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BW Roundtable: What needs to change with the Rapids?

A look at how the team could move past its history of failure.

MLS: Colorado Rapids at Houston Dynamo Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday, we published an article called The names may have changed but the story is the same with the Colorado Rapids. Basically I (Abbie) called for some accountability from the Front Office and asked for someone to step up, take responsibility, and tell us how they are going to fix the mess that is the 2018 season.

But today we’re shifting the focus (slightly) to this question: What actually needs to change with the Rapids? From the founder of this site to a former managing editor to diehard fans and staff writers, here are some of BW’s thoughts on what it would really take to turn this ship around (this season or long-term).

Chris White

I mean, what doesn’t need to change with the Rapids? I’m leaving Kroenke out of things because he’s a constant and quite frankly doesn’t seem to have much to do with anything regarding the team. But this team doesn’t seem to know what exactly it wants to be. They had an amazing chance this off-season to thrust the club in the right direction: they had a new coach to hire, a team with a lot of empty spots to fill for whatever head coach was brought in, and another freshly splattered coat of paint on the tired “Rapids Way” promise. Instead, from what we’ve seen, they managed to get nearly every single thing wrong.

We’re only 16 official matches (counting Nashville and CCL) into the new era of Rapids soccer and I don’t think I’ve ever seen the fanbase fall into hopelessness so quickly. Hudson brought in 5,000 new players that he refuses to play anyone else over, and he looks like a one-trick pony with any change in tactics collapsing in on itself almost immediately. And Smith, the guy who masterminded the new managerial signing along with other winners like the Aigner signing and the Cronin-Burch trade, is sitting at the top of everything with no accountability pointed his way. And neither Hudson’s haughty stubbornness to change and Smith’s lack of accountability regardless of how terrible his decisions are seem likely to change to me.

So, yeah, unless the folks like Smith and Hudson are going to improve their ways (I have my doubts), my rather unfortunate answer is “just about everything”.

John Rosch

Where to start with this one. There are a number of problems with the Rapids but if I needed to sum it up to one area, it would be the Front Office. Sure, the ownership is poor as it is for so many KSE teams, but the Front Office are the ones that have the ultimate blame. To think that MLS is a league where you can get players from the lower league in England and have success is at best terrible and at worst, negligent. I blame this season, and last, on Padraig Smith. His leadership, well lack of leadership, is why the Rapids are faltering. The player signings are not good, Homegrowns are largely ignored for English players that are over the hill or plain suck at soccer, and due to the poor results, attendance suffers. Smith is ruining the franchise.

The second major issue is Anthony Hudson. Quite simply, the Gaffer is over his head and has zero tactical acumen. The team has given up 21 goals in this losing streak and what does Hudson do? Not much of anything. He has no sense of what a quality formation is, and treats competition as it doesn’t matter. His approach to CCL was horrendous and wrong and his team was not ready to play a lower division Nashville side in US Open Cup. He is incapable of putting his pride aside and change things up. Hey, if you have not won since April, maybe try something different. Maybe a new formation or new personnel?

For me, both Smith and Hudson should be fired now. This season is lost and there is no hope on the horizon. None.

For someone who loves this team, seeing Hudson and Smith ruin the team is heartbreaking. And even worse, they can’t even see what they are doing. Listen to their quotes—or worse—silence on the team this year.

Rapids South Stands

You ask what needs to change. I supposed out of my sheer frustration of what’s happening (and not happening) with my beloved Rapids is simply to echo what former NFL coach Vince Lombardi would often yell to his team when things were going badly: “Somebody do something!”

And that somebody is, first, ownership! To say we have a disengaged ownership is a major understatement. I believe I echo the majority of the fanbase when I say that I am sick of feeling as if our club is an organizational afterthought with Kroenke Sports Entertainment (KSE). (Funny, I write that word ‘entertainment,’ and would like for our sport to be just that, entertaining.) I would love to see Josh Kroenke on the news to talk about his investment in the Rapids along with all the other times I see him on the news.

We need ownership that cares desperately about the club—cares as much or more than C38 or any other club supporter, leading the charge for the crest! We need an ownership that will say, “Nothing but the best for our (OUR) club! We will put a winner in Colorado!” It all starts at the top!

Secondly, we need a coaching staff that will implement tactics that fit our players. Like I said in a previous article, you cannot be upset at a fish if it can’t climb a tree. We have players that are not molded for a 3-5-2. It’s not working. So find some tactics that fit our players so they are in a position to succeed. We have talent. We have MLS players. But the tactics from the coaching make them look like USL players. I don’t believe that. Work with what you have!

The Rapids will always be my club! Make us proud, ownership! Make us proud to wear the colors, FO and coaches! Somebody do something!

Brendan Wyatt

What needs to change with the Rapids? Is it short term or long term? What are the problems? At first view it almost seems like everything, but that won’t get the job done, the “Rapids” have done that before. It’s almost too much change at this point. The real Rapids Way is to be constantly changing to the point that the excuses for sucking can change as well.

The Rapids have a long history of squandering talent. There have been a handful of signings who have come in and were expected to perform, almost all of them never did. Young, promising talent either got traded away, or eventually ended up on the bench for some odd or quirky reason.

Three coaches in a row who have had a very little or no resume when it comes to professional coaching.

Training staff who have come straight out of college or off an intern program.

There still isn’t anyone who can handle an ego. You know, like how to handle a player or coach’s mentality when things are not going in a direction that they are comfortable with. Right now when that happens, the transparency ends and in some cases so does all communication.

What needs to happen first is someone up top needs to sack up and say “this isn’t working”. If it is not going to be Padraig, then I worry for his job. There is a 9-game losing streak on the line. AignerGate happened and the team is performing worse than when Pablo was at the helm—no excuses, it’s just not working.

Yes, Kortne and Marlon were hurt, but not Axel Sjoberg and the Rapids really didn’t have to trade away Eric Miller (who went out and played 90 minutes the day after being traded).

Coach is not fixing the problem and might be a big part of it. You can not be too stubborn when it comes to certain things. The best coaches in the world adapt on the fly, and I’m not seeing anything close to adapting at all on any level. In fact, we’ve been told in a few round-about ways that Coach doesn’t like to change his ways. To me, as a coach, a player, and a fan that raises a flag for me.

The second flag is playing your pets regardless of who may be better. This has been a big discussion among C38 and goes beyond AignerGate. Very few BW writers or readers would argue that Deklan Wynne is better than Axel, or that Danny Wilson is better than Axel. I personally am a Rangers fan and wondered why Wilson wasn’t playing there, and now I know why. The whole right back issue comes to mind too, Dillon Serna was at one point being groomed to be a wing back by the USMNT, but now he’s not good enough for a coach who has far more losses on his record than ties or wins.

Padraig’s reputation is about finding diamonds in the rough, but Hudson has turned out to be more like cubic zirconia and if someone up top doesn’t see this soon not only will the skid get worse it may likely happen again.

The Rapids need competent people doing their jobs, everywhere. This year it seems a bit like Animal House, or even a little Breakfast Club-ish, and when the fans are promised Star Wars and get Lost in Space in return, it gets a little frustrating.

Jason Maxwell

So, how do we fix this? Long-term the options are obvious. Sign a competent coach and let him build a decent roster. We also know that’s not going to happen for a couple of years at least. So working with what we have, here’s my suggestion:

Drop the obviously failing 3-5-2 and go back to a 4-4-2. Either GK is fine (I’d go with MacMath just to mix things up), Defense: Hairston, Ford, Sjoberg, Castillo: Midfield: Price, Blomberg, Nicholson, ? Forward: Badji, Boli

Hopefully we’ve got enough cap room even with the likely Aigner buyout that we can go sign a real #10 with our DP spot in the summer window. That will hurt KSE but they’ve got to do something to get out of this hole.

The downsides to this plan are the amount of money on the bench (Howard, Smith, Wilson, Gashi, Mason) and the ability of Castillo and Hairston to play in a flat back 4. I think they’re better as wingbacks.

The upside is that I think this roster can at least be competitive in games. We won’t make the playoffs regardless but we won’t be embarrassed.

If the #10 signing is a bridge too far the Rapids could also move to a 4-3-3. Play Badji, Boli, and Mason up front, put Price and Azira in midfield with somebody like Blomberg (or maybe Gashi) in front of them, and use the same back line. This lineup won’t be as strong but still better than what we’re seeing.