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Rapids GM, coach and players all focused on winning MLS return tournament

The Rapids don't want to just play well in Orlando, the team is looking to "bring back the first trophy of the season" to Colorado.
Credit: AP
Colorado Rapids goalkeeper Clint Irwin (31) in the second half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, Aug. 10, 2019, in Commerce City, Colo. The Rapids won 2-1. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — If you're going to play a tournament, you might as well try to win it. 

The Colorado Rapids aren't shying away from high expectations for the club at MLS's return tournament in Orlando next month. 

"If there's something out there to win, we want to win it," head coach Robin Fraser said on a conference call with local media Thursday afternoon. 

The 26-team tournament will take place at Walt Disney World in Orlando starting July 8. The Rapids are in a tough group, drawing Real Salt Lake, Sporting Kansas City and Minnesota United FC to kick things off.

"I think we're in a very difficult group. Our group is probably as challenging as any group in the tournament. But to win you've got to beat good teams, so be it," Fraser said. 

The first three games will count as regular season games, with the 2020 season set to resume after the tournament's completion. The top two finishers in each group along with the four best 3rd-place teams will move on to the knockout stage which kicks off with the Round of 16. That's where the Rapids hope to be -- and then some. 

"For me I think winning it would be a huge accomplishment. To really push ourselves and test ourselves, to come out in this tournament format and to have to play the number of teams you have to play to win this in a short period of time given all the conditions, I think it would be huge for us," Fraser said. 

Goalkeeper Clint Irwin was the only Colorado player on the call, but he didn't shy away from the fact that winning the tournament is indeed the goal. 

"I think winning gives your team confidence. Winning a trophy gives you that taste of what success looks like and this is a new tournament and it's a trophy that hasn't been won," Irwin said. "Anytime there's a trophy on the line and you can win it, it's only going to give you a boost for the rest of the season. We're going (to) do our best to win and bring back the first trophy of the season for anybody."

Rapids Executive VP and General Manager Padraig Smith, who has been with the team since 2015 and has been the top boss since 2018, knows this is a big opportunity for a team that has struggled in recent seasons. 

"We've spent time trying to re-frame who we are as a club and you're starting to see that come about. We're going down there and we want to win, want to collect as many points as we can. The chance to go down and win a trophy is something we're all driven by and that's what we're looking to do as a club," Smith said. 

As mentioned, teams will be playing for regular season points in the group stage, while there is also a CONCACAF Champions League berth and $1.1 million in prize money on the line. 

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