Rookie midfielder Marlon Hairston, like all first-year professionals, is acutely aware that he is having to step up a level or two to make his mark in MLS. His first test came in Sunday's 3-2 win over the Houston Dynamo in a preseason friendly, and his performance did not go unnoticed.
"I think it went well," he said of his display against the Dynamo. "Not only for myself but for the group as well. And I'm just enjoying being around this great group of guys."
Hairston chipped in with an assist within minutes of joining the scrimmage, allowing Deshorn Brown to level the score at 2-2.
"When I was able to get on the field, my first touch - after I'd looked forward - was playing Deshorn a ball," Hairston continued. "And he had a great finish, so I was happy about that."
The 19-year-old, acquired by the Rapids in the first round of the MLS SuperDraft, 12th overall, has been with his new teammates just over a week, and yet is already learning about life in MLS.
"At this level, it's a big jump," he admitted. "The game is much faster than at college level. The physicality part is a big difference, but those are some of the things that I can continue to get better at."
Hairston, out of the University of Louisville, also appreciates that - as well as the physical aspects of the game - there is also much to improve on the mental side as well.
"Being in with Pablo and the rest of the coaching staff, mentality and the concentration throughout practices is a key thing that they focus more on," he added. "With the longer season, just making sure that we keep our bodies intact is important and, although the practice sessions are not as long as in college, they require more focus."