The Colorado Rapids travels to San Jose this weekend to take on the Earthquakes for the first time in 2022. Veteran Steven Beitashour is especially looking forward to this road trip as it always tends to be a bit of a family reunion for the local native, and he expects another large crowd of Beitashour fans and relatives on hand.
“I always look forward to after the game when the match finishes,” Steven tells Burgundy Wave with a big grin. “I usually put my friends and family in one section, so there’s always a big group together. I think right now we’re about 35-40, but I’m sure by the weekend, it will get around the 60 mark. I always look forward to taking pictures with them to say hi. It’s brief but it’s always nice to see them and I know they’re proud.”
As well, they should be. The versatile defender is an important piece of the tight-knit group that is the Rapids, and he has proved invaluable as both a wide fullback and a third center back for Colorado this season depending on the rotation of formations and personnel early in the season.
Beitashour relishes his role, whatever comes his way, but has shown a solid ability to push forward up the flank, causing defenders to retreat, and sending in the occasional cross to a dangerous area. This is in addition to being adept at staying “home” when pressed into defending deep one-on-one or breaking up attackers coming into the Rapids box in numbers.
Which role he takes oftentimes depends on how the game is moving at any particular moment and can change within the match several times.
“You have different flows throughout the game where you can be more aggressive, you have good spells on the ball, and you can take aggressive positions,” Steven explains. “There are other games, for whatever reason, you can’t hold onto the ball, and you’re pinned back defending for dear life. That’s the part of the game. Whether it’s home, whether it’s away, whether it’s a certain team, whether it’s certain minutes of the game it just happens. You have to be able to adapt daily on any given moment within a game multiple times.”
In the end, though, Beitashour says not straying far from their own strengths is what will bring success this season for Colorado.
“You want to be in control, where before it was maybe a little bit too spread out, not very predictable. If you do what you do well, it’s ok to be predictable,” he said. “In certain moments, you ask for a little brilliance, and you love that. Too much requirement of brilliance all over the pitch is not usually a recipe for success. I think the last couple games has been more controlled, it’s been better – it looks more like us. We’ve just got to be consistent. That’s the key for a long 34-game season. You don’t want to be too up and down otherwise, you miss the playoffs.”
The next opponent in San Jose is in a bit of a transition stage after replacing their head coach last month, so Steven notes getting a read on them is a bit tough to nail down at the moment. The Earthquakes sit near the bottom of the Western Conference but can score, as well as concede, a fair amount of goals.
“They’re a tough team to judge. They’re one of those teams that are kind of chaotic. That’s how (HC Mathias) Almeyda wanted his teams to play,” the former San Jose ballboy explains. “You saw that at the beginning of the year. Now he’s not there; you can kind of sense it still but not as much. There’s a little bit more structure to the way they play, but you can see it’s still only been two or three games.”
“Before, it was just man-to-man, but right now they’re a little more structured but there will be moments. Again, the last couple games it’s like, ok they’re still kind of doing man-to-man where it doesn’t make the most sense and you can maybe just push someone over, slide, stay in your shape and nothing happens. We’ll continue to look and work on our plan to counter that and do what we do to be successful.”
One thing that has been key to Colorado’s success in the Robin Fraser era is just how tight-knit and solid the players and staff are as a whole. Recently, there have been departures, additions, veterans out for lengthy periods with injury, which could all disrupt the chemistry of a lesser squad, but not the Rapids, according to Beita.
“There have been some departures and new guys coming in, so it’s just one of those where you continue to work. I know we’ve had some important players get injured, but guys have stepped up; guys have done a good job of working hard in training and not skipping a beat in games. We just have to keep grinding – it’s a long season.”
“We have a good group here,” Steven reiterates. “Robin and (GM) Padraig (Smith) bring in certain types of players, and I think that helps when you do have a little bit of change. You can just tell the camaraderie has been growing. A lot of the guys hang out off the field, which you love to see. It’s not just a work friend; this is my friend. These are people I hang out with off the field so it’s good. Guys are light-hearted, and they all like each other genuinely.”
On a game-to-game basis, it’s a good balance knowing what they like to do, what they’re comfortable doing, what their tendencies and habits are, and trying to counter that—but also doing what you do well. Sometimes it goes to plan, and sometimes it doesn’t, so you’ve gotta roll with the punches.