by Brian Jennings
The Colorado Rapids seemed to be getting back on track, shifting into another gear, and making some positive steps forward recently. This past Saturday night, however, they ran into a giant RSL-sized pothole that has thrown the fan base back into doubt and criticism.
Midfielder Jack Price is one of the first to hold his hand up and say this season just hasn’t been good enough. It may now be up to the Rapids veterans to pull the team up by its bootstraps and finish in a way that gives everyone some hope and pride leading into next season. “The easiest thing to do is blame other people and not yourself,” admits the Midfield General Price. “At the end of the day, there’s eleven players on the pitch. Obviously, there’s mistakes that you could point the finger at, but at the same time you’ve got to look at yourself, concentrate on your own performance, and pick up the others around you. That’s what I’m trying to do. I know I can set my standard even higher. I think I’ve got more in me, and to help the younger players around me.”
Price and his teammates like Tim Howard, Tommy Smith, Danny Wilson, and Johan Blomberg have all seen enough ups and downs around the World leagues to know how to keep an even keel. “We had a bad run and everyone could have folded but we haven’t. I know the staff won’t let us do that, and the players with experience like Tim and Tommy have been there.” Showing the younger and new players in Colorado by example may be one of the biggest things they can do at this point. “For the young lads, I think it’s easy to get sucked into it, get down on yourself, be negative. You’ve just got to be positive, that’s the key.”
Price tells The Voice of C38 he had to learn the same hard lessons back in the UK, but that having players not unlike himself give encouragement and the occasional kick in the backside is what stands out to this day. “I’ve been in teams back home where we’ve struggled-not winning games and not scoring goals. You’ve got to work even harder on the training pitch every day.”
“Me learning from all the players back home, they were always, ‘come on, this day’s a new day and you work even harder’. Results do turn. I’ve experienced it-if they do work, everyone works hard, everyone stays together, no conflict here with the staff-everyone’s a tight knit group-it does change,” Jack says confidently.
The recent shellacking at home by Real Salt Lake was admittedly a low point in 2018. However, fans need to be cautious about reading too much into a match where Colorado was down to 9 men with much of the second half to play, thereby causing conditions rarely seen in Commerce City.
“We want to get straight to Portland now and turn things over,” said an almost antsy Price. “Getting beat that heavily (by RSL), that’s the most I’ve been beaten by. I know we had nine men, it wasn’t easy, and we feel bad for the fans and the club, people will look at that and think 6-nil-they won’t look at that and think nine men.”
Don’t get defensive Rapids fans. Price isn’t making excuses at all. “Personally, (RSL) hurts me, it hurts a lot of the lads, there’s a few harsh words at halftime and after the game because that’s part and parcel of it. But, you don’t take it personal. That’s another thing for the young lads to take is that if I’m coming in ranting and raving, it’s not because I don’t like you. It’s because we want to win. We’ve got a group of lads here with experience and are winners, so I think they’ve learned not to take it personally.”
“The gaffer said, listen we’ve had a good run of performances and results. We’ve come out of LA with a point, we were unlucky and should have had 4 points or maybe 6 points. The performances are there, he said that’s a blip, that’s rare to go down to nine men, so you just want to brush it under the carpet and move on to Portland next.”
Price and his teammates believe in the system and the task they started this season. He can see improvements, along with things to fix, but isn’t wavering from his belief in what the Rapids are trying to do with the club on the pitch. “I think we’ve come a long way since performances at the start of the season. Obviously, we had that terrible run, but personally I believe in the staff. I believe in what they’re doing here, the way we’re trying to play is the right way,” says Mr. Shropsire Swag himself.
“I’ve heard some interviews over the past weeks that we don’t play good football, we just go long and lump it, but that’s not the case. We’ve played teams off the park here, we’ve played two LA teams off the park and not many clubs can say they’ve gone there and done that. So, I believe what the gaffer wants and what the staff are bringing to this place, and we just know we need a little bit more going forward,” Jack explained definitively.
He goes on to admit teams are only as good as the players making up the squads but has no doubt they aren’t far away from being able to mount a run on MLS possibly next season. “Other teams are spending and their top earners are winning them games. We don’t have that at the moment-it’s not secret. We’ve built from the back to the top, and maybe we should have dipped in the front, but we will address that. The staff has told us that will happen.”
As far as questions about whether this staff can do the job, or the locker room becoming splintered, Price will tell anyone that the Rapids are a tight-knit group who don’t doubt anyone in their side. “Apart from little mistakes here and there, we’ve grown as a team, we work harder together now, everyone’s fighting for each other, and the gaffer’s great. The staff is brilliant. They keep it upbeat, they keep it focused, and they want to win.”
“We are looking forward to probably the end of this season, but hopefully to next year as well,” Jack finished almost reluctantly. “We want to build on the good parts of the season and try not to have as many lows as we’ve had this year. I think we’re going in the right direction as a club and we’ll be great.”