This is going to be the year . . . I feel it. I had the opportunity to check out training this morning and take some pictures. We were only allowed to check out the end of training but luckily for us the session went a little long. We caught the end of the 11 v. 11 scrimmage and had the opportunity to speak to a few members on the Rapids staff. Here are some observations and notes:
- There were well over 30 players at training, including several trialists.
- The remaining draft picks looked good. Chris Cutshaw isn’t in camp anymore but Akpan, LaBauex, and Borak looked very comfortable in the scrimmage. Akpan was deployed at striker and showed good strength and ability to play with his back to the goal. LaBauex played in the middle and looked to handle the pace of the game well. Borak looked comfortable in the back, he mostly played left back.
- Julien Baudet showed up with his hair completely bleached.
- Wells Thompson looked really strong. He’s got good speed and is super aggressive
- Local guys Stephen Keel, Dan Gargan, and Seth Trembly were at training. Keel should be returning to Portland when their season gets underway.
- Rapids Academy player James Rogers trained with the full team today. He didn’t look one bit out of place. The kid blew past a few defenders with the ball at his feet and buried it far post. Excellent turn, quick burst of speed, and clinical finish. The kid is only 16 years old but looked very comfortable as demonstrated by a clever back heel to an oncoming midfielder. Learn more about him here: Rogers Trains with the Big Boys
- We got to see a little bit of Jaime Smith. He went at players consistently and threw in some step-overs to beat challenges.
- Colin Clark played but he got a rest right after we arrived so we didn’t get see too much of him.
- Coach Smith seemed very pleased with the session. He called it a good ‘athletic’ performance but needed to be cleaned up a little on the technical side.
- Danny Earls was out at training but didn’t do anything spectacular.
- The Rapids head out to Arizona in 7 days before heading to England. They will be in Arizona at the same time as the Galaxy, Real Salt Lake, and the Columbus Crew. From our understanding, they should get a game in with each of them. Not bad for preseason opponents.
- The teams they will face in England are not confirmed but it looks like they are trying to arrange a match with the Aston Villa reserves.
- Oscar Murillo and Devon Hodges should be arriving to training sometime this week.
From the little I saw today it really looked like the players wanted it. Every player was going 100% for every ball. It made for some sloppy play at times but that type of tough mentality is what it takes to be champions. One of the buzz words we were hearing from the staff and some of the players was “winning mentality”. They want to bring in players that are tough and know how to win. I definitely think that is something that was missing last season and it is great to see that the Rapids are taking steps forward in that respect by bringing in guys like Wells Thompson and Jeff Larentowicz.
We’ll have some more pictures up soon, so stay tuned to the blog for that. Also, check back this week for a couple interviews with two of the new faces at the Rapids.