Photo courtesy of Colorado Rapids
Chris Martinez gave to the Colorado Rapids as a player, and now he wants to give back as a coach.
The defender, who competed for Clemson University from 1989-1992, played for the Major League Soccer club from 1997-2001. Martinez played 108 regular-season matches, helping the Rapids reach the MLS Cup Final in 1997 and reach the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final in 1999.
“Transitioning from being a player to a coach was very appealing to me, as it’s the game I love most and know best,” Martinez told USLPDL.com. “Having the ability to share knowledge, insight and experiences with younger players is very rewarding as well.”
Martinez rejoined the Rapids as the Development Academy Program Director and the Head Coach of the Under-18 DA team in August 2016. Months later, the MLS side announced that the Colorado Rapids U23 would compete in Premier Development League.
“When offered the head coaching job of the Colorado Rapids U23 squad, I jumped all over it,” Martinez said. “Part of my professional development as a coach is continuing to gain knowledge and experience through the extensive resources a professional club provides.
“Adding this vital piece to our player development pyramid allows us to provide greater competition to our MLS Homegrown prospects and other young college players that we’ve identified,” he added. “This platform provides us, as a staff, the ability to continue to evaluate all of our players in trainings and games that are fast-paced, high-energy and pose several puzzles to solve. We are very grateful and fortunate for this opportunity.”
The focus for Martinez – who is familiar with the PDL having coached several players who participated in the league before – and the Rapids U23 staff is clear: help the players develop so that they can one day play at the professional level.
“Players that have their priorities straight and take a holistic approach, while maintaining a good life balance, will give themselves a chance to be successful,” Martinez said. “At the next level, all players are extremely fit, athletic, possess solid skill sets and have good soccer IQs for the most part. Mentality, in my professional opinion, is the great differentiator and, more often than not, weeds out the players that make it from those who don’t.”
While the season is still young for the Rapids U23, who are competing in the Mountain Division alongside FC Tucson, Albuquerque Sol F.C., the FC Boulder U23 and the BYU Cougars, Martinez is excited to have so many talented players to work with this summer.
“We truly have a mix of young players that love to compete and bring the correct attitude and approach to each and every session,” Martinez said. “We have several current Development Academy players rostered that we are keeping a close eye on, such as Sammy Vines and Milo Garavanian, as well as some Colorado Rapids alumni players – Sam Raben, Connor Gavigan.
“Miguel Jaime is another player we are glad is onboard. The bottom line for us is strictly player development. We started two U16 DA players that started in our inaugural match at FC Boulder – tremendous experience for these young men.”
Currently 1-1-1, Martinez and the Rapids U23 will face off against Albuquerque Sol F.C. at 5:30 p.m. MDT from Dick's Sporting Goods Park Field 20 on Friday. The club will then play the BYU Cougars at 5:30 p.m. MDT from Dick's Sporting Goods Park Field 20 on Saturday.
“I feel the PDL has done a tremendous job in providing a very professional and first-class league for these young players to compete in,” Martinez said. “The extensive coverage of the teams, players and matches taking place around the country is exciting for the players and staffs to keep tabs on.”