Few expected the Colorado Rapids to win much this season. For coach Robin Fraser, success lies in the collective

Colorado Rapids head coach Robin Fraser had a simple answer when asked how his team has reached historic milestones on their way to securing the Western Conference seed in the next few years. Major League Soccer playoffs.

“Collective,” he told Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner.

The Rapids host a playoff game at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City on Thanksgiving Day. It will be the first time that America’s highest professional football league has played a game on this day. And the Rapids are in contention for their second league championship, having won the MLS Cup in 2010. Since the team won their first MLS championship, however, it hasn’t always been easy to find success for the. club founded in 1996 and which used to play. his matches at the old Mile High Stadium.

Fraser said that while many MLS teams spend a lot of money, maybe $ 6-9 million a year to attract this special player, that hasn’t been the Rapids’ approach. The team has a US National Team player in Kellyn Acosta and a Canadian National Team player in Mark-Anthony Kaye, but they also have one of the lowest total payrolls in the entire league.

“We don’t have anyone with that kind of price. I think we have very good players, but we don’t have players who have that kind of pedigree, ”he said. “We feel like if we do things collectively, the sum of the parts can be greater. And from now on we’ve had a decent year and we’ve had a decent run with it. “

That would be an understatement.

Ahead of the 2021 season, domestic football pundits had predicted the Rapids could be mediocre at best. Instead, the state’s top professional football club launched a campaign for the record books: most points and wins in franchise history, and for the first time the team has finished first in the Western Conference.

And Fraser was also named a finalist for MLS Coach of the Year.

Sounds like a big outsider story?

“It’s probably just because it’s such an interesting topic of discussion right now,” he said. “I love that it seems to be such a confusing topic for everyone.” Fraser said his main focus now was “to have good players, good people, altruistic players.” And the team is really the product, a very selfless bunch.

And this is a group that celebrates Ted Lasso’s now ubiquitous axiom that “Football is life!”

Hart Van Denburg / CPR News
Colorado Rapids coach Robin Fraser at halftime as the Rapids beat Austin FC 3-0 on September 29, 2021 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City.

Fraser said he had only recently watched the show, which has become a cultural touchstone not just for soccer players, but for all Americans. “I find a lot of what they do, while comical and somewhat cheesy, is not that far from home,” he said. “It’s more than a comedy to me, but I love it. I think it’s great. “

It highlighted a Rapids player Nicolás Mezquida, a Uruguayan midfielder, who “has the most incredible and brightest light in him”. Much like Apple TV show character Dani Rojas, Fraser said.

“It actually became a thing in our team. We’re going to have a training session and Nico will do something good, and everyone says, “Football is life!”

Still, Fraser acknowledged that football’s life can be tough. He sometimes admits before a match, “I don’t wink because I’m determined and determined to find the best way to play against the opponent ahead and the best defense pattern, the best attack pattern, then figure out what the players are fit for. When asked when he sleeps, Fraser replied, with a chuckle, “December through January. Off season, off season.

He credits his “amazing” coaching staff for the time he spent and had many conversations to flesh out the game plans. “It’s a very collaborative effort,” he said.

Colorado’s head coach job is a comeback story for Fraser; this is his second time in a high level position in MLS. He managed the former club Chivas USA for a few years – the team no longer plays – and has also been an assistant coach for MLS teams in Salt Lake, New York and Toronto.

Utah’s Real Salt Lake is reminiscent of this year’s Rapids team, Fraser said. “No big superstars, very collective in their way of doing things, a very humble team. And we ended up winning a championship in 2009.” (Real Salt Lake are the Rapids’ main rivals in MLS – the teams compete for the Rocky Mountain Cup every year – and they’re coached by former Rapids greats Pablo Mastroeni.)

But Chivas’ job came with a number of challenges, Fraser said. And it helped him develop his own football axiom: “Not everyone is you.”

“You think you know what everyone else wants because you know what you liked about as a player and the things that motivated you. And you naively think, “I’m just going to do the things I love to do and that’s a reason and for sure they’ll all be on board,” he said. “And I quickly realized that every group is different and that each group has its own challenges. And the bottom line is, like I said, not everyone is you, you have to figure out how to motivate players. You need to find out what kind of environment you have and what kind of environment you want to create.

At one point, when Fraser was an assistant coach in New York, he coached French national player Thierry Henry, one of the greatest of all time. He said it was a “fantastic” learning experience that made him a better coach.

“You have to learn to deal with these personalities, you have to be crisp, you have to be in your own vision,” he said, “because players like that, they feel BS so quickly, and to get them and keep them on your side and on your page, you need to be skillful and confident.

Prior to coaching, Fraser had an illustrious playing career himself, most notably with the Colorado Foxes, a professional team that played in a pre-MLS league. He was a tenacious defenseman and was honored last year as one of the league’s “25 greatest” MLS players of all time. Internationally, Fraser has won over two dozen caps, appearances, playing for the United States Men’s National Team.

Hailing from Kingston, Jamaica, Fraser said it all started in elementary school and prep school. “I was on one of the top two teams in Kingston and we probably had it, and I could be wrong, but I think about 2,000 people probably attended our games. It was lined three or four rows deep, and that’s how it was eagerly followed, ”he said. “So my first football experience was definitely one with a lot of fanfare and a lot of excitement. “

10929-RAPIDS-COACH-FRASERHart Van Denburg / CPR News
Colorado Rapids coach Robin Fraser at halftime as the Rapids beat Austin FC 3-0 on Wednesday night, September 29, 2021 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.

He remembers his father taking him to the national arena in Jamaica in 1974 to watch the World Cup matches on the big screen taking place halfway around the world in Germany.

“I left those games wide-eyed, loving everything about the game, everything about top-level football, international football, the World Cup. And I was absolutely hooked at that point. My mom says she remembers me saying that I wanted to be a professional soccer player someday. She patted me on the head and said, “Oh, that’s such a beautiful dream for a boy. ”

A few years later, the family moved to Miami where his father started the region’s first chapter of a national recreational football organization. Fraser called him “incredibly thoughtful and kind of him to do this.” And then he trained me and I made his life miserable for about two years because I was the precocious kid who thought I knew everything. But it certainly got me on the path to gambling.

He was later recruited to play at Florida International University, but only “because my best friend wanted to go to CRF.” And, it was a trainer’s insurance policy to have it. That’s how I was wanted.

But Fraser discovered the passion and dedication it would take to be successful. He quickly became a star and then joined the group of players vying for a place on the United States Men’s National Team.

Fast forward to 2022 and Fraser leads a team competing for the MLS title and as part of a small fraternity of black head coaches.

“If you are a black coach who aspires to reach higher levels, one of the most important things I think is where the company is today, the attention that is paid to it, now there is. will have opportunities available. And the greatest thing you can do is dive deep into your craft and become very proficient at what you do, ”he said, noting that a coach needs to understand the formations, the tactics, the systems. , fundamental principles.

Fraser said he has been interviewed for a number of jobs, over many years.

“Sometimes I felt like it was about filling a quota and I could have been turned off and not being interviewed,” he said. “But for me it was an opportunity to work on the art of delivering my vision.”

As a result, he got better and better at presenting and “eventually I ended up getting the job. So the key for me is to be prepared, to be prepared and definitely to sniff out every opportunity that you can. “

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