Few Colorado Rapids players have come into Commerce City with more impressive resumes than Kevin Doyle did in 2015-Successful stints with Reading and Wolverhampton in the English Premier League, 62 caps for his native Ireland, all after a promising yet humble start at St. Patricks Athletic.
Even fewer players have left with as much respect and admiration as the Irishman does after three seasons in burgundy. “He showed the younger guys the best of both worlds-being a good guy in the locker room and a really good player on the field,” noted defender Eric Miller. “It was a great example for the guys who got to play with him and it was an honor.”
Kevin was recently forced to retire after medical advice, and I’m sure what was a large amount of soul-searching in the Doyle household, following numerous concussions which left the veteran striker suffering from headache symptoms too severe to overlook. “This year it has been clear to me that heading the ball was becoming problematic and causing me to have repeated headaches,” Doyle said recently in an announcement that he was leaving the game he loves. “Two concussions this season and numerous others over the years have made this more concerning. After consulting the experts in this field, it has been decided that to avoid the possibility of these symptoms becoming more serious and permanent, I will be hanging my boots up for good.”
Fans’ expectations of Doyle were double-digit figures in goals scored, but because of how he was needed to play in a Rapids system that didn’t always foster a lone striker being given opportunities inside the opponents’ 18-yd box, a few Colorado faithful were somewhat disappointed with his value.
To look at the contribution of Kevin Doyle based solely on goals scored is missing his importance. He came into a Rapids side in 2015 that was woeful on offense looking for an instant spark. As many incoming players will tell you, there is a good chunk of time necessary to acclimatize to the Colorado altitude, the play of MLS, and other outside influences like travel and schedule during the season.
Kevin never publicly complained or made excuses but rather put his head down, literally, and worked constantly to be the best player he could and raise the level of those around him. “For all the younger guys it was really important to have a player that was that big being that humble, down-to-earth, working hard every day in training,” said Miller recently at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
“When I came here just seeing how hard he worked as a DP-a lot of those guys are not necessarily working hard every day and there’s no real reason to prove it any more. If you watch training he looks like a rookie out there. He’s working hard, he doesn’t miss any sessions, he plays when he’s tired.”
Doyle brought not only the experience that only a player who had captained his National side and been named Player of the Year for Ireland, but the professionalism that many young players making up MLS rosters don’t come through systems with.
“One of the most important things was experience,” noted Miller. “There’s not a lot of people who’ve played at a higher level playing in MLS than Kevin Doyle.”
When asked what the Rapids will miss as Doyle ends his time in burgundy, midfielder Dillon Serna said, “His personality, his quality on the field is obviously going to be hard to replace, but he was great in the
locker room-Just humble and a world-class player. Seeing his professionalism and seeing his work on the field that kind of sums up who he is-a top professional.”
“Professional” is a common theme when referring to Doyle from his teammates, the media, and from fans who appreciate the effort he put in on the pitch that didn’t necessarily show up on the scoresheet but allowed Colorado to be competitive on just about any night he was in the lineup.
“Soccer-wise, his hold up play is as good as I’ve seen in MLS,” admitted Miller, who has also played alongside a decent player named Didier Drogba in Montreal. “For a guy that’s 34, he puts an incredible amount of mileage on-He’s always moving. Especially (2016) when we had so much of our success was because he was so dynamic covering so much ground offensively but also defensively when we were starting to press.”
Midfielder Shkelzen Gashi, no stranger to international success on the field, was also quick to point out what Kevin brought to the Rapids both on and off the pitch. “His type in the locker room and on the field he was always positive. We will miss him in the future because he was a great player. His movement, his running, you see that he has quality of a high level.”
Another side of Doyle that only family, friends, teammates, and a few others who were able to be around the humble Irishman saw was his sense of humor. Kevin has a very sharp wit that comes off in a sneaky delivery which usually makes everyone shake their head and chuckle or feel at ease talking to him.
“He loved to enjoy every day. He’s never angry, he makes jokes. I don’t like the Irish jokes, and he thinks he’s sometimes funnier than he is, but we have a lot of fun together,” cracked Doyle’s frequent roommate on the road Gashi recounting one such incident and some inclement Colorado weather.
“The first time there was a game stop for weather (lightning) I said, ‘what’s happened Kevin?’ and he said we have to go in the locker room. I’ve never had this before but he said ‘come on Gashi. Come with me.’ It was so funny when we stood in the medical room and make jokes. He’s an amazing guy.”
Miller also laughed when asked about Kevin as a person and noted he didn’t let poor results or tough times get him down or lessen the effort he put into his craft. “He’s one of the funnier guys I’ve ever met. He’s really good at diffusing tough situations with a joke here and there. He’s a super nice guy, he’s down-to-earth, he talks to everyone and that was huge.”
As he hangs up his boots, Colorado Rapids fans should appreciate the three short seasons Kevin Doyle played an important role for the hometown team. Amazing diving headers into goal, the ability to hold off multiple defenders while keeping possession, the endless energy expounded tracking back defending when he didn’t always have to, and even the smart-aleck comments he could drop from time to time, all were trademarks of Kevin and will be missed by all of us who had the pleasure of watching him.
Special thanks to Kevin Doyle from The Voice of C38 for always making time post-match and post-training to impart his no-nonsense wisdom for our readers. Also, for being our first ever Tailgate Podcast guest back in the freezing temps and snow huddled under a canopy with a couple of sketchy interviewers and a bottle of Jameson Irish Whiskey-Cheers Kevin!