At the end of each training session, Wolde Harris gathers the Rapids attacking corps for a final round of drills.
The focus is primarily on finishing, but Harris, one of the Rapids’ newest assistant coaches, takes each opportunity to improve his players’ touch, movement and field awareness.
“Look over your shoulder. Find the defender. Curl your run to open more of the goal,” he says as he feeds balls to the forwards and midfielders. “Good. That’s it!”
Harris is, in a word, meticulous. It’s not rare to see him pull a player aside to offer advice or correct a bit of technique. He is demanding, but he is sure to let the players know when they’ve done well. Harris, himself a former star for the Rapids and Jamaica national team, often joins the players in small-sided games and other drills, and it’s clear the players have taken to their new coach.
“He’s a striker coach and I want to score goals,” said 19-year-old midfielder Cole Bassett, who was Colorado’s co-leading scorer in 2020. “He’s going to help me a ton with that.”
Harris’ journey to rejoining the Rapids as a coach took years, if only a little more than an hour’s drive. Since 2016, Harris was an assistant coach, and briefly interim head coach, at Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC in the USL Championship. Harris knew Robin Fraser previously and they kept in contact while Fraser was an assistant in Toronto and when he took over as Rapids head coach in August 2019. The opportunity to join Fraser’s staff arose this past December, when the two happened to be in South Florida, where Fraser grew up and Harris also has roots.
“Out of the blue I got a call from him this past December,” Harris said. “He said, ‘Hey, I’m in town, would you like to meet up and have a little dinner?’ That’s how it came about.”
The two “had some dinner, talked football—a lot of football,” Harris said, and Fraser asked if he would be interested in joining his team.
“Obviously Robin is a very open-minded person and he wants to get different perspectives,” Harris said. “With the coaching staff that we have, we have good people and people that have a broader perspective of everything but also bring those position-specific ideas that help him make a better, more informed decision. Just having our conversations, Robin was a defender himself, and Neil [Emblen] was a defender/midfielder, so was Chris [Little]. So having that final piece, that forward’s perspective, I believe brings things full circle for him and the coaching staff and it allows us to better inform our players and train our players to find success within the game.”
Harris’ skillset is two-fold. In addition to his expertise as a forward, he is also proficient in Spanish, which he learned through soccer and while playing abroad in El Salvador. It’s particularly useful when offering feedback to wingers Michael Barrios and Braian Galván, of Colombia and Argentina, respectively, both of whom can understand some English but are far more comfortable in their native Spanish.
“Especially as a coach, being able to affect the game through players, you have to have that buy-in from them to trust you,” Harris explained. “It’s just part of developing that relationship.”
With the season right around the corner, Harris and the rest of the Rapids are all in on 2021 and what awaits the club in years to come.
“There’s attention to detail,” he said. “There are goals that we want to meet that are pretty achievable and everybody in the club is aligned with those goals. And I think that goes back to the core values of the club. Over the past couple of years, we’ve made tremendous strides in moving towards winning the MLS Cup. It’s really all about sticking to the task, paying attention to the details and trying to go out there and execute.”