The south side of Dick’s Sporting Goods Park soccer complex was a beehive of activity yesterday. All the sights and sounds that precede the launch of an MLS season were evident on and around the turf fields. Upbeat players, staff, superfans, and members of the local media exchanged pleasantries, some old-school backslapping with the occasional bear hug. The sound of hammers tuning up the stadium for opening day could be heard in the distance, as was Rapids’ head coach Robin Fraser’s whistle, piercing the crisp winter air.
The Colorado Rapids are about to embark on a hope-filled season built on a roster that is deeper, younger, and possibly more talented than the 2010 MLS Cup-winning squad. The team has significantly improved since the close of the 2019 season—at both ends of the pitch, but so has the entire league, especially the teams in the Western Conference.
The 2020 Rapids have been tabbed as a team with a ton of potential. Barring a catastrophic start, crippling injuries, and/or an outbreak of coronavirus during a domestic passenger flight, they should be in the thick of the MLS West and vying for a playoff berth.
Their potential was evident during yesterday’s training session, spread out over the two synthetic fields. The Burgundy Boys practiced and played with a certain bravado, confidence, and attractive pace. Head of Performance, Chad Kolarcik, and Strength and Conditioning Coach, Peter Gorka, had the players in near-constant motion. The team just arrived from sea level in Southern California this past weekend, so with only 10 days remaining before the home opener against Oscar Pareja’s hungry Orlando City SC, the performance staff has been supporting the players’ efforts to acclimate to altitude, so that they have that preverbal 5280 competitive edge.
Fraser directed a competitive friendly, often sounding his whistle, pausing play, and injecting sound directions to help his players with their general interplay and reinforcing lessons learned in the team’s video room.
On an opposing field, assistant coach Darren Bazeley marshaled the offensive group and pit them against goalkeeping coach Chris Sharpe and his three keepers: Clint Irwin, Andre Rawls, and high schooler Andrew Cordes, who was called up from the ranks of the Rapids Youth Development Academy. Bazeley set up a gauntlet of drills that kept his side running at full pace.
Putting the ball in the back of the net was Bazeley’s objective, while Sharpies’ unit aimed to prevent just that. The low-key Irwin was sharp as a tack, making several point-blank saves. A trio of attackers—Jonathan Lewis, Nicolas Mezquida, and Andre Shinyashiki—made strikes that drew applause from a few of the Rapids faithful perched on high chairs overlooking the field.
Six weeks of preseason training concludes this Friday with the coast-to-coast kickoff of the 25th MLS season on Saturday. A focused Colorado Rapids team will head to Washington D.C. after Thursday’s training session to face D.C. United at Audi Field in the rejuvenated Buzzard Point neighborhood. The game is at 11 a.m. MT and you can watch Altitude on DirecTV, ESPN+ if you aren’t in Colorado, or C38 will be having a watch party the Celtic on Market.
Check out a few photos from yesterday’s training session (all taken by John A. Babiak).
- Newly signed forward Nicolas Benezet sports his new protective face mask after breaking his nose in preseason.
- DP midfielder Younes Namli flashes a brilliant smile during his interview with Richard Fleming and Altitude Sports.
- Forward Diego Rubio takes on fiesty defender Auston Trusty.
- Midfielder Kellyn Acosta turns on the jets and goes on the attack.
- Always hustling midfielder Nico Mezquida focuses on the ball.
- Forward Jonathan Lewis sets up for another shot on goal.
- Keeper Andre Rawls makes a fingertip save.
- Diego Rubio meets his defensive match and well, flips-out!
- Returning Rapid, Drew Moor, gets reaquainted with his super fans: L->R Eric Stinson, Joan Dobrzynski, Drew Moor, Mark Johnson