Chris Sharpe: Colorado Rapids contract good reward

I feel all my hard work in rehab has been worth it after putting pen to paper on a new, one-year contract here at the Rapids.

I feel all my hard work in rehab has been worth it after putting pen to paper on a new, one-year contract here at the Rapids.

Last Saturday I received confirmation from Major League Soccer that Colorado wanted to take up their option on my contract for another year. I was delighted with that, as I do really enjoy it here at the Rapids - and with Gary Smith at the helm I do believe I have a great chance of playing regular football.

I spoke with Gary a week or so ago, he was terrific and wanted me to have a strong off-season and rehab hard. He told me to make sure I come back fully fit for preseason and said he wanted me back to where I was before I getting injured as I was in great form. He wants me to really have a strong preseason and push on from there.

Rehab is going well. It's been a long three months, but I know the sacrifice I've made hasn't gone unnoticed with this new contract.

I'm getting stronger everyday, I am not anywhere near 100 per cent right now, if I am to be honest with myself, but the close-season has come at the right time. I have just over two months now to get myself exactly where I need to be - which won't be any trouble at all.

We are predicting a January 1st start for me to resume full training and be fully fit. Off-season will just be spent rehabbing, treatment and working in the pool. Once I am fit again, I will get out with the goalkeeper coach early January and spend three or four weeks with him before we begin back officially on the 25th (of January). Preseason started for me a month ago!!

It's great to be recognised by Gary Smith with this new deal. Everyone is well happy with Gary being named head coach. We all have a lot of respect for him, not only as coach but as a person. He manages the lads very well, he is very personable, and to top it all off he has a wealth of footballing knowledge from his time in England.

Personally, I am delighted he is here now as permanent coach.

There's been plenty of shock developments in the last few weeks in MLS. Of course, Columbus Crew were crowned champions - and rightly so in my view. They were top of the Eastern Conference after the 30 regular season games, they had the most points out of both West and East and for me that's the telling sign of the best and most consistent team all season. They deserved the MLS Cup this year.

Guillermo Barros Schelotto was the most influential player in the MLS this year. He created goals, he scored goals and was always capable of turning a match quickly, either single handedly or by bringing his team mates into the game.

For me he was the MLS' best player this year and was a deserved MVP in 2008.

During MLS Cup week, it was announced the reserves competition would be disbanded for next season. I am quite shocked to be honest with you. I personally don't think it's a great move, as it will leave 10-12 players week in, week out without regular games.

It will also be tough for the lads coming back from injury to get match fit and for the younger guys to show the gaffer that they are ready for that next step into the first team. I guess, though, they have their reasons for doing it and hopefully those reasons push on to make the MLS bigger, better and stronger.

We've all experienced the Seattle expansion draft over the last few days.

While there's plenty of mischief-making in the media, I don't think it created much tension amongst the players. It's an interesting time, but being an MLS player you know you are subject to being traded at any time and it’s just another one of those things where you can either be protected by the club or left wondering what will happen.

I am sure a few of the lads left off the protected list wouldn't have minded if they had been picked up by Seattle in the draft. At the end of the day, we all know if you perform well, train well and do the business on the pitch, whether you were protected or not, the gaffer is going to give you a regular game.

We've all been lifted by Pablo Mastroeni signing a new contract with Rapids.

There was talk of Serie A and B interest for Pabs, so by re-signing I think it shows what direction the club is going in. For me, Pabs is the best American player in MLS. I think he felt he had poured his heart into this club over the past four-to-five seasons and really without any rewards in the trophy cabinet, I know he desperately wants to win silverware and just shows the loyalty he has to the club, and the organization and the fans.

I also think it speaks volumes for what Pablo thinks of Gary Smith as a manager as well.

I would like to congratulate Pabs. He is a great player, a great leader on and off the field and a great guy.

Looking back, my first year in the MLS was very much a roller coaster of emotions.

I was very excited and honored to be the first ever Australian in the MLS, that is something no-one can ever take away from me. I had a great start to the year and waiting for your chance is something you have to do as a young goalkeeper, especially when you are coming in behind an experienced campaigner.

Just as I was beginning to find my stride and a few little things here and there were beginning to go my way, including the change with Gary Smith coming in, I copped an injury.

The past three months have been a testing time both physically and emotionally, but I feel I have come through it better and stronger, both mentally and physically, and come the 2009 preseason I will be in top shape and ready to stake my claim for a regular starting spot.

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