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!
This edition: "Off-season Recap and Preseason Outlook"
"Now that the dust has cleared a bit I figured this would be a good time to give an overview of the MLS SuperDraft the Supplemental Draft and our preparations for the 2008 season.
It is amazing how quickly the "off-season" flies by but the reality for MLS coaches is there isn’t one. After our last game against RSL we oversaw close to three weeks of post-season training exit physicals and meetings with the players international and domestic scouting and tried to squeeze in the Holidays with our families.
After the New Year we were on the road again bouncing back and forth across the country for the drafts making some deals within the league and internationally and made final preparation for the players' arrival date on January 26.
With so much coming at you a bit of perspective is always helpful at this time of year. When I started in MLS back in 2000 there was so much turnover. Players would come in out of shape there was very little in regards to staff and support for the players you would lose close to one-third of your roster and it was almost the case of starting over each year.
Now players are much more professional with greater administrative and technical support from the clubs and our reserve system is allowing us to retain more players. Even during my three years in Colorado you can see the difference. Up until last year we were working from our Westminster base sharing a gym with the local community and traveling close to 45 minutes to a local indoor soccer center to get an hour or two of training in.
Now we have our own locker room gym and sports-turf fields on the premises and a much more professional environment for everyone. It is hard to believe that we have been in Dick’s SportingGoodsPark for less than a year because so much has happened. But it is important that we all appreciate how far we have come in a very short time particularly here in Colorado.
Well so much for looking into the past. We certainly addressed some future needs over the past week or so. With the eight rounds of the draft ending yesterday we came away with some players that we feel very good about.
The pundits seem to think that we underachieved with our draft picks and that is their prerogative. But with two reserve championships and former draftees playing first team soccer I hope our fans give us the benefit of the doubt. As a staff we cover more matches and more events than just about anyone in MLS. We do not have the benefit of being in a large metropolitan area such as the East/West coast teams or even Chicago where you can jump in a car and see numerous college matches. So much of our recruiting is done with significant travel and that requires a big commitment from the organization.
I feel that people still tend to look at the MLS Draft as they do in football and other sports but that is a misconception. The player pool is not deep enough to dictate that type of philosophy. They see that we have drafted players who play in a certain position and feel that we are stockpiling defenders or midfielders and that is not the case: we are stockpiling good players. Individuals who are functional can play more than one position and are comfortable on the ball. To keep a depth chart of strikers midfielders and defenders is a good organizational practice but the philosophy of choosing the best player available is often the rule of thumb.
The internet is certainly the place for the press and fans to discuss the college player pool. I think it is great that we are starting to develop a "buzz" about certain players as the draft approaches but even our harshest critics would be shocked if we allowed that to dictate our decision making on draft day. Bottom line is there are many reasons why certain players are picked and some of them the general public cannot be privy to.
Unfortunately the discrepancy between the college and the pro games is growing each year. A player who is a college standout is often playing up the spine of the team where in the pros teams need experience in goal center of defense/midfield and certainly up front. As examples a striker in college will be converted to midfielder or defender in the pros (example 1: Stephen Keel) a midfielder in college becomes a defender in the pros (example 2: Dan Gargan). And I know what you’re thinking: no we don’t take college defenders and turn them into goalkeepers! As a third example we did not draft Kosuke Kimura to play right back for us last January. He showed that he was a functional and versatile player and fit into that position first with the reserves then eventually the first team.
This young group will hopefully supplement our reserve group and push returning players higher into the first team. It is unfair for coaches to place high expectations on incoming players in a public forum so I hope you understand my understated stance. Therefore patience and a specialized approach to each player must be implemented if they are to grow and develop properly. I think that it is obvious that more and more of our drafted players are getting first team experience and that certainly bodes well for the health of the club.
Each draftee brings different qualities to the table.
-Ciaran O’Brien is a busy technical player who can play across the midfield. He possesses great vision and a good mind for the game.
-Adrian Chevannes is a strong man marker and very good in the air.
-Brian Grazier is just a good all-around player with an ability to play various positions on the field.
-Scott Campbell is an athletic wide player with a great deal of pace.
-Kevin Forrest had injury problems his senior year but was a regular goal scorer in college. He is 100% at the moment and will utilize a combination of size and good feet as a target forward.
-Cesar Zambrano is the type of player who brings others in to the game with his passing vision. At 6’1