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Padraig Smith’s update on off-season plans, head coach search, and Gashi

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Smith laid it all out on the Vic Lombardi Show this morning.

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MLS: Real Salt Lake at Colorado Rapids Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

As they have all season, Altitude950 regularly features a representative of the Colorado Rapids on Vic Lombardi’s weekly show. This week was a highly anticipated discussion though, as the Rapids promised that Padraig Smith was going to give us an update on the head coaching search (our last update was back in September) and plans for the off-season. The Rapids have a lot of work to do, so I was excited/nervous to hear what Smith had to say.

Change is coming

From the very beginning, Smith came out and said that in the past, the off-season hasn’t been good enough and there will be substantial changes. He said they’ve been able to clean up the salary cap this year and we can expect 9-11 changes to the roster.

Smith also mentioned important changes coming to the Front Office, such as bringing in a new Head of Sports Science. When we reached out to the Rapids for clarification on what this position does, we received this response:

“The position will oversee both the Medical and Sports Science Departments for the club, including trainers, strength and conditioning personnel and external consultants with the goal of creating more intelligent, individually-tailored training techniques to improve performance and prevent injury. In addition, the Director of Sports Science will also be tasked with ensuring that we’re doing everything in our power to maximize the built-in advantage we receive by playing at altitude.”

The main point that Smith reiterated was that there is going to be a big overhaul this off-season because “it hasn’t been good enough for the last few years.” The op-ed in the Denver Post is still the guiding light, and “for some time, there’s been a big disconnect between what has been said and what we see on the field.”

Fixing the attack

In the off-season there are key priority areas—including the attack—and Smith said they will be looking to bring in players that play with urgency, intensity, are forward-thinking to break lines and take on the opposition, and have a high soccer IQ. The Rapids have a system and structure in mind to become an attacking and entertaining team, but Smith also says it’s not a quick fix. The Rapids “want to find evolution in the areas where we haven’t been so good.”

Lombardi mentioned that last year’s Shkelzen Gashi sounds exactly like that kind of player. “We’ve been very disappointed with the output of Gashi this year,” said Smith. He mentioned Gashi’s lack of preparation in the off-season which led to “niggling” injuries, but there have been some serious conversations and Gashi is ready to put in the work and come back better than ever next year.

Tim Howard is sticking around (for now)

Based on Smith, Tim Howard isn’t going anywhere. I’m still not convinced that Howard is coming back for both years of his contract, but apparently he’s excited about the future of the club.

Head coach search

They are in the final stages of the search, and we should get an announcement within the next couple weeks.

Smith said they scoured MLS, college, Europe, South America, and Oceania with 3-pronged approach: someone with the same style as what the Rapids are looking for, has a record of performing well and being successful with the attack, and has a similar philosophy.

Steve Cooke isn’t in the running for the head coach position, but Smith sang his praises for stepping into the position and says Cookie will stay as a member of the coaching staff.

You can listen to the entire discussion here: