What we said at the end of 2016:
“I believe that I’m ready to step in,” Ford said. “I’m glad that I waited because I had a good year.” A good year is a bit of an understatement—Ford helped DU get their first-ever College Cup trip this year, earning an All-Summit League First Team selection and a Top Drawer Soccer Second Team All-America along the way. As a center back, he led the third best defense in the country in goal against average and shutout percentage.
2017 Counting Stats: 20 GP, 19 GS, 1 G, 0 A, 1727 min, 4 YC
Key Stat: 18 Blocked Shots, most on the Colorado Rapids, 16th amongst all MLS defenders, in 2017
Ford had a number of games where he had the most defensive actions of any player on the Rapids. In many of those matches, Ford cleared a number of balls off the line that were destined for the goal. Ford’s best performances include stellar matches against Dallas, Houston, Montreal and RSL. Againt Dallas, he had 3 blocked shots, and two of them were goal-saving blocks. And against RSL late in the season, Ford had 9 clearances on balls lofted into the box as the Rapids stymied Salt Lake on 30 shots, and sent the Fightin’ Mormons home with a 1-0 loss that effectively eliminated them from the playoffs. Any one of those matches were defensive gems for Ford that one could call a season highlight.
But really, you always remember your first. Ford scored his first professional goal in grand style, on a free kick from Shkelzen Gashi against Sporting Kansas City on May 27th. With some fierce defending, and a game-saving clearance from Bobby Burling, that goal would prove to be the game winner. This’ll be the first clip at Ford’s retirement testimonial match video in 20 years, guaranteed.
First goal for @KortFord , and a game winner at that. #Rapids96 pic.twitter.com/lK60097ys4— Rapids Rabbi (@rapidsrabbi) November 2, 2017
Also, for those of us that want to feel happy for just a moment about 2017, here’s Ford and crew, celebrating that first-ever goal. It was a special moment; one of those moments that lets us know why we all love soccer so very much.
Raindrops on roses, kittens, brown paper packages, and MLS rookie's first goal celebrations. #MyFavoriteThings #Rapids96 pic.twitter.com/6khAHSohAe— Rapids Rabbi (@rapidsrabbi) November 2, 2017
Korte was on the hook for two of the three goals the Rapids surrendered at home to the LA Galaxy on June 22nd. With the teams knotted at 1-1 in the second half, Kort momentarily lost track of Jack McBean, who ran behind him to put home a pass from Joao Pedro for the go ahead goal.
Seven minutes later, Romain Alessandrini and Bradford Jamieson IV would work the one-two down the wing to leave both Micheal Azira and Marlon Hairston for dead. Jamieson was bearing down from the left side and into the box with only Ford to stop him. Ford misjudged the distance to the ball and stepped when he should have dropped, putting a leg across Jamieson’s path and flipping him over inside the 18 yard box. It was an easy penalty call for the referee, and Alessandrini would easily convert it. Colorado went on to lose 3-1. It was not Ford’s best night for Colorado.
Nobody’s going to talk about Kortne Ford when they talk about the race for 2017 MLS rookie of the year. Nor did Ford make MLS’ 24 under 24 list this year. The Rapids Center Back didn’t garner a lot of notoriety or front page headlines around MLS, or even locally. Fine. Whatever. I ain’t mad.
That’s because defending isn’t sexy. Only two central defenders made that 24 under 24 list; Justin Glad and Eric Palmer-Brown. Other than that, it’s full of dribbly midfield sprites and pacey wingers that make your heart race when the ball is at their feet. Most of the time, if the ball is at a Center Back’s feet and your heart is racing, it’s for the wrong reasons.
Ford also didn’t get much pundit love because he played for a bad Colorado Rapids team that really didn’t deserve much national love. Early in the year, some folks thought ‘Hey man, why didn’t we get assigned more national TV games this year?’ By the end of the season, it was more like ‘Thank God we didn’t get more national TV games this year.’
But Kort Ford is an emerging talent who had an excellent rookie year that deserves attention and praise. Only two MLS defenders playing in their first professional seasons had more minutes for their teams: Nick Lima (San Jose Earthquakes) and Jack Elliott (Philadelphia Union). Throughout the season, he was often the Rapids best defender on any given night. Most people expect a certain amount of rawness from a rookie, but Ford showed that many aspects of his game were pretty polished for a 21 year-old. Ford was comfortable on the ball and regularly dribbled or moved into midfield to create more options for himself and the team in possession. His man-marking was generally reliable. His reactions were good in blocking, tackling and intercepting, as he lead the team in blocks, and was second to only Micheal Azira in interceptions. And he looked as comfortable clearing the ball as the more experienced Axel Sjoberg.
Of course, it wasn’t all sunshine and roses. Ford had that aforementioned bad game against LA Galaxy at home. And Ford was at fault for both the game-tying AND game-winning goals against Philadelphia. First, on a loose ball in front of goal, Kort fell while defending and awkwardly rolled over onto the ball inside the box, drawing a penalty kick. Then, just a few plays later on a free kick just outside the 18 yard box, Ford failed to jump with the wall, resulting in a goal for Haris Medunjanin that gave the Union all three points. There were mistakes, and Kort has things to learn. That said, of all the Rapids defenders, from match to match, he was the most dependable and error-free guy on the backline.
Let’s put all that in the blender: the talent, the success, the regular-minutes, the fact that he was a rookie, and the occasional biffs. Now add to it the fact that Kort’s mother was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer at the beginning of the season. Many players struggle in their rookie season. Many players struggle on the field when their own personal or family life is turned upside down. Somehow, Ford seemed to handle all of it. He did not seem distracted, or rattled, or off, at any time this year. I find that incredible.
I think it also incredible that his fellow players raised $10,000 by auctioning off their jerseys, and Rapids fans raised over $22,000 for Laurie Ford’s gofundme page. (That $22K is still $2,000 shy of the goal. You can give to Laurie Ford by clicking here.) Perhaps Kort was able to play at such a high level because he was never alone: he has always had a team around him in support.
Ford, a Rapids Academy homegrown and University of Denver product, still has a ways to go in his MLS career. There are a bevy of things he can improve on. But I don’t have any doubt that in a season that was mostly lousy, Kortne Ford was a very bright spot, with a very bright future.
Abbie’s 2017 Grade: B+ “Ahhh I love Kort. But he made a few really big mistakes.”
Editor’s Note: I changed my grade from a B to a B+ after reviewing Axel’s season.
Rabbi’s 2017 Grade: A-