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Rapids defender Sam Vines says “I think we’re getting to where we want to be.”

John A. Babiak - @Photog_JohnB

As the MLS season has slowly been restarting, the Colorado Rapids have struggled to find the form they started the season with back in March. Homegrown defender Sam Vines doesn’t feel there’s anything being done that’s physically or technically wrong, but the team has been working on mentally becoming a cohesive unit. “We’re working on getting the team camaraderie better, and Robin’s been very good about getting what he wants from us on the field and off the field.”

“We’ve been watching a lot of film—clips from games, clips from training, (the coaches) are really on top of it. (We’re) just going over what we do on the weekend, what we’re expecting for next time, but just repetition. A lot of stuff we have to do right so we just keep going over it and I think we’re getting to where we want to be.”

Where the Rapids want to be is where they sat after late-game winners at DC United and at home against Orlando City; however, COVID-19 put that momentum on hold and Colorado has had trouble finding their form since getting back in action from the bubble in Orlando. “We’ve been working together as a team and we learned a lot from the Orlando trip,” Vines told Burgundy Wave. “It’s kind of like a team mentality of coming out to play as hard as you can every time, because some of the games down there we didn’t show it. When we do, we play really well.”

It’s not necessarily how they are playing from the back, or running set pieces, or making crosses, but instead more of how the team comes out and thinks together. “As a group it’s all about our mentality. It’s something we’ve been working on, something we’ve been looking forward to for these games.”

Vines’ part in the Rapids game plan is twofold. As a leftback, he knows what is expected from him first and foremost from HC Robin Fraser. “It starts with the player’s mentality. I like to go forward and join the attack, but obviously I’m a defender so it kind of comes first. They want me to go forward and attack, but my role is a defender so first you’ve got to get your defensive role done and if you do you can join the attack.”

“I’m working on my positional spots because I like to attack, so just have to make sure I’m in the right spots. If I go forward, I have someone covering, talking to the guy in front of me before. I’m working on what I do in the final third to help the team get goals and assists, and just positionally and my service into the box.”

Something Vines says has also been a change is the fact that MLS teams are generally playing in front of empty stadiums, removing a key element from the energy of matches. “It changes the intensity and morale of the games for both teams honestly. At the end of the day it’s a game and we all love to play so you have to deal with the circumstances.”

One thing players have tried to embrace is the lack of background noise during the play. “It’s a lot easier to communicate with your teammates, whoever’s playing in front of me on the wing, and then the eight man, you have Danny (Wilson) or the left center-back talking to you, you can hear everything,” admits Vines. “If you’re in the backline, you have to take control of what’s in front of you, so it makes it a lot easier.”

As Colorado prepares for the unknown remainder of the MLS season, the US Youth International knows the Rapids can’t take any of the 90 minutes off during games. After scoring first in both matches so far, they are still without a win since mid-March. “The past two games, after we scored a goal we kind of let off the gas and that didn’t work for us. We just need to keep going. Once you have someone down you need to keep going. After we scored, I think we should keep doing what we’re doing because whatever we did it was right.”

“As a defensive unit, you always want a clean sheet, especially on the road it’s tough to get, but just work as a unit. We just need to come out flying, work as a team, and then once we score a goal we keep going and don’t give them any time.”