Editorial (February 3, 2018) – The Colorado Rapids have had a busy off-season. They have a new Head Coach in Anthony Hudson and a bunch of new staff members. A number of players from last year were not retained. Eight new players have joined as off-season Colorado Rapids signings as well.
Off-Season Reloading: Breaking Down All the Off-Season Colorado Rapids Signings
The Rapids are looking to play a 5-3-2 with wing backs under Hudson. They’ve brought in players from the British continent in Jack Price, Tommy Smith, and Danny Wilson. They’ve also added American International Edgar Castillo and a few players Hudson knows from his time with the New Zealand National Team. The Rapids have also brought in a few diamonds in the rough to fill in the cracks.
With that, let’s take a look at the off-season moves and what they mean.
Wing Back Talent and Depth:
Smith and Hudson brought in Edgar Castillo, Kip Colvey, and Deklan Wynne. Hudson knows Colvey and Wynne from their time with the New Zealand National Team. Castillo is a longtime veteran of Liga MX and an occasional United States Men’s National Team starter. He’s joined the squad. And they’ve still got Marlon Hairston, who will finally be in position to play the right position for him.
Look for Hairston and Castillo to start and be a top five outside back pair in MLS in 2018. Hairston is in position to have his most significant club campaign yet. Castillo brings veteran experience from over a decade of playing in Mexico. Both will contribute defensively and provide distribution up field.
Colvey, Wynne, and possibly Eric Miller will provide depth here. Wynne could be a candidate to spend some time in the USL with Charlotte Independence. Colvey can play on both sides of the field off the bench, so keep an eye on that.
Lots of Center Backs:
As I wrote about recently, the Rapids have lots of options at center back. They’ll need them given Hudson will be playing with three center backs. Smith and Wilson are coming in with European experience. Smith was the captain for Hudson in New Zealand at times. Then there’s incumbents Axel Sjoberg and Kortne Ford.
The Rapids could have a rotating cast of these four. There are also rumors that Sjoberg is being shopped by the front office. Colorado also has Mike da Fonte and Jared Watts, who could be utility players in 2018.
I think the Rapids have a rotating cast of four between Smith, Wilson, Sjoberg, and Ford depending on the opponent and form. If they want some more mobility, Miller could play at the back. There is a possibility Sjoberg gets moved at some point this year, which would move Miller up on that depth chart.
Jack Price and a Three-Man Midfield:
The only big midfield signings for the Rapids this year is Jack Price, formerly of Wolverhampton Wanderers, and Johan Blomberg. However, the Rapids will be getting improvement in the midfield in other ways. Nana Boateng is coming in healthy; he was out for almost three months last season with a back injury. Stefan Aigner and Shkelzen Gashi could also feature in the midfield. Aigner came in during the summer transfer window and will now be fully fit with a proper off-season. Gashi is looking to be in much better shape as well compared to 2017.
Remember, the Rapids will only have a three-man midfield. Between these four, Michael Azira available as a reliable veteran, and Jared Watts who can also play as a defensive midfielder, the Rapids should be fine. Look for them to maybe add another option as a Supplemental roster player just in case.
The Striker Hole:
Smith and Hudson have been on the record as saying the club wanted to sign a striker. The transfer window is closing and the one thing they haven’t done this off-season is sign a significant forward. And that’s while having an open DP spot and some left over TAM.
They still have Dom Badji, who is a capable player in MLS. Aigner and/or Gashi could also play up top in a withdrawn role. They did bring in Jack McBean, who will get a second chance to be a No. 9 off the bench. Where the goals are coming from could be the one big question for the club this year. That said, they can always make a move in the summer, when most international players have more flexibility (especially after the World Cup in Russia).
Diamonds in the Rough:
The Rapids selected five players in the 2018 MLS SuperDraft. Two of them have already chosen to pursue other opportunities. They’ve still got three of them in camp though: Forwards Alan Winn and Niki Jackson, and goalkeeper Thomas Olsen. As previously mentioned, they’ve also taken flyers on a few other players who were on the outs with other MLS teams.
As an MLS team on a budget, a club needs to get value out of the lower level roster spots. The club has embraced analytics over the last few seasons and these moves follow suit. Wynne and Colvey both have familiarity with the coaching staff. Hudson should be able to get more out of them than other players. McBean will also be getting a second chance in a lower pressure environment than the LA Galaxy.
The Rapids could be looking to use their USL affiliation with Charlotte in ways they haven’t before. Winn, Jackson, and Olsen could all make the roster and then get to cut their teeth down there. There are also the likes of Sam Hamilton and Ricardo Perez, who could get a chance to continue their development off the bench or as starters in Charlotte.
The Rapids have undergone a significant transformation in the last few months. On paper, they are set up to make the playoffs out of the Western Conference in 2018. Team continuity and fitness will be critical, given all the changes and the new formation/system. If they can get that right and bring in a quality DP striker in the summer (should it be needed), the Colorado Rapids will return to the postseason.