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Takeaways: Payback in Austin, Homegrowns Give Added Layer of Depth

July 31, 2021 - Major League Soccer (MLS) - Colorado Rapids News Release

Saturday's 1-0 win over Austin FC, a first for the club inside Q2 stadium, summarized the month of July for the Colorado Rapids - the team was the star of the night and points were added to the season-long tab despite being shorthanded.

The Colorado boys in green were able to deliver a third road win of the season and finish the month of July with a record of 3-1-2. The win against Austin is impressive when you consider that nine players were missing from the squad on Saturday due to injury or international duty. Nine. The fact the Rapids were able to collect three points speaks to the depth and desire of the side to find a way to collect points no matter the odds against them. Road wins in hostile environments will boost confidence in the short term and provide proof of concept as the season heads toward the playoffs and the stakes rise.

"I thought the discipline was excellent. The willingness to work was excellent. As we talked about people doing their job and helping just a little with someone else, we saw that all over the field tonight," Fraser said. "This is a team that, I've said so many times, I enjoy coaching because they play so hard for each other. For most people who have been in team sports, that's a huge thing. It's just about groups that fight together. They struggle throughout the week and suffer and work hard together to have the opportunity to play on the weekend. And it's incredible to watch this group of men work hard and work for each other and get results."

Saturday's win also provided an opportunity to set things right for the Rapids - not only from an ugly RSL loss one week earlier - but also to even the season series after Austin FC ruined the 2021 home-opening party at DICK'S Sporting Goods Park back in April. Robin Fraser's side did both, mostly by out-muscling and out-working the home team all night. Andre Shinyashiki's 29th-minute goal held up for the Rapids, and the defense, including some key saves from William Yarbrough, stood tall to deliver a big win.

"I think it's a total team effort. It's a complete performance for all of us, especially Will, who we know bounced back from a not so fortunate game against RSL," Shinyashiki said after the match. "That shows how professional he is. It shows his quality. That's what we really need. He stepped up for us today."

Added Layer of Depth

With the Rapids short-staffed on the night, Fraser looked toward two familiar faces to help close down the 1-0 win. The first reaction for fans might be to think of veterans Nicolas Mezquida and Drew Moor who stepped into the match in the second half, but the minutes played by a pair of 19-year-olds were maybe even more vital in the win.

Homegrown Sebastian Anderson made his 2021 debut as a sub in the second half replacing Setven Beitashour. Anderson has been featuring for the Colorado Springs Switchbacks recently and his versatility showed Saturday as he filled in at midfield in a physical and difficult contest, often getting a touch or playing a ball like an MLS veteran of 10 years. Rapids fans will be happy to see Seb back on the pitch for the first time since 2019.

"Seb's been really excelling with the [Colorado Springs] Switchbacks in USL [Championship]. And watching him and some of the guys going down and watching games, the reports have been so good that we brought him in this week," Fraser said. "To throw him into a game like this could have been a tough environment, a tough atmosphere, and he went in and did a very professional job. Seb's progress is really quite good for us to see and it just bodes well for what's ahead of him."

Oliver Larraz also stepped into the midfield late in the match as Collen Warner left the pitch exhausted. Larraz helped to see the three points across the finish line linking up with Anderson and fellow Homegrown Cole Bassett.

"Collen [Warner] starts cramping, we had no hesitation going to Oli," Fraser said after the match. "We know he's a quality player. Very responsible. Does what he's asked to do, and that's a big part of being a professional. He's really also matured over the last year. It's great that he takes these moments, and when these moments come up he has to be ready and tonight he was really ready."

Veterans like Beitashour (who made his 250th MLS appearance Saturday), Mezquida, Warner and Moor provide the leadership and experience to this Rapids side, but if players like Larraz and Anderson can find valuable minutes like they did on Saturday, it will help add another layer of depth as the season rolls along.

Help On The Way

As mentioned above, the Rapids were able to snag three wins and two draws in July. The end tally for the month: eleven points out of a possible eighteen. Not perfect, but when you consider the opponents, the circumstances and the final result in the table - the Rapids sit in the fourth position in the West standings with a game in hand - most supporters of the Burgundy and Blue would chalk July up as a successful month.

Reinforcements are on the way in the form of new signing Mark-Anthony Kaye and Dominique Badji as well as a returning trio of Sam Vines, Jonathan Lewis and Kellyn Acosta who were away with the USMNT. Designated Player Younes Namli is also set to return in September and that doesn't even include any more additions that may join via the international transfer window or another trade inside MLS.

As the calendar shifts to August, with two big home matches against Sporting KC and RSL wrapped up in three road matches, Robin Fraser will have some juggling to do to acclimate players back into the squad while keeping the arrow pointing in the right direction.

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