Football has always been a part of Darren Bazeley’s life. Born in Northampton, England, Bazeley started playing for Watford’s youth club when he was 14 years old, making his first start with the senior team at the age of 17. From there, he played as a right fullback/midfielder for the Wolverhampton Wanderers and Walsall, then moved to the New Zealand Knights in 2005 and finished his playing career at Waitakere United. Bazeley has been a coach since 2008, starting as head coach of the Waitakere United youth club, then moving up to lead New Zealand’s U-17 and U-20 National Teams until he was hired as Anthony Hudson’s assistant coach for the All Whites in 2015.
In total, he worked for New Zealand’s international football program for nine years. “It was a great experience,” Bazeley, 45, says of his time there. “I ended up going to five FIFA World Cups and a Confederations Cup and so many international tours and everything, so it was a great experience.”
When Anthony Hudson was hired as the new head coach for the Colorado Rapids, he asked Bazeley to come over and support him in the U.S. “I followed MLS and have got some people over here that work and play so I knew quite a bit about MLS already,” Bazeley explained. “I started looking a little bit deeper into it and the club and it didn’t take me long to make that decision.”
Bazeley also saw this as an opportunity to get back into the club life with a coach that he really admires. “I’ve been working with Coach Hudson for about four years now and he’s great to work for. He’s got so much knowledge and so much passion for the game. I’ve learned so much in my time with him,” he smiled. “I really enjoy working the way we do, with the style of play and the philosophies and the values that he holds close are very important to myself as well.”
A big part of Bazeley’s role with the Rapids is to make sure that the players are prepared for the next game and know what to expect from the next club they’ll be facing. “We do a lot of analysis—we’ve got a full-time analyst as well in Jase Kim, who’s very good—but all the coaches get involved in analysis now. It’s now a part of coaching,” he says. “I find a lot of my time is now spent doing off-the-field work making sure that we know what our next opposition is going to do. We assess our own performance as a team and what we can improve on and what needs to be tidied up, but a lot of my role is how does the next opposition play.”
Throughout the week, Bazeley makes sure that the analysis and research translate into the training sessions. He helps make sure that the players are “doing what their next opposition is going to do so that it becomes really realistic and practical and we get out of the session what we need to.”
And he believes that work is paying off.
“What we have to remember is that we are still quite a new team, and whilst we’d love to be at full capacity right now—and there have been stages this year when we almost have been, with good passages of play, good parts of games where we’ve looked like we’re close to getting there—it’s not quite been consistent, proved by last weekend where we had great periods of the game and then we had other moments where we came off-track a little bit.”
Like we’ve heard Hudson say, Bazeley is encouraged by the effort they’re seeing in the players, but knows there is still some room for improvement. “They’re a great set of lads,” he says. “They’re working very hard, they’ve took onboard a lot of information about what we’re trying to do and how we want them to play. We’ve got some very good players and we’re seeing the signs that it’s coming, but there’s still a lot more to come. We’re excited about where we’re going to end up rather than where we are right now. We’re not in a bad position, but obviously we’ve still got a little bit of work to do.”
Of course, injuries to a few key players haven’t helped that much, but everyone feels that, overall, things are moving in the right direction. “We all feel positive that we’re moving that way and there’s been moments in every game that we’ve played this year where it’s visible that the style of play is coming out. And they’re such good lads - we come off every single game this year disappointed that we haven’t won, so to play seven games against some very good teams and to be disappointed that we haven’t won every single game shows that they know there’s a lot more to come.”
It helps, Bazeley says, that the staff and players that were here last year say that things are heading in the right direction. The vision and philosophy are aligned from the technical staff to the Front Office and throughout the whole club.
When Anthony Hudson first arrived in Colorado, he told the fans that his goals were to be a perennial playoff team and to bring another MLS Cup to Colorado. Bazeley thinks the Burgundy Boys have what it takes: “If you’ve watched every game we’ve played this year, you’ll know that we’re not scared by anybody, we’ve been in every game we’ve played, and we’ve been disappointed to have not taken more points than we’ve actually got. There’s more to come, but there’s no reason why we can’t be pushing towards that successful side of the league.”
And once they get there? He explains that it’s important to “keep developing, keep improving so that we do become perennial playoffs and we do start looking at some silverware, which is the goal for everybody.”