Editorial (July 17, 2019) – Niki Jackson made his first appearance for Colorado Rapids in quite some time. Sure it was a loss to Arsenal in a friendly. Jackson put in a good shift and has played well since going on loan to Charlotte Independence in the USL.
Niki Jackson Opens up on Charlotte Loan, Getting Back to Colorado
Still, questions remain about his future with Colorado. Some eyebrows were raised when he was loaned to the USL, but not to Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC, the Rapids USL affiliate. This was also after a rookie season that saw the 4th Round SuperDraft pick have some great moments and tough lows.
“The coach from Charlotte wanted to acquire me more than the coach at Switchbacks. He liked the way I played. The way the played fit the style of play I wanted to play,” Jackson told Last Word on Soccer on Monday night.
While that makes sense, with the Rapids acquiring several strikers this season and in potential position to sign two attacking DPs in 2020, what future role does Jackson have? And that’s even before addressing the outstanding permanent head coaching position.
Getting minutes and developing:
A lot of this is understandably up in the air. But there’s still plenty Jackson can control: quality and difference of strength. There’s no doubt the older players Colorado brought in at striker are more proven in MLS than he is. The one younger player is Andre Shinyashiki, the highest goalscorer in college soccer last year and Rookie of the Year candidate.
“We’re on a seven game unbeaten streak [in Charlotte], so things are looking up,” said Jackson. “The last three [USL] games, I’ve got two goals and an assist. They want ma getting playing time. They want me scoring goals. If that continues, I’ll be back.”
Jackson obviously needs to develop his game further. When it became clear he wasn’t going to play in Commerce City, he needed to find somewhere he would.
The other area of concern is difference of skill. With such a crowded forward core, Jackson is more valuable if he brings something no other striker on the team can. He’s not as good in the air or in hold up play as Kei Kamara. He’s not as skilled or quick on the ball as a Shinyashiki or a Diego Rubio.
“I stay in contact with the coaching staff. It’s almost like I’m there, with all the time I’m face-timing them, talking to them,” adding “they want to see the style of play, me running in behind, regularly to where it becomes a habit.”
“The way Charlotte was playing was the way Colorado wanted me to become.”
But based on last year and this year, he’s a better channel runner than at least two of them. There’s no Dominique Badji type in the squad beside Jackson anymore. With Jonathan Lewis and Sam Nicholson doing work on the wings, a center forward who can create chaos in the gaps would be a nice and different weapon for the Rapids coaching staff to have in certain situations.
Last Word: Niki Jackson is playing regularly. He’s playing well and making progress. He’s helping Charlotte win. Many may have doubted Jackson when this loan was announced. So did many when Jackson was drafted in the 4th Round of the MLS SuperDraft.