Tucked away in a boutique storefront in Denver’s Dairy Block, Colorado Rapids Executive Vice President and General Manager Padraig Smith spoke about the club’s transition deeper into the Rapids Way in front of dozens of faithful fans last week.
Smith’s optimistic preseason address and Q&A session was facilitated by Jillian Sakovits and spanned a wide range of topics, including the team’s head coach and off-season transactions, team culture on and off the pitch, expectations for the club and a continued need of both fan trust and support, and how the club plans to meet targets and milestones.
Smith is adamant about building a sustainable and winning organization from the Development Academy to the First Team, instead of putting it all on the line for one winning season. Much like a Wall Street business executive, he stressed patience, faith in the process, and seeing through both his near and long term vision for the entire organization.
Smith detailed the process, his long-term vision and the forward-looking steps the Rapids organization has made since the close of last season, when he took this question from an audience member:
Smith detailed the process, his long-term vision and the forward-looking steps the #Rapids96 organization has made since the close of last season, when he took this question from an audience member: (Thank you to the @ColoradoRapids for allowing us to post this clip): pic.twitter.com/5eQ1oRdPOo— Burgundy Wave (@Burgundywave) March 10, 2020
He elaborated on how he thought team will look different during this “milestone season” and told the crowd, “you will see a lot of subtle differences on the field this season from the last seven games of last year. With Robin [Fraser] coming in and changing some of the good work that Conor Casey had done, he gave the guys a platform to succeed.”
How Robin Fraser is a key part of turning things around
Smith credits Fraser for bringing in a style of soccer that very much in keeping with the Rapids Way. “First of all, he is a great guy, he genuinely is,” Smith explained. “We had done a lot of due diligence on him to try to find out if he was the right person to come in and take us forward and take us to where we want to be. And it was incredible—no matter who I spoke they had so many positive things to say about him... he a genuinely good individual, and a good human being.”
Smith continued, “I think immediately he has the respect of the players. If you look at his career, first and foremost as a player, he did everything, won everything, represented the U.S. National Team. So that gives him instant credibility as a coach.”
As an MLS coach, Fraser has “Supporters’ Shields, MLS Cups... and done it at different stops, with different coaches and different kinds of players.”
Smith recalled a good sign during Fraser’s first week with the team. “I can remember coming out of the tunnel and was going back to the locker room. Robin was with us for three days. Diego Rubio was walking out and grabs me buy the suit and said, ‘look we are this good in just three days, imagine what we will be like next year.’ I think to have players buy into that as quickly is really good. His whole demeanor is top-class.”
Improving positions on the pitch
“If you look at targets that we wrote down and looked to improve, you mention Younes Namli, who technically is a wonderfully gifted player,” Smith said. “He a threat with the ball and can really create, and that is someone as a club that we have been crying out for a long time in that number 10,” Smith said of the new signings. And Nicolas Benezet, who unfortunately did not get on last week because of a broken nose... Again, he just a really, really talented, a really gifted player.”
Smith also spoke about the backline. “On the defensive line, a lot of athleticism and experience with Drew Moor. Bringing in Lalas Abubakar, who we know is a favorite with everybody... so a lot more of the same, good attacking and defensive football.”
Part two will include more about Drew Moor, the most improved player, how the team will continue to improve by way of Colorado’s pool of talent youth and future transactions, the “Drive to Youth” movement, and the Club’s relationship with the USL’s Colorado Springs Switchbacks.