COMMERCE CITY, Co. — Six months removed from Dominque Badji's most successful season in pro soccer, the Colorado Rapids striker finds himself in the same form again after a hat trick in last weekend's 3-0 victory over the Philadelphia Union.
The Senegalese 25-year-old hopes his four league goals this season are just the beginning.
Despite a highly successful individual campaign, 2017 ended in disappointment for Badji, who finished with nine goals after setting a personal target of 10. He even missed a golden opportunity on Decision Day, striking a potential game-tying penalty off the post in what finished a 3-0 loss to the Seattle Sounders.
“For myself, I set a goal but came up short," Badji said. "But I’m just using that as fuel for 2018 and to get to the next level."
With that disappointment lingering in the back of his mind, and with new Rapids coach Anthony Hudson and GM Padraig Smith executing a massive roster overhaul in the offseason, Badji returned to Colorado ready to put in work.
“I knew [the Rapids front office] was going to be bringing in forwards and that the spots were going to be competitive,” Badji said. “Coming in, I just wanted to be in the best shape I could be and once I was on the field, to perform.”
Colorado made several moves at the striker position in the offseason, adding forwards Niki Jackson (draft), Jack McBean (trade with LA Galaxy), and signing internationals Joe Mason and Yannick Boli using Targeted Allocation Money.
Despite the increased competition, Badji has entered 2018 with an unwavering confidence.
“I think what’s important with Badji is he’s almost had to carry a big weight on his shoulders for a long time and publicly we’ve gone after strikers and there’s been this big cry out for goals,” Hudson said. “The Badji that I’ve worked with in the last couple of months quietly gets his head down, works hard and has an incredible attitude. Everything that’s been asked of him, he’s tried to do it and gets on with it.”
From the beginning of his tenure in Colorado, Hudson has been impressed with what he’s seen from the fifth-year pro.
“When I came in, I think most people knew I wanted to play with two strikers,” Hudson explained. “There were questions about whether [Badji] could play with his back to goal and with his hold up play, because they’ve never really seen him do that before. But I came in and I’ve just been so impressed. He’s listening, he’s learning, he’s powerful, he’s quick, and now, he’s full of confidence.”
Badji's hunger has also resulted in attention from his native Senegal's national team program. He confirmed to MLSsoccer.com that his agent has been in discussions with the Fédération Sénégalaise de Football, and that he could factor in the team’s plans in the future, with Senegal playing at the World Cup this summer.
As for his future with the Rapids, Badji was happy to sign a two-year contract extension last October, with club options for both the 2020 and 2021 seasons.
“I’ll probably be here as long as they want me here, and we’ll see after that,” Badji said. “But I can definitely tell you this is the place I want to be right now. I’m very happy with Colorado. I’m happy with my coaches, with my teammates, and we’re just looking forward to doing big things this year.”