Matchday-1 | Friday, May 24

9:00 a.m.

“Hey guys, let’s get a look here. Can we get a quick 360, Oli?”

Chris Armas and Oliver Larraz are standing at the front of the locker room as players chime in on Larraz’s new haircut. The midfielder says a few words about a special guest they’ll be hosting at training to kick off the day and his head coach finally lets him find his way back to his seat for the 9 a.m. video meeting with a good-natured grin.

This is the beginning of a three-day journey through the life of Armas, the Colorado Rapids head coach. From the first meeting on Friday morning to the final whistle of the Rapids 2 game on Sunday night, Armas balances the tactical choices, personal relationships with players, his roles as husband and father, and every little thing in between.

After the quick introduction from Larraz, Armas works on his laptop in the back corner of the locker room as Assistant and Goalkeeper Coach Chris Sharpe runs through set pieces on the projector.

Armas is pulling some game and training clips of Kévin Cabral to go over with the striker before they head out for practice. Why pull Cabral today?

“Part of it is about the clips. Part of it is about, ‘I care about you’,” Armas says. “Does your coach believe in you? I think he does. Does your coach care about you? I think he does.”

The conversation between the two after the video meeting is brief, with Armas asking Cabral how he thinks his performances have been, showing him through film and magnets on the board behind them. The coach wants the player to understand the spaces he might have the chance to exploit in the upcoming match.

Armas reminds Cabral of the first time they met—the French striker was the first player he greeted, intentionally, in that room on his first day at the club. From that day to now, his direction to Cabral remains the same: “I want you to keep playing free.”

12:00 p.m.

Following training, the coaches take the more casual feel of a Friday training to another level, playing a game they’ve dubbed “Horseshoe.” The gist is similar to bocce ball but with pairs split up about ten feet apart with a flat rubber training disc markers on each side. One partner chips a ball into his counterpart, who tries to settle the ball closest to the disc with just one touch.

Armas and his son, Christopher, form a pair.

“I’m not kidding, when we first got here and started playing this, he would make us start practicing because he didn’t want to lose,” said Christopher of his dad.

Armas still tries to squeeze in a workout most days, either with his son at home or at the stadium with other coaches. The former USMNT player has recovered from multiple injuries, including the torn ACL that prevented him from playing in the 2002 World Cup, and a nagging hip injury that requires semi-regular steroid injections. But you’d never be able to tell with the way the 51-year-old moves on the field with players during practice or even after, just fine-tuning a first touch with his staff.


Photo: Superfan Colin Moore visits training.

Also out at training, Colin Moore, a 9-year-old fan of the club, and specifically Larraz, made a visit out to first-team training to interview Larraz and gather information for the book he is writing on the Rapids. Moore underwent open heart surgery last year after dealing with a rare heart condition. Armas, a father of two boys himself, ruffles his hair and accepts a homemade cupcake that Colin brought—one for each member of the team, specially decorated with the numbers of each player.

12:30 p.m.

Once back inside, the coaches hold a meeting to decide the 20-man roster for the match against Minnesota, as well as plans for the Rapids 2 game on Sunday. Minutes are portioned out and they discuss the recent moods and mindsets of players. They aren’t here to just put X’s and O’s on a board and call it a day—there’s an intentional attention to the mental well-being of the squad in what has been a busy month.

The deliberation takes nearly an hour, the mood fully shifted from the light-hearted game of Horseshoe to the sobering reality of who will get minutes, who will remain on the bench, and who will not see the pitch at all out of the Rapids’ roster.

One topic heavily on the minds of all in the room was of the structure of the midfield for the next few games—Connor Ronan is still making his return from injury and young Larraz has made a case for his inclusion in the Starting XI since the start of the season. Armas mentions a phone call he had with Ronan just the night prior. He let the midfielder know that although he wouldn’t get the start on Saturday, he would look to get him some minutes in the match.


Photo: Rapids technical staff deliberates the lineup for their match with Minnesota United FC.

The balancing act of rewarding players like Larraz for good minutes and effort on the pitch and reintegrating staples of the game like Ronan is what the staff is determined to get right in a three-game week. If not, how will they retain the trust and confidence of players, as well as on-field results?

“You always got to make decisions that are best for the team,” he says after the meeting wraps. “As head coach, you gotta dig a little deeper. Ultimately, I’m the one who has to stand in the press conference and stand behind what we do.”

1:30 p.m.

Next on Armas’ packed schedule is a chat with Andreas Maxsø. The veteran Danish defender made it clear to Armas that one of his season-long individual goals was to make his national team’s roster for the Euros this year, and Armas has dedicated himself to helping him get there. Armas has cut a highlight compilation of Maxsø’s best moments of the season thus far and sent it to the Danish coaches. He has since gotten a reply and wants to show the 30-year-old what they had to say.

2:15 p.m.

The one-on-one with Maxsø is followed up by a meeting with a Rapids scout. The coach is constantly evaluating players provided by the Rapids scouting department. Once that chat has wrapped up, Armas can start to think about heading home for the day around 3:30 p.m.

Before he leaves, he runs through possible talking points for the pregame speech he’ll make on Saturday to the team.

“Someone sent me something today that captured my brain for a second:

You’ve got to think high to rise;

You’ve got to be sure of yourself before

You can ever win a prize.

Life’s battles don’t always go

To the stronger or faster man;

But soon or late the man who wins,

Is the one who thinks he can.”

The excerpt is from a poem by Walter D. Wintle, titled “Thinking”. It was sent to him in a WhatsApp message from Michal Pujdak, an assistant manager with Leeds United U21s, with the portion Armas read aloud outlined in red brackets drawn on the screenshot. An accompanying message reads, “Love your work”.

This is what Armas is considering reading to the players before the game, but with a spin. He goes back and forth on the decision, saying it’ll be a gametime decision on what he wants to say, or maybe just wing it. Regardless, he says it needs to meet two requirements: that it gets their mind off the game for just a second, and that it relates to something that happened that week.

The final decision will come tomorrow—for now, it’s time to get home and prepare for Saturday.

Matchday | Saturday, May 25

8:00 a.m.

The morning starts how you’d imagine that any soccer fan’s might: coffee and an 8 a.m. kickoff. The FA Cup final is on, and Manchester United is going head-to-head with rival Manchester City just days after City clinched the Premier League title. After spending time with United as an assistant in 2021 and 2022, Armas is dialed into his former club’s campaign for the cup.

Armas, his wife Justine, and Christopher watch around the living room, alternately keeping their cockapoo, Leo (named for a famous Argentinian, obviously) entertained.

“He’s crazy, don’t mind him,” he says. “But look—he bit me yesterday. He got through skin.”

A quick glance to Justine’s reaction tells a different story of overdramatization; but the small shake of her head is caught by her husband of 24 years. He laughs and waves her off, knowing she’ll always be the pet’s favorite person in the house anyway.


Photo: Armas and Justine during filming of "The Journey with Jordan Angeli" in April.

Armas’ former group holds on to win 2-1 and then it’s time for interviews and commentary from the pundits.

Armas seems to relish the fact he’s not the one having to answer questions, instead, getting to observe what Pep Guardiola and Erik ten Hag have to say. He and his son either chuckle or nod along to both the questions being asked and the answers to them, knowing how it goes on both sides of a big match.

Once the celebrations are over Armas is back to gameday preparations, including what film they’ll show the team before they head out for warmups and what he’ll say to the group. He’s still not decided.

11:30 a.m.

Lunchtime is approaching, and Urban Egg is just around the corner. Armas and Justine snag a spot at the bar, and even as he looks over the menu, he admits he doesn’t think much about what he eats, just needs some fuel for the day. A simple meal of scrambled eggs, hashbrowns, toast and some tomato slices are satisfactory for a gameday lunch.

The topic of social media comes up, and coincidentally, mental health. May was Mental Health Awareness Month, and the Rapids launched a number of initiatives to highlight the topic, including clinics, player appearances and outfitting the team in the New Day kit for every game during the month.

Armas doesn’t get on social media, but Justine keeps an eye on the chatter surrounding her husband and the team.

When she saw a tweet from a regular supporter earlier this month, she showed Armas. The person was outspoken about their mental health, and Chris wanted to reply and connect with someone in the community. He responded though Justine’s account: “You’re not alone. The Rapids are with you and we love your support, thank you. Stay strong, hang in there.”

After lunch, it’s time for a bit of rest before heading to the stadium. It’s going to be a long night.

4:00 p.m.

Armas arrives to DSGP around 4 p.m. to finish watching film that he’ll show the group pregame, grab a bite to eat, and have some conversations with coaches and players before warmups start. Also on the docket is meeting up with Eric Ramsay, who he spent time with at Manchester United. Like Armas, Ramsay was appointed to the head coaching position in the offseason.

As he continues to brainstorm what the pregame speech should touch on, Armas was reminded that the evening’s game was being celebrated as Mental Health Awareness Night by the club. Just hours earlier news broke that Grayson Murray, a PGA golfer, had passed away at age 30. Murray had been vocal about his own struggles with mental health in the past. And when Armas and Assistant Coach Ian Sarachan recounted the events of the last week—the visit from leukemia patient and Make-A-Wish kid Neymar, a Rocky Mountain Cup win for the Rapids’ Unified Team, Colin Moore’s stop at training just a day earlier—Sarachan made a statement that would foreshadow Armas’ speech to the group: “Nothing matters until you realize what really matters.”

6:30 p.m.

After short meetings with different members of the technical staff, the entire group gathered in the locker room for Armas’ speech ahead of warmups. He scanned the room, taking good looks at each of the players waiting on his word. “Who here got a card when they walked in today? Those who have, tell the group what they say.”

On arrival, players were given cards that fans also received on their way into the stadium. Each one had a different phrase on them, such as “You are loved”, “You matter”, and “You are not alone.” The players reach into their lockers and read them off one by one.

Armas doesn’t have to add much.

“We are so fortunate, for not just our physical health but also our mental health. My phone is always on, and I will be anywhere for you as fast as I can…When you have the right group, there’s nothing like it. You’ll run through a brick wall for each other.”

With that, the game was on.


Photo: Armas high fives fans on his way out to the pitch pregame.

7:30 p.m.

What is Armas thinking of as he exits the tunnel and onto the pitch?

“The only thing—the biggest thing—is to try to quickly acknowledge the fans,” he says. “I just take it in a little bit. I look at the crowd, I feel the energy and start getting really excited, but I try to think about the fans and the kids that are on the left and right.”

The energy of the fans, the intensity of the match and his own animated personality culminate to lift Armas off his seat and plant him on the sideline less than a minute after the starting whistle blows.

He claps in frustration as chances are missed. He and other coaches on the bench watch plays back on an iPad live streaming the game, looking to the fourth official for explanations of calls—and the reason for lack of them.

He shows little reaction when Minnesota’s Jeong Sang-Bin opens the scoring in the eighth minute, just a quick nod and look to the bench, confirming that a possible handball earlier in the play won’t be looked at.

He won’t have to wait long until Cabral ties the game up in the 18th minute, going head-to-head with Dayne St. Clair and catapulting over the ‘keeper on his final touch before the ball finds the back of the net.

Armas and the bench erupt in cheers as Moïse Bombito and Cabral sprint to the sideline, meeting their head coach’s outstretched arms and lifting him off his feet before the rest of the players and coaches surround them in a group celebration.


Photo: Armas celebrates a goal with Kévin Cabral and Moïse Bombito.

For the next few minutes, the bench buzzes once again. But the energy is short-lived, as Minnesota puts two away before the halftime whistle sounds. Colorado heads into the locker room down 1-3.

Armas and assistant coach Chris Little both address the team in the locker room. Down by two goals in their home building, it’s a position the team hasn’t been in yet this season. The mood of the room is part disbelief, part determination that the game isn’t over, not by a long shot.

“Be disciplined, don’t get frustrated,” says Little as he walks through pressure points exploited by Minnesota.

It’s Armas who has the final word before the team sets back out to the pitch: “We’re going to get the first goal. After that, it’s game on.”

The words are almost prophetic as Colorado continues to knock on Minnesota’s door throughout the first portion of the half, ultimately leading to a corner kick opportunity taken by Djordje Mihailovic. His curling service into the box finds the head of Rafael Navarro, whose glancing contact with the ball proves just enough to sneak into the far post’s side netting behind him.

As envisioned by Armas, the Rapids have scored the first goal in the half and inch closer to evening the score.

What happens next could be attributed to a number of things—Cole Bassett’s deep service over the Loons’ backline, St. Clair’s fumbling hands, or Cabral’s timed run and header on frame. But what cannot be overlooked is the conversation between Cabral and Armas just a day earlier. The 10-minute sit-down with the striker foreshadowed what would become his first brace and equalize with the No. 2 Western Conference side for a crucial point at home.

9:30 p.m.

The final whistle blows and Armas sets off across the pitch for handshakes with players of both sides, stopping to have words without discrimination of colors worn. He then visits the south end sections that house Centennial 38, the Rapids supporters’ group. He flashes his New Day scarf, waves, and begins to take pictures and sign autographs for all who come up to him—all of them.


Photo: Armas stays behind to sign autographics and take pictures with fans postgame.

It takes him almost 20 minutes to make his way across the bottom of just three sections as fans of all ages ask for a second of his time, to say thank you and to congratulate the head coach on a well-deserved result. He arrives late to the Apple TV interview set up on the opposite end of the pitch, answers a few questions, and then heads into the locker room area with Justine and Christopher, who have made their way down from their seats in the stands.

10:08 p.m.

“You guys blew me away tonight,” said Armas in his postgame speech. “I love this team…What you did out there, from the opening whistle, not just the second half, all night you showed up. We are hard to beat. We’re a good team.”

After a congratulations to the squad, he takes off for the postgame press conference with media just down the hall, listening the communications team and Christopher as they list off various stats, other results from around the conference and possible topics he may be asked about. The press conference wraps up a little after 10:40 p.m., and Armas is home free for the remainder of the evening.

Now, it’s time to connect with the coaches and staff, briefly discuss the training plans for the next couple days and get to bed at a reasonable time. It’s been a long day.


Photo: Armas makes his rounds connecting with players and fans postgame.

Rapids 2 Matchday | Sunday, May 26

Sunday’s schedule takes a more relaxed approach as Armas is no longer standing at the helm of the evening’s match for Rapids 2. 2023 MLS NEXT Pro Coach of the Year, Erik Bushey, leads the second team’s squad against Minnesota United 2 at DSGP.

Armas’ morning was, again, filled with soccer, Leo, and some light film review. Leeds United and Southampton battled it out early to a 0-1 Southampton shutout, earning the side their promotion back into the Premier League after relegation just last year.

Leo gets a day out at the park as Armas walked to the nearest local one to wear him out on a day that calls for it—mid-70s and not a cloud in the sky.

5:20 p.m.

It's not five minutes since Armas arrives to the stadium for the Rapids 2 game that he runs into Wayne Frederick, a midfielder 2024 MLS SuperDraft pick from Duke. Frederick, the Rapids’ second-overall pick in the recent draft, has made eight appearances with the MLSNP side but has recently been dealing with a hip injury that’s removed him from first- or second-team involvement for the time being. The 19-year-old chats with Armas for a few minutes to catch him up on how he’s feeling before it’s time for both parties to head to their seats for the match.

Many non-dressing players that attend the Rapids 2 games at DSGP will find a suite, or even seats in the North Boundary on the north end of the stadium to sit in and watch their teammates, but Armas has other plans. He’s sitting at the top of Section 102 with a nearly complete opposite of the view he usually gets from the home bench on gamedays. Sarachan joins him, as well as other members of the soccer operations staff that have come into the stadium to knock out work before a Memorial Day holiday.


Photo: Striker Jonathan Lewis plays with Rapids 2.

Eight first-team players dress for the game with MNUFC2, seven of them starting, as both Adam Beaudry and Ethan Bandré are ‘keepers with first-team contracts. Armas sketches out the Starting XI in the notebook that never seems to leave his side and thinks out loud when he sees a play he likes—and ones he doesn’t.

“Let’s look at Jasper here in this space.”

“The press needs to happen a second sooner there—see it? Boom, boom, there it is.”

“That’s a tap-in for Noah there.”

Besides his conversation with Wayne earlier, he doesn’t have any planned conversations with players today. He’ll chat with players if the moment presents itself, but he likes to leave the speeches and the leadership to come from Bushey without any interference.

Armas will catch himself whistling a song that’s been played over the system or even singing the wrong lyrics, as he watches with a seat directly in the path of the setting sun. He alternates between making jokes and sharing commentary on the game with the other staff sitting with him, all while continuing to scribble down notes.

As substitutions are made Armas perks up—both to see the demeanor of his first-team players that are returning to the bench for the remainder of the match and the energy of the players stepping onto the pitch in their place. Four native Spanish-speakers sub on and he mentions that he’s been thinking about working more on his knowledge of the language, past what he’s been able to piece together for the occasional direction on-field or short interview with a Spanish news outlet.

Rapids 2 fights to equalize with a penalty kick conversion by the visitors in the 30th minute throughout the second half, but MNUFC2 seals its away victory with another goal just before stoppage time to end the match in a 2-0 loss.

The Rapids’ first team has two more games before a FIFA window opens and the team gets a bye week—Houston on Wednesday and Vancouver on Saturday—both on the road. Armas’ plans for the break are what might seem mundane but still justify as time off well-spent (or at the very least, productive). Appointments at the DMV, taking care of Leo, and paying off the fines he’s been unknowingly collecting on some of the toll roads in the state. But most importantly, taking some time away from the pitch and drawing board after taking on six games in 21 days.

“We're still young, we're learning we are a work in progress...every game we're in it, every game where we're pushing teams, we're putting ourselves in chances to win,” said Armas. That's the way we're structured. It's the way they fight. It's the way they run and work for each other. That's not an accident. We'll get back after some days off and get right back to how to take care of the decisive moments, the big moments in each box. We're going to become more ruthless on each end of the pitch.”