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Rapids, Rubio prepare for 2022 MLS home opener: ‘we need to be strong here’

John A. Babiak, Burgundy Wave

After three matches and a lot of travel away from Denver over the last 10 days, the Rapids have finally been able to spend some time at home and recharge before welcoming Atlanta United FC to Commerce City on Saturday.

“It’s been very busy, but that’s what you want as a player,” forward Diego Rubio told Burgundy Wave. “You want to play. (The start of the season) didn’t go the way we wanted, so I think these couple days being (home) with the family helps to recover the energy, start to be positive again, and focus on MLS now.”

Granted, the season so far is in its infancy, but as Colorado prepares to open their 2022 MLS home slate, Rubio isn’t satisfied and knows the team can and must do better starting this weekend. That won’t be easy as Atlanta dismantled Sporting Kansas City in their opener last week, and once again looks more like the side which won MLS Cup in their inaugural season instead of the one that struggled in the last couple of years.

Plus, Colorado has never beaten Atlanta or even scored against the club.

“Last year, we said how important it is to play at home so this year we need to do the same,” Rubio explains. “Try to get them tired and go to this game to win. We respect them a lot, they’re a very good team and have fantastic players, but we need to be strong here.”

Diego wants to see the Rapids get back to what they do well rather than worry about what an opponent might do. He tells fans that no one wants to see improvement more than he and his teammates.

“Of course it’s very important to see the best qualities (Atlanta United) have and to stop them there. We need to do more, and we know that” he said. “People cannot imagine, myself and the players we talk about the games, we see what we did wrong, we watch videos, we see the plays, we have to do better.”

“Us as players we want to create things. The last couple games have not seen the best of us attacking, so we need to get close to the box,” explains the Rapids attacker. “We always say the best way to defend is to have the ball, especially here at home in the altitude.”

“I think with every team nowadays; it’s very difficult to get possession. We need to think about it: to create the spaces, to make them run. Like I say altitude is even hard for us sometimes,” Diego says with a laugh. “So we need to make them run, and that comes with possession and moving the ball very well.”

“I think about us going forward and score goals,” says Rubio, who is often the lone target man upfront that the wide forwards play off of. “To score goals you need opportunities, and it’s not going to be every game you have one chance and you score one. We need to create more, and I think that comes with confidence, quality, and of course, hard work. People don’t realize that when you have the ball you have to work harder – to create the spaces. I think we’ll have that this week and like we always say play for each other.”

That strong work ethic and group mentality have been the cornerstone of Head Coach Robin Fraser’s system since he arrived. It will be more critical than ever in 2022 as Colorado needs to take the next step forward as other MLS teams behind them push to improve.

“In MLS, every team has very good players so if you don’t focus the 95-97 minutes you can get punished by just one ball. We need to start from the basics, that is, our hard work. If we do that for 95 minutes, I promise you we’re going to have success this season and this game.”

Rather than just having blind optimism or hoping things work out for the best, Diego feels the Rapids will once again make their own success through their process. “I’m saying if we do certain things, we’re going to be ok. We realized this week with the coaching staff this is what is our basics. This is what makes us great.”

“I can’t tell you how many players talk to me, even after the LAFC (loss), I talked to some of the other players when I was very sad, and they said ‘look, you have a very good team.’ All the teams come to us and say, you guys play with hard work and it’s so difficult to play you guys, so it’s like I say it’s our major quality to play close to each other; nobody can rest a second in the game.”

Rubio used a quote from a European coach, “players now they think about statistics”, which is becoming more evident as fans and media often quote goals/assists, XG, possession percentage, and dollars spent as the measure of a player’s and/or team’s strength.

Diego doesn’t look to those but rather simplifies it to how a team internally puts their plan on the pitch.

“We do what we’re required to do, and if we do it in the best way 100%, we’re going to be there again. I’m 100% confident that if we do what the coaches are requiring from us we’re going to be there again,” he said. “It’s all about continuing to be humble. For me, I want to win something, I want to win a title. Last year, we didn’t get anything (for placing first in the Western Conference) so it’s all about winning. We play in a certain way that everybody needs to do their certain work. If we do it, we’re going to win.”