I have an idea for Hendry Thomas and the Rapids in general, based on a retired high school teacher’s story about managing students. No teacher would take this risk today, but it served him well for more than two decades. At 6’4″, his size alone would intimidate students, but he also had a scar above one eye that made it look evil regardless of the teacher’s mood.

On his first day, a football player challenged him during class and hit a nerve. The teacher had the boy off his feet against the wall with his face in his face. Pissed, he didn’t say anything and set the boy down.

This fact-based myth gave him 25 years of class management as students repeated the story. The guy is actually a sweetheart, but his scar, his size, and his reputation tell a different story.

Everyone in MLS knows that Hendry Thomas doesn’t clean house with a feather duster. When referees see Hendry sprinting from a guy’s blind spot, their whistles hit their lips before he hits the ball with a perfectly legal slide tackle. Yes, not all of his challenges comply with the laws of the game, but now we’re seeing a battle between reputation and reality for officials and disciplinary committee members.

So here’s my suggestion for restoring Hendry’s reputation (and rancor management in general). It’s the same prescription I have for maximizing the altitude at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.

Sin falta.

Don’t foul.

Starting with good possession, the Rapids can make the opponents gasp chasing the ball. This often leads to more fouls from the visitors hoping for a rest, thereby increasing the rancor factor. Controlling the ball and the game kills their will to breathe. More important, the Rapids don’t foul when they have the ball. While the Rapids rest in possession and time their runs, they can slowly twist the oxygen bottle knob toward zero for the visitors.

Without the ball, the Rapids share a defensive posture that all 30 guys understand because they’ve put it to use in first-team and reserve games. When everyone positions correctly, it works. Meanwhile, the opposition has to work to retain possession without getting to a danger area. You can see opposing attackers lose steam and ideas, ultimately flopping from butterfly farts and staying down until their COBRA runs out.

The referee is (we hope) the most attentive person in the stadium, and despite any oaths to remain impartial, referees can’t help but favor the team that plays attractive soccer, doesn’t foul, and doesn’t get in their grill for any reason. The ball is more likely to bounce your way if you don’t crucify the officials every other minute.

Players who face the Rapids look over their shoulders because Hendry might be in the back of their minds. Months from now, perhaps at the conclusion of a successful playoff run, these players might still remember the early-season crunching from the Rapids midfielder. The reputation can live on in players’ minds while escaping referee consciousness, that is, if Hendry can maintain his ferocity and effectiveness without fouling at all (or at least look like he’s trying).

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