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Keys against Austin FC: Fight Fire with Fire

July 1, 2022 - Major League Soccer (MLS) - Colorado Rapids News Release


American soccer is simultaneously a fledgling soccer nation and a country with a deep history in the game. The inaugural World Cup was held in 1930 in Uruguay, and the United States earned third place out of 13 teams, and the US Women's National Team is the most dominant team on the globe. But traditions are still being created, fine-tuned and year after year being woven into the fabric of the country's soccer identity. This is a special time to be in the American soccer landscape.

This 32-year era between the 1994 and 2026 World Cups hosted on American soil will be what shapes and defines the next 100 years of what the game will look like here. If you're supporting the national teams, if you're pushing turnstiles at your local MLS stadium, if you're waking up at 5:00am on your Saturday to watch Americans abroad, congrats, you have a direct influence on the coming decades of soccer in our country.

One of the traditions, created in this 1994-2026 window, being hammered home one year at a time, becoming a fixture in the furniture of the American soccer landscape is something unique to the Colorado Rapids: hosting a home game on the Fourth of July (and more recently, following the match with the largest public fireworks display in the state.)

It's one of those annual events that is unique to a club that becomes synonymous with a club. You always know where to find the Burgundy Boys on Independence Day. They'll be out there defending DICK'S Sporting Goods Park against whomever the league schedulers send their way. The match has become a staple in the Colorado community. It's expected.

Coming to town for this year's edition of the match will be the only team to defeat the Rapids at DICK'S Sporting Goods Park in 2021: Austin FC. They bring with them an MVP candidate in Sebastian Driussi, 31 points from 17 matches and a league-leading five road wins. They were obviously a threat to win the match the last year, even in their expansion season, but now they've taken it up a notch. The Rapids will have their work cut out for them, but they do already have victories over LAFC and Seattle at home this season. They can do it, and here's how:

Fight Fire with Fire

Austin's attack is among the best in MLS. They're outperforming their xG by quite a bit, so maybe the offensive numbers will regress to the mean over the rest of the season, but even if they do, the weapons they have can beat you on any given day. For the Rapids, this means dictating the match on their terms will be paramount. When facing a team with elite firepower, especially at home, it is crucial to fight fire with fire. Driussi has nine goals in 17 matches. For Colorado, Diego Rubio has seven goals in 14 matches. Anybody who has watched Austin this year knows they will throw a punch or two at minimum (they have nine multi-goal games). Absorb that and throw some haymakers right back.

Round up Ring

Alexander Ring is the captain for Austin FC. He's also the midfield engine that chugs the train along the tracks. The Finnish midfielder has two goals and two assists so far in 2022, but his effect on the game goes beyond those stats. He's on the ball a lot, making sure it continues to progress up the pitch. The Rapids need to wrap him up for 90 minutes. A Driussi goal doesn't begin and end with Driussi. It ends with Driussi. It begins somewhere behind him, often at the feet of Alexander Ring. Watching Ring on the ball is like watching any great midfielder; he is analyzing the game like the defense is a puzzle to be solved. He happens to be very good at riddles.

The Sentimental Stuff

I ardently believe that sports are more than stats. I love using advanced analytics to help tell the story of sports, add context and put what your eyes are seeing into perspective. But stats can't measure heart, desire or playing for the man next to you and the crowd behind you. The Rapids haven't won a Fourth of July game since 2015. Granted, 2020 was nullified by the global pandemic. But the game is a tradition here that isn't just about the fireworks; It's part of American soccer culture. And American soccer culture can be everybody expecting to see the Rapids win on Independence Day every year. Throw the stats out the window and go get the win. Austin's a great team that demands respect, but the Rapids are a great team with great individual talent that will be buoyed by that little extra spiritual lift of hosting this match on this holiday in front of a sellout crowd.


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