Saturday, December 20, 2008

Petke and Smith Interviews

In recent weeks we've seen interviews on From the Pitch with former Rapids defender Mike Petke and on WeWantRapidman with new Head Coach Gary Smith. Lots of interesting talk, so lets get to it!

I think the Petke interview was the first time a former player really opened up about the way the Rapids organization is run. We've heard some talk from other former player like Mark Chung, Robin Fraser, and kyle Beckerman about how Clavijo handled the team, but this was really the first time a player was talking about the rest of the organization.

You can tell that Petke is not impressed with how the Rapids do things. His comparisons between the win or die attitude in DC and an organization of people without soccer experience here in Colorado makes it clear that he thinks there are severe problems in the Front Office. Petke went out of his way to make it clear that he wasn't talking about Gary Smith and the other players, who he says are "what's right with this organization", but that the rest of the Rapids hierarchy needs to be improved.

A large part of his interview discussed how his injury was handled this past year. He was obviously not pleased with the way things went and said it "Left a disgusting taste in his mouth" and that "If he didn't have a contract he would have walked away". These are some pretty powerful statements from a guy who's been a team player for his whole career. Since we only have his side of the story its hard to make a true judgement on the Rapids, but assuming that Petke isn't just making things up the fact that he needed to get union lawyers involved and a memo from the league Front Office in order to get the Rapids to approve the surgery he needed does not reflect well on the Rapids.

Petke also had a number of things to say about the differences between Clavijo and Smith, statements that back up what we've heard from some of those other former players I mentioned. He mentioned that there was no accountability under Clavijo, that lineups were based on his whim and not who had played well or poorly. He also said that there was never a game plan or team identity under Clavijo, that there was never any idea of what they were trying to accomplish other than just winning the game. Under Gary Smith, according to Petke, this has all changed. Smith has very strong plans for each game, a sense of forming an identity for the team, and extreme accountability. According to Petke that was a "refreshing wake-up call" for him and other players.

The Mike Petke interview discussed the past, while the Gary Smith interview was more about the future. Given that its just as easy for you to read the original post on WeWantRapidman as it would be for me to recap it here (and Nick deserves the hits) I'll just give you my reactions to some of the information Nick got out of Smith.

Its interesting that Steve Guppy apparently jumped the gun on the job. I wonder if this were more "settled" until the early news was leaked and that has caused the Rapids to have Smith to look elsewhere, or if there was miscommunication between Smith, Guppy, and the Rapids.

I'm very happy to hear the Rapids are close to a deal with Bouna Coundoul and I hope they get him signed soon. Anyone who's been reading this blog for a while knows I'm a huge Bouna Time! fan and I really hope he comes back next season. (I'd love to be able to buy a Bouna jersey, but apparently MLS/Adidas doesn't see a market for replica GK jerseys so I might resort to a regular home jersey with 1 Coundoul on the back). It seems like Preston Burpo might be the odd man out on the back line, unless he takes a coaching position. Burpo's a decent backup, but better to go young with Hughes anyway.

I agree with Smith that we need another full-back to push Kimura and Harvey for another season. Jose Burciaga isn't the answer and the news he won't be re-signed is good to hear. I think Harvey and Kimura (particularly the latter) can get the job done, but giving them some pressure should help their game. I'm less pleased with the idea that Ihemelu and Erpen will be fighting for the open center-back spot now that Petke has left. I don't think either one of them has the mentality to play well at that position and I'd rather go shopping for a new center back. If I had to choose I think Ihemelu has a better upside.

Smith also talked about adding a 4th striker to the mix. I agree that we need somebody to partner with Casey, and neither Cummings or McManus locked down that position last season. it will be interesting to see what Gary Smith's scouting contacts find. GS talked about looking at players form Holland, South America, and Italy, which is already a wider net than the Rapids have thrown in the past.

As of today there are 91 days until the Rapids start the 2009 season in LA against Chivas. There seems to be lots of work for Smith to do on the field and some work for Plush to do off the field if the Rapids are going to end the 2009 season at MLS Cup.

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