COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – Kei Kamara is the leading goal scorer. Jack Price leads the team with set piece assists. But in the background, another Colorado Rapids player is starting to find his rhythm.
In his third MLS season, midfielder Sam Nicholson has produced two goals and four assists – his best mark since arriving stateside in 2017 having previously played in his native Scotland for Premiership side Hearts. To Rapids fans, he would be, as the Scots would say, “Pure Barry”.
Wing play has been a big reason behind the Rapids’ offensive resurgence under Conor Casey, and then Robin Fraser, averaging 1.81 goals per game since the firing of Anthony Hudson.
“I think the wing play has been good,” said Fraser. “I’ve talked about it since I got here, it’s important that we have good wide play. Because our wingers are getting into dangerous positions, they’re creating opportunities for themselves and for the forwards.”
Opposite Jonathan Lewis and others, Nicholson has been a big part of that. While he hasn’t put up huge numbers statistically, his assists mark is telling of the unselfish play he tries to bring to the pitch.
“In terms of being a winger, it’s more about assisting,” Nicholson said. “But I think if I can add goals, it would definitely help.”
Nicholson relishes opportunities on the ball, which he explained as a benefit of the style of play Fraser has been implementing since coming on board as Colorado’s manager. It’s during those times where he’s been a threat, scoring a goal (which was intended to be an assist to Diego Rubio) against Toronto FC in a 3-2 defeat and drawing a foul, which sent off Sporting Kansas City captain Matt Besler off early in the Rapids’ 3-2 win Saturday.
“The he way that we play definitely gets wide players on the ball as much as possible, which suits me as well,” Nicholson explained.
After making the transition from abroad with Minnesota United, Nicholson again made a change when he was traded to Colorado last season. While his team has remained the same this year, changes have persisted with the Rapids’ two coaching changes. On a personal level, Nicholson also dealt with injury, most notably a back injury sustained last season and which persisted into the early parts of the 2019 campaign.
But these days, Nicholson finally feels things have settled down.
“Making a big move to America and then having to move from state to state was obviously difficult, because I’m still young,” said the 24-year-old. “It was just getting used to that. But I’m settled in now.”
He credits teammates for helping him transition to a new country and team. On the Rapids, he’s formed especially close bonds with teammates Tommy Smith and Price. The trio has a classic English-Scottish rivalry, with locker room banter and small pranks such as trying to see who’ll laugh first during an interview while the others are joking around behind the scenes.
“We keep each other on our toes,” he laughed.
Outside of Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Nicholson likes to keep things low key, watching television and spending time with his two dogs.
On the pitch, he’s still full of enjoyment, and playing some of the best soccer of his Colorado career.
“I’m just enjoying myself, really,” said Nicholson. “We play a system that suits the way the players want to play and that’s been good.”