Successful July Homestand
For the Rapids, especially playing at altitude, collecting as many points as possible at DICK'S Sporting Goods Park is always paramount. With the Western Conference as deep as ever, the four-game homestand in July was one that was circled as a vital run of matches - Seattle, Minnesota, San Jose, Dallas - all playoff teams from 2020.
Well that stretch is now in the books and and all things said, it was a success. A point against league-leading Seattle, a dominant midweek win over Minnesota, a scrappy 1-1 draw against San Jose and a thorough 2-0 team win over FC Dallas. Four games, eight points. It wasn't perfect, but those results have the Rapids sitting in the fourth spot in the Western Conference with a game in hand on the LA Galaxy who finish Wednesday in the third position with just one more point.
“It’s a real testament to the players and their grit and fight. This feeling that we bend but we don’t really break, it’s very much about how they interact with each other and how they play for each other," Head Coach Robin Fraser said. "As a result of that, I think we’ve seen a very cohesive effort late in games. If we have to emergency defend, we’ll emergency defend. If we can keep them away from our goal, we’ll do that. But collectively they’ve taken this challenge on really well and embraced it.”
In all, the four matches saw two goals from Michael Barrios and one each from Braian Galván, Andre Shinyashiki, Cole Bassett and Lalas Abubakar. Jack Price tallied his fifth assist on Wednesday and William Yarbrough picked up another clean sheet to move back into a tie for the MLS lead. In other words, the Rapids are getting contributions from across the roster and collecting points in all kinds of different ways. That's a sign that this team is learning to win.
Depth and Debuts
The last three matches have seen the Rapids' depth tested due to injury and international duty, but each and every time a player is called upon he's done his job, and done it at a high level.
Auston Trusty filling in at left back? No problem. Nico Mezquida causing havoc as a starter and a sub depending on the situation? Done. On Wednesday, the Rapids even got a club debut from MLS veteran Steven Beitashour who helped lock things down in midfield against FC Dallas for the final 20 minutes. The last time Beita saw MLS action was in October of 2019, and there are two things that can't be understated about his appearance on Wednesday - there aren't many more experienced players you could call in MLS close out a win in that situation and Robin Fraser deserves a massive applause for the job he's done to keep each and every member of the side involved, motivated and ready to contribute when their time comes.
Eyes on the RMC
The celebrations the Rapids' locker room will be short-lived - seven of the next ten matches are away from home and it's a quick-turnaround to head West to face Real Salt Lake. For the majority of the players on the roster, the 2021 Rocky Mountain Cup opener should require no motivation, but it comes in a tricky spot - a third match in eight days as the Rapids will continue to be shorthanded primarily with players away on Gold Cup duty.
“I always say it’s always good to get a good result at home. I know the two ties that we tied at home felt a little bit disappointed for us. But we can only look forward," Lalas Abubakar said postgame. "We’re not satisfied but we have to keep going. Now we have a couple away games starting from Saturday. The guys, we need to recover and get our minds right for Salt Lake because it’s going to be a really good game, a difficult game, a difficult environment. Right now the message is get everybody ready to go on Saturday.”
The good news about the win on Wednesday is that the Rapids were able to ensure that Jack Price and Danny Wilson (yellow card accumulation) will be available against RSL. Fraser was also able to get a few extra minutes of rest for Barrios, and Bassett is well, he is probably still running and will surely be motivated to keep the Rocky Mountain Cup in Colorado in 2021.