The Colorado Rapids are on a roll.
The squad has won three of its last four games and has moved into playoff position, currently in fifth in the Western Conference.
The team has scored 13 goals in its last four matches and has definitely found its rhythm with ten games remaining in the regular season. Most recently, the team dominated the San Jose Earthquakes with a 5-0 victory on Wednesday night.
What has led to this recent run? Here are five storylines that have been pivotal to the team's success.
1. Goalkeeper William Yarbrough and the Rapids defense
Yarbrough is in peak form in the midst of his first season with Colorado. He hasn’t allowed multiple goals in his last six matches, and he hasn’t allowed a single goal in the last three games. Among MLS ‘keepers with nine or more starts, he ranks in the top 10 in goals against average, allowing 1.33 goals per game. During his last six matches, specifically, he’s allowing only .5 goals per game, on average. It's not the shot-stopping that has stood out for the first-year Rapids player, it's his ability to communicate & organize the players in front of him.
Part of this, of course, is due to the high-level play from the Rapids' team defense. Colorado ranks in the top five in the league in successful pressures, meaning they win the ball within five seconds of applying pressure.
Lalas Abubakar specifically has made his presence known lately, anchoring the back line and winning balls to stop opposing attacks before they get too dangerous.
2. Kellyn Acosta’s dominance
Acosta's talent has never been in question but the midfielder has hit another level during the team’s recent stretch. Jonathan Lewis' goal on Wednesday, where Acosta had the assist, is a great example of his awareness and ability to make a truly dynamic play. His engine never stops and talents are truly showing through in Robin Fraser's system.
Acosta is also right on the verge of lighting up the scoresheet with more than just assists. On Wednesday, his goal was overturned when VAR determined that Jack Price had been offside earlier in the play, and, on Saturday against LA Galaxy, he hit a hard shot that rocked the woodwork.
Acosta will unfortunately miss Sunday’s matchup against Sporting Kansas City due to yellow card accumulation. However, given how well he’s been playing in this compressed schedule, currently ranking third on the team in minutes played, the rest may end up as a benefit for him down the stretch.
Sunday’s loss of Acosta brings me to my next point…
3. A next-man-up mentality
This team has really been benefiting from the depth of its lineup, while often playing three games in the course of eight days, including a brutal three-game road swing in recent weeks.
On Wednesday, the team was without Diego Rubio and Younes Namli, two top players who were absent due to injuries sustained during last week’s contests. In addition, the team recently traded veteran striker Kei Kamara, who had 522 minutes on the season.
But that doesn’t seem to phase this group. The team has maintained an incredible cohesiveness regardless of tweaks to the starting lineup. When asked about the team’s ability to rotate players, head coach Robin Fraser had nothing but praise for his squad.
“It speaks a great deal not only about the ability of the team but the spirit of the team,” Fraser said. “It’s great to see guys who are out cheering for guys that are in. At the end of the day, the mood in the locker room is really that we are doing well. The thing I've liked the most about this team since I’ve got here, is that this is an unselfish group of guys that work hard for each other.”
4. Cole Bassett is soaring to stardom
You can’t talk about the recent play of the Rapids without mentioning 19-year-old Homegrown Cole Bassett. Bassett had a goal and an assist on Wednesday night, which marks his fourth goal and fourth assist so far this season, all since the team’s restart in July.
On a national level, Bassett is making a name for himself as well. He's 11th in MLS in goal-creating actions per game, and he has earned MLS Team of The Week, presented by Audi, three times in the last ten days.
Thus far in his career, the 19-year-old has a total of seven goals and six assists in 1,900 minutes. Compare this to the likes of the Philadelphia Union Homegrown Brenden Aaronson, 20, who has been catching eyes in the league throughout the last two years with six goals and five assists in 2,800 minutes. It's easy to see how bright the future looks for not only Bassett, but the future of US Soccer.
“The statistics are great, but it’s more as you watch him develop,” Fraser said. “His game intelligence continues to grow. He is a player who understands how to find the space he needs to execute the play that he needs to execute. This is not an easy thing for young players to understand.”
5. Fraser's September success
The Rapids will look to finish a great month of September on a positive note on Sunday when they take on Sporting Kansas City. Thus far, the team is 3-1-2 on the month, including obtaining six out of nine possible points in a stretch of three consecutive road matches.
This performance in September is very comparable to what Fraser did for the Rapids last year in the same month. In 2019, Colorado went 4-1-0 as they nearly made a successful push for the playoffs.
An overall record of 7-2-2 (so far) during one of the most critical times of the year is a great one to have.
Let’s keep it rolling.