By Brian Jennings
Colorado fans can see the pride Rapids Goalkeeper Coach Chris Sharpe exudes when he talks about the club, whether it involves a legend of the game or the kids coming up trying to emulate said legend. “I love my job,” says Sharpe, something that not everyone can honestly say let alone believe. “This club has become my life for the last 10 years. I wear the Rapids badge every day with great pride.”.
Sharpe’s responsibilities took an exciting turn almost 3 years ago when it was announced that Tim Howard, widely regarded as the greatest US goalkeeper of all time, agreed to leave the UK and start manning the nets for the Rapids in 2016.
Sharpe knew Colorado was about to jump into the wider public eye of notoriety by having Howard join the club, but he admits the challenge was one he relished and has made him a better coach. “It was exciting to get Tim-He’s brilliant,” said Chris without hesitation. “When he first signed, he rang me and said ‘I just want to get better. I’m subservant to ideas you’ve had, I’ve heard great things, let’s get rolling’. No prima donna, lackadaisical work ethic there. And if anyone has ever seen a Rapids keeper training session in the corner of Colorado’s training pitch, it’s not hard to see that all involved take their craft very seriously.
“I had to make sure when Tim landed in Colorado I was ready to rock-n-roll. I put a lot of stuff together that we could continue to get better at and improve on and build on what he was so good at. That first 6 months he came in, Zac (MacMath) was brilliant-credit to him”.
“There’s a lot of growth I’ve had in the last 3 years-as a goalkeeping coach exponentially,” says Sharpe with an air of gratitude but also responsibility. “My main goal is also to be the best goalkeeping coach for the gaffer that I can possibly be on a daily basis. It’s just making sure that I’m doing my job to the best of my ability, for both the staff, the team, and my goalkeepers. For me, I want to make sure the big man finishes out his career in a manner he’s deserving of. He’s had a diamond career-For me, best US goalkeeper ever.”
Part of Tim’s legacy has already been felt within the Rapids academy, according to Sharpe. The same kids that Chris sees on the training fields, and some of whom have joined the first-team in training as well, get to envision themselves in the same pipeline as Howard and the coaches they see working with the National Team legend. “The kids go, ‘wow, Chris is coaching us, and he’s Tim’s goalkeeping coach, and he’s got Brandon who works with the Academy, there’s a pathway for the kids now.”
“Some of Development Academy kids are training with the (Rapids) first team-Abraham Rodriguez our U-19s goalkeeper right now is training with Tim Howard. The best thing for me and the club is I’ve got my finger on all the young goalkeepers because we can see the ones that will fit our program well. Our boy Andrew Corliss, the U-17 goalkeeper right now, I’ve had him since he was 7. He’s a National Team goalkeeper and he’s got a good chance to be a pro.”
Now, as Howard has announced that 2019 will be his final season between the pipes, Sharpe is genuinely positive about what Colorado has been able to build and establish from the top down in order to put the Rapids in a good position to achieve much loftier goals. “I feel fortunate to be around some very good people the last 7-8 years in this job. We’ve got a great front office with Padraig (Smith) and Wayne (Brandt) that I love dearly. I love working with our staff, they are phenominal, absolutely fantastic.”
Colorado’s Front Office has certainly made the effort to try to ensure that this upcoming season does not go the way of the last two. New players with impressive career accomplishments have been brought in to push holdovers and increase the overall depth of talent of the Rapids-names like Kamara, Feilhaber, Rubio, Mezquida, Rosenberry, and Irwin.
“Where that carries us,” explains Chris leading into 2019, “I think the core of our group is going to know what the gaffer is asking, which is massive. The culture in this locker room is unbelievable, and when I say unbelievable I mean for a team that went on those two (non-winning) skids like that to come out with 2 wins and a draw to end the (2018) season our boys were still fighting. In professional sports that’s pretty hard to come by-The gaffer’s got to get a lot of credit for that.”
“It’s a credit to the players in that locker room, a credit to the gaffer for building the culture, and you talk about what’s coming for next , you add those pieces….we’re going to be good. That I can promise.”