Supporting any professional sporting team is a very personal one. I grew up in California and my passion for the San Francisco Giants and San Jose Sharks comes from that. I attended the University of Idaho which is why I support the athletic program there. And when I moved to Colorado from Minnesota in 2003 (where I was living at the time), my love for the Beautiful Game was reborn (it is long story why I lost it) and I fell in love with the Colorado Rapids.
But as I have found out, supporting the Rapids does not come without a fair amount of pain, struggles, bad language, stress....everything that you would get in any relationship. See I view supporting the Rapids as a relationship. At times there is good. At times there is bad. And sure as heck there is ugly from time to time. But you keep going back because you have a passion and love for a team that, no matter what, you will support.
As I was thinking about what it meant to support this team, I thought it would be important to ask a supporter why they care so much about the Rapids. Why they come out and see this team play, even when things are going poorly. I wanted to what they thought of Pablo Mastroeni. I wanted to know what they thought of the Front Office moves. So I arranged to speak with Brian (last name not printed) during the first half of the Rapids vs Vancouver Whitecaps match and get his thoughts on all things Rapids related.
I hope you enjoy:
Burgundy Wave: Brian, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me tonight. I hope we get this in before the weather comes!
Brian: Thanks John, me too. The weather is looking nasty to the West right now.
BW: So Brian, how long have you been a Rapids fan?
Brian: Well, lets see here. They came into the league in 1995 when MLS was formed, so yeah, since 1995.
BW: Good deal. What is about soccer that you like?
Brian: I have played soccer since I was 5 or 6 and I just think it is a wonderful game. It is a game where you may not be the most physically gifted player out there but if you are smart and have a little bit of talent you can actually be one of the better players out on the field. And when it is played right it is so much fun to watch.
BW: The Rapids. One win. Two Losses. Seven Ties. What are they doing right?
Brian: Well they are not giving up as many goals as they did last year, so that is right.
(we both laugh at the obviousness of that statement)
They are doing that right and that is part of the formula to winning games. The second part of that is scoring goals and they have brought in some players that I am excited to see and I am curious to see if they can get that second part right.
BW: You have been around when they won the MLS Cup and you have been around for when the playoffs have not happened. Does this team feel different to you at all?
Brian: It definitely feels different. There is a lot of pride in this group. It is a team that feels like it wants to be here and they are better assembled this year and probably the best assembled group since 2010.
BW: So are they unlucky then?
BW: I mean, they have one win in ten games. What's the issue?
Brian: They have had leads, they have given up goals. The Alan Gordon goal comes to mind and that is what he does. The have been slightly unlucky and they have had a number of games where they have had a lot of chances. And they have hit the woodwork an awful lot this year. They have hit the woodwork more in 10 games then they did in all of last year.
Brian: But they don't get the ball on goal as often as they should, so they are doing good things. But as in everything there is room for improvement. Unless you are 10-0-0 scoring three or four goals a game, you could be better.
BW: So is it a matter of creating chances or finishing chances?
Brian: Finishing Chances.
BW: I look at the stats and I think they are creating a lot of chances but it seems to be that final touch or final pass
Brian: It is the final touch and not even the final pass, it is just that final touch and when they have the chance they are not always getting the ball on net to make the goalie work or create deflections or rebounds. They have been a little unlucky, but they have created well. There have been plenty of games where they are in it late for a win and they are pushing hard but they are coming away with 1-1 draws.
BW: Quite a few as it turns out
Brian: Too many
BW: You figure they have seven draws. Four of them were 1-1 and three of them were 0-0. What is the issue? What is your thoughts formation wise? Are they playing the right formation?
Brian: With this personnel and if everyone is healthy and available I don't know the 4-4-2. I have always been a fan of the 3-2-3-2 even though it is not popular in Major League Soccer or worldwide right now but I have always enjoyed that. I think it gives a lot of options.
BW: In some cases it makes sense. You have two D-Mids and five on attack
Brian: Even if you play one of those on attack that can float back and help on defense to become that fourth defender this is a formation that I could see this group playing. I think you need to have Dillon Powers in an advance role and with Kevin Doyle coming in, Luis Solignac coming in, they are going to be up top. You have a much better defense this year which I am pleased to see and could facilitate a move to a 3 person back line.
BW: You have Powers, Doyle, Solignac. You have Gabriel Torres that has found his form. How do you get all of those bodies on the pitch at the same time?
Brian: You may not be able to. Or you may have young players, Dillon Serna, Juan Ramirez, those young guys. They may be relegated to the bench where they may be learning. I am excited to see this team at full strength. They have done some good things bringing in some Designated Players. They have brought in some good players with the right amount of time together they are gonna gel and they are gonna play well.
BW: The big question that Rapids fans are asking now...is Pablo the guy? I am looking for an answer as someone who is not affiliated with the club, but a strong supporter.
Brian: Pablo bleeds burgundy. He loves this club as much as much as anyone ever has. He is still learning. He is a young manager.
(we briefly pause to look at a poor call by the ref and debate how to properly pronounce Axel Sjoberg's name)
BW: So Pablo bleeds burgundy. Pablo has been a Rapids player.
Brian: There has been a drop off from his playing days.
BW: That's fair. So back to the question, is Pablo the guy?
Brian: He can be the guy. We are a season and ten games into his tenure. He has definitely been out classed, at times, by other managers. But I think he has the potential and he wants this team to succeed. And as a guy who has watched other coaches in this city come in and have been iconic players prior to their management and see the dedication they have to the club. I think he has the makings, he just needs the refinements.
BW: So if you could chance one thing about the Rapids, what would it be?
Brian: Not so many ties! But in all honesty, I don't know if there is one thing. Just finding the back of the net a little bit more consistently. They have been a young group up front with Dominique Badji and Charles Eloundou. But they are not that seasoned veteran crew that knows what to do in front of goal. They are not a Robbie Keane to point out as an example. They are not a Chris Wondolowski who just know what do in front of the net. They (Badji and Eloundou) are not known for that yet.
BW: What then is a successful season? A playoff run?
Brian: A playoff run would definitely be successful. Finishing 6th or 7th and being in it until the final weekend would be successful. Finishing bottom three in the West....nobody thinks that is successful. You want to build on the things. But yeah, the playoffs are a success. Finishing just outside the playoffs is a success. I am not going to say that just being competitive is a success. You need some wins. Just getting ties is not success. Wins matter.
BW: They have won 10% of their games. That is not good.
Brian: No, that is not good at all. But you can also look at it that they have gotten results in 80% of their games. Yeah, they only have two losses and that is great. 10 games into a season that is fantastic. If they had three or four wins instead of one it is a different story. We would be having a different conversation about the team and Pablo probably
BW: The Front Office. How have they done?
Brian: I think the front office has done a good job in reacting to needs and fixing a roster that needed to be fixed. But it is up to the players to make the most of their chances that they are given.
BW: Well Brian, thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me today.
Brian: My pleasure.