The Rapids will kick off at 5 p.m. M.T. Thursday night on FS2 and TUDN
After a short offseason, the Colorado Rapids will open their 2022 campaign with their first competitive match on Thursday night at Estadio Doroteo Guamuch Flores in balmy Guatemala City, Guatemala.
The Rapids, with fresh burgundy kits, will face-off against Comunicaciones F.C. of Guatemala in the Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League (CCL) tournament.
The match is the first in a two-leg series. The Rapids play host next Wednesday, Feb. 23, at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City. The weather is expected to be frigid, if not below freezing, when the first whistle blows.
The Rapids hope to pick up where they left off last season with near sellouts at Dick’s Sporting Good Park. They are pushing the attendance envelope and even offering free tickets in hopes of bringing in more supporters and boosting the energy level within the stadium so home side players can feed off of it.
The team with the highest combined aggregate score between the two legs will advance to the CCL’s quarterfinals.
“The Champions League is the pinnacle in terms of our region. It always comes back to no MLS has won it yet, and it is a carrot dangling in front of us,” stated Rapids head coach Robin Fraser during a pregame virtual press conference with media members. “We’d certainly like to be the first, just like every MLS team in it would like to be the first. It would be absolutely incredible to win it.”
The veteran of several Concacaf tournaments both as a player and coach added, “the club’s excited to be in Champions League. I know that this group is so dedicated that the focus will become much more about Champions League as we get closer.”
Fraser told the Burgundy Wave that he and his staff have been studying their opponent since their preseason camp opened in Arizona last month. In addition, they have leveraged their preseason friendlies against a mix of opponents that demonstrated similar styles of attack and defenses as the Comunicaciones. Fraser said their match with a tough Orlando team was as close as they got to the approach of their opponents.
Comunicaciones were the 2021 winners of last year’s Scotiabank Concacaf League. The team is led by the accomplished attacker Juan Anangonó. The 32-year-old Ecuadorian previously played with the MLS Chicago Fire.
“Anangonó played in MLS briefly, and actually, when I was at Chivas USA (2011-12), he was one of the players that we seriously wanted to try to go and get,” said Fraser. “It’s a small world, so here we are again. And their attacking midfielder, their number 10, Jose Contreras, he’s a very good player.”
Anangonó was the leading scorer with six impressive goals during the last tournament in 2021. He also earned the Best Player honors. The formidable Comunicaciones F.C. have won 30 domestic league titles and currently boast the most consecutive league championships at six.
“They’re a very good team, they have very talented players, size up front,” a reflective Fraser said. “I’ve never been a part of an easy international game. We know it’s going to be a really tough team. I’ve been to Guatemala, I’ve played in Guatemala before, and I know that there are some very good players, very talented players, so it’s a big opportunity for us.”
As an MLS player, Fraser suited up and played in the Concacaf Champions Cup with the Los Angeles Galaxy in 1996-2000. In 2018, while serving as an assistant coach with Toronto F.C., his team reached the 2018 SCCL Final. He also made the 2011 finale as an assistant with Real Salt Lake.
Fraser is hopeful that his array of available attackers and defenders can coalesce and win points in this round and advance.
Should the Rapids win and move on, they could face MLS Cup Champion’s New York City F.C. They won their opener by blanking Santos de Guapiles FC, 2-nil on Tuesday in San Jose, Costa Rica.
Fraser is banking on Diego Rubio to lead the Burgundy Boys on the attack. He said that Rubio has been “firing on all cylinders” this off-season.
“He has been laser-focused since his first day of preseason,” he said. “He’s very goal-hungry at the moment. When Diego is firing on all cylinders, he’s a really big help in our build-up play, and he’s one of the most conscientious number nine’s I’ve ever been around.”
Since the start of the Champions League tournament in 2008-09, no team from outside Mexico has won the tournament. Only four MLS clubs have reached the final in the time frame.