Rapids Technical Staff Changes Bring Value and Competitive Edge

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COMMERCE CITY, CO - NOVEMBER 30: Colorado Rapids new head coach Anthony Hudson (right) speaks as Pádraig Smith (left), team interim general manager and sporting director, listens on Thursday, November 30, 2017. Hudson formerly coached the New Zealand national team. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Editorial (February 12, 2018) – The Colorado Rapids Technical Staff is going through a significant overhaul going into the 2018 season. Sporting Director and (Interim no more) General Manager Padraig Smith is overseeing significant changes to the front and back room personnel. On all front, the Rapids are looking to add value and creative several competitive edges.

Rapids Technical Staff Changes Bring Value and Competitive Edge

The Rapids have already seen several changes from the end of the regular season (October 22, 2017). Anthony Hudson was named Head Coach in November. A few weeks later, longtime Assistant Coach (and 2017 Interim Head Coach) Steve Cooke departed for Oklahoma City Energy FC of the USL.

Hudson was already bringing an analytics Assistant Coach and could also be looking for an out-and-out replacement for Cooke. Smith has added a few other unique roles. Let’s break down everything going on in Commerce City, CO.

Smith and Hudson on the Same Page:

The the announcement that Padraig Smith would have the interim tag removed from his General Manager title, it’s clear who’s running the organization technically. This is Smith’s organization. In every interview he and Hudson have had since November, they’ve gone back to (or at least alluded to) the Rapids Way and their plan for it.

“The deeper we went with Anthony [in the coaching search], the more we spoke to him, the clearer it became that he was the right person to execute against our vision. Fundamentally, he shared the vision, shared the philosophy, and documented how he would execute that vision in training and in games,” Smith told Last Word on Soccer.

Make no mistake: Smith is stearing the ship and Anthony Hudson is his guy as far as the Head Coach position is concerned. They are in lock-step regarding where the club is, where they need to get to, and how they plan to get there.

“It was the total package. That’s really what attracted us to Anthony [Hudson].” Smith went on to praise Hudson’s plan for the pre-season and attention to detail, especially in planning training sessions.

Cooke’s Departure: Good for all Parties:

On December 19th, Rapids Assistant Coach Steve Cooke was announced as the new Head Coach and Technical Director of Oklahoma City Energy FC of the USL. Cooke departed the club after eight seasons in various capacities, most recently being the Interim Head Coach to end the 2017 season.

While this was a loss for the Rapids in the short term, this should end up being good for all parties. Cooke had just completed his Pro License course with U.S. Soccer. With all his experience, he wasn’t going to be an assistant in Colorado forever.

His departure set a few things in motion. First off, it opened the door for Hudson to appoint his own first mate on the coaching staff, Darren Bazeley, who’s been a big proponent of analytics.

Club legend Conor Casey and Chris Sharpe are remaining on the coaching staff as well to provide some continuity with the locker room. Casey did some good things as essentially the offensive coordinator for the Rapids last year. He could be thrust into a more prominent role allowing him to grow. Sharpe has done good work with both Tim Howard and Zac MacMath.

The club has also added Fran Taylor as an Assistant General Manager. That will take some of the GM duties off of Smith’s shoulders, allowing him to spend time on other aspects of the club. The Rapids also brought in Ena Patel as a Director of Player Personnel. In this role, she will “oversee player contracts, salary budget, regulatory compliance, and soccer operations protocols,” per the club.

Read: Official Salary Cap-ologist of the Colorado Rapids. We’ve seen this role in other professional sports leagues. It’s good that the Rapids are filling out the front office with a full compliment of support staff.

Embracing Analytics:

Smith has alluded the past several years to wanting to use more analytics in the club. In a previous interview, he even said the Rapids used analytics in their coaching search (not just in scouting players). Hudson has been on record that he believes in analytics, and that is shown even more by him bringing his assistant Darren Bazeley.

Their player selection has involved a combination of analytics and picking players they already have some familiarity with. Smith has used some of his connections on the British Continent to bring in the likes of Jack Price. Hudson has also dipped into his past in bringing several players from the New Zealand National Team, including Tommy Smith.

How will the Rapids use analytics further in 2018? We’ll have to wait and see how it affects their style of play as well as summer transfer window action.

Strength at Altitude:

During this off-season, the Rapids brought in a new Head of Sports Science in Chad Kolarcik. This move will really help the Rapids take advantage of their home field altitude in ways they haven’t before. Combined with the move towards analytics, the club is moving towards a metrics and analysis-based approach on the technical side.

“It’s really about having infrastructure and processes in place that help us evaluate our players every day of the season, from how they train to how they perform in the game.

Using data and sports science should help us make better decisions with managing our players.

It’s really about understanding what happens in the chronic adaptations in living at altitude. If we can use the sports science and the data to understand how to train the players most effectively, we should be able to optimize that training process. When we travel, it should also make us more efficient oxygen utilizers. They should have these adaptations and reap those benefits,” Kolarcik said.

Last Word:

The Colorado Rapids roster isn’t the only thing that’s undergone a significant changes this off-season. The front office has gotten a full tune up on multiple levels. They’ve built out the technical side in ways they haven’t before, with efficiency and intelligence being used to supplement the lack of a big budget.

Smith has help on all fronts and Hudson has had the ability to bring in his people while maintaining continuity with the locker room as well. Combined with new analytics and sports science, the Colorado Rapids are bringing value and a competitive edge with new additions on and off the field.

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