The Colorado Rapids and the New York Red Bulls played one of the most memorable matches of the early Major League Soccer last night under snowy and blustery conditions. To call it snowy and blustery does not properly do it justice.
It was cold--about 32 degrees
It was snowy--significantly
It was windy--about 20 mph from time to time
And it was beautiful. So very beautiful.
Was the display of soccer the greatest? Probably not as the snow really changes things.
But it was beautiful nevertheless.
I have the option of sitting in the press box courtesy of the Rapids Communication group, but this match felt like something I needed to be outside for.
And it was worth it.
But the game...here are some observations:
1) The Jermaine Jones Factor: Jermaine Jones gives something the Rapids have not had in a long time--stones and grit and toughness. To put it bluntly: he is not going to take shit from anyone and he proved that last night. He is going to be a leader on this team and it changes the equation for the Rapids. They will not be a push over anymore.
From the post game interview with Jones:
On the snow storm and conditions on the field...
For both teams it was not easy to play, and both teams did the best that they can. And especially talking about my team, I think when you watch the whole game, especially when we scored the first goal and we got some good chances to score the second one. But then to stick together and keep going and score again 2-1, and hit the post again, it shows that the team is in good shape.
On being part of a new team, scoring the first goal and being all over the pitch...
I always said that since I came here, that I loved it. The team was amazing out there and the coaches and the fans. For me, the main key was that my wife and my kids came yesterday and I told them when we had lunch today that the only thing I want to do is enjoy that game.
On being involved in almost every play, but particularly the long balls...
We talked before that when we have goal kicks that we maybe try to find me in a little bit higher position. But I like it to either defend goal kicks or get them in offense. But the main thing for me is that the team, in that condition, played very well, especially after I've seen how the team works after I went on away trips where we lost to Real Salt Lake, and to still keep up and get a win in Kansas City is amazing.
And now at home, in bad conditions, against New York. The Rapids are young and a lot of people don't maybe have our team on the list for a playoff spot, and that's what I try to explain to these guys, look game-to-game and be hungry and prove people wrong and that can be motivation. And right now, with me they won, and without me they won, so it shows that the team is intact.
On what his best position will be with the Rapids...
You know, me and Pablo (Mastroeni), we talked about a lot of stuff. Of course, everybody knows I'm a player, I love the freedom to go box-to-box and in my age of 34 and people say I maybe can't do it anymore, it's nice to prove people wrong.
On motivating his team after the Red Bulls tied the game 1-1, how the team is responding to his leadership...
It's not only me, it's a bunch of guys. So if the other team scores against you, you have to learn from your mistakes, but the game still keeps going and we had chances before and that was what I was sayingâkeep going and we'll score, and in the end I'm happy it came out like that, but that's all I was saying. Keep going and don't let the hat drop now. If you show the other team that you get hurt, then they'll push more.
On younger players like Badji scoring the winning goal and bringing a lift to the team...
I would say that it's not only Badji, when I talk with the boys, sometimes it's tough when you don't get the call and you don't start or you're not playing. But in that age, it's special for you, I always say, ‘Shut your mouth, train harder and wait for that moment,' like what Badji got today. Both of them have amazing qualities, but when we come back to the group, we have guys like Doyle, who's injured, and a bunch of guys are injured and the younger guys have to step up and they do it in the right way.
On what kind of leadership he's trying to impart off the field...
I would say that all of my teammates on all of the teams I've played on, they know they can call me 24 hours a day. It's not only on the field, I think a lot of people, they don't know me and they would say that, ‘Oh, he's a bad guy and maybe not the right guy.' But then they'll start to know me better and they know I'm really quiet normally, and every time they need something they can shoot me a text and I'm there. And I think that's really important to hold a group together that's older and younger. Now it's time that we all to stick together and it's good.
On being happy with the Rapids in Colorado...
Yeah, I'm really happy. At the end of the day, I'm really thankful, too. This club, they got me here even with a six-game suspension. They gave me an opportunity here to prove people wrong and I think you saw today on the field that I'm earning people's trust back.
On your first game back, playing the full 90 minutes...
Of course it's always different than a training session, but I feel good and I'm happy with that 90 minutes, and I think game-to-game we'll just get better, so I'm good.
2) The Movement: I think some of us were a bit surprised when Jones was put in the #10 role for the Rapids, but it is clear, at least for this night, that it was the right choice. The Rapids passed the ball well, switched the ball across the pitch as needed and saw the fullbacks bombing up the wings. It was everything that was promised when we first heard about the Rapids Way. Could it really be happening?
3) The F Word: No, not that word
this is our home or fortress great win tonight boys#3pts#Rapids96 pic.twitter.com/ygG06ydJWv— Mekeil Williams (@MekeilWilliams) April 17, 2016
Again, it's only three games, but the Rapids have three wins. At home. Could they really, truly be building a fortress at Dick's Sporting Goods Park? Time will tell, but this is starting to feel like a different team.
So the Rapids are 4-2-1 (13 points) on the year and for right now are in third place. I sure there are those out there that will not share my enthusiasm and excitement. And I am convinced that there will be some analysis that proves me wrong, but again:
This Rapids team is starting to feel like a different Rapids team
And for right now, I'll take it.