Out multiple starters and down in the table, Colorado Rapids look to veterans to help steer ship ahead of Rocky Mountain Cup
There’s a reason why veterans are so imperative in locker rooms, even when things to appear to be on shaky ground. They keep the calm, and, as the Brits like to say, carry on.
In the wake of a gut-wrenching 3-2 loss to Austin FC on the Fourth of July, and not one, but two key pieces leaving the squad in the same week in Mark-Anthony Kaye and Auston Trusty, a veteran voice will be needed for the Colorado Rapids moving forward.
Collen Warner is certainly one of them. The 34-year-old Denver native is ready to change the course of the Rapids’ season. Even as the team has underperformed and sits in 12th place, seven points below the playoff line, Warner is among the veterans in the group who believe 2022 is not yet lost.
Though, if the Rapids (5-8-4, 19 points) are to make the playoffs, their turnaround must begin soon. And what better time than against rival Real Salt Lake, which Colorado visits Saturday night at Rio Tinto Stadium in the second leg of the Rocky Mountain Cup.
“We’ve really been speaking about accountability as of late,” Warner told The Post Thursday. “As a collective, we have to face the fact that we haven’t been at our best and face that down. Also, we have to take the steps to improve ourselves individually. The group hasn’t changed too much as far as our ability to work and grind together and be as one. I think going forward that’s how we have to operate. … I think we do need to pick up our backing of each other out there. We have to get back to our steel reserve out there.”
The Rapids will undoubtedly be tested with two starters out the door. However, they did bring in a reinforcement in Sam Nicholson.
The 27-year-old Scotsman will wear burgundy for a second time in his career and could be re-introduced to MLS play Saturday. Nicholson spent the last two years in England with Bristol Rovers and believes that there’s no time like the present to make a playoff push.
At the halfway point with his previous club around Christmas time, Rovers were near the bottom of the league. They managed to not only improve their form, they got promoted on the final day of the season in stunning fashion.
“If anyone can say it’s possible, I just went through it and saw that it is possible to turn it around,” Nicholson said. “I’m not going to sit here and say we’re going to win everything, but I am gonna say there’s plenty of time to turn ’round the season and get yourself in a good spot for the playoffs. I won’t be the only one thinking that. All of the boys are sort of adamant that we’re going to get there. It will be a good challenge, but it’s supposed to be that way.”
As for Saturday’s clash, RSL will not be easy. The team from the Wasatch Range sits in third place in the West and has gotten full value out of head coach Pablo Mastroeni, the long-time Rapids player and manager. Damir Kreilach, RSL’s leader in goals (6) and assists (3), will miss the match with a back injury. Colorado will be without captain Jack Price, out with a nagging left calf injury, for a second successive game.
When asked what he’d give a grade for the midway point, Warner said it’d be a C. Not bad, but plenty of room to improve. He believes it can start Saturday.
“I think we know that a mid-term grade isn’t the final and we’re looking to improving on that and putting a positive step forward this weekend. … We want the Cup. We want to win this game and take the cup home.”