Johan Blomberg wasn’t surprised by the talent level during his first MLS season, but he didn’t quite expect the parity that the league has become known for. Year-to-year, or even game-to-game, the quality of teams isn’t always reflected by their place in the standings, something Blomberg didn’t always have to worry about back in Sweden. “I knew (MLS) was a physical league, but I didn’t expect all the teams to run as much as they do,” says the energetic midfielder.
“In Sweden, I played for a very good team and we always had the ball. If we played at home against the worst team we knew we were going to win. In this league, every game is so tough and the teams are very even-anyone can beat anyone.”
That should be of some solace to the Rapids and their fans after an admittedly disappointing season that finds them well below the playoff line and just above San Jose in the basement of the Western Conference. “Everyone feels like coming into next season we’ll be better,” Blomberg tells The Voice of C38 explaining what he hopes will be a big difference in 2019 to start out the campaign.
“I think all of us feel pretty comfortable in the system now. The good thing for us, the players that were here will know the system from the start. It’s going to be so much easier, even in the preseason, to work on details. Everyone should know the basics so next season it’s going to be so much easier to know the foundation, then starting on the details trying to make it better. That’s going to be huge.”
“It took us weeks, months this year to even get the whole thing on how we should play, so I think that’s going to be a big thing next year. Everyone’s going to be a lot more comfortable.” With so much player movement in and out of the club, players missing action due to injury, and a search for the right combinations of talent on the pitch deep into the schedule, Johan explains that not having to constantly be learning something new throughout the season will allow the Rapids to loosen up and let the game flow, saying, “The less you have to think, the more you do automatically, so much easier.”
That entire process, plus the fact that the team fell into a 9-game losing streak midseason, made things difficult to turn around quickly. It’s not like flipping a switch and the next day things will turnaround, according to Blomberg. “In the beginning of the season, we played pretty well and started off decent. After (the losing streak) it’s so hard to bounce back and start winning games, and all the teams are very good as well. It’s a tough league to just go and win games. That streak affected us. We became so far back in the table it’s hard to bounce back from that.”
One thing that hasn’t changed, according to Johan, is the spirit of the team and the work ethic on the pitch-something that has been consistently lauded by Head Coach Anthony Hudson as he watches the losses pile up. “Everyone is keeping the spirits up in the locker room and if you look at the games, everyone is running like crazy. Even though we don’t have a shot at the playoffs we outrun the teams trying to win,” Blomberg says. And he would know as that’s part of his game in which he has always taken pride in is the ability to influence play all over the field with effort.
“I’ve always been a player, even at my last club, I was probably the attacking player defending the most. That’s just my style of play-I like to defend, play with a lot of energy. To be honest we’ve had a lot of the ball the last few months, we’ve changed the system a little bit, we try to keep possession a bit more.”
As far as his 2018 season, Johan admits to being disappointed, but not discouraged with Colorado’s results or lack of goal scoring. In fact, the personal side of his season almost mirrors that of the Rapids in that a promising start was derailed by injury causing a longer climb back than he expected.
“I started off playing a lot of games, but I got my injury and missed six games so that’s when the losing streak started as well,” Blomberg reminds fans. “Before that, I had a really good start to the season, and when I came back I had a really good game after the injury, then it was just harder to get the momentum going again. From there, I’ve been building up slowly but surely. I was away for 6-7 weeks. That was a tough period of the season. In the last few weeks I’m getting back to myself.”
Something Blomberg has been able to do is to allow his young family to ground him and keep things in perspective being so far away from his homeland. “My kids are too young to understand, but I speak with my wife about football, about everything. We’re pretty good, whether you have a good game or a bad game, when you come home and 2 small children to put aside and enjoy everything.”
Johan admits to planning time off to begin the off-season to allow the body to recover, but also knows without the regimen of training and matches to follow, Dads and husbands don’t get off days so it will be a different set of responsibilities “I’m going to take a week or two off to recover the body, switch off totally-Cleaning, taking care of the kids-I’m going to be busy believe me.”
“We’re going to get a schedule we have to follow, probably 3, 4, 5 times a week I’m going to be doing something so no matter where you are in the world you can do it. Coming back for next season they don’t want us in top shape because we have 5-6 weeks for preseason to build up. I’ll take a look at the past season to see what I could’ve done better, what I did good-you don’t have much time during the season so take time and think about what I want to improve.”