It takes something special to leave a club after winning multiple trophies over four years.
For Chris Little, after four years as the Academy Director of Coaching at Seattle Sounders FC, the lure to being an assistant coach in Colorado was the vision.
“What’s really stood out from Pádraig [Smith, Rapids Executive VP & General Manager] and the leadership of this club, is that they’ve set out a clear identity, a clear vision for the club going forward,” Little explained. “They know who they are, they’re comfortable with that and they know then how they can be successful. I think that’s super important.”
“If you look at trading up for a draft pick, a big player like [Philip] Mayaka, young players like Sam Vines, Cole Bassett coming through, really good international players with good character, like Jack Price— those are all key indicators of the execution of this vision and this identity, this Rapids Way,” Little said. “Those are certainly things that you’re looking at and stand out and you start to see that we’re executing on this plan and this identity.”
Little’s focus—and a pillar of the direction the Rapids have taken since publishing The Rapids Way—will be on player development and integrating players from the Rapids Academy into the First Team. He enjoyed considerable success in this arena in Seattle, leading Sounders Academy teams to the 2018 U.S. Soccer Development Academy National Championship and 2018 Generation adidas Cup titles, and as head coach of Tacoma Defiance of the USL Championship in 2020. Of the seven Homegrowns currently on Seattle’s roster, six of them played for Tacoma in 2020, and five earned MLS minutes.
Before Little arrived in Washington, he was Head Men’s Soccer Coach at Elon University for three years and was also Academy Director of NC Fusion in North Carolina. Originally from Edinburgh, Scotland, Little moved to England as a child and played soccer growing up and in college at UNC Pembroke. He was inducted into the UNCP Athletic Hall of Fame in 2012.
“We’re thrilled to bring Chris in for many reasons, but two in particular,” Smith said. “He has a wonderful track record when it comes to the development of young talent. He’s also one of the top assistant coaches out there in our mind. For him to help on the First Team side and use his expertise in the area of player development and continuing to help all of our players, not just the youngsters, get better and reach their maximum potential just makes this a great fit on all fronts.”
This week, four Rapids players—Bassett, Vines, Jonathan Lewis and Auston Trusty—were named to the provisional U.S. roster for next month’s Olympic qualifying tournament. Add in the rest of the Rapids’ young corps and reason for Little’s positive outlook becomes clear.
“As we started into our search [for an assistant coach], we started hearing a lot about Chris and his prowess at Seattle, what he’s done there and how highly respected he was,” Fraser said. “Everything about him told us that he was a really, really good developmental coach, meaning not just with younger players, but that he’s very analytical in his approach and an extremely hard worker. We felt like he was someone, through our discussions, who would really add to our staff. We feel we’re doing a lot of really good things and his very analytical approach would be good for us.”