The Colorado Rapids want to change their identity.
No longer do the Rapids want to be a known as a grind-it-out defensive club, as sporting director and interim general manager Padraig Smith said on Thursday. No longer does he wish to see Colorado try to eek out low-scoring wins or play for draws, even if that approach has led to sporadic success.
“Ultimately, that’s not good enough,” Smith said in a online Q&A with Rapids fans. ” … We have to become a more proactive and attack-minded team while remaining true to the principles that have brought us success in the past.”
Smith’s comments came two days after the Rapids fired head coach Pablo Mastroeni. Mastroeni was let go after the Rapids scored 22 goals in their first 22 games — the second-fewest in the MLS — while limping out to a 6-12-4 record.
The Rapids have struggled to produce on offense since Mastroeni was hired prior to the 2014 season. They’ve averaged 1.07 goals per match in that time while going 39-54-35.
The first step in this reinvention process, Smith said, is bringing in a head coach who’s committed to a more attack-oriented brand of soccer.
“We want to be a perennial playoff team,” Smith said. “We want to be clear about that. And we want to be a club that consistently challenges for MLS Cups. Every action we take here should be done with the guiding light … ‘Does this put us closer to winning a championship?’
“So to make that happen, we have to evolve the Rapids way.”
Smith said he’s already conducting a “global search” to identify Mastroeni’s successor. He added that interim head coach Steven Cooke is a candidate for the job.
The other piece of the puzzle is to bring in players who can execute the Rapids’ new vision.
“We want to bring in players with a boldness and urgency,” Smith said.
“We want to bring in players with a high soccer IQ. Good game intelligence. Players who are explosive in their movements, good ability. We want to bring in players who are creative. Who are risk takers in the attacking third. Know when to take those risks and not.”
The Rapids advanced to the Western Conference Championship in 2016 by playing a grind-it-out style. They allowed just 32 goals in the regular season but only scored 39 themselves. Mastroeni was rewarded with a contract extension in December for the breakthrough year.
But Colorado regressed this year, to the point where management and ownership decided to fire Mastroeni even though he’d just signed a deal to be the team’s head coach through 2019.
“I think what this shows is the commitment from ownership to winning,” Smith said. “Ultimately, this is a result-driven business. And the results and performances were not what we wanted. And that’s what led us to this week.”
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