After putting together a string of four matches in which the Colorado Rapids have remained unbeaten, the Burgundy Boys are beginning to look like the attacking, nightmare-to-play-against side fans were hoping for when the off-season moves were made.
Midfielder Jack Price told Burgundy Wave the biggest difference is one thing: “Getting our first win. It’s given the lads a lot of confidence. Since then we’ve shown we can win games in this league, training’s been good, we’ve worked hard for each other. That’s a key point—everyone’s working well, training well—I think that’s important. You train how you play.”
Interim HC Conor Casey has taken the reigns and made subtle tweaks to the daily regimen allowing the Rapids to get back to basics, according to Price. “There’s more freedom for the lads,” said the Pride of Shropsire. “Mentally, we’ve got less to deal with in terms of training. We’re just going out in training and enjoying it. There’s days where it’s just football and they can enjoy it.”
“It wasn’t anything to do with the previous manager, but when you go on a run like that you start to not enjoy it as much. Getting that win, getting that laughter back in training helps. Conor doesn’t give us too much to think about in terms of tactics and I think that’s helped a few of the lads,” he said. “We just concentrate on what we can affect today. You don’t think about anything else apart from your role and your job on a Saturday and so far, so good.”
Casey echoed those thoughts earlier in the week, saying he just wants the players to focus on their jobs day-to-day. “We’re only talking about processes and what we’re doing each day,” said the former Rapids striker. “I think they listen to me, but more importantly they’re listening to each other, and that’s the part that is the strongest thing.”
One veteran the young players can listen to and learn from is Price, who doesn’t shy away from being a vocal leader on the pitch and in the dressing room. Jack has seen enough between the English league and MLS to be able to guide up-and-comers like Andre Shinyashiki, Cole Bassett, and Sam Vines. “They’re a big part of what we’re doing at the moment,” said Price when asked how the younger players are learning how to win. “They got the start at the weekend, Andre got himself a goal, Cole was involved in the play for that goal, so I think they’ve got a bright future but at the moment they’ve got to keep their feet on the ground and I’m sure they will. They’re very down-to-earth people, and I think credit to themselves, they continue to work very hard.”
The work ethic of Colorado has never been doubted, especially with the influx of proven veterans into the locker room this season. But Price notices that the team seems to finally be coming together, albeit better late than never. “We all felt like we were going to have a really good season. We’re starting to see with the players we’ve brought in the chemistry together. I think it all comes down to that first win. We need to realize we’re the underdogs and we just have to embrace that as well.”
Casey has also imparted on the Rapids that results count no matter how a team goes about getting them. “I think we’ve learned to win not playing the best football at the moment but grinding out results. Another thing Conor said is it’s not about playing the sexy football that maybe we did last season but didn’t get results,” Price explained.
“This year, we’ve done well going forward again, defensively we’ve tightened up a little bit. We still concede a few goals, but that’s normal—we back ourselves to score more than any other team. There’s spells now where we’ll just control it a little bit better than we have in the past.”
“We don’t panic a goal up, or even a goal down, we stick to how we’ve set out all week training,” he continued. “We know we’ve got people who can score goals and hurt the opposition.”
Colorado fans are also starting to take notice of their Rapids and the changing fortunes, especially at home in Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. They look forward to making the home pitch a fortress again as it has been in the past. “The fans have been brilliant,” Price noted unsolicited. “They’ve turned out and supported us no matter what the result and hopefully we can give it back to them as well.”