Rapids Coaching Search: A Look At Robin Fraser

Ric Tapia

Robin Fraser seems the most likely candidate at the moment to take the soon-to-be-open Rapids head coaching position. Let's hear about him from The Goat Parade.

Announcements have not been made on either count yet (though it seems likely that for Pareja at least, we'll probably see one today or tomorrow) but it seems likely that both Oscar Pareja and Wilmer Cabrera won't be with the Colorado Rapids by the time the MLS Draft hits in a week. At this point, the most likely replacement appears to be Robin Fraser, a former Rapids defender and current assistant coach with New York Red Bulls.

The fanbase who would know Fraser best would be that of Chivas USA's. Fraser had a... let's call it 'less than stellar' tenure with Chivas for about two years, covering 2011 and 2012. The Goats amassed a 15-38-21 record during those two seasons, and Fraser was shown the door.

If he comes to Colorado, what could we expect from him? I asked Alicia from The Goat Parade to give us a rundown of his tactics and style during his time in California.

The most popular line that will be trotted out with reference to Robin Fraser's past as an MLS head coach was that he coached Chivas USA, and they are such a mess that it would make any coach look bad. I'm not going to disagree that Fraser coached the team under some tough conditions, and that Chivas needs to get its house in order. But I saw a lot of attributes of a rookie coach while Fraser led the Goats.

Like most managers, Fraser had favorites. Actually, it was more that Fraser put players in the dog house quite a bit. I wasn't privy to all of the ins and outs of his interactions with players, but it seemed like he ran a tight ship, and even when a player would have a good game or two, it became unsurprising to see him get yanked out of the lineup for the next four or five games. That happened even when the team was playing badly and it would seem the player on the outs could help the team.

He became really slow at using substitutes, and would often sit on them until a game was fully decided in the opponent's favor, which was maddening. He played Juan Agudelo out of position, which was especially weird as Chivas were desperate for goals but put a promising young forward in the midfield (and when he played up front under Chelís in 2013 Agudelo was dangerous every game). Fraser also prioritized defense, which isn't really a surprise as he was a defender in his playing days, and for a team that was as shaky as Chivas, putting nine or 10 men behind the ball was often a suitable move to limit damage. But it was also boring as hell and led to few wins.

On the plus side, Fraser was willing to change up his tactics, and while he didn't use his entire roster, he rotated his lineups (occasionally too much). He was also courteous to the media, if boring in his remarks, and he dressed very well. Also, I don't know if he still does this but with Chivas he actually played in practice, which I always found odd but he seemed to really enjoy.

Given the improved talent base the Rapids had in 2013 over the 2012 Chivas squad he was in charge of, in addition to more experience as an assistant coach in New York, I would expect Fraser to get solid results from his team. But as someone who watched Fraser's Chivas teams very closely, I think the reputation he's getting as a great coach who was saddled with a terrible team is unearned at the moment. He may be a good coach, but all he's really proved so far is that he's a great assistant in MLS. Coaching the Rapids will go a long way in showing if he is meant to be a head coach in this league.

It's interesting how many comparisons can be drawn with Oscar Pareja's first two seasons as a head coach in this description. Playing players out of position, holding onto substitutes and picking favorites were all criticisms that were thrown at Pareja in his two years as Rapids coach, and all were things that we were hoping would continue to get better in his third year.

In other words, moving from Pareja to Fraser wouldn't seem to be much of a step up. One young head coach trying to improve in his third season of head coaching to another, with both having similar issues with their coaching styles. The main differences are Fraser's more defensive style of soccer -- if there's a reason to think that he won't get the Rapids job, it's probably that reputation, since I doubt that Paul Bravo and Tim Hinchey will want a complete 180 in style with a decent team already built -- and the fact that he never seemed to have a talented team at his disposal like Pareja did in 2013.

It would be an interesting hire, and assuming that the front office could convince him to take a more attacking style into Colorado, could be a decent gamble with a talented team at his disposal in 2014.

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