Portland Timbers head coach John Spencer yells from the sideline
Craig Mitchelldyer/Portland Timbers

New Colorado Rapids assistant coach John Spencer hopes to bring offensive expertise to goal-starved attack

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – He’s been brought on board to help remedy the Colorado Rapids’ offensive woes, but don’t call John Spencer an “offensive coordinator.”

“Is that right? Then maybe I should join the NFL,” the Scotsman joked when asked whether that was an accurate description of his new position with the club.

Spencer, a Rapids Gallery of Honor inductee, will have an offensive role as an assistant on head coach Pablo Mastroeni’s coaching staff, bringing aid to a Colorado attack that finished dead last in MLS in goals scored (33) last season.

“Obviously, I’ve been a forward myself, so hopefully I can pass on some forward play, some finishing exercises to help the guys improve our goal-scoring record this year,” Spencer said.

Last season the Rapids were also the third worst team in the league in shots on target (127) despite ranking ninth in shots taken (417).

“Last year, from an offensive standpoint we were a bit lacking in our confidence and weren’t always the sharpest,” Mastroeni said. “[Spencer] is a guy that has played and coached at a high level. I think he brings value to our club and our coaching staff.”

Spencer believes that the Rapids offensive woes were more a product of finishing than anything else.

 “I think that if you’re creating the chances then I don’t think it’s tactical. Sometimes it comes down to poor touch, poor finishing and confidence,” he said. “It’s going to be partly my job to build the confidence of the forwards we’ve got. I think if you’re not getting in those positions and not creating chances, then you’ve got a problem. The final thing is you’re not hitting the target, and that’s something we can work on for sure.”

His offensive philosophy is simple.

“I think there’s only one offensive philosophy: to score goals,” he said. “I think that’s what wins games, and that’s why you pay big money to big time players. For me it’s, ‘Can you get the ball in the box? Can we find Kevin Doyle in the right areas on the field? Can we get Marco Pappa scoring? Can we get [Luis] Solignac scoring?’ It’s no different from me trying to work individually trying to get these guys better.”

In addition to boosting the confidence of the attackers, Spencer will provide an experienced hand for Mastroeni to lean on as he enters his third year as Colorado’s manager.

Following his retirement as a player, Spencer spent four seasons as an assistant with the Houston Dynamo (2006-10) before being hired in 2011 as the first head coach of the then expansion Portland Timbers, where he compiled a 14-19-12 before being sacked midway through his second year.

“I think that chapter for both parties is well and truly closed,” Spencer said of his experience with Portland. “I think experience is a key, like anything in life. I think getting the time to finish the job at hand is important. I don’t want to look too far back.”

Colorado have done that with Mastroeni, underlining their faith in the coach last season despite only 17 wins in 68 league matches through his first two years at the helm.

Nevertheless, with another former club legend joining Mastroeni, there is an added sense of urgency among the coaching staff.

“It adds a little bit of pressure when you have such a feeling and a little bit of history with a team like I’ve had and like Pablo has had,” Spencer said. “It adds pressure to bring success to the club, but it’s something I’m looking forward to.”