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Off to Jersey: The Fraser Era begins against the New York Red Bulls

The Rapids are facing one of Robin Fraser’s old teams as he leads Colorado for the first time.

John A. Babiak - @Photog_JohnB

The Colorado Rapids are about to play their 28th game of this season and first under new coach Robin Fraser. All eyes will surely be on the Rapids to see how (if at all) Fraser changes the team’s tactics, but how have our opponents, the New York Red Bulls, been playing in 2019?

Last year, NYRB was something else. They set a new points record with 71, averaged 2.09 ppg, and just beat out eventual MLS Cup winners Atlanta United by two points. It all came down to Decision Day for them, but they secured the Supporters’ Shield and were hyped to go far in the playoffs. Once again they were getting the often-overused label of “Best Team Ever”, but were certainly a team that justified getting a mention.

Their 2019 season hasn’t been nearly as earth-shattering, but they’re still sitting in 4th in the Eastern Conference with 41 points with 1.46 ppg. Perhaps their biggest reason for this backslide of sorts has to come from the loss of their star midfielder, USMNT player Tyler Adams. The young homegrown player got interest from the Red Bull’s sister team—RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga—and after the Red Bull’s 2018 season ended he was shipped over to Germany. He has been getting fairly consistent minutes there and has earned himself a spot on one of the best teams in the league. A great move for Adams, but it is clear that the Red Bulls miss him dearly.

In the meantime, their roster hasn’t shifted much. They signed some homegrown players and a few from the USL, but not a whole lot else. The only real notable new player is Josh Sims, on loan from Premier League team Southampton as a Designated Player. The English winger has yet to make a start for the team, but NYRB is already hyping up his home debut against us. Their other two DPs are “Kaku” (Alejandro Romero Gamarra), the Paraguayan striker, and Bradley Wright-Philips, the English striker. BWP has been far from the Golden Boot winner he once was, but he has still put away an astonishing 108 goals over 180 games.

NYRB is pretty dang set in their formation with a 4-2-3-1. Protecting the net is their long-term keeper Luis Robles. Along their back line, they have the 2018 Defender of the Year, Aaron Long. The 26-year-old has seen an incredible resurgence in the last few years, going from the Red Bull’s USL second team in 2016 to the senior team in 2017 to becoming the league-best in 2018 and earning call-ups to the US national team. The defense has allowed 42 goals this season, fairly average for teams in the east.

On the left wing is Daniel Royer. The current RB Golden Boot winner, he’s scored nine goals and gotten seven assists too. Conversely, the runner-up Brian White is currently out with an ankle injury. So, not quite sure what to expect with them. NYRB’s offense have scored 47 goals over 28 games, putting them as third-best in the Eastern Conference. Fairly good, but surprisingly they only have a +5 goal differential, which is not great.

The most important thing for this game won’t be the story of what’s going on with the Red Bulls, it will be about how we enter a new era of the Rapids with new head coach Robin Fraser at the reins. The Rapids are nearly guaranteed to miss out on the playoffs, so the remainder of the season is practically meaningless from a strict results standpoint. If we win every single game, that’s awesome. If we lose every game too, that’s fine.

It isn’t about winning, it is now about showing the Rapids fanbase what we have to look forward to in the future. Obviously, Fraser and the Front Office can’t bring a new roster in until the season is over, but we can see what he intends to do with the team he has now. It was already announced that he has recalled Cole Bassett and Sebastian Anderson from the Switchbacks, and our oft-missed young striker Niki Jackson is back in town after spending the entire year on loan in Charlotte.

This is now time for us to allow Fraser to experiment. Even with Lalas Abubakar, Kei Kamara and Kellyn Acosta out, it will be interesting seeing what he comes up with for his first game. After an enlightening press conference (read more about that here), we know he is pretty much looking to 2020 already.

Let’s be sure to show the Rapids our support as we go through a second transition period in the same season, and welcome Fraser back to Colorado with the team and three points in hand.