The offense may win games, but the defense wins championships.
The age-old phrase could not have been more apparent than on Saturday night at DICK'S Sporting Goods Park, as the Rapids’ backline put on a lights out performance in front of their home crowd. Colorado's 2-0 defeat of LA Galaxy sparked a moment for players and fans alike at altitude, a moment that assures all that an MLS Cup playoff push is well within the Rapids' reach.
Starting defenders Danny Wilson, Lalas Abubakar, Keegan Rosenberry and Lucas Esteves totaled 27 clearances while defending Colorado’s goal against the Galaxy over the weekend.
Danny Wilson also kept the Galaxy scoreless in the 17th minute when Kévin Cabral found the end of a long through ball and headed straight for Yarbrough’s net. Wilson made the 30-yard sprint to slide tackle the striker as he approached the six, keeping the Rapids out of danger.
Their 100% effort mentality rubs off on the other players on the pitch, even those on the highest line of attack.
“You see Danny and Lalas sliding to make plays… that sets the tone for me. When I see them working even harder, that energizes me like, ‘Hey, I gotta do something as well’,” said striker Gyasi Zardes after beating his hometown team.
“Even Keegan and Lucas, you know, they're finding outlets, they're calm on the ball under pressure. I thought that the whole backline did a phenomenal job today.”
Robin Fraser’s 4-3-3 formation has served the Rapids well in their past three matches without defender Auston Trusty, who departed the club for Arsenal FC earlier this month. After battling to two comeback draws against RSL and Orlando and then beating the Galaxy on Saturday, the defense is hitting its stride.
The Rapids’ backline has contributed to all areas of the field, not just the defensive third. Various members of Colorado’s defense combined for 64 shots, 14 of them on target, in 2022 already. Four goals and seven assists have been recorded in that time as well, including Abubakar's goals in back-to-back Austin FC and RSL games this month.
Goalkeeper William Yarbrough recorded two saves in the shutout, including a one-handed block from point-blank range in the 19th minute.
The Aguascalientes, Mexico native has racked up 52 saves in his 20 games played and started this season. The only minutes he hasn’t spent on the pitch in 2022 were during the Rapids’ matchup with Portland at Providence Park last month, after he collided with Santiago Moreno in the first half’s stoppage time and was taken off the field for the remainder of the game.
His otherwise constant presence between the posts brings an authoritative attitude to the Colorado backline.
“He's a very, very good leader and he's incredibly focused,” said head coach Robin Fraser. “In terms of how he drives a team, his mindset is extremely professional. He's one of the most focused individuals I've been around and he demands not only of himself, but of others.”
Yarbrough’s shutout on Saturday night marked his 24th shutout in burgundy, surpassing former Rapids and U.S. Men’s National Team ‘keeper Tim Howard for fourth-most in club history. He’s now tied for third-most in the league this season with seven.
“[This game is] one of these that I feel like this is very much who this team is and when this team is at its best,” said Fraser after the defeat of LA. “That's what we see, totally committed effort, totally engaged, and these guys have each other's backs.”