The Colorado Rapids will host fans for the first time since March of 2020 this Saturday when the team takes on Austin FC for the first time. We talked to head coach Robin Fraser, Andre Shinyahsiki and William Yarbrough ahead of the home opener about what the team learned in their last match and the return of fans.
On preparing for a matchup against an expansion side
Fraser: For a team like Austin, obviously, we don’t have a lot to go on, but we’ve seen a bit in terms of last week, and we know some of the players who are there. But in terms of preparation, it’s really about looking at the way they play, some of their tendencies and getting ready for that, and then trying to see if there are things we can exploit.
You can see that they are a well organized team that are playing within a system and guys have roles, and that’s the way the game is going these days, that the best teams play in good systems. As I watch them play, it’s clear that Josh [Wolff] has instituted certain things within them, and they’re trying to get certain things accomplished. It’s not that difficult to see the tendencies as you watch.
On the style of play of Austin and comparison to USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter’s tactics
Fraser: I think they show similar tendencies to teams that Gregg has coached, in terms of their alignment and how they actually line up on the field. They pressure a little bit differently maybe than how Gregg has done in the past. This is how it is. When you are an assistant coach, you certainly follow your head coach’s lead, but you have your own ideas, and it’s clear that Josh is someone who thinks about the game, just in the way they play.
On the takeaways from the 0-0 draw in Dallas
William Yarbrough: I think, not only the backline, everyone in general did a great job in making sure we were in the positions we asked to be in, everyone was locked in for 90 minutes. The level of concentration that everyone showed and the attention to detail for 90 minutes was key in taking a point away from Dallas, and I think we have to have that exact same mindset come Saturday. Locked in for 90 minutes, and pay special attention to the positions we need to be in. I think if we do that, we can get 3 points here at home.
On the excitement around playing in front of their home fans
Yarbrough: Fans are everything. Obviously, I’m very excited and pumped to have fans back in the stadium. You know the biggest reason is because that means we’re heading in the right path for getting over this virus, which I think is good news for all of us. I got to see a little bit when I first got here in the home opener against Orlando, and just seeing the atmosphere that the fans bring to this team and to the stadium, I wanted to be a part of it so bad. So, now that I finally get the chance, you know, it’s going to be big for us. Fans have a huge impact a lot of times on the performances we have, so, hopefully, we can feed off their energy and get a good result for them on Saturday.
Positive takeaways from Dallas
Andre Shinyashiki: I just think that we were really difficult to play against against Dallas. We got it stuck in, we made tackles, we made some intelligent fouls. I just think that’s the main thing for us coming into this game is being hard to play against. They’re coming into Altitude, they’re coming into our house, and we need to make it difficult.
The team mentality around the upcoming matchup
Shinyashiki: We need to win the game, that’s it. There’s not much else to say. We want to play nice football, you know, connect and really make the fans enjoy the game, but, ultimately, we want to win, and we know that’s what the fans like the most.
On the excitement surrounding return of fans
Shinyashiki: It’s a massive, massive push for us. It helps us a lot that we have fans, and in the 80th, 90th minute, when those teams are tired, and we have our fans pushing us, it gives us that extra gas. To me, it’s massive. I hate playing without fans, so it’s a big one for me, and I think for the rest of the guys as well.