Padraig Smith Altitude 950 Interview: What We Learned

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Photo Credit: John A. Babiak @Photog_JohnB

Editorial (October 25, 2017) – Earlier today, Colorado Rapids Sporting Director and Interim General Manager Padraig Smith joined Vic Lombardi on Altitude 950. Smith had several significant updates for the club. Here’s what we learned from the Padraig Smith Altitude 950 interview.

Padraig Smith Altitude 950 Interview: What We Learned About The Rapids Off-Season

For those of you who missed the show, the interview is now available through Altitude 950’s podcast channel. Find it here and below.┬áIt’s about 11 minutes long.

Roster Overhaul:

Smith said that the coaching staff won’t be the only area where they make significant changes. He indicated that the club could make “nine, ten, eleven changes” to the roster. Over the past year, the club has shed some of the dead weight that’s tied their hands with the salary budget. This is referring to Juan Ramirez among other players.

Smith added that the very nature of the MLS off-season will facilitate this, including the various Re-Entry Drafts, free agency, and a possible Expansion Draft for Los Angeles FC. He reiterated that the new players need to fit their style of play goals and the vision of ‘The Rapids Way.’ These new players will be part of the evolution. This will not be a “quick fix.”

Shkelzen Gashi’s Re-commitment:

“We were very excited about the prospect of [Shkelzen Gashi] with a year under his belt here in America, coming in here and really performing at an even higher level in 2017. Unfortunately, he didn’t execute against the off-season program that we put in place for him. So he can into camp out of shape, quit a bit out of shape,” Smith said.

Gashi was also hampered by injuries all season long. Towards the end of the year, the coaching staff decided to shut him down for the year. “I’ve had a number of very frank discussions with him over the last couple of weeks and he’s really reiterated his desire to be here and to turn that performance around. So he’s committed to putting in a very strong off-season, coming back in the best shape of his career,” Smith said.

That was very telling about Gashi’s 2017 season. This will be one of the top things to watch for the club in 2018.

Tim Howard’s Future:

The bowels of Twitter and many disgruntled fans of both the Rapids and the United States Men’s National team have voiced frustration with Tim Howard recently. Coming back to MLS was going to help Howard be fully fitness for the 2018 World Cup. Now that that’s not happening, some were wondering what Howard’s future would be like.

Smith put that all to rest. “[Tim Howard]’s our leader. From the moment he returned from Trinidad & Tobago, he’s been completely focused on the club.” “He’s excited about the future of the club and the direction we’re taking it in.”

That makes it pretty clear. Howard wants to be back next season and he will be back.

Coaching Search And Steve Cooke’s Future:

Smith made it abundantly clear: Steve Cooke is no longer a candidate for the Rapids Head Coaching position. Cooke will remain with the organization though. “The way he’s conducted himself has been the highest quality. It’s also the interactions with the staff, the way he treats people, his report with the players,” adding that “Steve will continue to serve on the staff.”

Cooke was going to be back with the club in some way next year. “I am contracted through 2018 and 2019. If you’re asking me what role I will be in, that is out of my hands,” Cooke told Last Word on Soccer earlier this month. Smith has been in a number of roles with the organization. Smith has now confirmed Cooke will be an Assistant Coach in 2018.

Side topic: Cooke is in the middle of the Pro License course through U.S. Soccer. He is just one of 17 candidates in the country to be selected for this iteration of the course. It is now the top coaching license under the USSF. The course is due to conclude in mid-November.

Smith said the club is in the “final stages” of their coaching search. They’ve left no stone unturned, interviewing and looking at candidates Stateside, in Europe, South America, and even Oceania. Colorado even enlisted a search firm, something I can’t recall another MLS club using to find a coach and stating it publicly. The club is also using analytics through KSE to evaluate potential candidates.

We’ll have to wait and see when they make a decision.

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