Anthony Markanich took to the Rapids’ pitch for the first time in burgundy this weekend, and the young defender did not disappoint the thousands of fans in attendance at altitude.
On Sunday, the 22-year-old defender started in his MLS debut against CCL champions, Seattle Sounders FC. He recorded two shots over his 90 minutes played.
“It's obviously a huge game to make your MLS debut. They just won Concacaf Champions League; they're pretty damn good,” said head coach Robin Fraser postgame. “But he was unfazed, he's a confident kid.”
Fraser sees a lot of potential in the young draftee from Northern Illinois University, and so do the rest of his teammates. He’s drawn comparisons to a younger Steven Beitashour, consistent and steadfast in his approach to the game.
Markanich’s twin brother, Nick, also spent four years at NIU before being drafted to an MLS team. He currently plays as a striker for FC Cincinnati and has racked up 98 minutes in seven games, including a start in the Orange and Blue’s season opener against Austin FC. When it was Anthony’s turn to start and play on the MLS stage, Nick was there to offer feedback and reassurance.
As it turns out, Markanich played like he didn’t need any pointers on Sunday. Markanich made eight runs into Seattle’s territory, tying midfielder Jack Price for the most offensive attacks in the game. His 6-foot-1 frame makes him dangerous in the air and his ability to track back defensively leaves the opposition wary.
Markanich went head-to-head with players like Kelyn Rowe and Christan Roldan in his debut, the latter having 31 U.S. Men’s National team caps under his belt.
“I think he's just a very, very, very solid player,” said teammate Jonathan Lewis after Sunday’s match. “[Roldan] is a very hard player to play against. He’s so versatile and can do so many different things to hurt you, and I think [Markanich] did a really good job of containing him today.”
The 2022 MLS SuperDraft pick is excited for his future with the club, but credits his performance to his teammates’ support on the day and the week leading up to the debut.
“My team helped me through the whole game, they were with me every step of the way, encouraging me, talking to me the whole time,” he said. “Before the game they're just saying how much I deserve this, they gave me the confidence to go out there and just be myself. They trusted me today.”
His team-first mentality is visible to the rest of the team and coaching staff. Beitashour, a league veteran with 14 seasons to his name, knows a thing or two about how a young player’s attitude can make or break their success on America’s biggest stage.
When asked about what he’s done to help guide the amateur in the opening stages of his career, he came up empty.
“I haven't done anything, he's a great kid,” the defender said. “Great personality, great work ethic. Every day, he just comes in ready to work. So we're very excited that he had his debut, he played well, he didn't look like he was nervous. And he played for the team. It wasn't about trying to be there for Anthony, it was let me be out there for Colorado Rapids, let's do whatever it takes. And that's what I love the most.”