Editorial (December 4, 2017) – Last week, the Colorado Rapids announced their new Head Coach. The Anthony Hudson Era has begun in Commerce City, CO. The 36-year-old is one of the more unique coaches to join Major League Soccer and has a lot on his plate for the next few months.
Three Questions For The Anthony Hudson Era In Colorado
The club was a buzz last week with the news and fanfare of the announcement last week. With Hudson being an out-of-the-box candidate (no prior MLS coaching experience, mostly International and not club level coaching experience), here’s three big questions that will define the 2018 Colorado Rapids:
Can he and the Rapids Way evolve in unison together?
Sporting Director and Interim General Manager Padraig Smith articulated the club’s vision, known as The Rapids Way last year. I’ve written about what’s good about it and how it needs to evolve here. The foundations is there for the club: They’re a workman like group and organized defensively. But the offensive aspects of the game have to change to keep pace in MLS 3.0.
I watched more New Zealand National Team footage this past weekend than I had in my entire life prior. Hudson’s defensive system is there. There’s organization at the back and the commitment to limit the opponent. Even when the All Whites were outgunned, they were rarely out worked. In that sense, he’s as good as the previous regime.
With all due respect to New Zealand, they’re not a powerhouse soccer nation at the international or domestic level. The talent pool limited what they could do. But I have noticed two things:
– Hudson likes the 3-5-2 with very active wing backs: That’s good news for Marlon Hairston finally getting put in a position to use all his skills, instead of being forced into box one way or the other.
– Regardless of formation, he likes have two strikers who make runs and stretch the defense: That fits perfectly with what Dominique Badji and Shkelzen Gashi are able to do. It will also create space underneath for Stefan Aigner to work.
All that aside, the All Whites didn’t score a lot of goals, even against small island nations. That could be due the tools Hudson had or didn’t have. He seemed to have good ideas even when it wasn’t well executed in game. Was that a good enough learning experience that he can build upon with Colorado? Can he develop his ideas and get the players to execute them now? Will it change The Rapids Way for the better while keeping the good parts? We’ll find out next year.
How quickly can he adjust to MLS and get the preseason right?
This is always my first question for any new head coach with no prior MLS coaching experience. Hudson has some familiarity with the league. He was a player in the United States when MLS existed and has coached in the States before. I presume he hasn’t had to ask Smith “what’s a SuperDraft?” or anything like that.
Smith and the front office can take care of the MLS roster rules, regulations, and salary budget complexities. Hudson doesn’t need to be an expert in any of this, but he does need to be familiar with these in order to be a contributing member to those war room decisions. He’s up to the task, he just has some homework to do over the next month.
Hudson will also have to get used to the on-field aspects to MLS. He’s coached in the States before, so he’s aware of the travel, different climates, etc. That will lead to some training method adjustments. He’ll also have to get used to the style and level of play. He’s adjusted at the international level to different regions before and been successful. Again, there’s a learning curve and he has homework to do, but I think he’s up to the task.
As Hudson said on Thursday, the Rapids have to hit the ground running. CONCACAF Champions League is coming and they have a very busy off-season. For them to be successful with Champions League coming during their normal off-season, significant roster turnover, and a new head coach, they have to have a productive preseason from day one.
Can the Rapids make the playoffs?
Yes, this seems like an obvious/cop out. It is, but it’s still the question that matters the most. Hudson said he’ll be judged by results. After Head Coach Pablo Mastroeni was fired, Smith said the goal and expectation for 2018 would be getting back to the playoffs. That’s the starting point for every MLS club that didn’t make the playoffs this year.
If the Colorado Rapids make the playoffs in 2018 and do it be building and improving upon The Rapids Way, the season will be a success. Hudson will be a success. May the odds be ever in your favor, Anthony.