The MLS offseason is officially over and the Rapids are ready to embark on 2024's iteration of preseason training. Before the squad departed for Querétaro, Mexico, Rapids President Pádraig Smith, Head Coach Chris Armas, Cole Bassett, Keegan Rosenberry, Omir Fernandez, Djordje Mihailovic and Zack Steffen met with the media to discuss the busy offseason and preparations for the upcoming season.
Thinking about point B
The Rapids understand what and where their point A is—a place to build a foundation on, a chip-on-the-shoulder mindset, a hunger for more in 2024. Point B is the podium where Armas’ side hoists the MLS Cup.
“We start off with the destination and then work our way backwards—so, what what's your B? For us, it's pretty simple. We want to win MLS Cup. To win MLS Cup, you have to be in the playoffs, that's the very, very minimum,” said Colorado Rapids President Pádraig Smith.
That message has already been disseminated throughout the locker room and adopted by players, both returning and just arriving to Colorado’s pitch.
“When I was little, I played this game to have fun and also to win as many trophies as I can,” said Mihailovic. “But I think what's going on in Colorado, the passion that the President and the coach are bringing and what their main objective is very clear to us, to the city and to the rest of the league is. We're not here to just barely make playoffs. We're here to compete to the top of the table.”
The arrivals of Steffen, Mihailovic and Miguel Navarro brought further international talents to the Colorado pitch. Steffen and Mihailovic hold a combined 40 caps with the U. S. Men’s National Team, while Navarro represents Venezuela’s senior national team, having accumulated nine caps with the Vinotinto.
“When I was talking to Chris Sharpe and Chris Armas about coming here they were saying that Djordje was interested, and they're trying to bring in some players. I was really excited,” said Steffen. “Djordje, he’s a great player, and he has some good experience that he can help the team within. I'm just excited to start preseason and start linking up with him and then pushing him and then vice versa and then hopefully having a great season.”
Bassett, Darren Yapi and Adam Beaudry have all received multiple call-ups in the past year alone, including Yapi’s three appearances in the FIFA U-20 World Cup this year and Beaudry’s own three appearances in goal during the 2023 FIFA U-17 World Cup.
The influx of more international players provides the returning players like Bassett and young talents of Yapi and Beaudry the opportunity to elevate their game even further.
“We're all hungry players...sometimes we're in camps, sometimes we're not, but the best part about it is we're all on one team,” said Bassett. “It's good for us that we know we can control how we play this year, and we can all do it together. So hopefully, if we're all enjoying success, we're all getting called in.”
First impressions, mood going into preseason
After the full roster gathered in the Rapids’ locker room for the first time, the energy in the room was clearly high, noted Armas, Rosenberry, Mihailovic and Fernandez on separate occasions during Monday’s meeting with the media. A new manager, a returning Colorado favorite and a fresh signing reiterated the feeling of a reinvigorated squad ready to take on a campaign worthy of a run in the MLS Cup playoffs.
“Everybody's coming in with this different mentality of winning and wanting to get going, which is exciting for a new player like me coming into an environment that's ready to work and ready to win,” said Fernandez. “I think for me, it makes me more excited to get going...it's a different aura than I where I was. I think it's a lot of young guys and a lot of leadership as well that's ready to get working and ready to be on the same page.”
Rosenberry, one of the longest-tenured players in burgundy, emphasized the excitement shared by the club at the precipice of the 2024 season.
“[When] we met as a group for the first time just the other day, some of the new staff and the new players got up in front of the room and introduced themselves to everyone. And I think every single person used the words excited, exciting,” he said.
“I told Pádraig and Wayne [Brant, Rapids Chief Business Officer], the first time I saw [new players] in the locker room, it might be a little odd. But they've done such a good job this offseason...it's been exciting for us to see. And now we're kind of just chomping at the bit to get going and to get to Mexico and get to work. We've only been here a couple days in this in the stadium together, but there's an energy that wasn't there at times last year.”
Preseason training kicks off in Querétaro, Mexico, on Wednesday. A full schedule of the Rapids’ scrimmages across their time in Querétaro and Orlando, Florida, over the next month can be found here.
“As a player, I always loved the preseason,” said Armas. “It's such a good time to come together and do what we love. There'll be real joy in what's going on every day...For me, it's about the comfort zones of the players—I'm really looking to push their comfort zones physically and mentally and get guys thinking quicker, taking more leadership, playing quicker, processing quicker, reacting quicker, decision making.
“But the first thing is the team-first approach. It's not about the individual at this club....In preseason there'll be some football. There'll be some training will bring guys together. It'll be competitive. They'll enjoy it for sure. They will work hard. There'll be some team building outside of the pitch, I'm sure. Keegan and these guys are looking to play some golf at certain points. And they'll enjoy that, and we'll want them to enjoy that.”