The Colorado Rapids filled their head coaching vacancy Wednesday by hiring Anthony Hudson, a Seattle-born Brit who began his coaching career at age 27 in suburban D.C. and, eight years later, almost guided New Zealand to a World Cup berth.
The club announced the hiring Wednesday and will introduce him at a news conference at DSG Park in suburban Denver on Thursday. Hudson, 36, was among 11 initial candidates and three finalists; the other two were from continental Europe but not publicly identified. He will fill his staff with a mix of new assistants and holdovers.
Hudson replaces Steve Cooke, who served as the interim coach after Pablo Mastroeni was fired in August. The Rapids were MLS’s second-best team in the 2016 regular season but plunged to 10th place in the 11-team Western Conference this year with a 9-19-6 record and 33 points (third fewest).
“It’s an exciting moment and a wonderful opportunity,” Hudson said in a written statement. “From the start, I was impressed by the club’s culture, front office and vision for the future. I believe we share a philosophy, and now it’s just a matter of going out and getting the results that both this club and community deserve.”
Hudson was in charge of New Zealand, known as the All Whites, for three years. After winning the lightweight Oceania region, they lost to Peru in a two-leg intercontinental playoff for the final berth in next summer’s World Cup in Russia. A 0-0 home draw was followed by a 2-0 defeat in Lima two weeks ago.
Despite falling short, Hudson received credit for implementing a progressive playing style and lifting the program under trying circumstances: Many of the players lack high-level experience and, due to geography, matches against top competition are historically difficult to arrange.
Nonetheless, results against bigger teams were respectable: 2-1 defeat to Mexico, 1-1 draw with the United States, 1-0 defeat to Northern Ireland, 2-1 defeat to Japan and, at the FIFA Confederations Cup last summer, a 2-0 loss to Russia and a 2-1 setback to Mexico before a 4-0 blowout against Portugal.
Hudson’s ties to the Colorado job first surfaced on the Insider’s Twitter page in October. Had New Zealand qualified for the World Cup, the Rapids would have had to execute a contingency plan. Hudson stepped down from the All Whites last week, clearing the way to finalize the Rapids’ position.
“The way he articulated his vision and plan was very impressive,” Rapids sporting director Padraig Smith said in an interview. “He is an incredibly detail-oriented person, very knowledgeable. He knows the league very well and knows our players very well. He sent me a video of how the Rapids play and how he could tweak certain things very quickly and turn things around and execute our vision.
“We spoke quite a bit about what he was doing in New Zealand and he took us through a lot of video of his training sessions. He took through us through the challenges and difficulties he faced there. He had a lot of players with very little professional experience. The biggest issue for him, ultimately, was he just didn’t have much time with those players. We spoke in detail to one of his players, who said, ‘Look, if Anthony gets day-in and day-out interaction with these players, he will change things very quickly.’ That was very encouraging to us.”
Hudson — whose father Alan played for, among others, Chelsea and Arsenal before joining the Seattle Sounders in the North American Soccer League — began in the coaching field in 2009 by guiding Real Maryland, a third-division club based in Rockville. He also worked for McLean Youth Soccer, one of the area’s top development programs.
Hudson later moved to Tottenham Hotspur’s reserve squad, fourth-tier Newport County and Bahrain’s national program.
Before opening the 2018 season, the Rapids will enter the CONCACAF Champions League’s round of 16 in February.