COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – As the Colorado Rapids look to reload for the 2020 campaign, the club is facing one of the most important offseasons in club history.
Speaking to reporters at Tuesday's introductory press conference with newly hired head coach Robin Fraser, Rapids EVP and GM Padraig Smith said having a new head coach in place marked the first step in what already looks to be an extensive plan to rebuild ahead of next season.
“We, for a long time, said that leading into 2020 was always going to be a big offseason for us,” Smith said. “We've structured a lot of contracts the way we looked at the roster, primarily with the big DP contracts coming off the book. So, I think it has been a key focus for us over the last 18 months.”
Colorado will have both budget and roster flexibility this offseason with the expiration of the contracts of Shkëlzen Gashi, who was released at the start of this season, and Tim Howard, who announced he will retire following the 2019 season back in January.
“We wanted to give ourselves the opportunity to prepare for that offseason to put ourselves in the best position for that,” Smith said. “I think Robin has the chance to come in now to evaluate the roster and to begin to implement his own ideas and how the players understand those ideas.”
Fraser’s involvement in the evaluation process has already begun. The newly hired head coach has already been a part of the team’s training sessions and will lead the Rapids this weekend as they travel to face New York Red Bulls on Saturday.
“Certainly, from the coaching standpoint, it will be trying to implement as much as I can in the remainder of this year, in order to get us ready for how we want to play next year,” Fraser explained. “Outside of the actual coaching on the field, I look forward to being involved in the assessment and assessment process of players and figuring out who are going to fit into our system.”
As Fraser explained to reporters, his system will be possession-based and rooted in creating numerical advantages. He emphasized that a lot of responsibility will be placed on players recognizing when and where to strike offensively, while maintaining defensive discipline.
Tuesday’s first-team session included Homegrowns Cole Bassett and Sebastian Anderson, as well as 2018 draft pick Niki Jackson, all of whom have spent time on loan with the USL-affiliate Colorado Springs Switchbacks. Fraser also expressed enthusiasm about working with Colorado’s crop of young talent.
“All around the world, everyone's trying to develop young players,” he said. “And we're not doing anything differently than what other people are doing in terms of trying to develop the players. But there are some special ones here. When you see special young players as a coach, it makes you excited.”
When it comes to the offseason roster-building that lies ahead, Smith and Fraser said they’ll be working in tandem.
“It’s a really collaborative approach,” explained Smith. “Ultimately, we’re big believers that everyone is on the same page. We want good debate, we want good analysis of players. It’s about what type of team we want to be, what type of players Robin wants to see on the field. Then we can use our scouting system, our analytical system to filter down the list of players. The final decisions will be made by both Robin and I.”
Now that he’s officially on board, Fraser is ready to hit the ground running.
“It's such an intricate time-consuming process that we want to make sure that we do it right," he said. "So, I look forward to being part of that.”