TORONTO - Robin Fraser has done nothing but win since leaving Toronto FC to coach Colorado.
The former TFC assistant coach returns Sunday, looking for his fourth straight victory in charge of the Rapids.
After some five seasons with Toronto, Fraser said it will be "absolutely surreal" to be sitting on the visitors' bench at BMO Field.
To his right will be "a group of some of my closest friends on the other bench. Guys that we've been through so much together with. And a team that I've been through so much with," Fraser said in an interview.
Colorado, which started the season winless in 11 games (0-9-2), has beaten the New York Red Bulls, Seattle Sounders and Los Angeles Galaxy since Fraser took over Aug. 25.
Fraser gives his new players the credit, citing their talent and character.
"It's been three weeks but every week I think 'Well, that was a good one. But what happens next week?'" he said after Wednesday's 2-1 win over the visiting Galaxy. "And what keeps happening is they keep playing like a team. And as a result they're getting results.
"So it's been really a fun start for me as a coach. I feel really happy to be a part of this group."
Wednesday's victory came despite a makeshift Colorado starting 11 due to injuries, international absences and suspension.
"It's been a whirlwind. But it's been a really good whirlwind," Fraser said of his start with Colorado.
Interim coach Conor Casey helped start the team's turnaround after Anthony Hudson was fired May 1 with the 0-7-2 Rapids mired in a six-game losing streak. Hudson's swan song was a 1-0 loss in Atlanta, after which he noted the "massive gap in class" between the two teams.
The Rapids then went 7-7-4 under Casey, a former Toronto and Colorado player. He led the team on a seven-game unbeaten run (5-0-2) that included wins over both L.A. teams.
In his first locker-room talk in Colorado, captured in a club video, Fraser praised his players for turning things around under Casey.
"When people ask me why I took this job, why Colorado, why now, as I look at the group of players, the most important thing to me is that when I watch you guys play, you play like you give a (damn)." he told them. "You play like you care, you play like you care about each other. You play like it matters to you.
"And as a coach, that's what you want more than anything else. You want talented guys who will play and will run and will fight for each other. And that's what you guys have shown over this last stretch of games."
There isn't much that the 52-year-old Fraser hasn't seen in MLS. He's a five-time MLS all-star, five-time MLS Best XI member and two-time defender of the year.
Colorado GM Padraig Smith called Fraser "one of the most decorated individuals in MLS soccer history" at his introductory news conference.
Fraser's Colorado ties run deep.
He played for the Colorado Foxes in the now-defunct American Professional Soccer League from 1990 to '95 and the MLS Rapids from 2001 to '03.
His two teenage daughters live in the Denver area and he still owns a home in the city's suburbs.
"The fact that the (coaching) opportunity arose here is kind of incredible, to be honest," said Fraser. "I have a long long history here, and many friends and family."
Combine that with his desire to be a head coach again, "it was kind of a no-brainer for me."
Fraser was literally head coach Greg Vanney's right-hand man in Toronto, sitting to his right on the sidelines at games.
They were part of a tight-knit coaching staff that goes back decades.
Vanney, Fraser and fellow Toronto assistant Dan Calichman were captains at the Los Angeles Galaxy with Fraser following Calichman as skipper and Vanney wearing the armband after Fraser, when Cobi Jones was absent. Fraser and Vanney played in the same Galaxy backline at the 1996 and 1999 MLS Cups.
Fraser was head coach at the now-defunct Chivas USA (2011-2012) with Vanney on his coaching staff. Prior to joining Toronto in 2015, Fraser also served as an assistant coach with Real Salt Lake (2007-2010) and the New York Red Bulls (2013-2014).
"I think it was time for him. And a great opportunity for him," Vanney said of the Colorado opening.
"It's his opportunity to go and do some things how he sees it," he added.
The two have already exchanged texts on a variety of topics.
"This has been a close friendship for a long time, 23 years at least," said Fraser,
Vanney calls Fraser "a great friend and a great influence and a guy I've always talked the game to. Which I still will, except for Sept. 15th."
Colorado (10-14-6) comes north of the border just six points behind Toronto (11-10-9).
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