At an 11 AM press conference Thursday morning, to a packed house of journalists, KSE/Rapids staff, and players, Anthony Hudson was officially unveiled as the Colorado Rapids new coach. In the 25-minute press conference, Hudson fielded questions on his preparedness, his philosophy, and his plans going forward.
Both Burgundy Wave Managing Editor Abbie Mood and Assistant Editor Mark Goodman were there, and each of us thought we’d share our impressions of the coach.
Rapids Rabbi (Mark Goodman)
First of all, let’s address the big topic. There are doubts as to whether Anthony Hudson is really ready and qualified to coach in MLS. The MLS punditocracy of Paul Tenorio and Matt Doyle and Abbie Mood have all levied significant skepticism about this hire, and all of it is of the same ilk; that Hudson’s record as head coach of New Zealand and Bahrain is not impressive, and does not indicate a clear track record of success. And his club career before Bahrain and New Zealand, at the fifth tier in English football, is also of no real significance. I don’t disagree.
He still has my support. I’m still excited by the possibilities that Hudson represents: a fresh start, an experienced coach, a different tactical identity. The main problem most Rapids fans had with Pablo Mastroeni was that he had zero coaching experience. So, getting a coach with international experience, even with only a modest record of success, is something.
Press conferences are an inherently stuffy and staid convention. A new coach has to want to show appreciation for the opportunity, and respect for the players, and promise exciting soccer, and express why he is the man for the job. Hudson ticked all those boxes, no problem.
And, while I wasn’t expecting Hudson to lay out a brilliant tactical masterclass that would knock me out of my socks, I still was left wanting something more from Hudson’s answers. Hudson was clear and careful, but also non-commital in his answers. When asked (repeatedly) about the style of soccer he wanted to play, he said that he wanted to play attacking soccer, but also that it wanted to be disciplined and organized. Which, I guess? But tiki-taka and Total Football and other ‘attacking’ styles are decidedly fluid, expressive, creative forms of football. They aren’t chaotic or anarchical, but I also wouldn’t call them organized. Moreover, Hudson’s reputation with New Zealand is as a fairly defensive coach. The team regularly rolled out 5-3-2, and in their last 14 games, the Kiwis only scored 16 goals, and 6 of those were against the Solomon Islands. Maybe a team can be organized, disciplined, AND attacking at the same time. We’ll see. I personally don’t need beautiful football. I’d just like to get back to winning more games than we lose.
In the end, I’m with many of our BW commentators when it comes to Padraig’s talk about ‘The Rapids Way’ and when it comes to Hudson talking about ‘attacking’ football. The talk sounds good, but we all eagerly anticipate seeing if those words can be converted into actions.
Abbie Mood (or Lang)
Side note: I got married in September and now my last name is Lang. I’m keeping Abbie Mood for my writing so I didn’t change it here, though you might see it either way somewhere around the internet.
I was really looking forward to this press conference and getting the opportunity to hear from Anthony Hudson. As Rapids Rabbi mentioned above, I’ve been skeptical about this choice. Unfortunately, the press conference did not change my opinion.
Coach Hudson generally said all the right things, but without really saying a whole lot. I know that it’s not possible to go into details in some areas, but when asked about the positions he’d like to get players for, he didn’t even give us a ballpark (which at least Pádraig Smith usually does). Hudson started with something that didn’t have anything to do with the question and then skirted around it with a very general answer:
[New Zealand] finished the second game against Peru and I knew there were discussions to be had with my current employers at the time, but there were other options. Once I had conversations with Pádraig, Mitch and Wayne, the decision was really simple for me. Between that moment and now, it’s been a case of looking at players, 24/7 analysis, and as of today, we are in a really good place in terms of how I want to play and the players needed to play that way.
Hudson was asked very specifically how his vision and style translates to play on the field, we got another vague answer:
I don’t want to completely throw everything away, there’s been some really good stuff that’s happened in the past. I haven’t had enough dealings with the current staff, but it’s going to happen very soon. I was really impressed when they took over in a really difficult position last year. It’s commendable the work they did.
There’s some really good defensive qualities, but I want to come in and put my own stamp on the team in terms of a system that I believe will get the most out of the players that are currently in place, and will also give us a structure to bring in players that fit that system. I’ve said it before, the bottom line is about winning, but we want to do it by playing a good brand of soccer.
He mentioned being organized and having “certain standards and expectations,” but never really communicated what those were. He did say repeatedly that the goal is to win, but that’s a given, right? I’m still not sure what he plans to do to make that happen. He also mentioned (as quoted above) putting his own stamp on the team, but I’m not really sure what that means.
I’m also concerned about the short pre-season. With the first CCL match coming up in February, there isn’t much time for him (and the players) to get settled. When I asked him what his first priority as head coach was, he did mention the transition:
The biggest thing for me is the transition. Between now and the start of preseason, myself, the staff, Pádraig, the front office, we need to be as organized and prepared as possible to make sure that transition period is as quick as possible. I also want to make sure we have a really good foundation that allows us to get the most out of the players on the training pitch and ultimately to win.
So I’m going to try really hard to not judge based on that one game. It’s going to be a tough one, but I’d like to at least see glimmers of his “organization” and style come through.
Despite my skepticism, I do really want Hudson to succeed. I really hope he’s the guy that the Rapids are making him out to be, and I hope he turns this team around. And the season will be here before we know it, so we’ll find out soon enough!
UPDATE: I just watched the Fan FAQ and felt it was only fair to update my opinion here. Call it First Impression 1.5.
I was really happy to hear Hudson be a little more specific. Of course he can’t give away all his strategies, but he mentioned liking two forwards and wingbacks, which means we could see a 5-3-2 formation on opening day. (This also gives a little more credibility to the Edgar Castillo rumor, by the way.) He mentioned bringing in 9-11 more players in the off-season and talked about bringing over his analyst and his assistant, Darren Bazeley. I thought Hudson did a better job expressing himself today.
Did you watch the press conference? What were your impressions?