The Rapids are beginning to search for a replacement to Anthony Hudson. And while the team clearly wants to find a successful coach this time, it isn’t entirely clear what exactly that might mean.
Rapids GM Padraig Smith told The Denver Post “We’ve already spoken to a number of candidates (and) going back to them. We’ll take our time and do it right. We’ll bring the right guy in.”
Whether that coach has MLS experience; whether that coach is a current head coach or is getting a first shot at the top job; whether that coach has an inclination toward attacking football or a more defensive and pragmatic style; all remain to be seen. Here now is a rundown of some of the top candidates available for the job.
You Ought to Know
Several candidates for managerial jobs in MLS have been interviewed or been rumored for the past couple years, before being ultimately passed over for somebody else. Many of these managers are well regarded and experienced, and most can be said to know American soccer and the peculiarities of MLS quite well. Jason Kreis is well known to Rapids supporters as the head coach of archrival Real Salt Lake from 2007 to 2013. He was NYCFC’s head coach for their inaugural season but put up disappointing results. From there he headed off to Orlando City, where he lasted two years before they fired him in 2018 after a dismal year. He’s now coaching the USMNT Under 23 team. Kreis is generally well-regarded, tactically, but his lack of success is an area of concern.
There are also a number of MLS assistant coaches who have interviewed for past jobs around the league, such as Josh Wolff, Tab Ramos and Robin Fraser. Wolff has been linked with practically every head coach opening in MLS for the past three years. The former USMNT player has been an assistant with Todd Berhalter at Columbus Crew, and followed Berhalter to the USMNT to be his assistant there. The soccer hivemind collectively thinks he’s a smart guy and a shoe-in to be a head coach at some point, but whether that time is now and that team is Colorado is anyone’s guess. Ramos has been at the helm of the USMNT Under 20 team since 2011, surviving the firings of both Jurgen Klinsmann and Bruce Arena and outlasting US Soccer president Sunil Gulati. Ramos has had a hand in the development of some incredible talents over his time there, including DeAndre Yedlin, Zach Steffen and Kellyn Acosta. Robin Fraser played for the Colorado Rapids from 2001 to 2003, and in the pre-MLS, he played with the Colorado Foxes from 1990 to 1995 — back when they played on the infield of a now-defunct greyhound racing track in Commerce City. Now an assistant with Toronto FC, he, too, has been linked with a number of MLS job openings over the past few years.
The College Dropout
Several high-profile NCAA coaches would make a lot of sense with the Colorado Rapids, but the one I like best is just a few miles from Commerce City. University of Denver head coach Jamie Franks took the helm of the small-ish program with little track record to speak of and made it flourish. In four seasons, DU has made the NCAA tournament three times. In just his second season in 2016, the team went all the way to the College Cup. Three of his players from that season became Rapids: Kortne Ford and Andre Shinyashiki, and former Rapid Sam Hamilton. Franks has always produced dynamic and flexible teams that move and possess the ball well, and are productive on set pieces, and has gotten good results in a low-profile market. He is also frequently talked about as a big brain with a mind for the game.
Rumor Has It
A source with ties to the Rapids has informed The Denver Post of one candidate under consideration by the Colorado Rapids, Paul Clement. Clement coached Reading FC in the English Championship until this past December; before that he was head coach at Swansea City in 2017, taking over just after LAFC head coach Bob Bradley was fired. Clement saved Swansea from relegation that season, only to be fired the following year as the Swans slumped once again. Clement is a manager who has been asked to do a lot with a little with Reading and Swansea, an experience that might feel familiar, for better or worse, with the Rapids.
South of the Border Down Mexico Way
There are a few former or current Liga MX coaches who might fit what the Rapids need right now. Rafael Puente, Jr. has managed two smaller Liga MX clubs, Lobos BUAP and Queretaro, helping to get Lobos promoted in 2017 from the Mexican second division. Soccer journalist and Liga MX expert Eugene Rupinski also thinks Robert Dante Siboldi might be a good choice. Eugene told me that Siboldi “was recently fired from Veracruz, but their issues would kill your data plan if I tried to write them all down. Prior to that, he led Santos Laguna to a championship in 2018. He’s a proven winner and has managed under budget constraints and won.”
The English Beat
Alan Pardew and David Moyes have both been linked with FC Cincinnati, who also recently sacked their coach. Moyes famously flamed out as Alex Fergeson’s successor at Manchester United, while Alan Pardew has managed seven different EPL and Championship teams. He saw some success in the 2011-12 season with Newcastle, but also led a lot of bottom-table sides in his time. In the past five years, he has been fired from Newcastle, Crystal Palace and West Bromwich Albion. I don’t see why either Moyes or Pardew would come to the US to manage a small, struggling club like the Colorado Rapids, but nothing is impossible.
Hello, Is it Me You’re Thinking Of?
Sometimes, but not often enough, MLS teams look to the best coaches in the American second division as candidates. Two candidates that I think deserve consideration are Bob Lilley and Brendan Burke. Lilley is the head coach of Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC and made a name for himself with another USL team, the Rochester Rhinos, where he led the team to three first-place finishes and the 2015 USL Cup. In a 22-year career spanning six different teams, Lilley has never once had a losing season. Burke, the Bethlehem Steel coach, has overseen the coaching and development of Philadelphia Union homegrowns and draftees for the past three years and plays an exciting, uptempo, attacking style that jibes neatly with the “Rapids Way” philosophy that Padraig Smith has espoused.
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