Robin Fraser sat in his office at DICK’S Sporting Goods Park with his TV on, searching for the right channel. With multiple laptops open on his desk as he attempted to stream Fox Soccer Plus, Fraser battled feelings of nervousness and pride as he watched his daughter take the pitch in a U.S. National Team jersey for the first time at just 16 years old.
“By the end of that whole qualifying round, I literally had four computers and an iPad trying to make sure that I got that last game,” Robin said.
His daughter, Nicola “Nicki” Fraser, was called up to the under-17 U.S. Women’s Youth National Team camp ahead of its World Cup Qualifying run in the Dominican Republic this spring. Not only was she playing up an age group, but the defender recorded five caps and one goal in the qualifying round after attending just one national camp in her young career.
For a father that’s been in the game for almost five decades, it’s one of Robin’s proudest moments. Thirteen years ago, her soccer career was something he could only speculate about as a three-year-old Nicki attempted to pass the ball around at her older sister’s practices, only to fall down each time.
“I have this distinct memory that whenever I kicked the ball I kept falling over––I used to actually just hit the deck,” Nicki said. “And he used to get so annoyed with me in a joking way. That was my first memory of him being involved when I was a kid.”
Since Robin has come back to Colorado after time at New York Red Bulls, Toronto FC and Chivas USA, the two have shared plenty of time together. The Rapids’ head coach attends his daughter’s practices and games when he can and offers feedback on her play. When COVID hit the league in 2020, the duo took advantage of the lack of school and Rapids’ responsibilities and trained four days a week and three hours per day.
“It's nice having him back here because he's involved in my life and he always has solutions,” Nicki said. “He just always has the right thing to say, he always has a solution for every problem. He knows how to fix it or at least he gives me ideas. So I never feel discouraged whenever he says anything to me or criticizes me. I just always know it's coming from a place that he knows what he's talking about. So it's a comfort that I can always go to him.”
The Fraser father-daughter duo are now making history as intergenerational national players for the United States. With her first appearance for the youth squad against Costa Rica, Nicki became the second daughter of a U.S. National Team player to earn a cap at any level of the U.S. Women’s National Teams program. The other duo is Chicago Red Stars midfielder Vanessa DiBernardo and her father, Angelo.
There is one distinction between the two already, however: Nicki’s 84th-minute closer in the team’s 13-0 blowout of Puerto Rico cemented her in the history books as the only Fraser to score in a World Cup Qualifying match, a feat Robin didn’t accomplish in his 27 caps with the USMNT.
“I’ve already been one-upped by my little one,” Robin said with a proud smile.
Despite the difference between the pair, there are more than enough similarities.
Robin finished his career wearing the number 4 for the Stars & Stripes, a legacy Nicki says she wants to continue. But when both Frasers began playing for the United States, the preferred 4 was already taken, and they each settled for number 2 to begin their national careers.
Nicki also plays on the back line like her father, only she’s taken the left side while he played as a center back. The pair’s playing style also emulates one another’s, despite Robin retiring before Nicki was even born, much less able to observe her dad’s proficiency on the ball.
“When I watch her play, the amount of things that she does just like me is crazy,” Robin said. “We did a highlight tape to send off some universities for Nicki recently and I sent it to my best friend in Jamaica and his first comment was, ‘I can't believe how much she plays like you.’ She’s my mini-me, except she’s doing it better.”
Robin can pinpoint some of his proudest memories as the father of a burgeoning talent such as Nicki, including witnessing her call-up to the World Cup Qualifying roster and watching her progress from worrying over a bad training session to performing as one of the best players in an under-14 regional camp in 2020. The two took a congratulatory call together in the car after Nicki’s practice as she was welcomed to the under-17 roster by head coach Natalia Astrain.
While soccer occupies a lot of the Frasers’ time, the two set aside time to do other things together as well. Mountain biking, getting outdoors whenever possible and spending time in the kitchen are top of the list for Robin and Nicki.
Nicki’s culinary talents lie in baking while Robin likes to cook. The pair even taught the Rapids faithful how to make a perfect apple crumble over quarantine in the team’s “Master-ish Class” series in 2020.
For a family like the Frasers, holidays can become an afterthought when travel, games and conflicting schedules come into play. Father’s Day lands on the same date as the Rapids’ matchup with defending MLS Cup champions NYCFC this year. The lack of celebration on the actual day doesn’t matter, Robin said.
“I feel like every Father's Day has had some sort of soccer chaos going on, but I feel like Father's Day is every day we hang out,” he said. “We spend so much time together––we certainly have since I've come back to Colorado––it really has felt like every day is Father's Day.”