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Communicating with William Yarbrough: A Rapids success story

‘Yarbs’ is coming off a great season and great home opener, inside the mind of the Mexican-American keeper

John A. Babiak, Burgundy Wave

Last year was a record-setting season for not only the Colorado Rapids but for goalkeeper William Yarbrough, in what was his first full season between MLS posts.

As Yarbrough will tell you, the club-record 13 shutouts recorded, 0.097 goals allowed per game and 77% save percentage didn’t happen because of one player’s efforts. Keeping with Colorado’s mantra, Yarbrough credits the coaches and teammates he has in Commerce City for the recent successes of his club and strives to continue that trend.

“The principles that Robin brings to our team are huge, and we identify with it, and when there’s a good chemistry within a locker room, you see it out on the field,” Yarbrough tells Burgundy Wave following a recent training session in the bitter cold. “That’s why you’ve been able to see consistent performances for at least the last year and a half because we’re building off of Robin’s idea.”

“Another thing that’s helped is it’s pretty much been the same group since I’ve been here two years. You start building and seeing more of a chemistry between goalkeeper and the backline, between the backline and the midfielders, and the midfielders with the forwards since the majority of the group has been the same guys for the past couple of years; I think that’s why we see success.”

Yarbrough and the Rapids hope to build on last week’s dominant home-opener win against Atlanta with a similar effort thrown at rival Sporting Kansas City this Saturday at home.

“We need to make sure we’re tremendously difficult to play against at home and take advantage of things like the altitude,” William tells fans, expanding on that saying. “It’s a lot of small things that people don’t notice, but it’s making sure all of us are in the right spots, the team is compact and not stretched, in case you have turnovers, you’ve got numbers to re-press right away and not let the other team breathe. Even when they have possession, we’re in good shape, so they can’t harm us, and it all comes together with all eleven players. We want to make this be our fortress.”

Doing that starts during the week’s training leading up to Saturday and involves every Rapids player. Yarbrough explains, “It starts with what we do on the training pitch and how locked in we are, the intensity which we train with, and how much focus we put into the small details.”

That especially rings true for the keeper group of Will, Clint Irwin and Abe Rodriquez, all under the direction of Assistant Coach Chris Sharpe.

“Sharpie is a tremendously intelligent man, and the way he prepares for every game is mind-blowing,” says Will of his position coach. “It’s so difficult when you have three different keepers with different styles and how he adapts his work to our unique styles you can’t feel that he has to train one keeper one way and another keeper another way.”

Goalkeepers are a bit different from the rest of the team in that they focus on their own training before also integrating into the full side as well. Yarbrough appreciates the finer points of Sharpe’s instruction and how he can work so intently with different players.

“His attention to detail, his main focus is always on things we’re going to see the next game, so it’s working on what we’re going to see on gameday from the opposing team. He brings this pressure to the training session, which I love because you’re constantly training under pressure to be as sharp as possible. If you’re spilling balls, make sure they’re going to the right spot, to where you’re mimicking what’s going to happen on gameday.”

As far as matches go, William takes on the role of organizer from his spot behind the entire field, using his field of vision, especially when his defenders Auston Trusty, Danny Wilson, Lalas Abubakar and midfielders Jack Price and Mark-Anthony Kaye cannot. Plus, you never have to struggle to pick his voice out over the crowd as he embraces the constant, if not sometimes tiring, communication for 90+ minutes.

“Yelling constantly for 90 minutes making sure nothing gets to your goal sometimes can be the most exhausting. Having everyone locked in defensively, and it starts with the forwards, it just goes to show you how far the communication goes with this team. The eights, the wingers communicating with the forwards, centerbacks communicating with the sixes, me with the centerbacks, and whoever can hear me.”

“I love having constant communication with my backline, the sixes especially. It’s important because maybe it’s something that the centerbacks or fullbacks aren’t seeing that you are, the sixes are seeing something that you can’t because we have that clear vision.”

“A lot of times, it’s just helping them stay locked in aware of what’s happening around them, movement opposing players are doing, and it also allows them to know exactly where I’m standing behind them,” Yarbrough clarifies. “For balls played in behind, you’re yelling the distance between you and that person, so I want to make sure I’m as loud as possible for them to feel I’ve got their back.”

Having each other’s back sounds a bit cliché from time to time, but it really is how this Rapids organization looks at their locker room, coaching staff, and path to success according to William.

“Things don’t always go your way, but you’re more likely to succeed when you have the kind of chemistry we have, when we understand what Robin is asking of us, and I think that’s why we’ve been successful the last couple of years. Every single person in this locker room plays a tremendously important role to what this team does day in and day out.”

“Even the guys that don’t get many minutes, the work ethic they have and how they push everyone else to be better just speaks to the chemistry this group has. No single player is more important than all of us together and I’m proud to be a part of that.”

The Rapids kick Saturday night at 7 p.m. at DSG, hosting Sporting KC.