The Rapids’ newest Designated Player took to the pitch on Wednesday night as Rafael Navarro logged his first minutes in burgundy in Colorado’s match against LAFC on the road. Despite the disappointing result at BMO Stadium, the striker from Palmeiras saw 90 minutes with his new team, creating chances in the final third and building chemistry with the rest of the attacking line.
Navarro logged two shots and three attacking assists over the course of the night, including two set up passes to Connor Ronan and Keegan Rosenberry at the top of the box, with Ronan’s outside-of-the-foot bending shot forcing a save from LAFC’s John McCarthy.
Rapids Head Coach Robin Fraser saw a lot of positives from the Brazilian’s first full 90 with the team, especially Navarro’s intensity to run defenders down and fight for the ball in the final third.
“Rafael is a really good player – his mentality is first class. He works unbelievably hard,” he said. “He showed that he can hold the ball under pressure. Giorgio Chiellini is as good and experienced as the defenders have ever been in this league. And Rafael showed that his body positioning is good, his ability to hold the ball, his ability to combine but certainly would like to have seen us get him more opportunities to actually go to goal. But his work rate was impressive and I think he's a very, very good player.”
Throughout negotiations for his move to Colorado, Navarro wasn’t getting game minutes with Palmeiras this summer. By the time he got to the Rapids, it was about a month since he’d seen time on the pitch. After training at altitude for a couple weeks the striker was nearly game-ready but still felt the strains of a full match played in a different style than he was used to in Serie A.
“[MLS is] very different from Brazil, it’s a very tight game but little by little [Sidnei and I] are going to get used to it,” he said. “I went a little over a month without playing so getting the rhythm of the game [was hard]. But by the end I felt a little bit [of tiredness], which is normal.”
The striker completed 13 passes in the final third on Wednesday in an effort to get his new team on the scoreboard, combining with fellow Rapids debutant and midfielder Sidnei Tavares in the build toward goal, but none of the chances came to fruition at BMO Stadium.
With ten games in hand on the season, Navarro is focused on building the chemistry between him and his new teammates.
“Everybody that's here in the team is very skillful,” he said after the match. “That's why they're here. [I have] a lot of potential to help us, but what was lacking was that we don't have the rhythm together after this long break, so it's the final action that we need to improve on. We have to go back to training and improve the final action.”