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Photo by John Babiak

Chris Klute at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park

After a few minutes gushing about Chris Klute’s excellent game against the San Jose Earthquakes last Saturday, head coach Pablo Mastroeni finally said, “Scratch that. He played confident, relaxed, and fluid.” It was the kind of performance that makes a coach proud and talkative.*

“I thought Chris [Klute] was the best player on Saturday, top to bottom,” said injured Colorado Rapids captain Drew Moor on the Rapids Podcast, Episode #79.

Be honest. You were surprised to learn that Klute’s assist on Gaby Torres’ 84th-minute goal against the Earthquakes at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on September 27 was his first of the season. Klute led the team with seven assists in 2013, and in preseason he looked likely to contribute more to the Rapids attack. Mysteriously, the Klute we remember didn’t arrive until last Saturday.

Veteran MLS writer Brian Jennings caught up with Klute after the 1-1 Earthquakes finale.

Klute returns to form and Rapids lineup

By Brian Jennings

Last season, defender Chris Klute was a revelation to Colorado Rapids fans and coaches. With his low-key demeanor, he rarely looked rattled on the pitch. His gliding strides down the sideline looked effortless, and he had a knack for crossing the ball into dangerous spots for his teammates.

However, 2014 has seen Klute become somewhat of an enigma for the Rapids.

“It’s been a roller-coaster this year being on and off the field, injuries at the beginning of the season,” said the 24-year-old outside back. Beginning with an injury that kept him out of the lineup back in April and continuing with a coach’s decision to take a seat on the bench in September, Klute has been eager to show coaches, fans, and himself that he is still the same confident contributor who plays a vital role in the Colorado back line.

“I’ve been out for the last couple of weeks,” Klute said. “I’ve been thinking more about the team, so I was just on the sideline cheering everyone. But it felt better being on the field for sure.”

Last week, Klute took a different approach to mental preparation before the game. He simplified his thinking, saying, “It was just kind of more about myself and what I do best. It sounds selfish, but it was for the team. I didn’t want to think about how the season’s going. Just get back to how I used to play.”

This focus definitely paid dividends in his recent match as Klute looked back to his “old self,” tracking back with grit, defending physically, and flying up the wing in attack mode.

“For me,” Klute said of the Earthquakes game, “it was an opportunity to show I should be starting kind of thing. We’re in a tough spot right now, so hopefully my presence will change how things are going.”

It certainly did. Klute constantly pushed forward from his right-back position, almost becoming an extra midfielder in the attack. It was his perfectly delivered cross to Gabriel Torres to finish in the 84th minute that put Colorado up 1-0 in what looked to be their first victory in 11 matches. “When I hit that cross and Gabby hit it, it felt like back in the old days,” Klute said. “Inside, I was excited. It just felt natural, which is how it should have felt all year.”

Unfortunately, Colorado conceded a stoppage time equalizer to ex-Rapid Atiba Harris and the winless streak continues for another week. However, Klute emphasized that he and his teammates are not hanging their heads, giving up, or feeling content to play out the season.

“At this point, it’s more like a pride thing for the team. It would suck to go out without winning. We’re sticking together through this. We want to finish strong going into next season,” said a very determined but still low-key Klute.

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* Klute’s performance is proof that Pablo’s players listen to his coaching points.

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