Honesty is hardly ever heard
And mostly what I need from you.
(—Billy Joel, Honesty, 1978)
Expecting a team that’s still developing new chemistry with a number of new players and a new head coach to win against the MLS Cup Champions Toronto FC was a stretch.
So when Colorado Rapids manager Anthony Hudson’s comments indicated as much after each leg of the CONCACAF Champions League Round of 16, this candor did not provide some supporters much comfort, but instead plenty of angst. Perhaps many read too much into Hudson’s comments, even one who supposedly knows about all things MLS.
‘Bush league comment?’ Hardly.
Was it an honest and accurate assessment of the situation? Yes.
The problem is, Rapids supporters (we) aren’t used to this type of candor. What he said after the second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League was nothing new because we had heard something very similar after the first leg.
For three years, we heard the Zen-like philosophical musings of our previous coach, Pablo Mastroeni, leaving many supporters scratching their heads as to what he meant. Many felt he was masking a lack of experience in and knowledge for being an MLS manager. Fans wanted honesty.
In April of last year, I wrote an article that reflected on what many supporters have felt in years past:
In 2014 and 2015, when the FO communicated with us, the general consensus from Rapids supporters was that the FO was shooting platitudes and clichés in our direction instead of giving us anything concrete. Many put on green, gassed up the plane. Some quit coming to games. Some quit the Rapids altogether.
But when Mastroeni came out at the beginning of 2017 and indicated that it was preparation for 2018, supporters were not happy.
Fast forward to February 2018. Hudson was honest, leaving no doubt as to his intentions and assessments of the situation. The similarity? Neither seemed convinced that winning would come or would be an option.
The difference? The Front Office and Mastroeni were partners for 3+ years, while Hudson showed up in Commerce City three months ago implementing a new, well, everything!
Let’s look at the comments in question from Coach Hudson. The first was given just after the second leg:
This is preseason for us. That’s the bottom line. It’s preseason. If this is a preseason game for us before we lead into our first game of the season, we’re very, very happy.
Now, words have meanings, but words also have associations beyond those meanings.
Just because Hudson said these were preseason matches for the Rapids doesn’t mean they didn’t want to win.
He then went into more detail:
These games have been an incredibly important part of our preseason preparation. We come into this game, two teams at complete [opposite ends] of the spectrum: one team finished top of the table, one at the bottom; one has had a squad together for a long time, the other a complete rebuild.
In the quote above, Hudson conveyed what we all knew.
- “... part of our preseason preparation.” Was our manager the only one to note that this team (new players with a new coach implementing a new formation) had not played a meaningful game together yet?
- “... two teams at the opposite end of the spectrum.” Was our manager the only one to realize that the same team who had the chemistry and talent to put together the best season in the 22-year history of MLS against a team one point from the bottom in the MLS standings in 2017?
- “... complete rebuild.” Did we not know that this was a rebuild in every way (five new players new formation, new coach)? Did we not know it had to be, given the struggles of 2017? Heck, the supporter base has been screaming for it. While we do not know if season ticket sales took a hit, many supporters could name at least one person who did not renew. So a rebuild was necessary not just for success on the field, but to put forth a showing that effort is being made for the supporters who’ve remained with the team through all the crests and troughs.
- “... the players can be incredibly proud of themselves over the two legs.” Rapids supporters can walk away from these two matches with some encouragement. For one, Enzo Martinez has a motor that goes the full 90, Jack Price has that experience and edge about him to patrol the midfield, Dominique Badji has pace even though he was inches away from having two goals against the champs—and that’s just the start. Are there concerns? From the goal scoring vantage point, yes. But one doesn’t have to be an eternal optimist to agree with Hudson about giving TFC some trouble.
Again, just because Hudson said these were preseason matches for the Rapids doesn’t mean they didn’t want to win. Not getting through in the CCL was a huge disappointment. The Burgundy Boys came out with heart and with movement that put pressure on TFC, especially in the first leg, and they should be incredibly proud of themselves. We’ve seen another step forward with our new team: a strong away performance against a very good team.
Many had trouble with Mastroeni’s abstractions, and now many are having trouble with Hudson’s concrete assertions. Every Rapids supporter wants to hear that their coaches are doing what they can to win—I get that. But were Hudson’s remarks that out of line? I don’t think so. I guarantee if Hudson has some success over the next 2-3 years and qualifies for the Champions League with a team with a tight chemistry, he’ll sing a different tune.
So, what do you expect from your manager?