EDITORIAL – The Robin Fraser era has begun in Commerce City. Fraser has taken over as the full time manager of the Colorado Rapids. In two games under him, the club has two wins, four goals, and has looked good doing so.
Ten Thoughts on the Robin Fraser Era at Colorado Rapids
With that, there’s a lot to think about with this appointment and what it means for Padraig Smith, the club, its future, and the Rapids Way. Let’s take a look at some of the keys to the Robin Fraser era.
1. Following the Rapids Way:
Fraser has made it clear in his introductory press conference and his first two games that he’s going to prioritize defense. The team will look to take calculated risks in the attack and do so systematically. But will do add to the offense without hurting their defense. This is in line with the Rapids Way and seems to be more pragmatic than Pablo Mastroeni, who lacked offensive ideas, and Anthony Hudson, who sold out defensive stability for the attack.
2. Pragmatic coaching influences:
Fraser has on more than one occasion brought up Gregg Berhalter, Greg Vanney, and Bruce Arena as some of his coaching influences. The first two have had recent success in MLS. Berhalter is now coaching the national team (not going great at the moment, but I digress) and Vanney’s won several trophies at Toronto FC alongside Fraser. Arena has a history of building a strong locker room culture. All of these are good signs in terms of Fraser’s approach tactically and in man management.
3. Knowing how to win in MLS 3.0:
Fraser’s last two stops as an assistant coach were New York Red Bulls and Toronto FC. He won a Supporters’ Shield at both and an MLS Cup at TFC. This is the first time in the history of the Rapids that a new coach has a track record of winning in the current era of MLS in the job immediately prior. Fraser has past coaching experience; it’s good experience. It’s winning experience.
4. What to do about the DP roster slots:
It’s unclear what the club could do with their two open DP slots to come this off-season. Smith and other club officials have been on record as wanting to bring in a No. 9 and No. 10. A lot of those statements were prior to the club acquiring Kei Kamara.
More than one Rapids season ticket holder has told me they’ve been waiting for a No. 10 since the 2010 MLS Cup season. Fraser’s previous teams usually had a central midfield and two attack minded DPs. An attacker of one sort is surely on the way. What they do with the other DP is one of the biggest questions of the Robin Fraser era.
5. Developing young players:
Fraser highlighted his joy of working with younger players and being a process mentor to them. The Rapids have several promising Homegrowns. With the exception of Matt Hundley and maybe Cole Bassett, they’re all going to play defense first positions at the MLS level. Fraser was a center back as a player, so he should be emphasizing defense as a manager and with the young players.
6. Player decisions this off-season:
Like with any first year manager, their first transfer window will be critical. Fraser has the luxury of taking over for a team just before the end of the season. He has time to experiment, take full stock of the roster, and give every reserve a run out at some point. The club will have to make some big decisions regarding player options for 2020, including some larger contracts. There’s also a handful of budget domestic players who haven’t been great this year who would have trade value within the league.
7. Taking time to establish the system:
Fraser has alluded to Conor Casey establishing something good during the middle of the summer. He doesn’t want to completely disrupt that especially with how much of the season is left. Is Fraser’s long term plan for the team a variation of or similar to what Casey did in the interim? Is it completely different to the point where he’ll wait for 2020?
8. Colorado roots:
I do think there’s value in a coach being a Colorado guy. Having someone who understands the market and organization, and knows what it takes to win in this environment has value. In particular, the Rapids manager should know how to get value throughout the roster with domestic and foreign players. That is something the Rapids need if they are going to succeed in MLS 3.0 without increasing the budget.
9. Timeline for success:
It’s unclear right now what the club’s expectations for 2020 will be. Fraser’s clearly taking everything all in but at some point this off-season, he and Smith will have to decide how much they want to set themselves up for 2020 versus leaving flexibility for a 2021 season to go for the playoffs.
10. Good start:
In two games, against two likely playoff 2019 playoff teams, Fraser has two wins. That’s about as good as one could hope and should have supporters excited.