Murphy's Law: "Reaching Toward Peak Performance

COMMERCE CITY CO (Exclusive to ColoradoRapids.com) - Colorado Rapids Assistant Coach John Murphy talks to fans exclusively in his column on ColoradoRapids.com about the latest happenings from the Rapids coaching world. Check out his latest column below!
MURPHY'S LAW
This edition: "Reaching Toward Peak Performance"

"Hello everyone and I’m back for another installment of Murphy’s Law.
We have just come back from a tough match in Chicago which I'm sure was witnessed by those 100 people or so that I heard were scoffing down some quality Pakistani food at the British Bulldog at the official viewing party.
For those of you who saw the game I would hope that you agree that it was a spirited road effort. We didn’t sit back we attacked and pressed them for good stretches of the match and perhaps deserved a point. However Chicago punished us at key times and deserve credit for the win.
While you don’t get anything for playing well in a losing effort at this level there are things that we can take away from the game in preparation for our upcoming match vs. DC United on Sunday. It is with that in mind that I will briefly review the past six weeks or so with an eye towards game #6.

Since my last column we continued our busy pre-season and bounced around from Bermuda to Jackson Mississippi in final preparations for the 2008 season. Let it be know to all that there aren’t any direct flights to either location from DIA! So all of us fell back on our typical distractions while laying over in the airport terminal: a combination of reading playing video games or cards taking a nap on a bench or texting away like a bunch of teenaged girls. Needless to say waiting at the airport gets a bit old and is one of the least glamorous parts of our job.

Our match in Bermuda was played on a surface better suited for street hockey as it was hard and very fast. Bermuda had a quick mobile group that gained confidence as the match progressed. The hosts dealt with the pitch better than us as they came away with a 2-1 victory. A disappointment but with pre-season games you need to see the big picture. As a staff we want to look at options get players match fit and come away injury-free. Wins are always a positive but can also cover up deeper issues if not eventually addressed.
In this case we came away unscathed and several individuals stepped up. John DiRaimondo Omar Cummings and Kosuke Kimura showed well in the starting line-up while Jacob Peterson and Herculez Gomez gave a boost off the bench. Regardless of the score the most important thing at that point of the pre-season is building towards the opening MLS match. Bottom line you need to be able to separate the result from the performance when warranted.

Traveling to Jackson the next weekend to take on the Fire was preceded with some training in lovely Denver with blowing snow and freezing temperatures. It is tough to get in a training rhythm while traveling so much then to come home to tough conditions outdoors. The players and staff actually handled it very well and were professional in their preparation and execution. Staying inside was not an option as we were less than two weeks out from the opener vs. LA.

Needless to say we were happy to get into warmer climates in Mississippi. The Fire have been coming for pre-season in Jackson for four years as it is midfielder Justin Mapp’s hometown so we knew that we would be treated very well. This was the case as soon as we arrived and the trip was highlighted by our 1-0 victory in front of 4500 fans. Most of them were there for the Fire but I feel we made some new fans with our spirited performance. The Rapids' starting eleven were excellent with Ciaran O’Brien Terry Cooke and Stephen Keel standing out. This was a great preparation match for us and gave us a good mindset as the countdown began for the home opener.

Enough has been said about our first five games of the season particularly the 4-0 win vs. LA for me to address it in a block of games. Again if you separate the results from the performance we have several positives to focus on. I think from a team perspective we have established a core group of players during a time where there were plenty of excuses for underachievement. The fact that so many young players have stepped up early on while more established players were injured bodes well for this team and gives an indication of the quality of the group. Team spirit is strong and we step on the field each game expecting results.

Every team in this league are in the same boat early in the season. You are dealing with a fragmented pre-season working to establishing a core group and building up match fitness. Early MLS games are often marked with physical play and goals conceded on set pieces or sluggish movement in transition. By mid to late May most teams are clicking effectively and then hit the wall around late July due to heat travel congested fixture list injuries etc. At that point training sessions are shortened some days off are given and having a deep squad is the key.

The most important thing for any MLS team in reaching that peak performance in April and May is to earn some points along the way. In our first five games we have done that. The team knows that if we are consistent in preparation and effort positive results will continue to follow. Our depth will prove to be an advantage as we reach the 'dog days' of August but it is imperative that we are right at the top of the Western Conference by then.

As I sat in my Chicago hotel room this weekend I thought back to a scouting trip to Chicago- land in November of 2006. While there I took in three NCAA playoff games in freezing cold weather........one of those trips that you hope go by as quickly as possible. However it ended up being a fruitful excursion for all of us connected with the Rapids.
I saw Omar Cummings and Cincinnati vs. Northwestern on the Friday and Kosuke Kimura’s Western Illinois vs. Cesar Zambrano’s University of Illinois-Chicago on the Sunday. Omar and Cesar were evaluated several times before & after but for Kosuke that was the first and only one. Not a bad weekend of scouting huh?
It just reiterates that the entire process of what you see in the stadium or on TV every weekend is a year-round effort regarding scouting college drafting international discoveries and preparation. The hard work that the staff have put in during our three years here are paying dividends in the reserves but most importantly also in the first team.
It is my belief that the best is yet to come. Remember that 'luck' is where preparation and opportunity meet.
With that in mind I hope to see all of you this Sunday at Dick's Sporting Goods Park as we take on DC United at 1:00pm. It should be a good one!"
-John Murphy
Assistant Coach Colorado Rapids
Rapids Assistant Coach John Murphy writes his "Murphy's Law" column exclusively for ColoradoRapids.com. Check back to the website for future installments!