run a more sophisticated sports fitness and sports science program for us. They have nutritionists at the program [as well]. He and his team have experience with Athletic Bilbao and Real Madrid. He also does work for top cyclists, which is why he's in Denver because of the altitude training. He's been around the club since winter break last year.
We then hired a local top notch trainer from the Colorado [Athletic] Club, one of the best fitness trainers in the region, he works for us M-F, and takes that science and makes it work practically for us on training days. We selected him and hired him to practically participate in all our training sessions. That took place all year. Rather than one coach do all that, we have an outside expert at the Wellness Center and then a local trainer who comes in and adds and executes those recommendations. It's a complete system now, and part of it is that we now have a facility that you can basically see from the stadium. To have that within shouting distance, we think, is a big asset.
So, no fitness and nutrition coach on the staff like we had with Pareja, but a staff at Anschutz working full time for the Rapids. The facility looks legit, and the doctor has a serious background, so I think we can check that box.
[v] Fitness and Nutritionist
[_] Yoga Instructor
[_] Massage Therapist
We don't have a yoga instructor, but we do have a massage therapist that comes in every day, once again, outsourced, and helps the team.
[:-(] Yoga Instructor
[v] Massage Therapist
[_] Performance Analyst
We are about to hire (technically already have hired) a Sporting Director [the just announced Padraig Smith] to come in and handle exactly this, Performance Analytics. It's a combination of handling the big data that we get now in our sport. So you've got guys that are being tested every day from a fitness perspective; that data is going to go to Dr. Inigo and his team and then they are going to make the decision with their medical staff as to who is fit and who is not and then they provide that information to the first team coaching staff. In this particular case, what we want is the data of performance of players playing in clubs all around the world.
For example, we can say we are want a particular kind of player. Just for example's sake, I'll arbitrarily say we want a Center Back like Gary Cahill. Paul [Bravo] would then say to our Sporting Director 'Listen, this is the guy I want. Measure and understand his KPI's [Key Performance Indicators] (his size, how he plays) all those stats he has in that position. Let's then create that position based on those KPI's that fits within x salary from x age group and let's go out and find this guy. So help me find, through Y-Scout, through our own scouting opportunities, let's find a player that matches these KPI's. You find the 10 best, and our scouting team is going to see the ones that we want, and then from that we will find that player."
So from a Pro Zone, Match Analysis, Y-Scout, most professional clubs (Derby County, for example) have a full time person managing this data. At Derby, Paul Winstanley was our coach and we just called him "Pro Zone." In this particular case, for a couple years, Paul [Bravo] has been doing this all mainly by himself. He's had a little bit of help from Mitch Murray, our scouting director. Paul [Bravo] is basically a one man show.
One of the things we both have been asking for, and now ownership has approved is to bring someone in who can take this on on a full time basis. And now because of the additional level of competition in the West, not only the West but in MLS in general. You've not only got Kansas City and Houston coming in, Man City through NYCFC, Orlando City coming in. It's only going to get harder so if we're going to be successful and knowing that realistically I'm not going to spend, nor is ownership going to give me 100 Million like Toronto FC spent this year (not that it helped them). We're going to have to go out there and be the better, brighter and smarter when it comes to player acquisitions. So this has become a very important position for us and it was worth investing in for us.He will start on January first, but will be helping us in the interim.
[1/2] Performance Analyst because that wasn't quite what I meant. I meant more from the side of the first team performance, not scouting. Though it's nice to have someone on staff who can do that kind of analysis and optimize the roster, I was looking more for someone who can scout other teams and offer insights on our own performances to optimize our performances.
[_] Assistant Coach
[_] Assistant Coach
We are going to bring in two more people (for the coaching staff) one will be a full-time assistant, although most of our people have multiple functions within the club, which I think is important. Everyone scouts, for example, and you saw two years ago when we got funding from ownership to ensure that every one of our staff members goes and scouts each collegiate championship live. And I think it's pretty evident in the fact that we've won the draft, I think, top to bottom in the past two years. Similarly, these two positions will also need that flexibility.
We're looking to bring in another person who will be another person on Paul's staff who will also have some on-field responsibilities. For lack of a better term, if I were to use the terminology of the National Football League, I would call it an "Offensive Coordinator." We are looking for attack-minded individuals to support Pablo, Steve, and Chris. Primarily all their experiences are defensive, if you look at their positions and where they played as players. It's a position that would report to Paul, but would work with Pablo. Someone that will absolutely participate in every training session on the field, but will also have an office and be reporting to Paul because the person we are going to bring in is going to bring even more experience and more qualities that are beyond just being an assistant coach.
We do have someone specific in mind.
[v] Assistant Coach
[1/2] Assistant Coach
While this new position is intriguing to me, it's again not quite what I was looking for in terms of an Assistant Coach. This sounds more like an intermediary adviser.
All of this will be in place before MLS Cup. The tough part is that Paul and I had gone in and made this presentation in early July. We finally felt like with such a tough off season, we would get out in front it and get approvals from ownership as to some of the things we wanted to get accomplished. It wasn't in reaction to falling apart in the second half of the season, all of these positions were penciled in before that happened.
It's really important that Pablo have a big say in who the assistant coach is, the guy who is going to be on the bench with him, and the three of us got together and talked about how we can execute after a very difficult first season. Part of that is just having a full off-season to have discussions, analyse the good the bad and the ugly (as your blog sometimes does) and go forward. And part of that is investing in professional development, so part of that is insuring that Pablo and his staff have the opportunities to do the same things Oscar and his staff did after his first 19 loss season. Give him the chance to hear other voices. Give him the chance to hire additional staff.
That takes time, it doesn't just happen like "S--- we've lost five in a row, this will fix it" that's not going to happen. Combined with all that: we need better players. That's going to be a big part of this off season.
You mentioned getting better players, is there going to be a "Big Bloody Deal" in Colorado?
We are certainly going to bring in another Designated Player, without question. I'm not going to attempt to quantify that kind of spending. I don't envision that kind of TFC spending, but are we going to spend real money? Absolutely. We also hope that our recent time overseas, Paul spending time with three quality clubs, me spending time with Ivan Gazidis at Arsenal. We're looking for more out of that relationship as well.
The first part is scouting. Sharing resources. We've never really done that before and we're excited about it. Secondly, it's working with them to find out which players may not be a long-term fit for Arsenal and whether we can have a look under the hood before they put them out on loan or sell them to another club. Just getting that opportunity could be beneficial to us. They brought us up to Colney and let us watch the U-18's play a match against Southampton. That's a kind of access not a lot of people get.
We talked about having someone else on the bench with Pablo, and a lot of our readers have some fond memories of Wilmer Cabrera. What is his status currently with regards to the vacant position you are looking to fill?
Wilmer was offered the chance to be an interim head coach with us and he chose the Chivas job instead. At that time, Pablo was going to come in and be part of the staff no matter what. We didn't know in what capacity yet, but we were still going through an exhaustive search at that time [for a permanent head coach]. And as we told Pablo like we told Wilmer: we're going to go through the whole process and we want the right to make sure we get the right person.
So no calls or contact has been made regarding a possible return to the club as an assistant?
We have not been in touch with Wilmer [and Paul Caffrey] other than friendly handshakes and text messages. We are all very friendly. They've been tremendously supportive of us. We wish them the best and we're sure they will end up in good places. They both deserve that.
March of last year we went all in Pablo, so our goal is to invest in him, invest in the people around him and invest a guy who cares more about this club than most people.
I have to ask you about the banner. What did you think about the "KSE AND HINCHEY OUT" banner flown at the last home game?
It's very much an English mentality when you say things like [KSE AND HINCHEY OUT] because a) KSE is never going to "get out." American ownership doesn't "get out" they won't be pushed out. That's more of a boards and chairmen kind of thing and very much an English football mentality. And b) With me on the other hand, it's up to [KSE]. But you have to remember that the metrics I am judged on aren't necessarily the metrics on the pitch. For us as a business, we've doubled revenues, we've doubled tickets, doubled sponsorship, and that gives ownership the confidence to invest more in our club and that's a credit to the fans and a credit to everyone else, like the people who we bring in to the front office staff who don't get any headlines.
Those comments are part of the job. When the team won a cup, we weren't successful commercially, now that we've achieved some commercial success we want to continue and are working on this project to make this team consistently successful on the pitch.