Younes Namli isn’t used to such long offseasons.
In his 10 seasons as pro, which have included stops in the Danish, Dutch and Russian first divisions, the Rapids Designated Player has never faced an extended period off like the 2020-21 offseason. He took advantage of the time, though.
Namli spent some time in Dubai, visited one of his best friends in Egypt and went back to stay with his parents in his native Denmark.
“I’ve been used to getting four weeks off,” Namli said Wednesday at preseason camp in Tucson, Ariz. “It was nice to catch up, but it was a little long for me, to be honest.”
The Rapids’ long winter is finally over. The team flew down to Arizona on Monday for five weeks of training camp and six preseason friendlies. Colorado kick off the 2021 MLS season on Saturday, April 17, at FC Dallas before hosting expansion side Austin FC on Saturday, April 24, at DICK’S Sporting Goods Park.
Like so many of his teammates, Namli enters 2021 with a strong feeling of positivity over what the year has in store for the club. After joining the Rapids on a two-year loan from FC Krasnodar in Russia in January 2020, Namli got off to a hot start, opening his scoring account with a sweet strike from distance in the Home Opener against Orlando City. Several stops and starts took their toll, but the Rapids pushed through to a playoff berth, thanks in part to Namli’s game-winning assist against Portland to secure postseason play and his goal against Houston in the regular season finale.
“I think we learned a lot, and it was good for me to learn how the league works and how the level is and all these things. Now I know that, so [in the] second year, hopefully I can help the team to achieve more things than we’ve done recently.”
With so much of the group returning for Robin Fraser’s second full season as head coach, the focus shifts from laying a foundation to building on it.
“It’s one of the most important things in team sports,” Namli said of the group’s chemistry. “The club has done a great job of holding on to players and adding a couple good players, too. That’s really important.”
Colorado’s gifted playmaker is happy to discuss why there exists such positivity and hunger among the group, but believes actions speak louder than words when it comes to expectations.
“I don’t like to talk about expectations too much,” Namli said. “I think it’s something we need to show, not talk about. But let’s be honest, we have a good team. We have a good squad. It’s all up to us at the end. If we want to win something, it’s possible with this group.”
With offseason additions including elite winger Michael Barrios and a slew of young Academy talent, the squad is ready to pull together and achieve more than simply making playoffs.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Namli said. “I’m really excited to see how it’s going to go this season. We have the group to achieve whatever we want to achieve. It’s just about us having to prove it.”