Cup of Coffee with Cealey: Rapids ready for Portland Timbers

Colorado Rapids interim head coach Steve Cooke joins Cealey Godwin on the phone for a cup of coffee as they head into their match with the Portland Timbers.

My routine every morning is pretty much the same. After hitting the snooze button twice, I manage to get my feet to the ground and start taking care of the animals and my morning chores.

I also make sure to get coffee -- iced coffee. It can be from anywhere and it can be any flavor, but it’s got to be iced coffee. Call me an iced coffee snob if you wish.

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Oddly enough, when I got on the phone with Colorado Rapids interim head coach Steve Cooke this morning, he was also downing some (regular) coffee in the team meal room, although he says he prefers four shots of espresso.

Now I know where "Cookie" gets all his energy.

The boys in burgundy are currently in the Pacific Northwest taking on the Portland Timbers. It's a big game for Coach Cooke to get his first win, but a win could also prevent the Timbers from jumping up in the Western Conference with the help of a Seattle Sounders win against the Vancouver Whitecaps on the same night.

There’s 11 games left on the Rapids regular season schedule and things are a still a bit shaky for Colorado. It’s been a full week since Pablo Mastroeni’s firing and Cooke was named interim head coach. Although he’s been with the team since 2010, it’ll take some more time for him to implement certain adjustments (i.e. a new formation but we’ll get into that in a bit.)

Besides the coaching change, wins have been tough to come by. Colorado is on a six-game skid and hasn’t nabbed a victory since July 1. To make matters worse, after giving up an own-goal in a 1-nil loss to D.C. United on Saturday, the Rapids have moved into a three-way tie for the league’s worst record.

Now that I've made it seem mainly doom-and-gloom for Rapids fans (sorry), Let's have a chat with Cooke.

Cealey Godwin, 9News Reporter: “Hey there, Steve. What are your feelings after your first outing as a head coach, and what are you looking forward to as you head into your second game as the Rapids interim head coach?”

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Steve Cooke, Colorado Rapids interim head coach: “My feelings remain the same. Positive and energetic about the whole experience, you know. Obviously disappointing results of the weekend. I thought in the second half, the performance was much brighter than the first half. We seemed a little bit sluggish and a little bit maybe nervous, a bit too tight I think in the first half. We kind of invited some pressure onto ourselves but I think our responsive second half was excellent. I think we’re really, really unfortunate not only with the goal but not to have scored two or three goals and won the game confidently. That was my overriding impression."

However, the game is now in the past and Colorado is onto their next opponent.

SC: "We have Portland that we play tonight, one of the top teams in the league, certainly from an attacking standpoint. They are as good as it gets, they are a really bright, fast-paced team. When you go forward, you’ve got some really good individual players. I think Caleb Porter (Portland Timbers Head Coach) has done a great job this season especially with that group of players. They really do pose problems not only individually but collectively as they can hurt teams pretty quickly as they’ve been showing at home especially recently now.”

CG: “I can agree with you on that one. They’re trying to chase the Western Conference lead right now.”

SC: “Yeah.”

CG: “But how do you think the team (Rapids) adjusted to the new 4-3-3 formation? It seemed like early on in the first half of Saturday’s game there was a bit of nerves.”

SC: “It could be. I think they adapted very well. The players felt like they figured things out pretty quickly. It kind of felt like after those first 20-25 minutes that they adapted pretty well and kind of got the numbers right into the midfield and started playing through the lines. I think we moved the ball wide pretty well in the game and certainly we caused a few little opportunities. When we moved the ball wide and then quickly back into the middle, I think we made some great runs behind the back four and we flipped a couple balls in. I think they really looked more fluid and much more exciting going forward. And I think they really did a great job, but obviously tonight presents a much much different challenge where we’re away from home against one of the top teams in the Western Conference. It’s on turf which is never easy when you don’t play on it too often but I think the guys are up for the challenge. I think they’ll be hard working and energetic, and hopefully we can repeat what we did against Portland at home a few weeks ago.”

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CG: “Yeah, back in June, a 2-1 victory. Great to win against a team like Portland but not easy to play there. You mentioned the turf, you’ve got the fan base, but is there other factors as well that make it tough to win there?”

SC: “I think it’s everything. Certainty the turn doesn’t make it easy for you when you don’t play on it often. The crowd is awesome. They’re loud, they’re ruckus, they get behind their team and it creates a real energy in the stadium. We love to be around it, creates a great atmosphere in Portland and I think more importantly, it is a challenge. The players need to be determined and together and really work hard for each other, with and without the ball. You’re gonna be tested in a game like this, away from home. There’s going to be moments in the game where their backs are going to be against the wall a little bit and you are being tested and not just your ability that’s being tested but it’s your determination and perseverance and your ability to work hard for each other. And I think the players will rise to that challenge.”

CG: “In Saturday’s game, the shots outside the box and the slants behind the backline were great chances. Do you want to see more of that tonight?”

SC: “We want to be aggressive when we’re in the final third. We want to be aggressive and go fast to goal and create opportunities to shoot and get inside the penalty area and score. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. But tonight, more of the same. Hopefully when we get into those attacking areas, if we’re in there a little less often, that’s okay. We just need to find that quality and composure at the right moments.”

Cooke was tight-lipped on tonight's lineup but expect some slight adjustments following last week's 1-0 loss after an own-goal. The team will also need to think about their following game against Real Salt Lake Saturday where they'll need fresh legs for the No. 8 ranked team in the conference.

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I’d like to thank Cooke for joining me for a cup of coffee (over the phone) this morning. Best of luck to him as he seeks out his first win as an MLS head coach.

The Rapids take on the Timbers tonight at Providence Park at 8:30 p.m. (MT).