COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – Saturday night’s 3-2 rivalry loss to Real Salt Lake was another heartbreaking setback in what has been a difficult season for the Colorado Rapids. But some new faces who are already making contributions can perhaps provide a glimmer of hope at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
After being acquired last week at the close of the Primary Transfer Window, forward Jonathan Lewis and center back Lalas Abubakar both made their debuts this weekend, placed straight in the starting lineup by Rapids interim head coach Conor Casey.
Both had impacts in the match against RSL, with Lewis providing the cross which led to Kellyn Acosta’s opening goal for Colorado. Abubakar provided a physical presence and organizing force to a Rapids defense in desperate need for those qualities this season, while nearly providing a goal of his own (which was later called offside).
“They were very good,” said Casey. “Lalas is solid in the back, he won his duels, he looked confident and athletic going forward and that’s something we missed. We gave up three goals tonight as well. We worked all week on defending, but both him and Jonathan are going to give us a lot going forward.”
In just a few short days, the newcomers have gained the respect of their teammates in burgundy.
“They came in and showed well for us,” Rapids midfielder Danny Wilson said. “They’ve only had a couple days of training. Going forward they’ll get to know us better; we’ll get to know them better and I feel they’ll be good additions for us.”
Both Lewis and Abubakar came from situations in which they were looking for bigger roles. But perhaps more telling was their shared disappointment in failing to propel Colorado to their first win of 2019.
“For me, it doesn’t matter if I played well or I played [poorly],” said Lewis. “It’s about winning so that’s the most important thing for me. We didn’t win so we need to recharge and try again next week.”
Abubakar shared the sentiment.
“It didn’t really go the way I expected it to go,” said the defender. “I really wanted to win the game, but we couldn’t get the win so it wasn’t a good start for me.”
Despite arriving at a team which has only secured two points thus far this season, Abubakar observed a fighting spirit and camaraderie in the Rapids’ locker room, one that also lifted him during the match.
“I think when I came in on Thursday, I felt so welcome. I felt like I’ve been here a long time. I was surprised that we connected on the field,” he said. “Some of the guys have been telling me this is really tough. But you know what? The guys never gave up and that’s what kept me going.”
It’s that spirit that makes both players think the results will eventually turn in Colorado’s favor.
“We have to keep our heads down and keep working,” said Lewis. “We’re going to get it. We showed a lot of good things going forward today and some of the defensive mistakes I saw before when I watched the team, we fixed them.”