COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – Where do the Colorado Rapids go from here? A year after their surprise MLS Cup championship, they’re without a coach and under new management, respectively, with Gary Smith and Jeff Plush both gone.
Under Smith, the Rapids finished with a 12-9-13 record this past season, good for fifth place in the Western Conference despite a litany of injuries and fixture congestion from the team’s first foray into the CONCACAF Champions League.
With no new head coach yet appointed, MLSsoccer.com spoke with technical director Paul Bravo (above, right) to get his take on what happened in 2011 and what’s next for Colorado.
MLSsoccer.com: Why were the Rapids unable to successfully defend their 2010 MLS Cup?
Bravo: We failed to get any consistency from a results perspective. In terms of performance indicators, we were down in all categories compared with 2010, things like goals scored, shots created, possession. There were injuries and suspensions, but the players were the ones who led by example when it came to that stuff. We have to respect the effort given by the players. We have a great group of guys and they never made any excuses; they just got on with playing.
MLSsoccer.com: What were some of the positives you take away from 2011?
Bravo: We needed to add depth to the group and all that needed to be managed. There were some additions to the group that helped. We felt that Tyrone Marshall brought some veteran leadership to the group, Sanna Nyassi showed well when he was up top and Caleb Folan showed some glimpses of talent.
But the real positives were the performance of Jeff Larentowicz, Drew Moor showing his versatility and ironman status. He and Marvell Wynne are a tandem with real upside. And then, some of the younger players: Andre Akpan and Quincy Amarikwa made some significant strides and we have high hopes for Eddie Ababio. We also continue to see a lot of potential in Anthony Wallace.
MLSsoccer.com: When will a head coach be named? Will he come from within MLS?
Bravo: There is no set timetable, but it should be before the first of the year. We have to find the best fit for the club. We feel that we need to find a person who has working knowledge of league rules, someone who understands the draft process and also the link between the business and playing side.
MLSsoccer.com: Is there likely to be a major overhaul of the roster?
Bravo: There is no need for an overhaul. We are in a good spot with all of the core guys. Matt Pickens, Marv, Drew, Jeff, Pablo Mastroeni, Conor Casey, Omar Cummings, Brian Mullan and Kosuke Kimura, plus a couple of other players. All these players came through the college system. These are the same players who helped us win MLS Cup and we have a vision that very much includes this group.
MLSsoccer.com: What spots on the roster do you feel you need to address, and where might new players come from?
Bravo: There is an imbalance in the group. We don’t have a whole lot of left-sided players and we maybe have too many forwards. We do need to find competition for Wallace in the left back position. We don’t have many left-footed midfielders and we want to try and find that creative difference-maker. That is something we have not made a priority of in recent years. South American players have always had a great deal of success in our league and this remains an area of the world that needs to be combed.
MLSsoccer.com: With so much change this offseason, what are the reachable goals in 2012 that will get the team going back in the right direction?
Bravo: We must be committed to challenging for every trophy. Just making the playoffs isn’t good enough. We should be talking about challenging for the Supporters’ Shield and the US Open Cup and that is a culture we have not had around here. We have to be a club that aspires to win every trophy, including the Champions League when we get back into that.