Thursday, October 23, 2014

Front Office Q&A Wrap-Up

Last week the Rapids Front Office held a Town Hall for C38 at the Celtic.  Apologies for the late update but an illness and a busy release week schedule prevented me from getting to it until now.  Here are some of the highlights from the notes I took.

Present: Richard Fleming (RF), Paul Bravo (PB), Tim Hinchey (TH), Pablo Mastroeni (PM), Drew Moor (DM)
Format: Written questions from the audience asked to the panel by Fleming, followed by one-on-one time with the panel

Also present in the audience but not participating was Zat Knight (and wow, he's a big guy!).

The first question asked was about who sets the goals for the team and what happens if they aren't met.  TH said they set goals collectively and their goals this year, as they have been every year, were to be a consistent winner, make the playoffs, and win trophies.  Specifically in regards to this year TH said that there will be more investment in the technical staff this offseason and there will be no staff changes in the Front Office or technical staff.

PM was asked about the constant shuffling of lineups and if it hurts results.  PM said continuity was good but early in the season when the lineups were shuffling they were still getting good results, and more recently injuries and suspensions have forced many lineup changes.

PB was asked about Claudio Lopez's role in the organization and responded that while he isn't officially part of the organization right now he is scouting for the team in South America.

TH had the next question about the money available from KSE backing up the team's stated ambition.  TH said that he has no criticism for the money KSE is spending on the team since they bought the team, built the stadium, fully funded the youth academies, etc.  They have now authorized more spending on FO and technical staff, more spending on technology, and they have authorized the addition of a second Designated Player this offseason.

The next question was to PM asking about the team's style of play.  The response was that the team was taking the space that other teams we're giving them.

After a couple of less important questions (PB all but confirmed that Chivas USA is going away) TH was asked to address the communication strategy from the FO.  He said that they're working on it and there will be more investment in that.

DM got a chance at his first question when he addressed the motivation of the players right now.  He says the players are well motivated and are frustrated with the current run.

PB was asked if the goal each year is just to do good enough to make a playoff run or is it more than that.  PB responded that they want to win every trophy they have a shot at (MLS Cup, Shield, U.S. Open Cup, Rocky Mountain Cup).  TH then jumped in and said that they feel continuity is critical to success and they haven't done a very good job of that in recent seasons, citing specifically the coaching staff and player turnover.  He then laid out the specific goal of the team (quoted as accurately as I could on the fly):
 We aim to be a well run club that competes in every competition and has the success we want
Following that was a suggestion of a Caribous of Colorado inspired 3rd kit which got a lot of laughs and wasn't entirely ruled out by anyone.

Then it was time to get serious again as the first of my two questions was asked.  Roughly:
With 2 of the last 3 seasons being among the worst in team history, what will you do differently in 2015 to get a better result?
TH's answer was that they were going to use 2013, which was one of the 3 most successful in team history, as a model (and that is accurate based on the same metric, pts/game, I was using to measure the two poor seasons).  They plan to get Pablo prefoession opportunites in the offseason, specifically he's already been invited to spend time with Arsenal and Arsene Wenger.  They'll be able to plan for the transfer window in advance and make some investments.  They're investing in scouting, including the trip the week before PB took to Arsenal, PSG, and Spain.

PB was encouraged to get ex-Rapids in the area involved, which he says he's working on.

TH then got my second question:
How do you respond to Arsenal making their first trip to the States since the 80's and not even mentioning the Rapids, their partner club?
TH said it was a fair question and that they contacted the Rapdis before they made the announcement.   Arsenal's original plan wasn't to trael this offseason and TH felt that the travel roster reflected that, but the team was offered a million-dollar payday for a single game against RBNY and decided to take it (left unsaid was the Thierry Henry connection.  TH said they're working on the relationship to build up trust and a good example of it was last week's trip.  A result of that trip was that the Rapids will get access to Arsenal's scouting network now.  TH believes Arsenal will eventually make the trip to Colorado.

Pm was asked if there were any positives at all that came out of this winless streak.  There was a lot of spin in his answer but said that he will never again make the same mistakes he's made this year, which is something I guess.

TH was asked about the balance between revenue and getting new fans and which comes first.  He said that its a balance but that in July they put together an 18-month plan on how to do both.  The big news (and to me, the most interesting piece of info the whole night) is that Josh Kroenke is now taking an active interest in the club and league.  He attended the MLS Board meeting two weeks ago, one of the first that either Josh or Stan have attended and will be serving on the MLS Governance Committee.  He's also already been out to the Dick for a couple of games.

The final question asked was how we catch FSL's youth movement.  TH pointed out that the most recent U.S. U-23 team had 3 Rapids on it, two of which came through the Academy (Serna and O'Neill, plus Hairston as a draftee) while no other team had more than 1 player on the squad, and FSL had none.  Success for the Rapids is putting players on the Rapids first team and beyond, not how big the Academy is or how many college stars it has.

After that the panel members broke up to answer questions one on one with the fans present.  I had to get going so I didn't stay any longer.  Most of the evening was about what I expected.  A lot of looking forward talk, invest was the word of the evening.  The most interesting part to me was the Josh Kroenke news, maybe that's a positive sign.

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