The Rapids kick off the 2020 MLS Season with a match at 11 a.m. MT against D.C. United on Saturday, February 29. To get you ready for the team's season debut, the voice of the Rapids on Altitude Sports Radio 92.5, Connor Cape has three storylines to watch in the season opener.
1. A steadying force in the back
The Rapids need Lalas Abubakar to pick up where he left off in 2019. The center back was acquired in the offseason after spending the majority of 2019 on loan with Colorado from Columbus Crew SC. Abubakar made an immediate impact after his debut on May 11, leading the team on defense and starting a total of 22 matches. With Abubakar, Colorado only conceded an average of 1.5 goals per game, compared to 2.7 before he joined the team.
The Rapids will need the Ghanaian to start 2020 the way he played in 2019. He gives the squad an anchor on defense that every player can rally around, and he is someone that players can trust to come up big in even the diciest of defensive scenarios. When a forward like Ola Kamara is darting around the box, Abubakar becomes one of the most important players for this Rapids team in the lineup.
2. New-look D.C. United
The Rapids will need to take advantage of who’s not playing on Saturday. Premier League star Wayne Rooney is no longer with D.C., as he returned to Europe and joined Derby County following the 2019 season. Dynamic and decisive attacking midfielder Luciano Acosta, who helped propel D.C. United to a magical finish in 2018, has departed for Liga MX side Atlas FC. In addition, winger Paul Arriola suffered a torn ACL in preseason and will therefore also be absent from the club's lineup. D.C. does welcome the new additions of Edison Flores and Julian Gressel, but it will be interesting to see how far their chemistry was able to come over the course of preseason alone.
The Rapids enter their first matchup with more returning key players, and while their opponent does have new talent, Colorado has the head start on familiarity. The club will need to try to take advantage of this early on.
3. Cool and calm
This season marks the first preseason for the Rapids and head coach Robin Fraser, which means he's had the opportunity to implement his style of play from day one. Some of the core principles from a tactical perspective include using numbers to manipulate the defense, open up space and possess the ball. Popular opinion out of D.C. sees their squad pressing higher and more aggressively than they did in 2019 and years prior.
It’s the first game of the season, and it’s on the road; Colorado need to execute Fraser’s vision at a high level. The midfield is deep with the talent capable of doing just that, with players like Jack Price, Younes Namli, Kellyn Acosta. But it isn’t just those three, as Cole Bassett and Nicolás Mezquida have proven adept at taking on pressure. This game will require 90 minutes of focus in the face of D.C.’s press, but there is no doubt that the Rapids have all the tools needed to frustrate the home side and keep them chasing.