After being traded from his first MLS club to FC Dallas for Kellyn Acosta three years ago, forward Dominique Badji has returned to the Colorado Rapids, letting the smile on his face say it all. “It feels like home,” he admits. “Since I left it hasn’t really felt like home anywhere. This feels like home again.”
Badji had a feeling his time in Nashville was coming to a close but had no idea the opportunity to return to his roots would present itself until the last minute. “It is a little strange. I never thought once I left this place I’d be coming back,” he tells Burgundy Wave.
“The league is crazy. This kind of came together last minute. There were a few options prior to this that presented themselves, but Colorado wasn’t really in the picture. I was preparing myself to be elsewhere and when this came about last minute I jumped on it. I didn’t need to think twice about it: ‘where do I sign, I’m there,’” he says.
He added, “at this point, being traded is getting your feet settled. There’s a lot that goes on with being traded, especially having to relocate. People don’t really see that side of it — family having to move.”
After being drafted out of Boston University by the Rapids at 67 in the 2015 MLS draft, Badji’s talent and nose for goal saw him make 91 appearances for Colorado, finding the back of the net 24 times. Dominique admits his younger self was a much different player than what Rapids fans will see going forward as the now 28-year-old dons the Burgundy again.
“I was young here, raw but getting a little bit more refined,” he says, looking back. “Now I’m mature, I’ve grown into my body, I know how to use my body much better, definitely put on a little bit of weight. Little smarter of a player. Before I’d just kind of run, but now picking and choosing, working on the timing of runs, kind of finessing a lot of aspects of my game.”
The last two seasons in Dallas, and a little over one in Nashville, have seen Badji deal with a couple of physical setbacks he says have kept him from his peak performance and what he knows he can do on the field. “I’ve always had injuries here and there, but they’ve always been a couple weeks. I’ve had two now that have kept me out a few months and it’s a whole different aspect of the game I hadn’t been used to — the mental side of it.”
“Unfortunately, the last year and a half haven’t been very fortunate with injuries but I’m in a good place now and looking forward to staying healthy and contributing to this team. Overcoming those, and being in this environment, I feel great. I can’t wait to stay on this track and get back to playing.”
Badji brings a nice mix of skill, speed, and the ability to push defenses backward into the box and dangerous situations. Not only that, but judging by training sessions, he looks to be called upon to also push out wide and cross balls into the other attackers on occasion as well. “I’ve been in the league long enough that the staff knows what I bring. I’m pretty sure they’ll put me in positions where I can show what I have.”
He also likes what he sees in his “old” new team and is ready to start getting involved with a Rapids side that has built itself on a group buy-in over the last couple of seasons. Asked what he sees and likes so far, Badji explains, “To begin with, just a lot of eagerness, a lot are here to play. People want it, you can tell in practice. I haven’t been in this environment for a long time going after it every day in practice. That sets a good tone for the weekend because it shows players are hungry.”
“It’s a young squad and I like what I see so far. The mix of players, very talented players, hard workers, and the veterans in the locker room drive everything. They create a culture where it’s welcoming and everybody fits in in a certain way. I hope I fit the piece that’s needed here and it feels like home.”