Over the past few weeks, there have been questions and rumors swirling around the Colorado Rapids fanbase about everything from the status of Stefan Aigner to starting lineup choices to why aren’t we getting results? Eight games into the 2018 season, the Rapids are sitting in 10th place with 8 points and a 2-4-2 record. While that is perilously close to the club’s point tally this time last year, it still feels too early to be throwing in the towel on the entire season.
We’ve heard Head Coach Anthony Hudson’s thoughts in post-game press conferences, but he doesn’t always get asked the direct questions that fans want to know, so I stuck around after practice to dive into these topics a little more.
Note: Some responses have been shortened for clarity.
Burgundy Wave: Is there any update on when we might see Stefan Aigner?
Anthony Hudson: Like I said, maybe a few weeks ago, it’s down to performance. Me and him have been talking a lot, he knows what he needs to do, and we’re just waiting for him to do that.
[Abbie’s note: While I’ve been reporting in my practice notes that Aigner either leaves training early or doesn’t seem to be there at all, I found out that he is actually participating in 3 sessions per day. He gets out to DSGP at 8 a.m. and works out, participates with the team/does some technical work while everyone else is there, and then comes back at 4 p.m. for video review.]
BW: Speaking of players on the pitch, we’ve seen there’s a lot of competition for the striker position and you have a lot of options, so what are you seeing in Jack McBean that is getting him in the starting lineup?
AH: What we have to look at and what I have to look at is the fact that we’ve had two strikers that have come in late. So Yannick is still miles off it physically. He actually needed a preseason and I thought he was making a lot of progress, but he still needed a lot more work. So there’s that side of it. Joe [Mason] missed a couple weeks with injury, and then Saturday’s game, in particular, was a game where we needed a certain type of player to do a certain type of job against one of the best teams in the league who are incredibly physical... And with Jack, obviously he’s not a big, big, star signing, but his performances have been decent. The only thing he’s lacked, probably, is goals.
So we’re still not in a position where our strikers are physically fit and in a position to be available for selection. I’m still, at this stage, unsure whether all the players we’ve mentioned are fit to start on Saturday so we’ll see how this week goes.
BW: Earlier in the season, you said that you have planned, or hoped, to be peaking right about now. Obviously with injuries and stuff we aren’t quite seeing that, so what are you and the team doing to prepare for these big Eastern Conference teams that are coming up?
AH: What I’ve been really pleased about is the fact that we’re showing some very, very good performances, strong performances. We’re showing some periods of games where, even against the best teams, we’re doing very well, we’re creating problems, we’ve scored goals, we’ve taken the lead in many games, but we’ve also had some bad moments.
And we’ve also had moments where we’ve taken our foot off the pedal. We’ve also had moments where we’ve had a knock, like Salt Lake, which has affected things. We’re in a period now where we’re very light in terms of the squad, so we’re disappointed by the last few results. We’re not going to hide that fact.
I thought Saturday was a really, really solid performance against a team that have hurt many teams. Even with the ball at times, we played some good football against a team that press really, really well and put teams under pressure. This is not a situation where someone is going to come in and wave a wand—there’s been a big turnover, as we know, and within that we’ve had a lot of injuries…
I know there’s murmuring about our strikers, and to be honest I understand where that comes from because I would say the same things, but I also know that is an example of where we’re at as a team: we have two players who missed the whole of preseason, one of whom is miles away fitness-wise, so we just have to get these guys up to speed.
There’s things, for example, on Saturday against SKC, there was parts of our game, parts of our job that we wanted the team to do against SKC that we don’t know yet if certain players can do it because we haven’t had games where we’ve known it. Do you know what I mean? If we would’ve had all these players in since day one we would have been further ahead.
It’s not an excuse—it’s just where we are.
Saying that, I am really proud of the players and how they’re working. Everyone’s working really hard, they’re committed, and we’re being positive in games. When we’re really focused, we’re prepared, we have the right mentality; we’re going after teams, but then we have the other side where we haven’t been good enough in certain periods.
We’re still building, we’re still working at it.
BW: After the Orlando City game, we were talking to [Dominique] Badji and he was saying how the focus isn’t quite there yet and that’s something you can’t really practice, you guys just really have to work on it. What’s your perspective on that—keeping the focus for the whole 90 minutes?
AH: When we watch it, when we see it, when we look at certain scenarios of the game, it’s evident what’s going wrong for us. More importantly, what’s going right for us. When we do the right things, there are certain things that need to happen or are happening when we get success. It’s almost like at times where you get the success in the game and it almost becomes an excuse not do all the hard parts of the game.
That said—and I hate saying this—but we are still building. There’s a lot of things that need to be improved in this team–on the pitch, off the pitch, recruitment, everything—we’re still working and myself and Padraig [Smith] talk every day. We know exactly where we’re at. We know what needs to happen, when it needs to happen by. We’re really clear on that. I also know that in this moment right now, they’re working incredibly hard, they’re committed. Saturday was a good example of that.
I’d be disappointed if we had this little stretch and the players had thrown the towel in because I’ve seen many teams do that this year in this league in the early stages, but we’re still fighting ‘till the end.