When Major League Soccer celebrated the end of its 25th season as a league, it released a list of its 25 greatest players. The list was star studded, but one of its brightest stars currently gives back to the league as one of its head coaches. The gritty, physical play of defender Robin Fraser was recognized for his role in shaping how defense is played in America’s domestic league.
Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Robin Fraser grew up in Miami, playing soccer at Miami Palmetto High School before attending Florida International University in 1984. His freshman year, FIU won the Division II national championship, and he was one of its dominant players. His dominance with physical defensive play didn’t stop when FIU moved up to Division I in 1987. His play was stellar, and he was named as a second team All-American his junior and senior years. He was also a finalist for the Hermann Trophy as a senior.
After graduating from FIU, Fraser signed in the American Soccer League with the Miami Sharks, where he played for a couple years. He then moved to the Colorado Foxes of the American Professional Soccer League. There, he played for 5 seasons, scoring 6 goals for the team and was named an APSL All-Star for 4 straight years.
Despite being born in Jamaica, Robin Fraser became an American citizen in 1986 and chose to represent the United States at the international level. He made his USMNT debut in June 1988 against Chile, going on to have 26 international caps in 13 years. He appeared in matches for the USMNT during the 1999 Confederations Cup, 2000 Gold Cup, and qualifying for the 2002 World Cup.
Major League Soccer formed in 1995, and in the 1996 MLS Inaugural Player Draft, Robin Fraser was selected 4th overall by the LA Galaxy. This is where his legacy in the league began. Playing 5 seasons for the Galaxy, Fraser was named to the Best XI 4 times (1996, 1998-2000) and was the 1999 MLS Defender of the Year. The team also made the MLS Cup Final in 1996 and 1999, losing both times to D.C. United.
He was a physical player, known for putting his body on the line at any point inside the box to block shots or stop the attackers from getting a shot off. He would also stop counter attacks by flying to the ball with incredible slide tackles that would make the opposition think twice before trying to get past him again. His physical, gritty approach to the game is something that is emulated by several players in the league today. He wasn’t a scorer at all. He scored 2 goals (1 regular season, 1 playoff) in his career, but he mentored so many defenders in how to play the game with a physical presence combined with an intelligent approach.
Fraser was traded to the Colorado Rapids in 2001 and spent 3 seasons there before he was traded to the Columbus Crew in 2004. There, he became the anchor of the Crew defense, earning his second MLS Defender of the Year award in 2004 along with his 5th Best XI. He retired after the 2005 season.
From there, Robin Fraser turned to the next phase of his career: coaching. In 2007, Fraser was hired as an assistant coach by Real Salt Lake, winning MLS Cup in 2009. He used that to eventually become the coach of Chivas USA in January 2011. He coached there for 2 seasons before he was let go in 2012, joining the New York Red Bulls as an assistant coach under Mike Petke in 2013.
Fraser continued to bounce around the league in various assistant roles, moving to Toronto FC in 2015 to work as an assistant under head coach Greg Vanney. Vanney had been Fraser’s assistant at Chivas USA, and the two had actually served as co-head coaches of Santa Anita Soccer Club, an LA-based girls soccer club, back in the late 1990s. Fraser stayed at Toronto FC for 4 seasons. In his time at Toronto FC, the team went to 3 MLS Cup Finals, winning it all in 2017.
In August 2019, Fraser returned to the Colorado Rapids, this time as its new head coach. He got to work quickly, with the team winning 5 of their final 7 matches in 2019 to finish just shy of the playoffs. The team did improve offensively, finishing 3rd in MLS in goals scored.
In 2020, the offense continued to thrive. At the time, Fraser was Major League Soccer’s lone Black coach, and his team continued to do what he didn’t do much of in his playing career: score goals. They averaged 1.78 goals per game, finishing 5th in the Western Conference and sending the Rapids to the MLS Cup Playoffs. In 2021, Fraser had an even better output, as the Colorado Rapids finished 1st in the Western Conference with 61 points, scoring 51 goals on the season. For his efforts, Robin Fraser was a finalist for MLS’ Sigi Schmid Coach of the Year Award.
Fraser is one of just 3 Black coaches in MLS now, and he’s become one of the better ones in the league. Just like he did as a defender, his teams play fearless and physical, and they get results. They also fly to the ball just like he did as a player. The intro to a popular Method Man and Redman song best describes Robin Fraser’s career trajectory to this point, and the heights he can take it over the next decade as a coach:
Fly Robin Fly...
Fly Robin Fly...
Fly Robin Fly...
For more Black History Month stories, check out our Black History Month hub. We will be bringing stories throughout the month to highlight some of the biggest moments in Black American and world soccer history.