Thanks to two games against LA clubs within a few days, the Colorado Rapids stayed in the Golden State over the past week. I was able to also go out to California to see both games, and sat in on practice on Friday. After training, I briefly spoke with Anthony Hudson to ask about the new formation, his lineup decisions, and why a couple of the guys went home early.
Burgundy Wave: How much do you attribute the team’s recent success to the 4-4-2 formation?
Anthony Hudson: It’s a combination of things. It’s definitely helped us—it was a system that we worked on throughout the early parts of the season. We were always going to go to it. Obviously, we had that horrendous run which affected quite a few things, but it’s been a combination of new players coming in. We wanted a certain type of player—Kellyn’s a perfect example, Sam Nicholson, Giles Barnes—they’re all certain types of characters.
After a period of time of giving players games, you start to get to know players more and I think where we are now is that we know our players well and we know the players that we want to put out on the pitch that can deliver a performance.
Because we’re in that place now, the players are happier, I think we’re in a good place—now the players are confident. The biggest thing out of all of this is that the standards are getting higher and higher on the team. We’ve made quite a few early changes in games, we’ve rewarded certain players consistently for certain things, and all of that is just sending messages to the team that this is exactly what we expect and for us to get performances, this is what we want.
BW: Is rewarding some guys for working harder than others the reason we’re seeing guys like McBean and Jackson getting playing time over other guys who are getting paid more, like Boli and Gashi?
AH: I’ve heard a lot of comments in the media and that type of stuff, and I have to be honest, I think that is extremely understandable. When you go for a run like we’ve been through, you have to take whatever comes your way, but also, I do understand that I am very rarely asked certain questions so I can understand why people comment the way they do.
What’s important to me and what we’re trying to build here in a team is actually we’ve been seeing in the last four or five games where everyone’s playing for each other, we’ve switched onto a game plan with and without the ball, we’re playing with a certain positivity and being aggressive. You need the right people and the right players to be able to do that. For periods of the early start of the season, we haven’t had that.
I’m not really a big fan of playing players because of a name or because everyone expects or because of a price tag—we’re here to build something that’s sustainable and for a long time, and if Niki Jackson produces a performance, he’s gonna play. If someone else in the same position is not producing, but they’re a bigger name, I don’t agree with that. I don’t think that’s good for the team, either. Until we’re blessed with a Zlatan or someone like that who can afford to do what they want, we have to work as a team.
BW: Talking about production, obviously Jack McBean works hard off the ball but he’s not scoring goals and yet he keeps starting at striker, so what do you specifically see in him?
AH: Our best performances at the beginning of the season, were very good and were promising. I saw signs of how we wanted to play. We had a dip and then the last four or five games have been good. If you were to look at all of those games and see the type of players we have in there, Jack’s part of those performances.
Where Jack may not have the superstar name or be able to score loads and loads of goals, where we are right now and what we’re trying to build, we need exactly what I’ve just said—players that are willing to play a certain way.
The Salt Lake game is a perfect example. We started the game and wanted to go after them. It was a local derby, it was important to the fans, it was important to the club—it was a game that could really turn our season and there was a trophy on the line. We started the game and it wasn’t good. We set out to press and be aggressive and go after the opposition and it didn’t happen. We made some changes and since then we’ve seen exactly what we’re looking for. That’s just the way I am, I will stand by it, and I believe we’re seeing the rewards now. I’m enjoying seeing us play now and I’m enjoying seeing what the players are giving.
I know when we had that spell, Jack’s an easy target because we’ve got other players who are not on the pitch. But the reality is you’ve got performance, irrespective of how much you’re getting paid or your name—you’ve got to perform.
BW: You mentioned the other day that you’ve seen comments about trying to get as many centerbacks on the field as possible, and while obviously that’s not the case, are you trying to experiment to see who can play in what positions?
AH: From our position, the run we went through was horrendous and what we found in that period were certain people not taking responsibility, certain people were afraid, and with every little knock and loss we had, players were getting a little more withdrawn and lacking confidence. In that moment, we needed big characters, strong characters that were going to take responsibility on the pitch and were able to do a job and not be afraid of the challenge or the media or the criticism and all that.
I’m telling you, during that period it was tough. It was tough in the dressing room because confidence was low. What we needed to get us through that period was experienced players on the pitch who could give us the performance that we needed.
I know Danny Wilson playing in there [midfield] or Kortne [at RB] are not long-term solutions, but what they did for us and what they do in the locker room is that you go out into a game and other players have confidence because you’ve got a bit of experience there and it’s just to get us through a period.
Aside from that, Danny did a job with the #6, with his passing and he’s very good on the ball, but we were desperate at the time to get results and we needed people that we trusted to be able to deliver a game plan. I personally wasn’t comfortable sitting on the touchline and having some players not take responsibility because they’re probably not there yet or need a bit more time and it was costing the team.
BW: Cole Bassett was on the bench at home last week and he was out here with the team earlier in the week. Why did he go home?
It was good having him here, but I got the sense that he just started to go into Hollywood mode. The players have got a few pats on the back and things are a little bit different than how they were 3 or 4 weeks ago, and I didn’t really like what I was seeing so I think I just needed to send a few* home and just remind everyone that we’ll just go with the 18 and we’re here to work.
The lads didn’t do anything wrong, I just sensed that this is a dangerous place. They deserve it, but the way you see our performances, it’s based upon everyone’s together and working hard and playing a certain system, and if we come off that we can’t have a couple of casual days, we’ll get torn apart.
*Editor’s Note: Enzo Martinez and Marlon Hairston also went home early.