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No element of surprise as Colorado Rapids have LA Galaxy’s number

We probably should have seen it coming.

MLS: Colorado Rapids at LA Galaxy Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

I’ll be honest, coming into Tuesday’s game between the LA Galaxy and Colorado Rapids, I forgot the x-factor that may have turned the tide in the game.

The two head coaches of the clubs know each other inside and out.

Galaxy boss Greg Vanney was asked about his relationship with Rapids manager Robin Fraser ahead of the game, and it’s not an insignificant factor, as the Rapids ultimately beat the Galaxy 2-1 at Dignity Health Sports Park.

On one hand, the Rapids’ victory was powered by set pieces, a first-half penalty kick and a second-half corner kick, something that’s been their calling card for years. And the Galaxy looked pretty tired, which isn’t a shock at this stage in the season, either.

But it can’t be forgotten that Vanney and Fraser have worked together for the better part of the last decade, while their relationship dates back a few decades at this point.

After playing together at the Galaxy 1996-2000, in addition to featuring together on the U.S. Men’s National Team, they worked together at Real Salt Lake’s organization 2008-11, Fraser as an assistant coach, Vanney as academy director.

In 2011, Fraser was hired to be Chivas USA’s head coach, and Vanney joined him as his top assistant coach. They lasted there two seasons, then parted for a couple years before reuniting in 2015, this time Vanney as head coach at Toronto FC and Fraser as his top assistant.

Fraser then parted ways in 2019 to take over in Colorado, and Vanney moved back West this year, of course. And here we are.

Both men have orchestrated turnarounds at their current clubs, and are regarded as smart, competent coaches in MLS.

But while a few coaches in MLS have built “coaching trees” over time in the league, from Bruce Arena to Bob Bradley to Gregg Berhalter, the dynamic between Fraser and Vanney isn’t like that. They’re peers, they’ve taken turns working together as the “main man” and the assistant, and as such, they know each other very, very well.

Again, the close knowledge doesn’t fully explain the Rapids win, but it most certainly played a role in the game’s outcome, as the Galaxy acknowledged postgame.

“We know each other very well, also like Robin [Fraser] and Greg [Vanney], they know each other so well, and it was difficult. It was difficult to start,” said midfielder Victor Vazquez, who played for both coaches previously in Toronto.

With both teams above the playoff line, there’s a solid chance they could face each other in the postseason. If that happens, look out. I would expect gamesmanship and a real chess match in terms of approach between the managers in a huge one-off game.

But while a couple breakdowns did in the Galaxy in this game, Fraser’s inside knowledge of his good friend Vanney could loom even larger in future meetings. Stay tuned.

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