Editorial (June 10, 2019) – The Colorado Rapids and Lalas Abubakar have won four of their last five games and are undefeated in that time. They are no longer bottom of the MLS Western Conference. The defense has improved and possibly for the long term.
Lalas Abubakar Praises Newfound Chemistry for Colorado Rapids Turnaround
This improvement in form has come with a few key chances. Anthony Hudson was fired and Conor Casey was appointed interim head coach. He rotated the lineup at the back and simplified the game plan elsewhere. Winger Jonathan Lewis and Abubakar joined the club as immediate upgrades. To be fair, Colorado’s opposition haven’t been world-beaters the last month.
Lalas Abubakar is bought in:
Teammates have raved that Abubakar isn’t approaching this loan deal like he’s with Colorado for the season then gone. As soon as he joined the club, he settled in and was welcomed by an unfamiliar locker room.
“He’s given everyone a boost. Yes he’s here on loan, but he’s one of us. He wants to win. That’s the kind of bite he has. From training, he started that. He’s screaming, he screamed at me once. I like this,” striker Kei Kamara told Last Word.
Unlike a roommate on a 6-month lease, Abubakar’s acting like he’s moved in for good. He’s joined Colorado to win and whether the club exercises the purchase option on the loan, playing well and helping the team get results will help his career no matter what.
Individuals doing their job:
While it might not be the biggest reason for the Pids turning things around, there has been a new coach bump. Nobody at the club can scapegoat Hudson anymore. With a new manager coming in, players might not be part of his plan. Right now, they could be playing to stay at the club or auditioning for a new contract elsewhere. Everyone’s stepped up, at least Kamara thinks so:
“It’s really everyone. Look at the goals we gave up in the early games of the year; now we can win games with one goal. Defensively we weren’t doing well. Everyone’s tightening down on everything.”
Tommy Smith recently told Last Word on Soccer that squad rotation has been good. It’s about “finding a formula that works.” Some of that comes down to personnel selection. Casey appears to have found a back four that works, for now. He, Abubakar, and right back Keegan Rosenberry have started four of the last five games together. All have played better under Casey.
There is still a question around the left back position with Deklan Wynne carrying a foot injury. Sam Vines has stepped in in the meantime.
“When I came in, it was tough. But the guys had hope. We knew we had good players. We kept believing in each other. Once we got the first we, we got our confidence back,” Abubakar told Last Word.
Results in MLS come in bunches. This team’s confidence was down but appears to be restored. As I talked about recently on Holding The High Line, this could all just be placebo. On some level, it doesn’t matter if this winning streak is real or placebo. If the team believes its real, it will foster a healthier mood.
Yelling leads to progress:
Families fight and so do sports teams from time to time. Some of that fighting is healthy, or at least productive in letting teammates air grievances and hash things out. Arguments might not be fun, but they can move all parties forward.
It turns out Abubakar and Tommy Smith yelling has been a good thing.
“Tommy is an experienced guy. We talk to each other, we listen to each other. We solve problems on the field. Understanding each other is the biggest part, the chemistry is there. Sometimes we yell at each other, but it’s good because we figure it out. He loves it too,” said Abubakar.
Chemistry and better relationships have helped fuel this winning streak for sure. Communication has been a part of that and didn’t appear to be there when this team was losing every week. There’s been more talking off the ball from front to back.
Tim Howard has tried to be a steady leader from the back. He’s one of the loudest personalities in the locker room, and can be, how should I put it, direct and brief at times. Regardless, he gets his point across.
“His experience is vast and he tries to talk everyone through the game as best he can,” Smith said.
So Howard, Abubakar, and Smith are using their outside voices. Kamara and others are getting fired up by it. And its allowed the whole team to talk through their issues, figure things out, and get results.
Good teamwork starts with good communication. Lalas Abubakar isn’t a native English speaker, but he’s speaking Smith’s and Howard’s language. Colorado Rapids will need more of this to climb into a playoff spot.