A season 26 years in the making. Thirty-four games played, 51 goals scored and one team to live in the record books forever.

The crowning moment of the 2021 regular season fell on Decision Day, as the Colorado Rapids’ commanding 5-2 defeat of LAFC catapulted them ahead of the Seattle Sounders FC and Sporting Kansas City to finish at the top of the Western Conference. It was a night full of historic milestones for club, player and coach alike, accomplishments that wouldn’t be possible without the unbreakable spirit of the Rapids community.

Throughout 34 games, the Rapids have battled back from deficits, fallen in tough defeats and risen triumphant to prove time and time again that Colorado is a contender in MLS. Doubting voices in the preseason and throughout regular competition were effectively silenced on Decision Day as the Rapids clinched a first-round bye in the Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time in franchise history, and earned a spot in Concacaf Champions League for 2022 in the process.

Tallying 61 total points, the Rapids concluded their regular season with the best finish in club history, topping the previous record of 58 set in 2016. Their 17 wins are also the most in Rapids’ history in the post-shootout era.

This is the second consecutive Rapids season to see a playoff run, but head coach Robin Fraser believes that this group of players is more prepared to take on the challenge in 2021.

“They understand now the things that they need to do, the way they need to work, the diligence with which they need to approach training in preparation,” Fraser said. “At the end of last year, we said if everyone is 2% better, we'd be better as a team and I genuinely feel like every single player is better than they were last year. And we've added pieces that have also made us better. And again, I don't know how to quantify how much more ready they are but they're clearly more ready than they were last year.”

This season saw the arrival of seasoned league veterans and dynamic internationals alike, as Canadian midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye and Brazilian left back Lucas Esteves joined Colorado. The friendly face of Dominique Badji returned to the Rapids after a short time away, and the Sengalese striker made the most of his homecoming, scoring five goals on the season.

On the opposite side of the pitch, Rapids goalkeeper William Yarbrough made club history this season with 13 clean sheets, tying for most in the league. His brick-wall stature between the posts kept his save percentage to 76.81%, the second-best in MLS among goalkeepers with at least 20 appearances. Despite tying for most clean sheets with Nashville SC’s Joe Willis and New York Red Bulls’ Carlos Coronel, Yarbrough achieved the record in one less game than his counterparts, making the milestone all the more impressive.

But none of these accomplishments could have been possible without a steadfast presence to lead the way.

Fraser’s time at the helm since 2019 has proven fruitful for the Rapids, as the victory over LAFC marked his 30th win with the club and this playoff run is his second in as many years. A former Rapids player himself from 2001-2003, Fraser’s journey with the club came full circle on Sunday.

“I have so many ties here, to have the opportunity to come back here and coach, that in and of itself was a huge turnaround from the days back in Chivas and it took a while to get back to being a head coach,” he said after the Decision Day match. “But to land here with this group of players, I feel really fortunate. And I keep pushing them and they just keep working. I keep demanding of them and they just keep meeting expectations and to have won the West I'm incredibly, incredibly proud of the team.”

The Rapids have only suffered two losses at DICK’S Sporting Goods Park since Fraser’s arrival, a record that can set the tone for the Rapids as they will host all Western Conference playoff matchups this year.

With three weeks to prepare for their first playoff match, the Rapids have their eyes set on climbing to the summit of the league––hoisting the MLS Cup for the fans, for the community, for themselves.

“They're very aware that no one thought that they could [win], and they understand that they are where they are because of how hard they work together,” Fraser said. “And going into the next round of games they know it's going to be difficult, they know it's going to be a challenge, but this is a group that I know is always up for the preparation and up for the work and they'll be ready come the next game.”