The 2020 Colorado Rapids season is just around the corner, and most fans are hoping that last year’s late-season resurgence is more of a barometer on what this team can do going forward rather than it just being a temporary, new-manager bump following the hiring of Robin Fraser late in 2019.
Fraser is optimistic that his side will continue to trend upward, especially given that much of his core remains seeing the amount of roster turnover was pretty minimal compared to recent seasons. “I really like the team last year, and we have some additions that really make us stronger,” said the former Rapids defender. “The team we had last year, the team I was fortunate to inherit, I really liked and we’ve added some really good pieces.”
Those pieces include former Rapids defender Drew Moor, and winger Nicolas Benezet from Fraser’s old employer in Toronto, as well as Younes Namli signed as Colorado’s lone DP so far. Benezet’s debut may have to wait a few matches after suffering a broken nose in pre-season, which has hindered his fitness level, but the others are veterans who should have no problem slotting into a mostly-intact Rapids squad. “They’re guys who obviously bring a wealth of experience to us, even at Younes’ young age he’s done quite a bit and been around,” noted Fraser. “Drew has obviously played a million games in this league. These are guys who thrive in big environments and hopefully they will be leading us to where we want to go.”
Fraser told Burgundy Wave there’s plenty to like from how his young team has progressed over preseason. “We took some steps forward as a team,” he explained. “My feeling was we’d come into preseason and pick up where we left off. Of course, it’s never that easy, but over time we were able to slip right back into sorts of thoughts and collective ideas we were starting to build upon last year. It was more ‘refreshing’ and then from there it was really sharpening and continuing to hone those ideas.”
One of the areas that was focused on and shored up to end 2019 was overall team defending as a group. Robin likes how they’ve continued to do so, but also comes back to one key factor he knows will be important to a successful 2020. “I keep using this word ‘concentration,’” said the head coach. “What we see in moments where our concentration is really, really good is that our execution is excellent. And, in the moments when our concentration isn’t, it’s not great. That’s part of the process is building that resiliency, in regards to the concentration, for it to become more natural rather than think about it.”
Another pleasant surprise for the Colorado coaches has been the overall competition at every position, basically giving the Rapids a solid two-deep all over the field that will continue in training every week. “I feel like we came thinking we’d be pretty deep, and really it’s a battle for position every single week. I feel like there’s a whole lot of talent in this team and if we continue to work hard I certainly think good things lay ahead.”
Colorado will start this season on the road at DC United. While hoping that last season’s solid results away from Commerce City will give the Rapids cause to believe that points can be taken anywhere, Fraser knows there will be a few things to overcome early in the first match. “It’ll be the first game, there’ll be nerves, there’ll be jitters, it will be some guys’ first games with the team, some guys’ first game in the league. It’s just getting through all that and once the first whistle blows, being able to find our collective concentration as quickly as possible. If we do, I think we’ll put ourselves in a good spot.”