Colorado Rapids

Robin Fraser, Keegan Rosenberry preview Leagues Cup group stage ahead of clash with Nashville SC


Colorado Rapids Head Coach Robin Fraser and defender Keegan Rosenberry addressed the media for the first time since the inaugural Leagues Cup tournament began on Friday night. Here are some key takeaways from Saturday afternoon's press conference:

New competition, new opportunity for growth

Leagues Cup offers the opportunity for the Rapids to find footing against unfamiliar opponents and search for a spark to bring back into regular season competition. Similar to their approach to Open Cup play, the Rapids see Leagues Cup not as a break from play, but a chance to improve. 

"We're looking for ways to turn our season around. And this is certainly an opportunity going into a new competition, different structure, just as I said, something we've never seen before," said Fraser, "So the emphasis on our part is really to play well and to execute and to get results. We've played well in most of our games this year. But if we don't execute the moments where we play well, then we arrive at where we are, and we know what to get out of this, we need to play well, we need to execute, and this provides a platform for more games to do so."

Rosenberry echoed Fraser's statements, citing the excitement around the tournament as a whole and what it can provide for the league, if not the Rapids' specifically.

"The new tournament is exciting. I think around the league, there's kind of a buzz about it. It's brand new. I think there's kind of an unknown as to what the competition can truly hold. But in terms of that natural rivalry between the United States and Mexico, I think it's only going to accentuate that. I think everybody's excited about that. 

"For us specifically, I think we could use a different competition and change of pace for the league so it's a way to maybe change our fate a little bit and get some momentum going back into the league."

Keys against Nashville SC and Toluca FC

Before the Rapids can advance to the Knockout stage, they must first have to earn a top two spot in the group after facing Nashville SC and Deportivo Toluca FC. Against Nashville, Colorado has a rocky history, falling to the Eastern Conference side twice. This time around, the Rapids are zeroed in on what it will take to come out victorious against Nashville in their own stadium of Geodis Park. 

"Obviously, Nashville's a very good team defensively and we know that they're going to be tough to penetrate," said Fraser. "But we have to continue to play the way that we think has brought us success. And we know that it's a difficult group to play against because they are such a good defending team. But we have to keep doing the things that we do. And as I keep saying, be a little bit more precise in their box and obviously defensively more precise in our box. Dealing with Hany Mukhtar is job one I think if you're going to deal with Nashville, and certainly it's someone that we're going to pay a great deal of attention to."

Certain aspects of the Rapids' preseason competitions against three Mexican sides Celaya FC, Mineros de Zacateca FC and Querétaro FC could shed some light onto the approach into the Toluca matchup next week. 

"When we were [in Querétaro], we saw so many different styles of play, that it's hard to say that just playing in Mexico would have helped us for this, but it was an opportunity," said Fraser. "I think whenever you play international games, it's just a little bit different. And I do think playing the three [Mexican] teams helps us in that the approach in international games is just slightly different and the players are just slightly different. But having said that, I don't think anything is really similar to Toluca that we saw. But certainly, we will draw from all the experiences that we can to try to be as good as possible."

New faces, returning and arriving

The Rapids have also seen some changes to lineups in the past month, including new acquisition Andrew Gutman and 23-year-old Calvin Harris. Gutman and Harris' connection on the left side has shown promise heading into the attack and contributed to the Rapids' first home win of the season against FC Dallas. Defender Moïse Bombito recently returned from his own international playing experience, appearing for the Canadian men's national team in the Concacaf Gold Cup. 

Leagues Cup, much like Open Cup, can offer Rapids' fans a chance to see some rotations to the lineups and get to know new players' styles better.

"Some new energy [seen from the team's recent performances] comes along with some new player acquisitions, and changing the look of the team of it has helped us it's given us a little little bit of a boost," said Rosenberry. "[Andrew] has been great, integrated very quickly, transition was pretty quick and seamless. I think it's less about the personnel and for us just more about the collective and trying to put together a whole performance."