By Mike Rice.
Having come through the academy at Wolverhampton Wanderers, Jack Price was heading into his mid-twenties and finding his playing time limited.
Then, approaching the midway part of the 2017/18 season in the English Championship, Price received an offer to move across the pond to Major League Soccer side Colorado Rapids, with the reward of more consistent minutes.
“It was a bit crazy really,” Price tells WFi. “I received a call towards the end of December in 2017, and obviously you never know going into a new league in a new country if you’ll be a regular starter every single week but I was sort of told I was going to be a key piece which was big to me at the time.
“I was 25 and just wanted to play regular football obviously coming out I’m in my 6th season now.
“There were a lot of unknowns. I could have come here and been terrible for 6 months and been back to square one, back in England, but it’s certainly been a great move and I haven’t got any regrets.”
Going into his sixth season with the Rapids, Denver has been where Price and his family have called home since 2018.
He has cemented his role in the side as captain and a key figure in the club, both on the pitch as a player well as being a leader.
“It genuinely does [feel like home now],” says Price. “I’d had a lot of time at Wolves coming through the academy and that was home — I was able to live at home in Shrewsbury.
“This has been only my second club really and I’ve been lucky to settle in and have two places I can call home. It’s not easy for new players who bounce around clubs, I can imagine that would be tough, so I’ve been very fortunate on that part.
“It also speaks volumes of what I am as a person and a player because if I wasn’t a good person, a good player and a leader then maybe I would be bouncing around.
“This is a place I like to call home now with my family, it’s been a wild five to six years but it’s been fantastic.”
He has had to adapt to a new culture of soccer in a country that has been developing its league rapidly over the time Price has been in Colorado.
The league continues to grow in size as well as in reputation each year, domestically and internationally. The environment he would have walked into in 2018 has changed and evolved considerably over the past five years.
One thing that doesn’t change, which English players would have not had the experience of in English football, is the travel and the altitude.
The United States is vast and teams across the country mean flights to games, but also completely different climates to adapt to.
“To be honest, with the altitude, I don’t think I’ve become fully accustomed to it still!” Price says.
“That’s everyone, even a lot of the boys who were born in Colorado have days when they say it’s tough. I can’t imagine what it’s like for the other teams when they come in and play us on the weekend.
“You have all these different climates across the country which take more getting used to than the travel, to be honest, especially now.
“The first two years I came the travel was pretty tough, but since covid we travel private and it’s a lot easier — we’re somewhat spoilt in that sense.
“It is the climates for me. You go to Austin and Houston and places that are ridiculously hot and humid. We are in Orlando now and you go outside, and its 33 degrees, 60% humidity, and you can’t get away from it.
“That’s probably the toughest thing. I did interviews in the past where I’ve said the travel but now looking back the climates and the changes in weather are a big factor here.”
This season will see every game broadcasted on Apple TV. No blackouts and everything is available to supporters — something which many fans around the world will be jealous is not available to them in their leagues.
It is helping to grow the game and build the following further from fans in the country as well as worldwide. For Price, the experience off the field with the media has continued to grow, especially considering MLS competes for attention with other sports leagues such as NFL and NBA who have already built a strong following over many more years.
“The Apple deal should be fantastic for the league,” Price says. “Especially here in Denver, we had a bit of a blackout where some people couldn’t watch the games, so for the fans it’s going to be a great thing especially when we are away from home, as we are for the first game of the season against Seattle.
“They’ll be able to watch and see how we are doing, and it’s only fair with the fans being the biggest part of the game to be able to watch us play.”
This season, Colorado are looking to bounce back to the playoffs. Their drop off from the heights of 2021 when they topped the Western Conference, has left a chip on the shoulder of the players and the club. They are all looking to bounce back from what they saw as not who they really are last season when they finished 10th in the West, outside the playoff spots.
They come into 2023 with an attitude and a focus on getting back to the levels they set themselves, as challengers at the top of MLS.
“There is a bit of bite between us as a club and a team as we know we didn’t perform well last year,” says Price.
“Injuries happened, I missed about half the season which wasn’t great, but its no excuse to miss out with the squad we had.
“Not just me, we had a few injuries and a lot of turnover from the 2021 season. We lost key players which was tough, but we still had enough to compete and I feel that we didn’t perform.
“We don’t like to sit back and make excuses, we’ve had a really good preseason this year and this is probably hands-down the best squad we’ve had, especially with depth, so if injuries do happen, we have plenty of players who are more than capable to fill in and do more than we have maybe previous years.
“I think this year is really exciting. I honestly do believe we are in a better place than we were last year, physically and mentally, as well as the quality we have now brought in. I’m really looking forward to that first game and gauging where we are as a team.”
A lot of new faces have arrived in this off-season to prepare the team for a big 2023. Kevin Cabral has joined from LA Galaxy, Andreas Maxsö from Bröndby, and another former Wolverhampton Wanderers midfielder has joined — Connor Ronan.
Maybe Connor Ronan called Price for a bit of advice before signing?
“To be honest, it was funny,” recalls Price. “He actually asked me after he had signed! I told him it’s a bit late now Con, if I were going to be telling you not to!
“I’ve said it many times about Connor, even when we were at Wolves together I said he was a quality player, doesn’t give the ball away, tidy in possession, and has a bit of a bite behind him as well as being a great lad to have in the changing room.
“He never moans, gets on with his job and that’s what you want. Someone with bags of ability but also doesn’t sulk and gets on with his job.
“He’s probably looked the best this pre-season. I haven’t seen him for about five years but looking back I’m like — you are you’re a quality player — so I think he’s going to be a big piece for us and I’m looking forward to playing with him if I’m being honest.”
While last year’s players have something to prove, a number of their signings also arrive after seasons they want to bounce back from.
Kevin Cabral had a torrid time in Los Angeles and will hope the new surroundings in Denver can get the best out of him once again.
Cole Bassett returns from his unsuccessful loan spell in the Netherlands, though is still just 21 years old and has plenty of ability to get back to his top level once again for the Rapids.
Price is the captain and leader of this team and takes on the role of building the confidence of players and the unity around the club.
For the young players coming into the first team, they are stepping in with a different mindset of wanting to assimilate and develop to be regular first-team players.
Darren Yapi is one of those who looks set to play a big part in 2023 and Price is excited to see him amongst the squad and for what he can bring the team in 2023.
“He’s got bags of potential,” Price says of his teammate. “Just an 18-year-old kid but he has got pace and scores goals, and apart from Diego Rubio, he’s probably the only natural number nine we have.
“It’s time now where you think — come on then what have you got because you’re going to play a good chunk of minutes this season and he hasn’t played all that much yet.
“I think it’s going to be a big season for Yapi. I’ve told him go and score 15-20 goals this season and the world’s your oyster.
“You see these young kids getting moves across from America into big European sides and I’ve said to him, why can’t that be you?
“I think it’s going to be a big season for him, he’s got great potential, he’s still just 18 and he’s got time, but why can’t he just start now and be the starting number nine for this team and score plenty of goals which we all know he’s capable of.
“My role is to keep encouraging these young players, they’re going to have dips in form but that comes with age, building consistency. I just try to keep them as confident as I can as they will be needed a lot this year.
“We’re going to have to rely on players like Darren to come in and do a job and like I say, selfishly for his own career, score a few goals and you never know where it’s going to take you.”
So, after a season of injury issues, Jack Price is ready for 2023. His 2020 and 2021 seasons saw double-digit returns for assists, and he showed himself to be one of the top central midfielders in the league. Will we see a return to this form in 2023?
“That’s exactly what I want,” he says. “That’s all I’ve been thinking about in the off-season. Just a fit and healthy season in 2023 and doing what I’m capable of.
“Not just the set pieces, but being that leader out there, the presence on the ball, and just feeling like my normal self.
“Last year was tough and even when I was out there I probably wasn’t 100%, so probably didn’t do myself justice or help the team as much as I’d like.
“It was eating away at me in the off-season because you have doubts at 30 with injuries, but for me to be physically capable of doing it again week in and week out. Hopefully nothing like that happens this season, and we can have a strong year and finish as high up the table as possible.”
And as for the Rapids, will we see that 2021 form and style, or should we expect something different going into the new season?
“Expect more of what we had in 2021 — tough to break down and good with the ball and without the ball,” Price says.
“I feel like at times we were too easy to play against last season, so we need to get back to what we were before, especially away from home.
“Going to Seattle for the first game is going to be tough. I don’t think, since I’ve been here, we have won there.
“We need to be hard to play against but also, we have players with real quality where we can go and impose ourselves on the ball and do a lot better than we did last season.”
Colorado kick off their season on Sunday, February 26, with that trip to face the 2022 Concacaf Champions League winners, Seattle Sounders — another side who missed out on the playoffs last season, and for the first time in their history.
“It will be a huge game, well worth tuning into and seeing where both sides are going into the 2023 season.”