On Tuesday, Chris Little was appointed interim head coach of the Rapids following the departure of Robin Fraser. We spoke with Little about his focus at the helm of the team in the remainder of the season, his coaching history, and his background in Burgundy.
Getting back to the basics
Little employs a forward-thinking approach to the final months of the 2023 campaign; one focused on simplicity as a means of building confidence to promote point-worthy results.
“In professional sports you can't control the past, you can only learn from it. We have to right now put our energy and our attention into what we're doing in the future,” he said. “We have eight games for the remainder of the season, so everything we're doing in that is changing momentum. Simplifying things for the players, putting them into positions that they're comfortable with, and they get confidence from doing the simple things well, those are things that we can control that we're putting our energy into.
“The other thing we can control is our environment. Obviously, when you're losing and you're in that slide in momentum, you lose confidence. When you lose confidence, you lose the energy. And so it's about making the training environment really fun, making that training environment really competitive and get some intensity and bring a freshness and a life back to the team to help them in this last eight games.”
“Everything we do is about people”
Right off the bat, Little emphasizes the importance of connecting with the players. He met with each player individually since becoming interim head coach, ensuring that they understand the changes made and asking for feedback.
He also understands the potential concern from new signings such as Rafael Navarro, Sidnei Tavares, Andrew Gutman, and as of Thursday afternoon, Luis Diaz, given that the leader they came into the team under has changed.
“Everything we do is about people,” he said. “These guys are all human beings, are all going to have different perspectives, they're going to have different emotions, different feelings with it. And it's really talking to them to find out, ‘How are you doing? How do you feel about this?’
“So there's different spectrums and emotions, but each person is going to have their unique perspective on it. And it's just talking through it and making sure that they're in the right space and they feel as though they belong to this group, and they can execute things we need to do, all toward getting everyone in the right direction.”
Some of the questions posed to players and the rest of the technical staff deals with the smaller details, like mealtimes and travel accommodation. To Little, making small changes has the potential to lead to an improved mindset and transition in momentum for the remainder of the season.
A history of coaching experience
Little has coaching experience at nearly every level of U.S. soccer. In addition to his time as a Rapids assistant coach, Little served as head coach of Tacoma Defiance when the club was still playing in the USL Championship, as well as Director of Coaching for the Seattle Sounders FC Academy. Prior to his time in Washington, Little was head coach of Elon University and also served as Director of Coaching and Player Development for the North Carolina Youth Soccer Association.
His knowledge of the sport at each level gives him the context and preparation needed to step into the role of interim head coach in Major League Soccer.
"I've had many experiences and worn many hats, so I think I'm prepared for the opportunity,” he said. “And we know that we've got to do certain things to change momentum and really help the players that can prove that performance levels and show what they're really we feel as though they're capable of showing.”
Favorite moments in Burgundy
Since joining the Rapids in February of 2021, Little has two memories he can point to as some of his favorites with the club: the team clinching a Best in the West title in 2021 and traveling with the Rapids’ Unified team to LA Galaxy for a doubleheader matchup in 2022.
“The manner that [Best in the West] happened with the other teams losing, that was a special moment to share with the coaches and the players that was included was incredible. And another favorite moment was having the Special Olympics team travel with us to Los Angeles last year. We enjoyed a pregame walk with them and then they held their prom after. That was something that was pretty special to me, and showing how much they care about our team and showing that we're one club and they're a part of it. It's much bigger than just 11 players.”