In 180-plus minutes for the Colorado Rapids, Kevin Harbottle hasn’t had a chance to breathe because FC Dallas and Philadelphia Union players have respectfully made him feel unwelcome. In both games, Harbottle attracted immediate pressure every time he got the ball, and you could see opposing teammates circling like sharks to keep the Chilean from darting free.
“Kevin needs to understand -- and we addressed it with him -- that the league is physical,” Colorado head coach Oscar Pareja said after practice on Wednesday. “We can use all the talent that he has. He has a great change of speed. He has a very good 10 yards. When he gets the ball and turns at you and he goes, that’s a difference-maker.”
Harbottle’s quickness catches your attention, whether you’re a fan or a defender. But no one has seen the quickness do any damage yet.
“I need to help him,” Pareja explained, “and the games will help him, to understand that his quickness with the ball has to be used in the last third -- not in the middle, not in the back. We don’t need that. He needs to be simple there because that’s where the pressure comes. And I can give him the freedom in the last third to go do whatever he wants.”
After two games, Pareja likes what he sees in Harbottle, and the coach is considering the best way to capitalize on the Chilean blur.
“He’s getting fitter,” Pareja said. “He’s getting there. He may be an option to bring in on Saturday. It may be an option for him just to see the game and come on later in the game."
As a starter or a spark off the bench, Harbottle is high on Pareja’s list.
“I know we’re going to get the best from him because he has something different,” the coach concluded. “But he has to use it well. If not, he’s going to get that pressure and be outnumbered when he receives the ball.”
Saturday will be Harbottle's first opportunity to see be what the Subaru Rocky Mountain Cup rivarly is all about. No better time to take Pareja's words to heart and use that skill to cause Real Salt Lake some damage (4 pm. MT, Altitude)
Shea tried out for the Colorado Rapids in 1995 and, after failing to make a team, wrote a 1,000-word description of his unsuccessful tryout. He then proceeded to cover the Rapids for 15 years for various websites and local media outlets, up to and including the club's MLS championship in 2010. In between, he dared to try out again in 2002 and 2006. Send comments and feedback to Shea at firstname.lastname@example.org.