Conventional wisdom would tell you that leaving a championship team less than 24 hours after lifting the trophy would be tough to handle.
Julien Baudet would tell you a different story.
While on the plane from Toronto to Denver after winning MLS Cup with the Colorado Rapids on Sunday, Baudet received an e-mail from his agent informing him that he had been traded to the Sounders FC along with defender Danny Earls in exchange for midfielder Peter Vagenas.
The French defender kept the trade under his hat until after meeting with Rapids team officials, not wanting to distract from the celebration of his teammates, but his enthusiasm about the move was palpable.
“It’s great news, but it took some time to sink in,” Baudet said. “I’m really excited - it’s a fantastic club with a phenomenal fan base. They’ve won the last two US Open Cups and that show that it’s an outstanding organization that is going in the right direction. I can’t wait to join the club and win an MLS Cup with them, too.”
Baudet entered the championship against FC Dallas in second-half stoppage time and was on the field when the final whistle sounded and the Rapids earned the MLS Cup with a 2-1 victory. After the celebration, though, he knew that it might have been his last match with the Rapids. With the Expansion Draft just around the corner and an undoubtedly busy off-season, he was prepared to play for another team in 2011.
He was far from disappointed though – and not because he didn’t enjoy his season and a half with the Rapids.
Baudet was in the starting 11 when the Rapids visited Qwest Field in July. He’d heard about the great crowds the Sounders get at their home matches, but it wasn’t until he was on the field for warm ups and heard the March to the Match that he realized just how true the stories were.
36,333 packed Qwest Field that night as the Sounders got two goals from Steve Zakuani in a 2-1 win. Those fans left a lasting impression on Baudet.
“Anyone would love to play here for a lot of reasons and one of those reasons is the fans. It is a phenomenal fan base. I’m already looking forward to playing there,” he said. “It doesn’t get any better than in Seattle. I’ve been a professional for 13 years, playing in France and England, and I’ve never seen anything like it.”
His previous stops in Europe include two seasons with France’s Toulouse then on to England for two seasons with Oldham Athletic, one with Rotterham United, two with Notts County and three with Crewe Alexandra before coming to the Rapids in July of 2009.
He scored 16 goals throughout his career in Europe and netted one for the Rapids. His forte, though, is strong, physical defending. After coming to MLS, he had to make adjustments to his game after two early sendings off.
Now he harnesses that hard-nosed play and focuses it in a positive way.
It was just one of the challenges of coming to a new league in a new country. And he concedes that he wasn’t excited about playing in MLS when first approached about coming to the league. However, after watching some matches, his opinion changed.
“At first I wasn’t very enthusiastic about it, but after I saw the way the teams played, I fell in love with it. I loved what the Rapids had to say and I was excited for the challenge,” he said. “I love a challenge and now I’m excited for a new challenge in Seattle.”
While the departure may be a bit unorthodox, Baudet wouldn’t change anything about his time in Colorado. The Rapids finished the season at 12-8-10, fifth in the Western Conference, but a matchup with the Columbus Crew proved fruitful when the Rapids advanced after playing equal to the East’s No. 2 team over 210 minutes, forcing the match to a penalty-kick shootout. Baudet’s was the last successful goal and the Rapids advanced when the Crew’s last attempt missed high. A 1-0 win over the San Jose Earthquakes put Colorado through to the final, where they topped FC Dallas in extra time.
“It’s a fantastic moment. I finished my career with them on the highest note. If I had to write the script for how to end my Rapids career, that would have been it - going out on top,” he said.
Baudet plans to return to his native France for the off-season, then take a vacation with his girlfriend before reporting to Seattle for training camp in January with the hope that in November he will again be lifting the Phillip F. Anschutz Trophy as MLS Cup champion.