“Big energy and real optimism.”
Chris Armas’ highlights from the first few days of Colorado’s preseason training camp can be summed up into a few words, but you can feel how much weight the words hold when he speaks them.
Currently training in Querétaro, Mexico, the Rapids are preparing to reclaim their story as a top contender in MLS in 2024 under the guidance of Armas. Colorado’s busy offseason saw numerous player movements and coaching changes, including the appointment of Armas, three SuperDraft pick signings, two veteran U.S. Men’s National Team player signings, and more.
The Rapids’ roster is assembled of returning Colorado players, veterans of the game from around the league and Europe, and young SuperDraft picks. Each player brings their own level of competition and strengths in their respective positions, but the glue holding them together is the high energy, standard-of-excellence mindset that Armas is already seeing unfold.
“When you throw [the players] all out there, it's a little choppy at times, naturally, because we have big numbers in preseason,” he said. "Our style of play has big demands. I think they all understand this feels different, but I'm loving watching the group come together.”
The theme of “togetherness” runs not only through training and being there for one another on the pitch but also in the meal room. The use of cellphones and headphones when breaking bread with one another is a small thing that can hinder the feeling of community when many players are just now getting to know one another.
“We're not saying you cannot do that stuff ever, but what we really are encouraging is togetherness and getting to know people,” said Armas. "We've seen guys put down the headphones, guys put down the phones, laughing, talking—I leave the room and they're still there."
"Every team is going through this initial forming stage of a group. There are stages to this—you come together and hit some road bumps, you get comfortable again and then you hit some bumps...it’s important to know the different stages that the team can go through. That's important to understand early on and see what organic happens and then what we can do to really try to foster relationships.”
The Rapids’ roster has historically not been one that featured one superstar player that everything is built around but rather a whole team of bright players that shine when they’re together, an ethos that Armas wants to continue nurturing in Colorado.
“If there’s not real togetherness, real buy-in, everyone pulling in the same direction, understanding that off the pitch there's got to be something special brewing, you can never bring a style of play to life,” he said. “You can see that in all sports. I love listening to some of these NFL guys now, these quarterbacks always talking about the team, it's always about giving credit to the next guy.
“We know that that's one of the ingredients for success but it's also for our style of play, to be a team that really can be good with the ball. You have to have guys that get on the same page, coaches that get clarity and they pull in the same direction. And then against the ball, we want to be pressing monsters and a team that really is dangerous when we don't have the ball. Well guess what? If one guy or two guys are not keen on that, it won't work. So, that's becoming our team's ethos right away.”
In his various meetings with players, staff and the media since being appointed as Head Coach, Armas has emphasized his desire to look to Point B: the point where the Rapids are winning Rocky Mountain Cup, or becoming MLS Cup champions, or achieving any number of goals he and the team sets for the upcoming season. “How are we going to get to Point B?” has echoed in the halls of DICK’S Sporting Goods Park in the young months of the year already.
But when he envisions himself at Point B, thinking all the way back to Point A where he began with a new team intent on making a difference in 2024, he wants to see a number of accomplishments, all that starts coming together during preseason:
“A team that is completely together, completely on the same page with what we're asking on the pitch and pulling in the same direction, enjoying each other, clarity in roles, understanding of the expectations, understanding what a Rapids player is, competing, never giving in, understanding what it means to our fans to play our football.”
"Now, the seeds are being laid, the meetings are being had, the human contact [being made], there's all this stuff brewing right now, every day. We’ll have success later on, and we will say it started way back then in preseason and in the very first meeting in the locker room. We sat in a room and we laid out what this is going to be about. We had a team builder, and we started coming together right away.”