Colorado enters the normally all-important 4th of July home match looking to move back up in the Western Conference standings and utilize a tight schedule of upcoming matches, with a positive result over Austin FC on Monday night.
Two road matches after the international break provided one point in very different situations at New York and Portland. Now back home for two of their next three, the Rapids see this as a chance to get things moving back positively.
Defender Keegan Rosenberry is one player who has never wavered in his confidence, but he knows this next stretch of matches could go a long way toward a playoff push for the end of the season, both in the standings but also in the locker room. “The next two games are against top teams in the West, and you take 3, 4, 6 points from those, and we’re right back where we need to be,” he tells Burgundy Wave. “I’ve been saying it for a while, but I don’t think anybody is worried here, we know what we’re capable of, we know what we can do, and when we do those things, we’re a team that deserves to be in the playoff mix. We’re eager to snap the every-other-result trend we’re on and string a couple together.”
By all means, Keegan is not content with where the Rapids sit in the West; however, the strength of the “team” is what he sees as pivotal to carry them forward. “It’s just fascinating how it’s results-driven again, all sports; all teams are probably the same. You come in Monday after you lose, and you’re obviously questioning things. You come in after you win, and you’re top of the world. You don’t get too high, too low type of thing.”
“In any sport, any organization, results start to go your way/the up and down, of course, it affects people’s confidence, frustration, the day-to-day combativeness and wanting to make things better. Being frustrated by it, by not having success week in and week out, that’s natural. No matter what, we always have is guys that are still ok to shake hands in the locker room and give each other some (crap). We’re eager to get some results.”
As far as how Austin FC fits into that plan on the 4th, Rosenberry is aware this is a much-improved side from the one which gave Colorado everything they could handle at times last season. “They’re in a really good run of form right now, really good with the ball.”
“What they’re doing better is they’re defending better as a team and also taking less risk with the ball when they don’t need to. Last time, you saw them overplaying a bit, almost playing to a fault, and I think they’re savvier with the ball and playing it out at the right times,” Keegan explains. “One of the harder things for us is their rotation and the amount of movement they have in their front five, six. Guys are pretty interchangeable; they like to float around, and communicating that and making sure we have guys tracking their players into different spaces will be a challenge.”
That challenge is heightened with the injury to Captain Jack Price for at least a couple of matches. Midfielders Bryan Acosta and Collen Warner will slot in next to Mark-Anthony Kaye in, providing cover for the backline and starting the attack in transition. “He’s our captain too, so he’s a leader for us; he’s a guy who drives us on the field, so we miss that for sure. He’s obviously going to run the team from off the field.”
“All of us here are happy with guys that fill spots, guys that fill roles, the depth that we have, the guys that are ready to go. It’s not an easy job,” says Rosenberry, confident in the players stepping up in Price’s absence.
“Somebody like Jack, who plays all the time, and then the drop of a hat injury happens, and you’ve got to be ready to go to play a full 90 (minutes). It’s not easy, but I think we love the ability our guys have. There’s no hiding it. It’s a challenge. It’s the partnerships; it’s the rhythm; it’s the tendencies that you get used to playing with guys all the time. It’s something that we don’t want, but we make it work, and the guys are doing a good job – Bryan (Acosta), Mark (Anthony Kaye), Collen (Warner).
After a long time away, Keegan and the Rapids have finally enjoyed a week of training at home for a match at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. “Our record speaks for itself in this building. The altitude plays it’s part, but we’re more comfortable in what we do, on both sides of the ball, attacking and defending, but especially defending.”
“We know we can wear on teams, we know the air is going to affect them, and we like to use that to our advantage as best we can. We know that come minute 55-60, it’s a workload that is different than other places and it wears on your lungs for sure. The hardest thing to do in our sport is to think clearly while you’re tired, is to make clear, concise, accurate, quick decisions while you’re fatigued, while your legs aren’t working.”
“That’s what makes sports and this game awesome. The good teams and the best players do when you’re completely drained is still making the right plays, still making the right decision for your team. Like I said, (Austin FC)…good team, good test, a good week of training so far, so we’re excited.”