Carney Column: Colorado Rapids make right call, shake things up at the top
Sometimes, a situation can become quite stale. When that happens, a change is definitely needed. Wednesday morning, that change finally came to the Colorado Rapids as head coach Anthony Hudson was relieved of his duties after 17 months on the job and a putrid 8-26-9 record in MLS play in that span.
Following an active offseason that saw the Rapids add a number of veterans to a young nucleus in hopes of competing in the Western Conference, things snowballed after a great start in the snow at home on March 2 against the Seattle Sounders, which happened to be a 3-3 tie in blizzard-like conditions. That game featured a rousing comeback by the Rapids on their home field, but since then the Rapids have tied once and lost seven times while being outscored 23-9.
That rough stretch led to Hudson calling out his players and the Rapids’ front office after a Saturday’s 1-0 loss to the Atlanta United.
Hudson said this: “We are fighting at the bottom with a bottom group of players and we have to find a way to pick up results whilst also being a team that tries to play a certain way,” alluding to a “massive, massive gap in class” between his team and the league’s elite. He then went on to add that, ““The only way it’s going to be a quick fix is if you wave a magic wand at it and throw lots of money at it. Clearly we’re not doing that … There are teams with a lot more quality than us. And that’s what we’re competing against. And no one talks about it.”
While it’s always nice to hear genuine honestly from coaches in today’s media world (simply because it makes our jobs as reporters and columnists easier), this rant from Hudson was woefully inaccurate and simply sounded like a man who was fed up with the situation and was looking for a way to force management’s hand.
The message did just that as Hudson’s words struck a cord with the players in the room — his players he added in the offseason, I might add — while also frustrating a management group that appears to be doing everything possible to right the sinking ship in Commerce City. Hudson’s words ultimately cost him his job Wednesday, which could spark the last-place Rapids as we move into the thick of the MLS regular season.
Back to Hudson’s words though, because they just weren’t close to the truth.
Sure, the Rapids aren’t big spenders compared to the Atlanta’s, LA Galaxy’s or Toronto FC’s of the MLS world, but that is true for every other team outside of the big three that I just mentioned. Ironically, the Rapids aren’t anywhere near the bottom of the league in spending, dishing out a middle-of-the-pack $10 million in guarantees this season. The issue with the Rapids as constructed isn’t how much they are or aren’t spending; it’s simply where Colorado is spending that money under Hudson and General Manager Padraig Smith, who should be held accountable as well.
Of that $10 million guaranteed, the Rapids are paying $5,642,706 to a combined group of Tim Howard, Yannick Boli, Tommy Smith, Danny Wilson, Jack Price, Bismark Adjei-Boateng, and Sam Nicholson. Of that group, Boli, Smith, Wilson, Price, and Nicholson arrived under Hudson’s watch as Hudson’s key guys he wanted. This season, they’ve combined to produce one goal and one assist this season, one year after combining for just 10 goals and 11 assists last season.
Really, the Rapids changed things up after an economically-smart 2016 roster that nearly won the Supporters’ Shield and reached the Conference Championship stage due to Hudson’s vision, trying to bring in guys that fit his style and his tactical outlook. Now, Rapids fans are stuck watching the worst team in the league, by far, and one that’s on a projection to be one of the worst teams in the history of MLS.
“This is a team that has spent a lot on defense and is absolutely terrible,” said longtime Rapids fan and beat writer Mark Asher Goodman on the Denver Post’s “Holding The High Line” podcast this week. “You [previously] had an island of cheap, misfit, discount toys on the backline, and Pablo Mastroeni duct-taped that together into something that was a remotely average defense. And the new regime came in and spent a whole bunch of money and it hasn’t done anything.”
Rightfully, Hudson was held responsible. Despite his drubbing of the players in the locker room and Rapids management after Saturday’s loss, Hudson asked for patience in the middle of a slow rebuild in Colorado. That was never going to happen, especially in today’s fast-paced MLS world. It was quite clear things weren’t working out under Hudson, and fans, management, and the players were all right to believe that it might never work out, so in this instance change is for the best.
With change comes an interim manager, and the Rapids did the right thing bringing in a former superstar player from the club’s glory days to give the fans and media something positive to talk about, naming Conor Casey interim manager. Casey rejoined the Rapids as an assistant coach in January of 2017, seven years after helping the club hoist its first-ever MLS Cup in 2010, where he earned MLS Cup MVP honors.
Things are bleak now for a stale, emotionless Colorado club. But the dark clouds might be lifting with Hudson gone.
There’s a big mountain to climb to return to relevance, but with a young nucleus of high-end talent, it could be a desirable job moving forward, should the team kick it into high gear and start winning some games.
Josh Carney is the sports editor of the Post Independent. A rabid MLS fan, Josh has had a tough time watching the Rapids this season, due to poor tactics and below-average play from the guys being paid the big bucks. For the first time in two years, he feels good about the direction of the club now that Hudson has been removed. Let Josh know how you feel about the Rapids’ changes by emailing him at email@example.com, or by tweeting at him on Twitter: @JCarney_Sports.
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