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Full Circle

Tuesday’s match will be the first time the Rapids face the New York Red Bulls since August 31, 2019—a 2-0 win on the road in what was Robin Fraser’s first match as Rapids head coach. Since then, the Rapids have gone on to record the fifth-most points per game in the league under the former MLS Defender of the Year.

The Rapids have since gone through player turnover in departures and arrivals to the squad, but Fraser’s ability to bring a consistent leadership style has remained one of the team’s greatest assets. After the 2019 matchup with New York, he lauded the effort of the team rather than his managerial direction, a trend that has continued throughout his tenure as head coach. 

“I can't say enough about the effort, really can't,” Fraser said in 2019. “The guys put out such an incredible effort. I told them afterwards, I want to be associated with this team because those guys fight.”

Fraser previously spent two years as an assistant coach with the Red Bulls (2013-14), helping guide the club to its first-ever Supporters’ Shield in 2013.

Go, Jonny, Go

With his goal against Seattle on Saturday, Jonathan Lewis has now logged a goal and two assists across his last two appearances. The U.S. international is three goals away from tying his single-season career high of seven goals set in 2021. Lewis, who joined the Rapids from New York City FC in 2019, scored both goals in Colorado’s last match against the Red Bulls, a 2-0 road win back on August 31, 2019.

His growth in the time since with the Rapids has given him a fresher, more mature perspective on the game.

“I don't want to say I'm a leader, but I have more of an influence on the team now than I did then,” the forward said ahead of Tuesday’s meeting. “We have some veteran players like Gyasi, Diego, who have been in the league for a long time, and myself as a younger player who’s played for the national team and stuff. So it's just trying to lead by example, but at the end of the day we got to come together as a team and just try to get the result.”

State of the Sides

The Red Bulls currently sit third in the Eastern Conference standings with a 10-6-6 record so far in 2022. Their record at home leaves something to be desired, but a scoreline is nothing but a number when the performance tells a different story.

“They’re one of the best high-pressing teams, they make the game uncomfortable whenever you're playing against them,” said Lewis. “We’ve got to just be able to play under the pressure. That's something against Seattle I felt like we struggled with a little bit. So we just got to man up and just be willing to get on the ball with the guy in our back.”

The two sides are meeting in very different circumstances rest-wise as the Red Bulls will host the Rapids for their third game in seven days, whereas Colorado enters the meeting after a 10-day gameless stretch.

New York fell to Orlando 5-1 on July 27 to be knocked out of the U.S. Open Cup and is set to face La Liga giant FC Barcelona in a friendly on Saturday. The Rapids’ opportunity to reset and train after their matchup with Seattle leaves them rested, but eager to get back on the pitch to face the Eastern Conference opponent.

“We're excited. I don't know if anxious is the right word, but we want to play because we have to give ourselves a bounce back after a poor performance in Seattle,” said midfielder Ralph Priso on Friday. “We can't wait.”

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Getting Back on Track

While the 2-1 result against Seattle was disappointing, the Rapids’ showed real effort and grit in the week prior after facing Real Salt Lake, Orlando City SC and LA Galaxy in a week’s time. The pair of come-from-behind wins against RSL and Orlando put Colorado in prime position to earn a commanding 2-0 shutout against the Galaxy, all attributed to what Fraser considers the consistency of the team’s play.

The Rapids’ loss to Seattle was one that caught the Burgundy Boys in a moment of fallen confidence after the call that led to the Sounders’ equalizer, said Fraser.

“The fact of the matter is we need to stop taking two steps forward, two steps back, you know, we need to take three steps forward, one step back and incrementally work our way to be better and more confident,” he said on Friday. “So this is just another opportunity that we’re against a very good team, a very high energy team. And we have to be able to match the energy and we have to be able to do the things that we need to do to be successful and get a result against them.”