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Match Preview: Fans Return As Rapids Tackle New Boys

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Colorado Rapids vs. Austin FC
DICK’S Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City, CO
Saturday, April 24, 2021

By Richard Fleming

When the Colorado Rapids players stride out onto the lush lawn they call home this Saturday, their senses will pick up sights and sounds not experienced in more than a year.

Fans return this weekend, 413 days since they were last allowed inside DICK’S Sporting Goods Park, with the footballing freshman from Austin FC the opponents for the Rapids’ home opener.

Austin may be a new team, but they are jam-packed with veterans of the league. These include Matt Besler, formerly of Sporting Kansas City, as well as ex-San Jose players Nick Lima and Danny Hoesen.

The club’s very first lineup - for the trip to LAFC - contained their two designated players, in Argentine midfielder Tomas Pochettino and Cecilio Domínguez, a striker from Paraguay. Domínguez played 87 minutes before being switched out for another familiar face to MLS, winger Kekuta Manneh.

In Josh Wolff they have a former men’s national team player, and someone who had time at three MLS clubs and at 1860 Munich in Germany. His previous coaching experience had always been as an assistant, at D.C. United, Columbus Crew, and with the US senior side (moving from Columbus to the international stage with Gregg Berhalter).

While the Rapids were slugging out a goalless draw in Dallas, the new kids on the MLS block were losing 2-0 at Bob Bradley's boys.

Wolff said after that game last weekend: “I think that once we settled in we were able to do some things offensively and challenge them and push them a bit.

“I think this will help the guys. We have a lot of new players that aren't familiar with the league, what the style of play is in our league, the tempo and the climate. This will go a long way in their adaptation.”

The Rapids will perhaps feel they ought to have emerged with more than a point from their time in Texas. Offseason signing Michael Barrios had four good looks on goal, while Younes Namli also contributed to Jimmy Maurer being the busier of the two keepers inside Toyota Stadium.

Defensively they were without first-choice pair Lalas Abubakar (right) and Sam Vines (below). If both are still not quite ready to go this weekend, then expect head coach Robin Fraser to make few changes, if any. That could mean another game at left back for Kellyn Acosta, with Danny Wilson and Auston Trusty holding down the central defensive department.

After more than a year at the club, this will be the first home game played in front of a crowd for goalkeeper William Yarbrough. It will also mark a home debut for Barrios, who will playing for a sixth time at DSGP. His five previous games in Commerce City were all in the colors of FC Dallas, and he still awaits his first goal and his first assist inside the stadium.

Austin will not play in front of their home crowd until June 19, and game eight of the season. Their opening seven games are all on the road as their Q2 Stadium nears completion. Q2 has been named as one of 11 venues for this summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Coverage of this Saturday’s match between the Colorado Rapids and Austin FC can be found on Altitude 2 and AltitudeNOW from 6.30pm.

Previous lineups:

Colorado Rapids: William Yarbrough, Keegan Rosenberry, Auston Trusty, Danny Wilson, Kellyn Acosta; Younes Namli, Jack Price, Cole Bassett; Michael Barrios (Nicolas Benezet 81’), Diego Rubio, Andre Shinyashiki (Jonathan Lewis 62’). Subs not used: Clint Irwin, Drew Moor, Nicolas Mezquida, Oliver Larraz, Collen Warner, Steven Beitashour, Darren Yapi.

Austin FC: Brad Stuver; Nick Lima, Jhohan Romaña, Matt Besler, Ben Sweat (Zan Kolmanic 70’); Tomás Pochettino (Diego Fagundez 70’), Daniel Pereira, Alexander Ring; Rodney Redes (Jared Stroud 59’), Danny Hoesen (Jon Gallagher 60’), Cecilio Domínguez (Kekuta Manneh 87’). Subs not used: Hector Jimenez, Andrew Tarbell, Julio Cascante, Sebastian Berhalter.