Takeaways: Rapids Earn Another Team-Wide Win
THE LAYOFF PAID OFF
In 2020, Robin Fraser's side grew increasingly familiar with the challenges of extended breaks in play. During COVID and across MLS, layoffs proved to be difficult for every team, and the Rapids were no exception - one can only imagine how hard it was to get back into a groove after several weeks away from game action. The first (and hopefully only) extended break in 2021 allowed the Rapids to get healthy and continue to refine things in training. It paid off in the form of an organized team-wide 2-0 win on Saturday night against FC Cincinnati, with 16 total players involved and two beautiful goals.
"The determination and the fight of every guy was incredible tonight," goalkeeper William Yarbrough said. "Coming off the break, sometimes it's hard to get into the rhythm on things, and I think today we proved we're on the right track mentally. Each game has been a huge lesson for us. I'm so proud of this group and how everyone fought for 90 minutes, left everything out there."
Against FCC, the Rapids stepped out in front of a raucous crowd at the newly opened TQL Stadium and looked in control of the match for the first 30 minutes. They capitalized on that positive start and silenced the home fans when Diego Rubio slotted home the opener in front of The Bailey supporter's section. Good teams know when they're supposed to take care of business, and then go out and do it. Saturday's win was a minor step in the grand scheme - but a telling one - in the long journey of this young team, continuing to raise the level of expectations. Fraser now has nine road wins as head coach and the Rapids have seven points collected on the road in 2021 - both impressive numbers.
"Just really proud of the team," head coach Robin Fraser said. "Really, really great and tough environment. We haven't seen a crowd like this since the first game of 2020. To come in and deal with some conditions, heat and humidity, obviously a team that's hungry, I thought we did a really good job of negating some of their strengths early on and really creating some decent opportunities. And then second half, once we had a lead, it was about making sure we were being quite resolute in defending it. I was really proud of the effort and certainly to get the second goal was really a boost for us and helped us get over the line."
With a huge test against Sporting KC on Wednesday followed by the July 4 showdown with Seattle, Saturday's win ensured the 2021 campaign re-started on the right foot.
LEWIS BURIED HIS CHANCE
Diego Rubio and Michael Barrios combined on the opening goal in the first half, but both were subbed off after 45 minutes. The beneficiaries of Fraser's early swap? Nico Benezet, and Jonathan Lewis. Lewis proved the difference-maker, as he opened his 2021 account during a critical moment in the match. With the Rapids leading 1-0 and Cincinnati threatening to equalize, Price played a perfectly weighted ball through to Lewis who took the sharp angle to beat FCC 'keeper Kenneth Vermeer.
"I know I made the first run and I ended up being offside so I needed to recycle my run. I knew that once he started driving that it was going to open up the space and for me, those are angles that I've always thought I'm pretty good at finishing, whether it's on my left or right foot. He played it perfectly. It was in stride and I just knew to shoot it. I froze the keeper and it was able to go in. I'm happy that I got my first one of the year."
You don't get many looks at goal in an MLS match and the best scorers only need a glimpse of a chance to change the outcome. Lewis is no different, often finding the scoresheet when he has just a half-opening of space to operate and is able to use his speed to create that chance. His first goal of the season saw both features on display. Lewis' trademark pace (and an incredible pass from Captain Jack) created the separation and his knack for finishing with just an inch of space saw him calmly slot it home. In an instant, the winger had silenced the crowd of 26,000 and sent the Rapids on the way to three points.
YARBROUGH STANDS TALL AGAIN
Fraser again opted for a 3-5-2 formation against FCC, allowing the wingbacks to drift into action on the offensive end and the trio of Jack Price, Kellyn Acosta and Cole Bassett to dictate the tempo of the match. When Cincinnati's potent attackers did find a way through, the three central defenders - Auston Trusty, Danny Wilson and Lalas Abubakar (and later Drew Moor) - were organized and in lockstep to put out any fires. When FCC did get a shot on frame, Yarbrough was up to the task, as he's been so often during this run that's seen the Rapids win five out of six games.
"It's a team effort, these clean sheets," Yarbrough said. "I don't think anyone individually can take credit. It's the result of a lot of handwork through the week, you know, personally with Chris Sharpe, we've been working a lot. And thankfully, today we were able to keep the clean sheet. When we are that solid defensively, it helps our guys in front of us create those scoring opportunities and win games."
In all, Yarbrough made seven saves on course to his fourth clean sheet of 2021, a tally that's tied for the league-lead in shutouts. Yarbrough hasn't received the buzz across the league that other 'keepers enjoy (none of the Rapids do if we're being honest) but Team of the Week honors and a lot more chatter on a national level will follow after performances like Saturday's.
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Major League Soccer Stories from June 20, 2021
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- Atlanta United Draws 2-2 vs. Philadelphia Union - Atlanta United FC
- Chicago Fire FC to Start Four-Game Homestand at Soldier Field on Wednesday - Chicago Fire FC
- Takeaways: Rapids Earn Another Team-Wide Win - Colorado Rapids
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- Timbers Top Sporting Kansas City 2-1 in Come Back Win - Portland Timbers
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