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Ten Preseason Thoughts From Robin Fraser

Cabral bringing the right mindset, Yapi hype, Maxsø leadership and more.

MLS: LA Galaxy at Colorado Rapids
Jul 16, 2022; Commerce City, Colorado, USA; Colorado Rapids head coach Robin Fraser reacts in the first half against the LA Galaxy at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Colorado Rapids head coach Robin Fraser recently had his first media availability of 2023. Burgundy Wave was present for the almost hour long conversation. Here’s ten things that stood out.

1. Kévin Cabral is bringing the right mindset

“When I spoke to him from France, I said ‘one of my concerns was players coming from big teams to small teams, how do they handle that change,’ and he cut me off and said ‘I’m not like that. I’ve played on small teams in France. I just want to work hard and help the team win.’”

“He’s either playing as a 9 or as a winger for us. Speed is always something that will threaten other teams. That's something that he adds. While he’s a young player, he has some interesting experiences.”

“Success for him is being a meaningful contributor everyday to a team that’s successful.”

Cabral might surpass Gyasi Zardes when it comes to not needing the revenge energy.

2. Andreas Maxsø checks all the boxes

“He’s been the captain of a team that’s won a good league in Europe. Those things don’t just happen. His ability to lead is one of the big attractions about him. Everything I’ve seen is that he’s very serious, laser focused and brings people along with him. To add another natural leader is really important for us. The fact that he’s 6’3”, strong, a good athlete, good with both feet, and can read things defensively, these are all very positive attributes.”

“The character references we got on all three guys, and we talked to between three and six people for each of them, the character references could not have been more glowing.”

Maxsø, Conor Ronan, and Alex Gersbach are all what the Rapids need and want to be here. Maxsø could quietly be one of the best foreign acquisitions of the offseason league wide.

Read More: Scouting Andreas Maxsø – Colorado Rapids Potential New Danish Ace

3. Last year’s long term injuries are making progress

Braian Galván looks really good. He’s ahead of schedule from what was expected when he had the surgery. He’s been pretty much ahead of schedule the whole time. He shows moments of brilliance. Really happy with where he is.”

“Oli [Larraz], to break your leg and come back is hard. He’s taken a couple of knocks on the spot, which create moments of angst, but turn out to be ok. Physically, it’s good to see him moving.”

Galván, Larraz, and Jackson Travis are all fully integrated with the team in preseason. They should be available for selection like the rest of the team.

“Aboubacar Keita, we have not seen him yet. He’s still a little ways from playing. Physically he’s been doing quite well. Everyone who’s working with him is happy.”

Jackson Travis is also coming along. Yaya Toure is a ways away but is making progress.

4. He might be on the Darren Yapi hype train

“The progress that Yapi made last year was enormous. He’s taken huge steps. Part of that is he’s an observant, determined kid. The more information we give him, the more he’s taken in. He’s continuing with that confidence. His finishing is getting better and better.”

“He went from being a young player with some promise to a legitimate competitor for a first team position. I would be pretty astonished if he doesn’t play a significant amount of minutes this year and do quite well.

In past preseasons, he was a deer in the headlights. He’s grown in body, mind, and mentality. Fraser did say expect Diego Rubio to start the year up top, but Yapi and Calvin Harris will work their way into that role long term. Harris is able to play anywhere in a front three. If Yapi keeps this up, he could be the starter at center forward by year’s end.

5. Lessons learned from last year

“I was concerned that us the coaches spent the whole season pissed off. Looking at what we could have done better, that’s what we conferred about in the off season. The vast majority of [the players] came back fit. We had a different approach as a staff. This [expletive] ain’t happening again. The players appear to be in the same boat.

“There was a point late in the season last year where we felt we had spent so much time on team tactics that we missed some of the details in individual play and individual player’s responsibilities within their positions. It was something we started on towards the end of the season. We spent all offseason thinking about things we need to do better. When you have the season you did, you examine everything closely. We’re going to make sure we are better as a staff. It’s not so much mistakes, but we know we can be better.

Diego Rubio appears to have spent the whole offseason pissed off as well. He’s come in motivated and focused. Cole Bassett as well has come in one of the fittest on the team. He’s clearly been working on his finishing. The kid might be ready to prove a point to a certain Eredivisie club or two.

6. MLS Season Pass

“My first game ever was the first of the Altitude lockout. Think of how many people have never seen us play on the road. Now there’s a real opportunity for Denver to see the team and identify with the team. To see a big win on the road or a devastating loss, you feel more a part of it.”

#DontBlockMyAltitude is not lost on him or the team. They’re aware of the opportunity they have this year both from the team improving and the renewed visibility the club could have.

7. Max ready for second year bump

“He’s doing well. his English is improving. He’s picking up where he left off. His last three games were his best three games by far. He’s come back with a great attitude, a different level of confidence and a year’s worth understanding of what the league is like.”

Historically, young players (international and domestic) take a step up in their second year under Fraser. Max has expectations given the reported $1 million transfer fee and how carefully the club scouted him. Clear and significant improvement is needed.

8. Competition

Our depth is markedly better than last year. Between injuries and players that left, depth is one of the biggest things we focused on this offseason. Everybody who is a good player is better under pressure. It was important for us to get competition at ever position.”

“More good players mean more good players to split among the playing time. It’s going to make every player better. Everyone understands that for the team to be successful, everyone has to fight and compete.”

The Rapids have at least eight players who could do well in one of the three midfield spots. They’ve got four young center backs fighting for at best the first bench spot at that position. Last year, the team had so many problems due to limited personnel. Now Fraser’s got good problems, as long as the players stay bought in.

9. Reaffirming the purpose of Rapids 2

“Success for Rapids 2 is 3-4 players, become players for the first team. Learning to win is part of growth and development. If players treat those minutes properly, that the success of the group. The purpose of MLS Next Pro is to prepare players to play on the first team. If they lost every single game and two guys broke into the lineup and got sold at the end of the year for 20 million each, success.

Brian Crookham and Erik Bushey learned a lot in year one. Expect those lessons to be implemented. But there’s still a focus on player development. R2 could again be lower midtable and still be a success in the eyes of the front office and coaching staffs.

Decisions about first team players getting loaned to R2 will start in Orlando over the next few weeks.

10. Matter of fact interest in the USMNT job

“No one’s asking me. I’d take a phone call. The politically correct answer is no. The correct answer is we want to work in soccer forever. So we take opportunities where they show up. Maybe three years from now, I would.”

“I love Denver. I’ve been in Denver for a long time. First came here in 1990. I’m not a Denver native, but I’m naturalized. I love Denver.”

Fraser has not been contacted by U.S. Soccer about interviewing for the position. He’d clearly be willing to discuss it. That said, he’s confirmed multiple times how happy he is with the club and city. The federation will probably look elsewhere for this cycle anyways.