EDITORIAL – The Colorado Rapids have been busy loaning out Homegrown and reserve players for the start of the MLS and USL Championship season. Matt Hundley, a 19-year-old Homegrown winger spent much of 2019 with Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC. To start 2020, he’s with Memphis 901 FC in the USL Championship Eastern Conference. And it makes sense in a non-obvious way.
Padraig Smith Explains Matt Hundley Loan to Memphis
Matt Hundley signed with the Rapids last year as a Homegrown after completing his freshman season at UCLA. He played 29 league games for the Switchbacks in 2019 with mixed results on a team that was not competitive.
Hundley is the only Rapids players not loaned out to the Springs at time of publishing. He will begin the season in Memphis under the guidance of the now un-retired Tim Howard, who is an owner and goalkeeper with Memphis, in their second year in the USL.
“From a positional standpoint, you need to look at where players are best suited to get the most minutes,” Rapids General Manager Padraig Smith told Last Word. “Having Matt go out to Memphis, Tim [Howard]’s there, James Rolland’s there, he knows people there. He’s going to be challenged.”
The Rapids have done this previously. Left back Sam Vines was loaned to Charlotte Independence, albeit when Charlotte was Colorado’s USL affiliate, in 2018. Last year, striker Niki Jackson was loaned to Charlotte even with the Rapids had started their affiliation with the Switchbacks.
“I look at the success we had with sending Sam Vines to Charlotte [Independence]. You’re leaving family behind, you’re maturing, and becoming an adult and understanding how to fend for yourself. In the past, college did that for a lot of these kids,” said Smith.
Jackson told Last Word last year that it was a better fit in terms of the coaching staff wanting him and getting a chance to play. The two front offices had a relationship and were in regular communication. So it was something good for all parties.
It’s possible Hundley doesn’t rate with the Switchbacks coaching staff, but clearly he’s wanted in Memphis. He’ll get the opportunity to play regularly (check) and the clubs have a good relationship (check). Howard and company will keep a close eye on him (check) and he’ll be expected to make progress in several regards (check and check).
“I’m a big believer in having some of these young players leave their comfort zones. In very simple terms, that means leaving home,” said Smith, finishing with “you have to manage that. If the Homegrown system is going to work, you still need to find a way to develop the individual as well.”
Matt Hundley is in a good environment that is necessarily different from where he was last year. Now he has to get after it outside his comfort zone and make progress. If he does well enough, he’ll find himself with the first team in the future.