The Colorado Rapids have hit rock-bottom and are turning to one of their former players to help them stabilize. Interim coach Conor Casey gets thrown into the mix Friday night when the Rapids host the Vancouver Whitecaps in their first match since firing Anthony Hudson.
Currently the only MLS team without a victory, the Rapids (0-7-2) parted ways with Hudson on Wednesday. Colorado also finished 11th in the 12-team Western Conference last season, and Hudson had a record of 8-26-9 in charge.
"We appreciate Anthony's commitment to the Rapids organization during his time with the club," Rapids executive vice president and general manager Padraig Smith said in a statement. "This is a pivotal period in the development of our team and it's in the club's best interest to make a change now. We still have a lot of season left and we look forward to getting back on track."
The one-time national coach of New Zealand was critical of the Rapids following Saturday's 1-0 loss at reigning MLS Cup champion Atlanta, pointing out the side's lack of talent compared to other clubs. Colorado is the third team in MLS history to go winless in the first nine matches, joining Toronto FC (0-9-0) in 2012 and Real Salt Lake (0-5-6) in 2007.
"Today was just another example of the real gulf in class," he said. "I think every single game we're playing against teams and their DPs (designated players) are making a difference. People think we are on the same level, we're not.
"If this was a promotion-and-relegation league, we'd have been relegated by now."
Hudson's reference to designated players does carry some merit since the Rapids have no outfield players among their DPs. Colorado's lone designated player is 40-year-old keeper Tim Howard, who has yet to record a clean sheet while conceding an MLS-worst 24 goals.
Casey, who was an assistant coach under Hudson and a teammate of Howard on the U.S. national team, was a striker for the Rapids and part of their 2010 MLS Cup-winning team. He joined the Rapids staff in January 2017, and this is his first head coaching job at any level.
"I've been a part of this club since I was in high school," Casey told the Denver Post on Wednesday. "I know this club inside and out. I know its strengths and weaknesses. The incredible fanbase is thirsty for success and everyone involved with the club wants to get those feelings back. I'm now in the position to help with that."
Vancouver (1-3-5) arrive in Denver looking to create some separation from Colorado as it is 11th in the West and only four points better than the Rapids. The Whitecaps have taken five points from their last four matches after a 1-1 draw at home versus Philadelphia on Saturday.
Doneil Henry staked Vancouver to a lead late in the first half, heading home a corner kick from Ali Adnan, but the Whitecaps could not hold out in the second 45 for the victory. Coach Marc Dos Santos, though, may have found his best starting XI as the same group also accounted for Vancouver's lone win of the season - a 1-0 upset of Los Angeles FC on April 17.
"We did enough to win the game. We created enough opportunities," Dos Santos told the Vancouver Sun. "Today, we lost two points. I'm very, very disappointed. It's 1-1, but I don't feel it's a point. I feel we deserved more."
The road team won both matches last year, with Vancouver winning 2-1 at Colorado as Yordy Reyna had a goal and an assist. The Rapids ended a five-match winless run (0-3-2) versus the Whitecaps with a 1-0 victory in the most recent meeting.