With just over 20 percent of the season completed, the Colorado Rapids are 4-2-1 (W-L-D) without yet hitting their peak form, but with a number of early season bright spots and a fourth-place ranking in the Western Conference. Auston Trusty has bloomed in his second season in Burgundy, Michael Barrios has had a palpable effect, and the team fights with an earned confidence that comes from having a deep roster of guys who play for each other. Here are my takeaways from the first stretch of the season.
Auston Trusty Deserves Your Attention
Trusty began his time in Colorado getting acclimated to the squad and head coach Robin Fraser’s defensive game. Trusty featured in eight matches in 2020 as he fought for a spot in a crowded back line. Now, the young center back from Pennsylvania has played every minute in 2021, anchoring a defense that has conceded the third fewest goals in the Western Conference.
According to Opta, Trusty is tied for sixth in MLS with 15 headed clearances and leads all Rapids defenders with 70 percent tackle success, barely edging out center back partner Danny Wilson at 69.2 percent.
You Can’t Catch Michael Barrios
In the attack, perhaps no one in Burgundy has been more involved than winger Michael Barrios. He’s Colorado’s leading scorer, level with Cole Bassett and Diego Rubio at two goals while second on the team with two assists, behind captain Jack Price’s three. Barrios had a hand in Sam Vines and Keegan Rosenberry’s first goals of the year, helping Colorado get eight players in the goal column.
He is an electric winger who uses his pace to put defenders on tilt. I estimate Barrios is in the top 10 percent in MLS, if not higher, in top speed while running with the ball. He is a runaway train moving downhill while being boosted by rockets. Once he’s safely in behind, he lifts his head and picks out the right pass to create an attacking opportunity.
My final takeaway from the first seven games is difficult to define because the quality is often referred to as the intangibles. It’s the confidence, chemistry, resolve and belief in their teammates that the Rapids have shown time and again.
Instead of nailing down a definition, I’ll illustrate it. First, the most recent match: the 3-0 victory over FC Dallas. The Rapids were without two of their biggest contributors, Younes Namli and Kellyn Acosta, and to make matters worse, they were heavily out-possessed and out-shot, 21-13. Most teams aren’t winning a game like that – Colorado cruised, 3-0.
But that’s what happens when you have a deep roster and Nicolás Mezquida steps in for his first start of 2021, or when Bassett tears it up in the midfield and haunts of the dreams of MLS goalkeepers. Just a month ago, the Rapids showed similar fortitude when they fought back from a two-goal deficit in the second half against Minnesota to snag their first home win of the season.
The point is, it doesn’t matter if maybe things are just a bit off on the night, the team can still find ways to score goals while keeping a clean sheet. It’s a mental toughness coupled with a confidence in the man next to you that leads to a result like that. And it’s those traits that don’t have price tags on the transfer market but are invaluable when the whistle blows.
It doesn’t matter who plays, or if things are a bit off on the night – the team is finding ways to score goals and shut down opponents. It’s a mental toughness and confidence in the man next to you that leads to the results the Rapids have earned. Those traits don’t have price tags on the transfer market but are invaluable when the whistle blows.