In an exclusive interview, Colorado Rapids player Michael Barrios spoke with 90min about his first season with the Major League Soccer club. He has quickly become an integral part of the club’s success, as the Rapids sit in third place on the Western Conference table.
Barrios explained the intense process of adapting to the quick-paced nature of MLS, life in the United States and his ultimate goals with the Colombian national team.
How are you navigating through your first season with the Colorado Rapids?
We prepared to be in the first couple places in the table, and as of now we are succeeding. The group is very united, we are all like one family all working towards the same objective. Our goal is to make the playoffs.
Colorado is not a team that has made that much of an impact outside of the United States, are you trying to bring attention to the team?
We know the hardest part of the season is coming, because you feel tired and many travel during international breaks. Up until now, we have been a surprise [package] in the league because no one expected anything from us and we have beat important teams, home and away. We still have some important games, and we will play them as if they are a final in order to qualify.
Does the fact that Colorado doesn’t have big money players imply that the Rapids are built differently from other successful teams in the league?
That isn't what characterizes us. We don’t have a particular star like certain other teams, we are a humble side, we like to keep a low profile. No one in the league expected us to be within the first three places of the Western Conference table.
What differences do you notice between the Rapids and Dallas?
The big difference is when I arrived in Colorado the trainer communicated with me that they wanted to maintain a higher average age of players plus one or two younger athletes. As opposed to Dallas, that team bets a lot more on younger talent every year and they characterize themselves as being the best academy in the league. I feel like Colorado’s style favors me more because I have joined a group that embraced me in the best way and made it easy to adapt.
You talk about adapting, is it difficult for a Colombian to join MLS?
It was something I didn’t expect, it hit me hard. It was four or five months that I struggled to adapt to MLS football because the league is very physically demanding. You run constantly, and goals come in unexpected moments.
The league is very fast, while the Colombian one was more technical and slower. Players managed the game. Here in MLS, the only pause that exists is when the coach wants to sub in a player or when a referee calls for VAR. It took a while to get used to but I think it’s helped make me an important player in every team I play in.
Would you recommend Major League Soccer to Colombian players?
Yes, because the league is growing year by year and a lot of players are arriving for a range of reasons. A lot of people view it as a retirement league or as a business opportunity, but they are wrong. It’s one of the best leagues in the world, and in a couple of years it can come to resemble the leagues in England or Germany that are very competitive. That is something I have come to figure out while being here. Any team can beat each other and it’s not always the same clubs at the top.
What do you think about James Rodriguez not being called up to the Colombian national team?
It was surprising because we all know the quality of James, but we know the inconvenience he had during the Copa America and the things that were said. I don't know if he has issues with the staff but Colombia still cares about Falcao. He had the opportunity to be called up again. James should keep working hard and think he will still be called up.
How do you think Colorado would do if they were in the Colombian league?
The way we are playing I think we could be fighting for one of the first spots, because we are united and going for the same goal. We all support each other on and off the pitch. Without a doubt, if we were in the Colombian League we would be fighting for first.
Who were your references when you were growing up?
I had the opportunity to play with Victor Pacheco in the beginning of my career in Colombia. I watched a lot of his videos on the internet and enjoyed when I had the opportunity to play with him. He always said that I could be like him and that motivated me to keep fighting for my dream. I am very grateful to him.
Which MLS players surprised you?
Miguel Almirón has immense qualities, Atlanta United player Ezequiel Barco is a difficult player to cover for defenders. Josef Martínez is very strong. There have been a lot of big name players that have come in too, Andrea Pirlo, Maxi Morález, Frank Lampard, and Steven Gerrard.
If you could choose, would you prefer to win the MLS Cup or be called up to the national team?
The national team. It has been my dream since I began my professional career. I am not discarding winning the league because it is another dream of mine. I don’t want to leave the league without winning, but I would choose the national team.