Michael Barrios Impresses in Return to Texas
After the pregame photo ops and handshakes were complete with his former teammates and coaches, Michael Barrios was all business at Toyota Stadium on Saturday night. His first game in a Rapids shirt didn’t quite have the perfect storybook ending he might’ve hoped for, but Barrios was the most dangerous player in attack for the visitors, causing trouble for the defense on the right flank all night.
“I thought Mikey [Barrios] was really good. He’s as honest as they come in that, given the way they played, he had to do a lot of defending and defending in deep,” Head coach Robin Fraser said. “His transition to attack was so fast that he was still able to get in some really dangerous attacking spots tonight.
“I just think his awareness, his professionalism, his decision making, it’s all very, very good. I think he’s going to be really good for us.”
Barrios had several looks on goal in the first half, including a shot that flashed just past the post after a layoff from Diego Rubio in the 31st minute. The Colombian finished with the highest expected goals (0.46 XG) on either team by a wide margin and finished second in passing percentage among the Rapids, behind only Auston Trusty (more on him later). He was replaced by Nicolas Benezet in the 80th minute to an ovation from the home fans
Rapids supporters are familiar with Barrios from his many seasons with the Texas side, but they will get their first chance to cheer him on as a member of the home team next Saturday as the Rapids take on Austin FC.
Kellyn Acosta’s Versatility Comes Up Clutch
Kellyn Acosta is among the most versatile players on the Rapids roster and maybe all of MLS.
His regular position in Fraser’s lineup usually comes as a true box-to-box midfielder where his skills in attack are as important as his engine and ability to track back on defense. Acosta also showed he can play more of a holding midfield role when he stepped on the field for two USMNT friendlies last month. U.S. fans and Rapids fans will also recall that Acosta can play along the back line, specifically on the left side, and he filled in with a great effort against Minnesota United in the 2020 Playoffs in just that spot.
When regular starter Sam Vines was deemed unavailable for the 2021 Season Opener on Saturday night, Fraser turned to number 23 to slot into that left back role against Dallas. Acosta’s attacking qualities going forward were obvious, often drifting into midfield or down the touchline to make overlapping runs that caused problems for the Dallas defense. Outside of one moment, his positioning and defending were spot on, especially in 1-on-1 scenarios where he shut down the right-hand side of the Dallas attack for large stretches.
“I thought Kellyn did an excellent job tonight. It’s a tough thing, when you go through the entire preseason playing your natural position, and you have a few days to prepare for playing completely out of position,” Fraser said.
“His commitment to doing it well was fantastic, and it showed on both ends of the field. He did really well, and his willingness to get forward, create situations with Andre [Shinyashiki], combine with him to get forward, looked really good.”
Danny Wilson & Auston Trusty Shut Down Potent Dallas Attack
Rapids fans are used to seeing Lalas Abubakar patrolling the backline, with the defender playing in 39 games out of a possible 42 since joining the Rapids in 2019. Abubakar was paired with both Auston Trusty and Danny Wilson during various preseason scrimmages this season, but Trusty and Wilson’s time paired together was limited, to say the least. Until Saturday night. With Abubakar out due to injury, the duo pitched a shutout and were aggressive in the air and comfortable breaking Dallas’ press all evening.
The duo earned approval from their boss, who knows a thing or two about defending.
“I thought they did a really good job. I thought Auston [Trusty] came in and was solid. Danny [Wilson], having to play on the right side, I thought was extremely solid… I thought the back group was excellent,” Fraser said. “They certainly made it difficult for Dallas to get forward, and, in dangerous moments, they responded well, blocked shots, and closed things down. I thought they played well as a group tonight.”
Goalkeeper William Yarbrough was forced into four saves, including a big one early in the match, and captain Jack Price cleared an early chance of the line, but for the majority of the match, the Rapids’ defense looked composed and limited most clear chances for the home side.
Saturday night only confirmed that Fraser has three central defenders he can pair together in any combination he chooses – either to fit a specific matchup or opponent or to rotate players because of rest or injury.