The Rapids 2020 season is just over a month away, and the preparation is well underway. The team began fitness testing on Monday and hit the pitch in California on Tuesday to begin the first week of training.
Colorado is returning the vast majority of the core it finished with last season. This foundation proved to be solid at the end of the year, as the team finished by winning five of its final seven matches under head coach Robin Fraser and just missed out on a playoff spot.
That foundation combined with fresh energy from its new faces led to a solid start to preseason training. Here are three takeaways from the first week in Orange County.
1. This team arrived fit and ready to go.
Fraser said multiple times how impressed he was with the fitness of the group, a factor that allows he and the staff more flexibility in the early days of camp.
“I think the team is looking good,” Fraser said. “The biggest thing that is evident here early is that the team worked really hard in the offseason. So, when they come in as fit as they have, it allows us to jump into things that we might otherwise have to ease into…. We’re able to get right to work at the nuts and bolts of the things we want to do.”
2. So far, so good for the 2020 draft picks.
During the 2020 MLS SuperDraft, the Rapids traded their pick (11th overall) with Nashville for $75,000 in General Allocation Money. Colorado then used that $75,000 to trade the Montreal Impact for the rights of their ninth overall selection, Jeremy Kelly.
Tuesday marked the first time Kelly had a chance to impress his new teammates and coaches.
“It’s nice to get started. Start playing, show them what you have and prove yourself,” Kelly said. “It’s exciting. It’s a new challenge, it’s a new team. It’s fun to get started, meet the guys, on and off the field.”
In addition, the Rapids selected Robin Afameauna with the 11th pick in the second round. Kelly and Afamefuna have already made impressions on Fraser.
“Both players have done well so far,” he said. “They’ve both been asked to do things that probably aren’t so comfortable or familiar to them, and they’ve both adapted really well. Both players are pretty astute learners, and they’ve picked things up pretty quickly and haven’t missed a beat.”
3. Next up: Setting the tone and reestablishing last season’s momentum.
With fitness less of a concern for the coaching staff, they’re allowed to focus on the next step: Laying the foundation for regular season
“We’re trying to work on a few things to help establish the mentality and identity of the team,” Fraser explained. “They’re really excited, I’m really excited, the staff is really excited. The weather is great, nice green grass. It’s a really good feeling going into this preseason… We felt like we ended the season on a high, and we just want to continue from there.”