This article was written by Brian Jennings, a guest contributor. You can find him on Twitter .
As the 2017 MLS season winds down, Colorado finds themselves looking up at most of the other Western Conference sides in the standings. Rapids players are competitive individuals by nature, but are also self-aware enough to realize the shortcomings of the year so far. They don’t like losing, and they have enough pride to try and leave fans remembering a strong finish regardless of what the final record is come October.
“No one likes losing, whether it’s in practice or in games, and unfortunately this year we’ve lost too many games,” admits veteran defender Bobby Burling. “It’s just personal at this point. When you demand a lot of yourself you hopefully help the team better.”
Another Colorado Rapids player who demands a lot of himself is Jared Watts. He tells Burgundy Wave this is gut-check time when you really see what you and your teammates are made of and who can be counted on and who can’t.
“It’s times like this when you all need to rally together. You don’t want to be somebody who just lays down and quits,” Watts says. “[Head Coach Steve] Cookie’s done a good job showing us and telling us that where we’re at now you really see the character of guys. When things are down, and we haven’t had a good season, but we still have a lot of games to play and this is when you need guys to suck it up.”
In fact, Watts was very self-critical bringing up the subject of the poor results leading to the firing of club legend Pablo Mastroeni. While it absolutely wasn’t the fault of Jared, he makes a good point in that players need to look inward and hold themselves accountable a bit when such situations arise.
“With the coaching change, you feel some responsibility for because you didn’t play up to a standard - at least I do. I felt like it was my fault there was a firing,” Watts said bluntly. “I felt like my standards weren’t good enough and they let Pablo go because of it.”
While he’s being a bit hard on himself, Watts has a point that players need to harness personal pride and raise their standards on both a personal and team level - something in which all players were quick to point out they think about.
“It’s never easy losing a coach and having a bad season but we’re all professionals. You have a job to be done and it hasn’t been good enough for the fans, it hasn’t been good enough for the Front Office people to help them out, and at this point one at a time,” said Burling.
As far as what he thinks about when considering motivation for the remainder of the season, Watts lists quite a lot. “You’re playing for your job, you’re playing for your family, you’re playing for next year - a contract, whatever it is. At the end of the day we still have stuff to play for to the end of the season. We want our fans to be proud of us and know we gave it all and gave a good effort so that’s what we’re going to do. It hasn’t been good enough by anybody but we’re just going to continue to play hard the last seven games.”
Forward Dominique Badji also understands that he is in a results-oriented business and everyone is under the microscope come the end of another MLS season. “Nothing is ever guaranteed so you want to put yourself in the best position come the end of the season to be one of those players coming back next year,” he said. “That’s in the back of our minds.”
“We still have a lot to play for,” Burling says. “We know we’ve been in the basement the last few weeks. We have some pride finishing above LA, Minnesota, DC, even Salt Lake possibly.”