When a new coach is introduced, that initial press conference is his first opportunity to meet the media, share his philosophy, and set the foundation for what will hopefully be a successful tenure. It’s a bit different when he is hired with just seven games left in the season and five days to prepare for the first game with his new club.
Robin Fraser, the new head coach for the Colorado Rapids, is ready for the challenge. “The fact of the matter is, the priority is to get ready for the weekend,” he said at the press conference on Tuesday. “It’s going to be that way for the rest of the stretch but it’s finding moments to implement certain things, implant certain ideas, just really work on certain principles that will hopefully help us throughout this year and certainly bode well going forward. The team has done so well it doesn’t make sense to try to come in here and change everything at this point.”
The coaching staff will remain the same for the rest of this season, except Conor Casey. Executive Vice President and General Manager, Pádraig Smith told the media that they discussed multiple positions with Casey, including staying on as an assistant for the Rapids or as head coach for the Colorado Springs Switchbacks, but he has chosen to explore other options.
Smith said the club completely respects Casey’s decision and that Casey did an “absolutely magnificent job and I think we’re all incredibly grateful for that. He put a smile back on the players’ faces and put them in a position to succeed and to achieve what they have been able to achieve. He’s just continued his legend status at the club.”
Fraser acknowledged how difficult it has been for the players to go through two coaching changes in a single season and applauded their resiliency. For the rest of this year, he plans to “make minor adjustments and see if we can improve upon even as well as they’ve been doing so far.” Fraser also said that he sees these last few games as an opportunity to evaluate the players and do as well as they can, but to ultimately set themselves up for next year.
Hints at playing style and what to expect from the rest of 2019
All around the league, we hear a lot of talk about wanting to play attacking soccer. When asked about this during the press conference, Fraser took the opportunity to get on his (self-proclaimed) soapbox. “Everyone says they want to play attractive, attacking soccer—that’s what they like to do. There has to be a foundation behind it and there has to be a lot of purpose. You also have to be able to defend to play attractive, attacking soccer. So for me personally, in terms of what that means, it’s about being able to establish numerical advantages throughout the field, lure teams into one side, be able to really expose them on the other side, and all the intricacies that go with that. Having said that, if you can’t stop teams it doesn’t matter how good of an attacking team you are.”
For the rest of this season, Fraser expects the players to continue to work hard, “counterattack with the kind of ferocity” they have been, and continue scoring goals on set pieces. But he’s also going to start introducing his ideas.
“In terms of development of their play, I expect us to start to really embrace this idea of manipulating the opponent with the ball, starting to see the beginnings of a team that is really very decisive in how and when they attack, and then defensively we’ll just continue to build on where they are now,” Fraser said. “They’re a group that has defended really well deep and has made themselves difficult to play against and difficult to be penetrated and certainly over time we would like to continue to hone that and become a team that defends kind of doggedly. Not to say we’re going to chase things all over the place, but really be able to set things up how we want defensively and be able to dictate the game without the ball as much as we do with the ball.”
The coaches that inspire Fraser
When asked if there were any coaches around the league that he’d like to emulate his coaching style after, the first person that Fraser said was Bruce Arena and his ability to get the best out of players. “Even when I was playing for him on the national team and coaching kids here in Colorado, I would take things that I got from him in terms of managing players, managing personalities, even periodization throughout the week. There are many things I took from Bruce in terms of how to align the week and how to make players feel comfortable and really his ability ramp up intensity throughout the week was pretty interesting to me.”
The other two were Gregg Berhalter and Greg Vanney. “In terms of tactics, I’ve liked Gregg Berhalter and Greg Vanney in terms of what they do. It’s really very much about manipulating the opponent. We all see the game somewhat similarly. I think they’ve both done a tremendous job. Gregg obviously now with the national team and the other Greg having had the kind of success he’s had at Toronto. It’s been great to be a part of that and see the evolution of our ideas together.”
After a less-than-stellar coaching record at Chivas, Fraser has spent time as an assistant with the New York Red Bulls, Real Salt Lake, and most recently, Toronto FC. The clubs he’s worked with have earned two MLS Cup titles, three Supporters’ Shield wins, and three Canadian Championships. Fraser believes he’s gained invaluable experience and his ideas have become much more clear since then. He mentioned learning to deal with different types of players and personalities. “After you deal with Thierry Henry, you’re pretty well set to deal with most players,” he joked. “But there certainly being the experience I’ve gained, and not only on the field but in the locker room, dealing with personalities, developing players individually—there’s just so much of it that I feel that I’m so much more ready than I was when I went to Chivas USA.”
Plans for the future
When asked about 2020, Padraig Smith reiterated how key this offseason will be. “We’ve been quite vocal in terms of what we’re trying to do as a club, how we’re trying to build as a club, and we’ve for a long time said that leading into 2020 was always going to be a big offseason for us. We’ve structured a lot of contracts that way and looked at the roster, primarily with the big DP contracts coming off the books, so I think it has been a key focus for us over the last 18 months,” he explained.
Smith also shared that one of the reasons Fraser was brought in now instead of waiting was to “give ourselves the opportunity prepare for that offseason and to make sure we were in the best position for that. And I think as Robin spoke about, to have the chance to come in now, evaluate the roster that’s here, begin to implement his own ideas and help the players to understand those ideas—that all plays a crucial role in helping us hit the offseason in the way that we want to and make sure we’re putting ourselves in the best position possible for day one of preseason going into 2020.”
Watch the entire press conference below or on Facebook:
Robin Fraser Introduced as Colorado Rapids Head Coach
LIVE: We're introducing Robin Fraser as our next head coach!Posted by Colorado Rapids Soccer Club on Tuesday, August 27, 2019
Fraser also answered some of the fan questions in a discussion with Jordan Angeli. Listen here.
What do you think of the newest Rapids head coach? Share your thoughts in the comments!