Critics fuel Rapids TD Bravo: "It's the thing that drives me"

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — After missing out on the playoffs for the first time in three years, the Colorado Rapids front office has come under fire for an underwhelming 2012 season.

That came on the heels of a 2011 campaign that ended in the public ouster of manager Gary Smith. But technical director Paul Bravo, who oversaw the MLS Cup championship run in 2010, believes the criticism levied against the club is at least partially unjust.

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“What people fail to realize is I’ve been around this club for a long time as a player, as an assistant coach, and now as a technical director,” Bravo told MLSsoccer.com last week. “We don’t make decisions here for our own personal good. We’re here to do what’s best for the club.

"I don’t think that anyone can question my loyalty to this club and my willingness to put everything into this club. This club will always be the most important thing to me. It’s given me a great opportunity; if people want to criticize me, they have their right. But they don’t know the true me then.”

Apart from the results, the midseason trade of defender and fan favorite Kosuke Kimura proved a lightning rod for supporters. Despite the fact that it was Kimura who asked for the trade, fans expressed frustration about the move, but Bravo thinks the Rapids came away better off in the deal.

“We don’t make personal decisions,” Bravo said. “Now, what [the Kimura] deal netted us is Hendry Thomas [due to the allocation money acquired], at the end of the day is the way I look at it.”

But any heat from the fans, which this year included a large sign with a message targeting Bravo that was later taken down during the Rapids' Sept. 5 match, only serves to fuel the former MLS forward.

“I’m the only one who’s here of the previous decision-makers, so I understand where that criticism is coming from, and why. We’re sitting here in the same spot as we were in 2009 after our first year together in searching for answers,” Bravo said. “That criticism, as a competitor, is the thing that drives me and will drive us to building another championship team. That’s the bottom line.”

Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.