The Colorado Rapids’ run in the MLS is Back Tournament may have been short-lived, but that doesn’t mean that the experience was a total wash. The Burgundy Boys return to Colorado with one point from their draw against Minnesota United FC and a list of things to work on as we wait to hear more about what the rest of the regular season could look like. (The current rumor is an 18-game mini-season, per Drake Hills and Gary Smith.)
Until then, let’s talk about a few of the things we have learned about this Rapids’ squad from the MLS is Back Tournament.
They have to stay focused for a full 90 minutes
Since preseason, Head Coach Robin Fraser has talked about the importance of focus and concentration. “I keep using this word ‘concentration,’” he said in February. “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.”
What we saw against Real Salt Lake was little to no focus. They came out strong against Sporting Kansas City, but it fell apart. In the Minnesota game, they played well, but had a couple of lapses. After the game on Wednesday night, Jonathan Lewis explained it as: “Today, we just switched off for a little bit, they scored their first goal on the free kick, switched on the second goal. Those little key moments, we really have to key in, focus, and focus for 90 minutes, not just for 50 or 60.”
There’s a balance between being aggressive and being undisciplined
Maybe it’s #RapidsThugLife. Maybe it’s terrible refereeing. Maybe it’s both, but the truth is the game against SKC unraveled in the worst way and put the Rapids in a hole they couldn’t dig out of in the tournament.
Jake Shapiro looked through the stats and found some interesting points:
- In 2019, the Rapids were given 9 red cards, the most in the league
- In 2018, the Rapids got 90 yellow cards, 11 more than any other team
- Since 2018 no other MLS club has had a higher percentage of fouls result in a card (20.22% for the ‘Pids, 17.49% for L.A. Galaxy, the next highest)
Defender Drew Moor, who has been on the Rapids on two different occasions under two different coaches, believes “We’re a very good team, but we’re not good enough to think that we can just show up at any game and play however we want to play. We have to make it a bit of a turf war first and be physical and let the team know that we’re going to be in it for 90 minutes and then once the game opens up as it goes along, then we can play some good soccer, but this tournament is also different.”
While Fraser disagrees that the team has a discipline problem, the truth is the Rapids were shown two red cards and two yellow cards in a 12-minute span.
Like it or not, the Rapids are still in a re-build
We’ve been hearing about this rebuilding stuff for years. First, it was with Anthony Hudson, then it was getting Shkelzen Gashi and Tim Howard off the books, but it seems—dare I say it—legit now. Robin Fraser is a good coach. Together with Padraig Smith, they’ve put together a decent roster, but there is still progress to be made.
I admit that I was a little surprised to hear Fraser say “Well, I feel like this is a constant building process. A lot of lessons learned while we were here and things that I think will make us better as we continue to go forward,” but it does feel like things are trending upward, and hopefully the poor performances this month are just a blip in the radar.
The players and coaches believe in each other
I can’t speak to what goes on in the locker room, but time and time again, Fraser and the players showed a united front in every press conference.
Moor talked about it before the tournament even started, calling the group “about as tight as it gets.”
Newcomer William Yarbrough spoke about it, too, saying “It’s a great group of guys like I said, and that I think, the biggest part of everything is that the locker room is so tight... it feels like a family in other words.”
Fraser consistently reiterates how much he believes in the team and how much they believe in each other. That isn’t always enough to win games, but it is enough to get you through a rough patch.
The Rapids have some very good players
I’m feeling good about William Yarbrough. I’m excited about Younes Namli. When they get involved in games, Diego Rubio and Kellyn Acosta can make a difference. Jonathan Lewis has three goals in five super sub appearances (totaling 75 minutes, btw). I don’t mind having Nicolas Benezet taking set pieces when Jack Price isn’t available. And we haven’t even seen what Braian Galvan can do.
Fraser still needs to find the best combination for the backline, but we have options.
No one is happy that the Rapids were eliminated from the tournament after the Group Stage, but the points counted towards the regular season and the Burgundy Boys are currently sitting in 7th, just above the playoff line. With 7 points and a 2-2-1 record, they’re not in a bad spot when the regular season resumes.
Tell us what you took from the tournament in the comments.