The Colorado Rapids traveled to Sacramento, California to take on USL side Sacramento Republic FC in a preseason friendly on a beautiful winter evening at Bonney Field in Sacramento. The Burgundy Boys picked up a 1-0 victory over the host team, but it was largely how you would expect a friendly to go in February. However, where there any thoughts to take from this one? Here were my observations from the match:
1) Choppy, but some hope: The Rapids were, overall, lackluster on the evening. Their passing was poor, the crossing was less than spectacular and their finishing was terrible. But, there was some hope. The Rapids were able to dominate large portions of the match and their passing was solid. The trouble in the final third was disappointing, but the opportunities where there.
2) So many new faces, who made an impact: there were a number of new faces out there for the Rapids and a few players gave me hope. Stephen Keel looked good along the backline for the Rapids as did Dillon Powers in the leader in the midfield in the first half. Sam Cronin and AJ Cochran looked good for the Rapids in the second half as well. It certainly was a preseason match, but it was not all bad by the Rapids. One thing that was nice to see is the Rapids building possession from the back and working it through the midfield, rather than blasting the ball up field and hoping for the best. A very nice, and welcome change.
3) Fitness is Important: Although the game was nothing to write home about (it was preseason after all), it's clear to me that the Rapids will be one of the most fit sides in Major League Soccer. And with playing 19 of their games at altitude (17 at DSGP and 2 in Salt Lake) the Rapids should be able to run circles around the rest of the league. This is not to say that they will win every game, but after watching warm-ups and cool-downs on Saturday night, there is no doubt that they will be fit.
4) Engagement is key: I was completely and utterly impressed by the professionalism of the Republic team and Front Office as they engaged with Burgundy Wave and made us (mainly, me) feel incredibly welcome for our 1,000 mile trip to Sacramento. Did the Rapids front office even acknowledge we were there? Not. One. Bit.
But Republic were great as were the fans who sat in our section. And on our way out of the park, we ran into Rapids defender Marc Burch who was very excited to meet a couple of fans who came all the way from Denver for the game. And he said something key to me (and made be believe that this team might just be better than expected:
We will be better this year for you--the fans
That kind of engagement is something the Front Office can never take from Burgundy Wave.
The Rapids travel next to the Desert Diamond Cup to play Swope Park Rangers on Wednesday at 5:30 PM MST and will be live streamed. Burgundy Wave will have coverage of that match and the entire preseason trip to Arizona.