COMMERCE CITY, Colo.- Saturday's win over Houston was technically the season finale, as far as matches are concerned. However, for Rapids coach Oscar Pareja, it was merely another step in preparing for 2013 season.
"This is not the end of the season for us," Pareja said afterwards. "This is a continuation of what we want to build here. The boys are going to keep working in the offseason."
The Rapids will practice until mid-November, giving Pareja - who was only hired in January - his first prolonged opportunity to work with players on a more individual basis.
“I think the last four to five weeks the boys started settling with many things and that translated into results,” Pareja told MLSsoccer.com on Wednesday. “And we want to keep building on that.”
Following their 2-0 season-ending win over Houston, the Rapids received three days off and returned to practice on Wednesday, although most of the team’s starters did off-field training on Wednesday. Many were back out on Thursday and Friday, though not fully involved in training drills.
Colorado finished its season on a high note, going 3-2-2 in their final seven games and winning their final two overall. But with a lengthy offseason looming, Pareja’s primary goal is to maintain the momentum from the final two months of the year and keep it rolling into the offseason.
“The offseason is getting shorter, but we are going to have seven or eight weeks off, so the next three [weeks] we want to keep the boys training and be in a good condition,” Pareja said. “We don’t want there to be more than eight weeks off.”
The Rapids’ inability to make the playoffs largely rested on a summer slump, which saw them go 0-6-0 in July and 2-11-1 in June, July and August combined. Pareja wants to use the final sessions to give personal attention to individuals, something he felt he didn’t get enough of a chance to do during the 2012 season.
“We are putting team tactics and all those things aside for a while,” Pareja said. “It’s not that we’re not going to train those tactics, but now the relevant part is to train the individual and trying to get them better in their position. For example, we are going to work with [striker] Tony [Cascio] on some strengths that he has and some weaknesses on this part that he works in. We do that with every player.”
The team will have the weekend off before returning to practice next week from Monday through Thursday. Their final week of training will be from November 12 to the 16th.
After two month off, the players will return for preseason training sometime in mid-January.
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.