We've compiled some of the biggest storylines for fans to reminisce on during the postseason, looking back on everything from MLS debuts to set piece success during this historic year for the club.
This historic 2021 season welcomed three new faces to the Rapids squad from all over the world. Mark-Anthony Kaye, Michael Barrios and Lucas Esteves' signings immediately began to show their impact on the club. The Canadian international appeared in 15 games, recording one goal and two assists in that time as a dominating force on the attack. Barrios, signed from FC Dallas, entered the club with an already impressive MLS career, being FC Dallas' second all-time leader in combined goals and assists (75). With the Rapids, the Golden Boot winner racked up eight goals and six assists on the season. Coming from Palmeiras, the most successful club team in the history of Brazil’s Serie A, Esteves helped fill in the void by Sam Vines' departure (see below) and finished the season with one goal, the one to effectively top Minnesota United in the Rapids' October comeback win.
Sam Vines to Royal Antwerp FC
Homegrown Sam Vines was transferred to Belgian side Royal Antwerp FC in August 2021, but not before making his mark on the Rapids community. In his time at Colorado, Vines started training with the Rapids Academy at 13, and eventually signed a Homegrown contract at 18. Since his debut, Vines made 53 appearances for the Rapids, recording two goals and four assists in that time.
A Record-Breaking Season under Robin Fraser
Colorado finished in first place in the Western Conference for the first time after capturing a club-record 61 points in the regular season. The Rapids lost the fewest games in the West and conceded just 35 goals in 34 regular season games, tied for fourth-fewest in MLS. Because of their first-place conference finish, Colorado qualified for the 2022 Concacaf Champions League. The Rapids will learn their Round of 16 opponent on Dec. 15. The 2021 season was the second consecutive season that Fraser has led the Rapids to a playoff berth. Since his first regular season match as head coach, the Rapids have compiled the second-most points per game in MLS, with 1.76. His leadership efforts earned him a place as a Sigi Schmid Coach of the Year finalist.
Historic Thanksgiving Day Semifinal Match
The Rapids hosted MLS's first-ever Thanksgiving Day match ths year when battling for a Western Conference Final spot with the Portland Timbers. Despite falling short 1-0 in the last seconds of the game, Colorado's soccer community showed out at DICK'S Sporting Goods Park in front of a live television audience. FOX estimated that 1,850,000 viewers tuned into the semifinal match, making it the second-most watched MLS game since 2004.
"I'm trying to think of how many times I've been in the stadium, even with other teams, and I've never seen our stadium look like that," Fraser said after the game. "A big, big thank you to our entire front office for being able to to produce an effect like that and a big thank you to the fans. They were phenomenal. We heard them the whole way. We would love to give them something more to cheer about but it was the best atmosphere I've ever seen inside the stadium."
William Yarbrough Makes Rapids History
Rapids goalkeeper William Yarbrough finished the regular season with 13 clean sheets, tied for the most in MLS. The Aguascalientes native accomplished this feat while playing one fewer game than his counterparts, Joe Willis and Carlos Miguel Coronel. Yarbrough also posted 107 saves and a 76.81 save percentage. He was the only goalkeeper to finish in the top five in all three categories.
Drew Moor Hits 400 MLS Appearances
Veteran Drew Moor achieved a feat only a handful of MLS players have in the past––recording 400 league appearances. From his time at FC Dallas to Toronto FC to the Rapids, Moor has accumulated two MLS Cup Championship titles, an MLS All-Star Honor, and more. He is one of eight players to reach the 400 mark, and one of two active players (Dax McCarty). Moor tallied the special number in Colorado's 3-1 matchup with Minnesota United FC, subbing on in the 85th minute.
The Comeback Kids
Colorado made not one, but two come-from-behind wins a reality against Minnesota United FC this season, first in May and then in October to complete a season sweep over the Loons in 2021. In their spring matchup, the Rapids battled back from a two-goal deficit to see Cole Bassett, Kellyn Acosta and Danny Wilson score in the second half and clinch the victory. In October, Wilson was shown a red card in the second half after the Loons already held the 1-0 advantage, but despite going down a man and a goal, the Rapids put on the attacking pressure and earned a penalty kick in the 70th minute. Bassett's conversion was just the start of a flurry of Colorado goals, as Michael Barrios and Lucas Esteves each earned a point themselves to sweep Minnesota.
On the Attack
Eighteen different players scored at least one goal for Colorado this season, tied for the most on any team in MLS. Twenty-two Rapids players picked up at least one goal or assist, third-most in MLS. Of those players, six recorded three or more goals as well.
Set Piece Kings
Under the guidance of assistant coach Chris Sharpe, the Rapids finished the season with 14 set piece goals, tied for the most in MLS. They lead MLS with 42 since 2019. Captain Jack Price contributed eight assists off set pieces, and he leads MLS with 22 assists off set pieces since 2019.
Youth on Display
This year saw multiple Homegrown players make their professional debut and reach impressive highs. Rapids Academy products Oliver Larraz and Dantoume "Yaya" Toure each made their First Team debut in 2021, and Cole Bassett recorded five goals and four assists in the regular season. Bassett was also named to MLS's 22 Under 22 list for the third year in a row for his performances on the pitch.