Less than four hours from where the Rapids' are currently preparing for the 2023 season, the city of Aguascalientes, Mexico remembers a young William Yarbrough who once played in its streets, dreaming of becoming a professional soccer player.

The Mexican goalkeeper and back-to-back Liga MX champion returned to the country that raised him and advanced his career earlier this month when Colorado embarked on a weeks-long preseason trip to Querétaro.

Yarbrough was born and raised in Aguascalientes. Day in and day out as a child, he played baseball and soccer, Mexico's two most popular sports, before deciding to stick with soccer when he was about five years old.

The goalkeeper was one of thousands of youth players dreaming of turning soccer into their career, but it was a goal he fought hard for.

He finished his homework as soon as possible to get out on the streets to play with friends. He begged his parents to get up early and take him to games so he could be the first one there. The 'keeper finally saw his talent and efforts pay off when he left home at 15 years old to join the academy of C.F. Pachuca, where his training between the sticks earned him a spot on Club León’s first team just five years later.

After relegation in 2002, León returned to Mexico’s top flight in the 2012-13 season, Yarbrough's first with the team. He went on to win the Apertura in 2013 and Clausura in 2014 with the historic club.

The Rapids' training stint in Querétaro is the first time the ‘keeper has played on Mexican soil since leaving León in 2020.

"[Querétaro's] only a couple of hours away from León. It brings back memories. It does make me a little nostalgic," he said. "I grew up in Mexico, and I love everything about it. Obviously, we have a little bit better weather than we have in Denver right now, we have altitude, which is great for preseason training. The food is great, the facility where we're training is great, and the way that people have treated us is exactly what I expected."

Yarbrough has trained at the facility the Rapids are currently using and played each of Colorado’s preseason opponents before in his career. He’s also used to the high levels of physicality and intensity seen from Mexican teams. Playing Celaya, Mineros and Querétaro will give the Rapids a good expectation of what’s to come in Leagues Cup play this year, he said. 

While the feelings of nostalgia on the pitch are undeniable for Yarbrough, simply being around the people and culture of Mexico brings out his love for the country that raised him.

“It's fun, being able to share certain aspects of this culture with teammates,” he said. Yarbrough is the only Mexican player on the Rapids squad. 

 “I feel privileged to be able to. I love this culture, and just knowing how people are so welcoming and chatty, and being able to engage in conversations with the hotel staff to workers at the facility where we're training at, just being able to have those conversations with these people is nice.”

Even though Yarbrough's family now lives in the U.S. and his preseason schedule makes seeing old friends and teammates difficult, the Rapids' goalkeeper is balancing his time spent appreciating being back in Mexico and staying focused on the task at hand. 

"It's hard knowing that you're so close to a lot of friends that I gained over over the past years at León and knowing you're only a couple hours away, but at the same time, a lot of my focus is making sure that I'm 100% fit and ready to go for the start of the season," he said. "It's in the back of my mind that I would love to see these guys, but at the same time they understand because they're in the same business as I am and right now, my main focus is taking care of my body and making sure that I take advantage of this preseason."