RobinFraser_Feature

“Words can’t express how proud I am of this team.”

That was how Colorado Rapids head coach Robin Fraser opened his final regular season postgame press conference of the 2021 season following his team’s 5-2 dismantling of Los Angeles Football Club.

It’s not the first time this season he’s said something along those lines. A Sigi Schmid Coach of the Year nominee, he’s the only member of the Rapids squad named as a finalist for any of Major League Soccer’s end-of-season awards, but he’d be the first to say it’s because of the players.

“Tonight is kind of a microcosm of the season for us,” Fraser continued after the Decision Day result. ”We’re a group that play really, really hard for each other. Some games everything goes right, it looks great, and some games we have to fight and grind and we do that. And sometimes both things occur within one game. But the fact is, the team never really quits.”

That quote to me is the perfect Robin Fraser quote because he stopped himself right there, had a split second pause and then corrected himself. “Not really,” Fraser said. “The team never quits. And it’s one thing I know that I’ll get out of them will be effort.”

Fraser took over the club in late August of 2019. The Rapids made a furious finish to try and secure a playoff spot but fell just shy of that goal. No matter, they made the postseason in 2020 and laid the foundation for what has become the best regular season in club history in 2021.

An unprecedented 61 points earned, an unprecedented top seed in the Western Conference clinched and a slew of other club records all fell to the unimpeachable 2021 iteration of the Rapids. It’s the players who play the game, but we’ve seen in modern times that even some of the most talent-laden rosters in global soccer need direction. It takes a vision, organization and communication from the top down.

At the top of the Rapids, it’s Fraser who had the vision, organized his staff and communicated to the players everything they needed to know to go out and perform 90 minutes at a time. The single biggest indicator of how responsible Fraser is for all this success is how it doesn’t matter who’s selected in the team sheet, the results follow.

A lot of clubs, especially in a salary cap league like MLS, may find the bottom of their rosters unequal compared to their top talent, and when forced to play without their stars, struggle ensues. At Colorado, Fraser has proven there is no bottom of the roster. In 2021, it hasn’t mattered the lineup combination, Fraser has coached up everybody to be able to perform, home or away, as if they’re part of the first-choice eleven.

Given his success in his second stint in charge of an MLS team, it raises the question of why this didn’t happen sooner for Fraser, but perhaps the long wait helped him land in Colorado and now sit three victories from soccer glory.

"It took a while to get back to being a head coach and but to land here with this group of players, I feel really fortunate," he said. "And I keep pushing them and they just keep working. I keep demanding of them and they just keep meeting expectations and to have won the West, I'm incredibly, incredibly proud of the team."