As we all know by now, the Colorado Rapids lost 1-0 to Atlanta United last weekend. Head Coach Anthony Hudson changed up his strategy, packing in the defense in a 5-4-1, and it worked until ATLUD’s Julian Gressel got a goal in the 74th minute. Darlington Nagbe intercepted a pass from Nicolas Mezquida, dribbled into the box, and crossed it in to Gressel, who poked it between Tim Howard and the near post.
It was another disappointing loss that extended the most recent losing streak to six matches. With each post-game press conference, Anthony Hudson seems to be getting more frustrated (as we all are). He’s called out players, saying they need to step up, that it’s not good enough, that no one has proven that they are worth starting in the defense, and then last week, Denver Post’s Jake Shapiro asked if he was concerned about job security and was told that if he thought he “wasn’t capable of seeing the team through a certain period and buying enough time to fix things … I would say so. The club is more important than me, that’s not something I worry about.”
As the losses pile up, job security is something Anthony Hudson should probably worry about.
Over the course of more than nine minutes in the post-game interview after the Atlanta match, Hudson managed to blame everyone but himself for the loss.
It started with the first question on his general thoughts on the game. Hudson said how all season they’ve created chances and been an attacking threat, but at the expense of letting in a lot of goals. And then he said something that would become a theme throughout the rest of his responses: “Then, we come to a place where a team full of superstars and big money players and massive, massive gap in class, and we’ve set up a different way.”
Hudson continued, “I’ve just said to the players in there I think that they’re incredibly unlucky. I think the effort they put in today was big considering the position we’re in to come here and to really limit them. I think us and them really had three shots on target each, and we kept a quite a few of their big players quiet for a majority of the game. We had chances ourselves.”
Reading between the lines here (or not really having to do that much at all), Hudson is saying that the team played well, despite the odds being stacked against them because Atlanta is such a better team with such better players.
I will agree that the Atlanta of the last two years has absolutely been a better team. The 2019 Atlanta United squad? Not so much. They hadn’t won a home game, they had only scored five goals so far this season, and last year’s Golden Boot winner is practically invisible in most games. As Hudson said himself, the Rapids kept a few of their big players quiet for the majority of the game.
So saying that the reason the Rapids lost was because of the gap between our team and their team is, quite frankly, a sorry excuse.
To be clear, I’m not saying that gap doesn’t exist. Other teams are out there spending buckets of money to bring in big names and Colorado hasn’t done that. There are games where we all have to admit that we just aren’t good enough to beat the other team. I’ll give it to him against the Seattle Sounders at home or even against Wayne Rooney and D.C. United, but not against Atlanta on Saturday.
Later in the interview, Hudson said: “I think this is another game where I hear a lot of people around the place and media and these types of things talk about where we’re at. It’s almost like people see us at the same level as Atlanta or as on the same level as Orlando or DC, but the reality is, I think, every game we’ve played in, it’s been the DPs, big money players up front that are making the difference. Every game that we’ve played in, people think we have those players and we don’t. Today was just another example of the real gulf in class. I think every single game we’re playing against teams and their DPs are making a difference.”
Coming back to the goal, it was Darlington Nagbe (not a DP) who intercepted a lazy pass and laid it in to Julian Gressel (also not a DP). Are those two very good players? Absolutely. And of course you can’t look at that single goal in isolation, but Atlanta’s DPs had a single shot on goal between the two of them. Josef Martinez missed a couple of crosses/chances, but by and large, he and Ezequiel Barco were not factors in this game.
Hudson had more to say about the player situation in Colorado: “We still have several players that are being paid that are not actually with us, not actually here. I think potentially we’re the only team with one DP who’s in goal and not two or three up front. That’s going to take a bit of time to address that situation.”
He’s not wrong. There have been some bad contracts made by the previous leadership that the current leadership is paying for. They also let Hudson bring in a bunch of his guys last year that didn’t pan out. There was also the Stefan Aigner fiasco and the shipping out of a handful of players who “didn’t fit his system” in one way or the other.
No one expected things to stay the same, and honestly, they probably shouldn’t have, but while Hudson may have meant this as things will take time and we need to be patient, it came off as pointing fingers and trying to deflect the blame from his coaching.
And fine, whatever. We all have our gripes about KSE and everyone knows that we are in dire need of a legitimate DP.
But then, Hudson started talking about the current players on the current roster.
“We’re certainly a team that’s down on the bottom and we’re fighting to compete every single week and I think today was an example of that. You can say what’s going wrong and what’s missing, but we’ve just come to Atlanta, and probably most games, really — other than one or two — Orlando and these other types of games where we’ve been in games and been competing and it’s just every single — like today — teams with a little bit more quality than us, well I would say a lot more quality than us, and that’s what we’re competing against. But no one talks about it.”
Hudson was asked how to overcome that gap and get the results to become the perennial playoff team that everyone has been talking about.
“I just think it’s going to take time.” He continued, “we are fighting at the bottom with a bottom group of players and we have to find a way to pick up results whilst also being a team that tries to play a certain way. And we just have to find that balance.”
Who calls their own players a “bottom group”? It’s no secret that the Rapids are playing poorly. It’s no secret that we’re still missing some key pieces on the pitch, but the truth of it is, we absolutely, 100 PERCENT have a roster that could be winning games and coming in near the playoff line at the end of the year. This is not another bottom-of-the-barrel roster like we’ve seen in years past (most recently, last year, when Hudson brought in whoever he wanted).
What coach in this league would call Kei Kamara, Benny Feilhaber, Tim Howard, Kellyn Acosta, Keegan Rosenberry, Jack Price, Kofi Opare, and Diego Rubio a “bottom group”? I’ll go out on a limb here and say none. Not one. Even if a coach thought that, no one would say it in an interview about their own guys. Especially not when morale is surely already tanking.
In Atlanta, at one point the press member sitting next to me said: “I didn’t realize the Rapids had so many well-known players on their roster.” He was surprised they hadn’t won a game with the players the Rapids have.
You could absolutely argue that some of them are past their prime, but Kamara is currently 9th in the entire league in goals scored. Howard is playing well. Acosta and Rosenberry are on the radar of the USMNT and Diego Rubio is up-and-coming (and would probably be doing better if he was being played in the proper position).
But each week, we’re seeing a coach who, despite what he may say, is probably getting more and more concerned about keeping his job. Instead of stepping up and taking responsibility, he continues to put it on everyone else, including the players.
The last question Hudson was asked was about balancing the defense we saw that night with the offense we’ve seen so far this season.
“When we had all our attacking players on the pitch, actually we looked the most open and I think that’s where in the last 25-30 minutes — up until then we were strong, we were compact, we were organized, we had chances of our own — I think when when had all our attacking players on at the end, we looked very open and it’s where the goal came from. We just have to find the balance,” he said.
He added that “people like you” (aka me because I asked the question but also the media in general) weren’t going to write about the “reality of where we are in relation to other teams, so we’ll just keep working and building the team and I think the players need to be very proud of what they did today.”
Individual players consistently take responsibility for their actions, why won’t their coach?