COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — One onlooker who was no doubt conflicted during the Colorado Rapids’ 3-1 win over Toronto FC on Sunday was Julien Baudet.
The French center back was obviously happy that his team won but was still smarting over the fact that he could play no part in the game after his sending off against Kansas City the previous week.
The ejection in the Wizards game was yet another obstacle the defender has had to overcome since singing for the Rapids last summer.
This season, he wasn’t able to get on the field until 10 minutes from the end of the home opener against Chicago following an end of preseason calf injury. Last year, he suffered a broken arm against the New York Red Bulls on his home debut and was out for more than a month before returning and scoring the winner against Houston.
It has very much been a stop-start career for Baudet so far in Colorado.
A tall, physical player who honed his game in England with the likes of Notts County and Crewe Alexandra, there’s no doubt Baudet is struggling to adapt to some of the more stringent demands of refereeing in the MLS. The Frenchman points out that he has been sent off twice in just 15 MLS games. He had only previously been sent off five times in 340 games during his career in France and England.
“I had a chat with the manager,” Baudet said. “He does not want to take the physical presence out of me because that is my game but I have to be more careful because I don’t want a reputation as a dirty player. What has reassured me when I look at my record is that I don’t come off as a dirty player or as a player that loses his head.”
Challenges and different refereeing approaches aside, Baudet said he’s enjoying his time in Colorado and the U.S. and wants to league to be right up there in terms of quality with some of the European leagues. He said he was energized by the recent talk about such fellow countrymen as Thierry Henry and Robert Pirès coming to play in the U.S. but warned that European players cannot come over and coast.
“MLS has some very good players, very good talent,” Baudet said. “It would be awesome to have those type of players coming in as long as they bring something to MLS. As long as players don’t come here for the sake of it. You want to add quality to the team and to MLS.”
In frequent touch with players he knows well from his time in France and England, Baudet said he also often discusses players in Europe with the coaching staff in Colorado who value his several years experience there.
“They are all in the game and wonder what it’s like in America,” he said of friends and former colleagues back in Europe. “If I am asked my opinion, I’m going to give it to you straight.”
That includes, he said, letting head coach Gary Smith and technical director Steve Guppy know that some players up for discussion just wouldn’t be suitable for the challenges of MLS.
For now, the 31-year-old will be focusing on getting a regular starting place in central defense for the Rapids and, hopefully, a clear and consistent run in the team. He may change his game a little, but don’t expect too much different in his approach.
“I’m going to have to adapt,” he said. “But I won’t be changing my game too much. If you think I am going to step off, you are wrong. I like a challenge, I’m a tough tackler and I’m always going to be very physical."