Colorado Rapids

Calvin Harris' season of growing confidence adds depth to Rapids' attack


When it comes to taking opportunities as they come, Rapids striker Calvin Harris paints the picture well.

From an offseason, cross-conference trade, to finding crucial playing time with Rapids 2, to tallying assists and creating chance after chance on the DICK'S Sporting Goods Park pitch, the English-born forward is determined to make every minute count.

Harris has started the past two regular-season games with the Rapids first team, leaving it all out on the field in the 2-1 victory over FC Dallas and the scoreless draw with Houston Dynamo.

"There's obviously pressure to perform, but my job is to try to help the team try and create chances, try and be as big as a threat as I can," he said following the one-point result with Houston. "And as long as I keep doing that then I get more minutes, but at the same time, we didn't score a goal tonight, so it's a shame that we weren't rewarded for our attacking threat. Going forward, we need to put those chances to goals."

Harris has logged four goals in five appearances with Rapids 2 this year, notching braces in two games against Portland Timbers 2 and LA Galaxy 2.

“It’s the same [coaching] philosophy, but obviously a different level,” Harris said of his time being coached by Erik Bushey with Rapids 2 and by Robin Fraser with the first team. “But the players with [Rapids 2] are really good players. So when I'm able to step with them and play minutes with them, it's always a great experience. I'm able to play the same style that I want to play in games.

"It builds confidence as well in those games. Obviously, I've had four games and four goals in those games. So that builds confidence into coming in during the first team. So now it's just about performing and doing those things that I've done with [Rapids 2] with the first team.”

As usual for the Rapids squad, the bench is deep for strikers, with seven forwards rostered and competing for a starting XI position each week in training. Harris, attempting to break into the first team lineup, stands up top with teammates Kévin Cabral, Jonathan Lewis, Michael Barrios, Diego Rubio and Darren Yapi—a balanced mix of league newcomers and veterans.

The diversity of teammates to both compete against for playing time and collaborate with on the pitch makes Harris’ job of finding his own rhythm a more straightforward process and helps the coaching staff dictate his roles and responsibilities on the pitch.

For Harris, the ask is to run defenders down and take them on directly—getting into the box and being in dangerous places for scoring opportunities or providing assists.

The arrival of left back Andrew Gutman poses a unique and dynamic partnership on the left side of the Rapids’ pitch. The two combined for 16 final third entrances in the matchups with FC Dallas and Houston Dynamo.

Gutman’s tendency to stay high on the sideline and take his space into the attack opens the opportunities for them to overlap one another and communicate the best way to get the ball into the box, if not the goal itself. A combination play from the two led to the corner kick goal by Andreas Maxsø in Colorado’s 2-1 win over FC Dallas last week.

“I think it's been pretty fluid since he first came in and we played that first game together. It just felt really natural,” said Harris.” We haven't spoken much about it or anything like that, but he's an attacking fullback, so it's fun to play with someone that's very forward thinking and gets beyond me.”

The unspoken understanding between the two on the pitch is a rarity, especially when the two had just days to acclimate to each other since Gutman’s arrival in Colorado. The nascent partnership signals to elevated attacking potential on the left side of the Rapids’ formation.

Rapids Head Coach Robin Fraser saw Harris’ progress through preseason, his time with Rapids 2 and the dynamic starts in the last two games at DSGP, lauding the young striker’s confidence.

“I think Calvin is a young player, having been traded, still trying to find his feet when he first got here, and I think any situation where a young player goes into a new team can be a difficult situation for him," Fraser said. "I felt like it took him a while to get comfortable with what's what's expected of him based on the team structure, and based on his own physical capabilities.

And I felt like when he went and played with Rapids 2, he was gaining confidence. He was scoring goals, he was looking very dangerous, and he was finishing his goal as well and started to look more and more confident. And it's it's the perfect place to earn an opportunity with the first team. He's also been training well, more confidently more decisive scoring more goals. And as a result, he's earned himself a couple of sets now he's done pretty well with them."