The Colorado Rapids have wrapped up their Arizona pre-season slate and ship off to Orlando this week. After the short offseason which included an extension to maybe their most valuable player in Jack Price, the club is basically back in full swing.
“Back in England we’re used to having only five or six weeks off in the Summer, so for me, it was actually better,” says the Captain Price of his team’s offseason. “This is my fifth year here, so the first couple of years we probably had 12 weeks off, and sometimes is that too long? It’s nice actually to get back going again – you don’t lose too much fitness, you don’t have to do as much running because you don’t lose your body shape.”
“The lads all came back in relatively good shape so we could just hit the ground running, focus more on tactics, where to be better with the ball and without the ball so it’s been ideal,” an eager Price explained to Burgundy Wave.
The CONCACAF Champions League should provide a great opportunity for Colorado to get their legs under them in a competitive and pressured environment before opening MLS play. According to Price, the Rapids are looking forward to the new experience for many of the players earned by winning the Western Conference in 2021.
”It’s a big competition. Personally, what a great experience to go and play in a different country, like Guatemala,” Price said. “I’ve never experienced a game like that so for me it’s going to be a great experience to see another part of the world.”
Price knows his history and is looking forward to the opportunity to make a name for MLS in the tournament the Rapids have not been part of in many years.
“We have the feeling that no MLS team has won the competition so the first thing is to go as far as we can and try and lift the trophy,” he said. “That’s why you play the sport to go and do something like that. When it comes to football, we want to get the result, we want to go through and advance. I have a really good feeling that we’re going to be more than ready in terms of physically and tactically, so it’s a really good stepping stone for us as a club.”
Jack mentioned taking the next step a few times this past week. Coming off a historic season, he sees this Rapids side as one that is ready to do that, given their consistency and form carrying over from 2021.
“We feel that recipe, the team chemistry we have on and off the field, has been fantastic,” Price detailed. “It’s been like that since the gaffer (Robin Fraser) has come in.”
“It’s hard for players when coaches give you the ideas of how they want you to play, and I suppose if you don’t get the results, it’s hard to believe in what they’re trying to get us to do on a Saturday,” he said. “When you have the results we did last season, it’s hard to not be a 100% in because the proof is there and we just need to continue and grow.”
Missing from last season are creative players like Kellyn Acosta, Cole Bassett and Younes Namli. However, much of the strength of Colorado’s roster remains – Will Yarbrough and Clint Irwin in goal, centerbacks Danny Wilson, Lalas Abubukar, Auston Trusty (until July anyway), Drew Moor, fullbacks Keegan Rosenberry, Lucas Estevez, and Steven Beitashour, along with D-mids Collen Warner and Price. That unit is what Jack sees as the building block for success in 2022.
“We have lost a couple of players that were key last year but a lot of the core players are still here,” Price said. “The principles are obviously the same that the coaching staff wants. We know how the gaffer wants us to play and for us it’s easy now how we have it dialed in. We’re going to be exactly how we were last year and it worked.”
“What helps us as players is the proof is there. We finished top of the West last year,” he said. “Obviously, we were disappointed to go out the way we did, but again if we can just have that base of being a solid team stopping other teams playing we’ve got plenty of players to go up the other end to score goals and win games.”
Price gave fans an idea of what the Rapids are focusing on in pre-season against the likes of Sporting KC, Houston Dynamo, and Orlando SC before their home/away fixtures with Comunicaciones.
“Defensively, we were one of the best teams, if not the best team, last year, and again against (Sporting) Kansas (City) were had a good 60 minutes where the best work we did was defensively,” Price said. “We could’ve done a bit better with the ball, that will be more of the focus going forward just to sharpen up on the attacking side.”
“Defensively, we’ve hit the ground running – our shape behind the ball has been fantastic, to press and keep them on one side – so those things are defensive principles,” Jack tells fans. “When we can stop other teams playing and shut them out, it’s an easy game because you only need to nick one. We’re very reliable at the moment in terms of how we go about that. Everyone knows their roles, and you just need a couple of sessions, and everyone’s good to go.”
“That’s why we were so good, but the reason we could go do the attacking side is because we’re so dialed in, and everyone works so hard for each other, very unselfish running.”
The Captain says the glue that has become Colorado’s trademark the past couple of seasons under Head Coach Fraser is still there to solidify the group.
“We always talk about not having ‘superstars,’ but we have 11 superstars every time we’re on the field that want to work for each other, not selfish, and give everything for the club,” Price said. “That’s the team you want to be a part of and it’ll be no different this season for sure.”
“It’s been pretty good just to pick up where we left off, in terms of what the gaffer’s ideas are,” Price reiterated. “He always talks about that respect for each other as players on the field and off the field. You have a few moments where you have a spat here and there but you come off the field where everyone’s passionate, shake hands, have a laugh and that’s just how this sport works.”
Opposing sides should underestimate the will to win and a “kumbaya” mentality of Colorado at their own peril, though. The Rapids have more than enough men willing to let you know you’re still in for a fight against this side. Look no further than a training session says the feisty Price.
“We want that. We want people to go out there and show their true colors and passion for the game we would never stop that,” Price told. “As the gaffer says, as long as you’re respectful he has no problem. We have players like Lalas, Trusty, Danny that are very aggressive and you expect to get kicked by them. As long as they go do that on Saturday there’s no problem with that. We’re a team that’s very much behind each other in terms of looking out for each other on the pitch.”
Jack and the Rapids will get their 2022 MLS campaign underway on Feb. 26 and you get the feeling it can’t begin soon enough for Pricey to start taking that next step.
“This year to take it a step further, ultimately we want to win MLS Cup or at least challenge for that because I feel the last two years, especially when we got to the playoffs, we let ourselves down a bit, not in terms of performances, but just results,” Price said. “That will come, we’ll grow as a team, and hopefully, this year when we get to the playoffs for sure we’ll finish a team off.”