The Colorado Rapids weren't a preseason darling ahead of the 2021 MLS campaign, but the quality of Robin Fraser's group is no longer getting overlooked.
One glance at the Western Conference standings reveals as much, since Colorado could overtake the No. 1 spot from the Seattle Sounders depending on results this weekend. They go into their Saturday matchup against the LA Galaxy at Dick's Sporting Goods Park (3:30 pm ET | Univision, TUDN, Twitter) amid a seven-game unbeaten run that leaves them at a robust 1.95 points per game this season.
Speaking ahead of that Galaxy bout, Fraser said his biggest point of pride is Colorado's depth and the wide range of contributors that have aided their cause.
"It's really a testament to the team and the fact that these guys are working so hard, and really working together so that we're all on the same page where we can make changes and we don't break or lose rhythm," Fraser said. "In fact, our rhythm can pick up, our tempo can pick up. And in fact, we've seen that over the last number of games. Most of the teams I've been on it's been 14 guys or so that play often and obviously with the new sub rule, we're somewhere up around 16-17 guys are playing fairly consistently. And what that does for me is that brings more of a team feel. Everyone feels like they're a part of it.
"That's one of the things I like about it. I hope this five-sub rule never goes away because it allows us to feel like everyone really plays a part," Fraser continued. "And what we're saying when we do that is we're getting contributions from everyone. So it's been really gratifying to this point. Our hope is that we continue to improve and continue to get better and sharper and as a result continue to get decent results."
With 13 games remaining before the Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs begin, Fraser said it's all about maintaining tunnel vision and not getting caught up on the table or what national recognition they receive.
"It's nice to look at [the standings] once in a while, I'm sure everyone does. The players do, the coaches do, certainly the front office and organization do," Fraser said. "But in the locker room, in terms of coaches and players, we don't talk about it much, we haven't talked about it much. We really focus on our performance and adhering to our principles, and we feel like when we do that we get good results.
"It just doesn't make sense for us to start talking about where we are because we're in the middle of the season – no one's winning anything in the middle of the season. So for us, it's just continuing to work on the principles that have gotten us into a pretty good spot. As I've said a number of times recently, success is fleeting. So we take a second to appreciate that, but more than that, it's working on the things that we think can bring us more success."
That starts with a matchup against LA and head coach Greg Vanney, who Fraser referred to as "one of my closest friends" dating back to their days as teammates on the Galaxy. They also coached together at Chivas USA and Toronto FC.
When he looks at what Vanney has accomplished during his first season coaching their former team, Fraser said that the Galaxy have established a clear and cohesive identity. But they'll hope to continue their hot streak, not losing against LA since the 2017 campaign (5-0-1 run). Colorado also won this matchup 2-1 at Dignity Health Sports Park in mid-August.
"We rode together to training every day for probably four years when we were playing for the Galaxy," Fraser said. "We've obviously stayed in close touch, he's been my assistant coach, I've been his assistant coach and we still talk soccer. We talk a couple times a week, we talk tactics, talk about different teams and that sort of thing.
"I was actually thinking this morning, it's kind of funny. The week before we play each other, there's radio silence – we don't talk much this week. But I'll see him the night before the game and obviously at the game and the next week it'll be back to normal."