After a busy, three-match week, the Colorado Rapids remain unbeaten in their last 10 games. Although a few results seemed like missed opportunities, defender (and aspiring striker) Keegan Rosenberry puts it best saying, “For us right now is about staying grounded in what we’ve been doing so well so far and it’s the basic principles Robin (Fraser) talks about all the time — doing the hard work first and our football’s going to take over after that.”
“It’s the controllables,” Rosenberry tells the Burgundy Wave. “I preach that to myself all the time. I can come here and work my butt off every single day because some days you’re not going to have the sharpest technical ability, and we’re going to achieve the right things because we do those.”
If we’re being honest, this Colorado squad isn’t the flashiest, high-scoring, glamorous side that other fan-darlings like to show as. However, this group is a team first and foremost, which is a major influence in how they not only train but play both home and away.
“Watch everyone interact — I think we all like each other, which seems simple, but I’ve been in locker rooms where it’s not the case,” admits Rosenberry. “This team feels a little bit different. That’s why you see the #9 making a 40-yard run back to defend somebody, or little things where it’s not expected, but as long as the guy does the job in the system it’s going to work for the whole.“
In press conferences, Head Coach Robin Fraser generally comes back to a common theme of the individual Rapids players believing in each other, playing for each other, and really fighting for the common good. “I do think that’s why Robin has praised that from the beginning... it has been there,” Rosenberry confirms for fans. “It has been something he hasn’t had to force out of us which I think he appreciates, and I think the reason he continues to mention it is because he wants to see that constantly and us to forget that’s what’s most important.”
Part of that is the sheer versatility many of the players are asked to adopt because when someone goes down injured or is missing due to national team duty, there can’t afford to be a drop-off in either talent nor understanding of the system in order for this ship to carry on forward.
“At times it’s difficult, but at the same time the guys we have and their ability to play similarly and perform the roles, makes it really easy to adjust on the fly and for us to change pieces and still be able to do the same things,” he explains. “Robin talks about it all the time — as long as we fill the spots that we talk about tactically it doesn’t matter who it is because we know what jobs we’re supposed to do in those spots.”
Rosenberry is a prime example of that as he’s seen time at wingback and centerback, in different formations, and alongside different teammates through out this season. He’s not complaining; rather he relishes it and even takes advantage of certain moments to push his game. “For me, I try to pride myself in being available for whatever is asked of me. We try to do that as a team as well.”
“Mikey (Barrios) for instance, he’s asked to play in a #9 role, or a wide role, or come back and find the ball a little bit more, take his guy away, and I think being versatile like that is such a good trait to have. It’s not only appreciated by the staff, but by your teammates as well because it’s easier to play with.”
One of those roles Rosenberry likes to play, if only for limited chances, is pushing forward in attack. “I love to push forward. Every defender is a defender first but behind closed doors will admit they like to be on the ball and attack a little bit as well,” Rosenberry laughs.
“Whatever is asked of me, I’m catering to that first, whether it’s an attacking wingback or a right centerback, but along with it does come reading the game even as that right centerback in a back five or back three. There’s time where they’ll press with only one or two, then kind of sag off the centerbacks a bit and there’s space to take. I like to think that I’m continuing to mature and read the game in a way that always gives us an advantage. “
Colorado has been taking that advantage more often than not, even on the road in 2021, as their lofty position in the MLS Western Conference shows. However, as media and fans in other markets are starting to murmur a bit louder about the Rapids, Rosenberry admits it’s actually fun seeing the fruits of their labor prove doubters wrong. “I’m having a blast. It’s always hard to call this work. Anybody would say getting results is more fun.”
“The way these games are going and the way we’re fighting together and performing together is exciting. That’s the reason we’re starting to get a little more traction around the league and people are starting to notice. This year it’s starting to come together game-in and game-out, putting multiple games in a row together, and the road performances have been really telling this year. It’s expected for teams to take care of things at home, but for us to do the same things on the road — keep shutouts, defend well, create chances, and get results — is really telling.”