Price Climbs Into Top 5
You can watch film and you can gameplan but if you give the Rapids too many looks at set pieces and they’ll punish you. They did just that Saturday in Houston scoring an eighth set piece goal of the season.
The visitors were the aggressor in the first quarter-hour, earning a number of corners and pressing to keep the home side inside their own 18, specifically in the first few minutes. Sure enough, on the third such occasion, in the fifth minute The Jack Price, found Lalas Abubakar who headed home the opening goal for the perfect start to the match.
“I thought we started well, to have the ball in their half for the first four or five minutes, we earned a few corners and to score one that early was certainly the dream start,” Fraser said.
The goal marked the sixth assist of 2021 for Price who moved into the top five for the club with 26 helpers in his career. The Rapids continue to be the best in MLS at converting set pieces and every time Price steps up, they often get a quality look at goal.
Learning on the Fly
Each time the Rapids have taken a lead on the road in 2021, they’ve boarded the charter flight home with three points in the bag. A 1-0 win over Vancouver, a 2-0 win over Cincinnati, a 1-0 win over Austin and now a 3-1 win over Houston. Fraser’s side have found different ways to beat teams this year and the young players seem to be learning how to win in difficult environments.
“I don’t want to single guys out, but the maturity of having Drew Moor, Steven Beitashour, Collen Warner just to name a few are guys who have been on successful teams. Their leadership is exceptional,” Fraser said after the Houston win. “You’ve seen a lot of games closed down with one or two or three of them on the field. They lend their experience, and they pass it on and you start to see the younger players making decisions that are based on what is it going to take to close this game out?”
Sure, the four wins the Rapids have on the road this year are against four teams currently sitting below the playoff line, but Houston had not lost at home all year. That’s the sign of a good team - closing out the 90 minutes to capture for a full three points when it’s there for the taking.
“I think the younger players have just embraced it,” Fraser said. “And when you start to do things and see the results they produce it just reinforces what you’re doing. I think we’re seeing the maturation process of a lot of the young players and utilizing the veterans we have.”
The 3-1 win marked a fourth win in Houston since 2016, and a second win in Texas in just three weeks. The six goals scored against Houston so far in 2021 were scored by six different goalscorers. Everyone is chipping in for Fraser’s side right now and the results are following.
Keeping Pace in the West
The top teams in both conferences are starting to separate from the pack and the Rapids are right in the mix in the West. They sit fourth, just two points behind Seattle with a game in hand. That’s right - for all the hype around Seattle’s historic start to the 2021 season, the Rapids have been nearly equal through their first 17 matches.
At the halfway point of the season, the Rapids sit sixth in MLS in both points per game and total points. They have five home wins and four road wins and have conceded the second-fewest goals in MLS (tied with Nashville as of Saturday). All of this is to say, the season really begins in the second half, and the Rapids will need to continue to lean on their depth as they did during the first half of the season. The Rapids will play 17 games over the final 12 weeks of the season beginning with a quick turnaround in LA on Tuesday.