So About That Anthony Hudson Press Conference Last Night . . .

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COMMERCE CITY, CO - FEBRUARY 20: Colorado Rapids new head coach Anthony Hudson, middle, walks off the field after his team lost to Toronto FC during the CONCACAF Champions League Game at Dick's Sporting Goods Park on February 20, 2018 in Commerce City, Colorado. This was the first round of 16 in the CONCACAF Champions League game. The coldest game on record is 19 degrees at kickoff. Tonight's game was in the single digits. Toronto FC beat the Colorado Rapids 2-0. (Photo by Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Editorial (February 28, 2018) – Last night, the Colorado Rapids and Toronto FC drew 0-0 in the second leg of their Round of 16 CONCACAF Champions League tie. Thanks to a road win last week, Toronto advanced on aggregate 2-0 aggregate. After the match, Anthony Hudson had a usual press conference and shared his thoughts on the performance and what it meant for the Rapids. And Twitter did not like what he said.

So About That Anthony Hudson Press Conference Last Night: A Full Annotation and Analysis With Context

Colorado and Toronto played a relatively even match in the second leg. The Rapids had more shots on target but Toronto had higher quality chances, especially in the final 20 minutes. It was clear over the two games individually and collectively that TFC were the far better team. But the Rapids showed some good progress and promise.

Hudson expressed that in his post game press conference. He then made some comments about the team still being in the middle of preseason in the context of the MLS regular season. And it went viral in a bad way. Perhaps you saw this tweet last night get quote tweeted several times last night:

First off, there’s a few typos on here. Hudson’s full quote was “if this is a preseason game for us, before we lead into our first game of the season, we’re very very happy.” I have listened to the audio and read the transcript several times each and cannot find Hudson explicitly saying the second leg was a preseason game.

This post got lots of negative comments and quote tweets from fans, and pundits both under the league umbrella and elsewhere. Before we break down what exactly Hudson said, see the full interview below. His statement was in response to a question “what kind of progress did you see from your side from the first leg to the second leg?” His answer starts at the 1:17 time stamp. The controversial stuff starts around 2:45.

To those freaking out now: Have you been paying attention?

Hudson’s been on the record multiple times that he valued the start of the MLS regular season over this tie in CCL. He and General Manager Padraig Smith have both said a number of times that getting the preseason right was so critical for them to have a good season. In that, these games were part of their preparation for the start of MLS.

As I made a big deal about last week, he said after Leg One that he treated these two games as a preseason exercise. Hudson told Last Word on Soccer after Leg One:

“We came into this three and a half week mark in preseason, it’s our first game at altitude, and I don’t want to stand there against New England [Revolution] and we can’t finish the game. The right thing for us is to get 90 minutes under our belt. They needed that in their legs.

If we were to take the context of this game out of the way, and this wasn’t a Champions League game, and this was a preseason game, I would be very encouraged. We are right on track to be ready for the first game of the season.”

He referred to the second leg over the weekend as part of preseason preparation. If you’re just now up in arms about how the Rapids approached CCL, you haven’t been paying attention.

Ambiguity and typos taken out of context:

The original tweet that started this fire storm did have a typo in it. The word ‘was’ should have been ‘is.’ Hudson’s full sentence, as stated above was “if this is a preseason game for us, before we lead into our first game of the season, we’re very very happy.” Hudson’s said on several occasions throughout the two legs that “this is preseason for us,” or something to that effect.

First off, there’s nothing controversial or shocking about his full sentence in the context of the situation. The Rapids got a 0-0 draw on the road against the best team in MLS with a lineup that was missing Stefan Aigner, Shkelzen Gashi, and Tim Howard.

If this was a regular season game, everyone would be talking about how the Rapids got a great result. Factor in all the roster moves and being in preseason, and this was a great result (Hudson even jokingly referred to the result as “getting a point” in his interview) with lots to work on going forward.

Now there’s the question of what he means by “this is preseason.” Some have taken this to mean that he didn’t see the value in CCL or at least didn’t prioritize it. This goes back to the above about these two games being an exercise to prepare for the season opener at New England Revolution on March 10th. Others have taken it to mean that he was simply referring the fact that the team is in their preseason schedule in the context of the MLS regular season.

There’s some ambiguity here, but instead of everyone inferring and then arguing about what Hudson meant, he should be given the opportunity to clarify. I will gladly ask him the next time I interview him and provide an update via Twitter. Until then, let’s not jump to conclusions.

On principal, the mob isn’t wrong:

Regardless of what Hudson said or didn’t say, meant or didn’t mean, the fact remains the Rapids didn’t try 100% to beat Toronto over these two legs. Their two best attackers in Aigner and Gashi never saw the field. Hudson made no subs in the first leg. Tim Howard was on the bench for the second leg.

For the second leg, Aigner and Nana Boateng weren’t in the 18 cause they were outside the country finalizing their green cards.  That’s good for the MLS season but not that individual game. I am no immigration law expert, but could they have tried to get that taken care of sooner? I digress.

The Twitterverse might be angry because of out of context quotes with typos. But if you just want to see MLS teams take CCL seriously and try to win it, you have a right to be upset with the Colorado Rapids. In this sense, Hudson’s messaging is clear and consistent and you are valid in being upset with his approach to these games.

All that said, they probably had the worst odds of the five participating MLS team. Even if they managed to beat Toronto, they’d be playing Tigres UANL in the next round, then probably Club America, then probably Seattle Sounders FC. The Rapids winning against those four teams is all but Leicester City odds.

Last Word:

If the Rapids beat New England on the 10th and they make the playoffs by three points or less, this will have been worth it. If the Rapids make the MLS Cup Playoffs, no one (Rapids supporters or otherwise) will remember or care what happened in an Anthony Hudson press conference back on February 27th.

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  1. On Aigner and Boateng being out of the country. I did a little (very little) research on this a few days ago. The way the process works is that you apply for the green card, the government takes anywhere from several months to two years to review your application, approves it, then you have a set amount of time (6 months?) to go to a consulate in your home country to have an interview (some applicants have the option to have the interview here, depending on their situation) before your application expires and you have to start over. I assume that Aigner and Boateng got their approvals fairly recently and the option was to either miss a CCL game or miss time in league play and the Rapids decided the CCL game was the best option.

  2. You have to admit, though (leaving the timing of MLS Twitter’s gripes aside): it runs against the stereotypical American sporting ethos to ever throw in the towel, no matter how long the odds are. And you may remember DC and LA getting heat as well in 2016 after shrugging off their CCL elimination ahead of the MLS regular season.

    • Thanks for the comment Paul. I agree with what you have to say. As I said in the article, the Rapids went against the grain and in principal, the angry mob’s views are valid. As I recall, LA and DC made it more about an excuse(?) for why they lost so badly to Mexican teams. At least Colorado can say they had some good moments after a full rebuild against probably the best team in MLS history.