Editorial (February 24, 2018) – Earlier this week, the Colorado Rapids came to terms with Joe Mason, a forward under contract with Wolverhampton Wanderers F.C. The deal is a one-year loan with an option to buy at the end of the 2018 MLS season.
Colorado Rapids Joe Mason Loan: A Calculated Risk
Mason was signed using Targeted Allocation Money. He will take up an International Roster Spot in 2018. Signing a striker had been the last big priority for the Rapids this off-season after several rumored deals fell through. The Joe Mason loan deal comes late in the pre-season. Let’s dive into Mason as a player and what this move could mean for the Rapids.
Kevin Doyle Comparisons and Stats Concerns:
One of the first things the MLS Twitterverse brought up when this rumor started was Mason’s goal history. He’s scored 42 goals in seven season in the English Championship. That averages out to five goals per season in a league that’s not that far off from MLS, which led some to compare him to former Rapid and Championship striker, Kevin Doyle.
But when you look at his numbers on a per game basis, he averages a goal every 2.88 games (0.35 goals/90 minute). Assuming he plays a 34 game season, that’s a 12 goal season, which isn’t bad. On a team focused on defense, that’s reasonable for a TAM level forward. Players in the Championship have come to MLS and been great; others have come in and been meh. Everyone adjusts to MLS differently. Mason also played several different roles at Wolves: He’s a natural No. 9 but had played on the wings and as a No. 10.
All that said, it’s understandable that some see this as an underwhelming signing with limited potential.
Much Needed Creativity:
It’s a small sample size, but check out these highlights from his time at Wolves. Almost every goal highlight I can find on him fits into one of two categories: 1) A great strike on a chance he creates all on his own while outnumbered OR 2) A calm finish after running onto a ball with a keeper/defender cutting down his shooting angle.
“He’s a good player. He’s a goal scorer. He’s cleaver in and around the box, I think that’s what we need. We need someone who’s a bit cleaver and who’s going to score goals. He’s a good addition to the lads.”
Stylistically, he seems to be a good fit for the Rapids. Other than Stefan Aigner or a set piece for Shkelzen Gashi, they don’t have a lot of creativity in the final third. Sometimes a team has to rely on getting the ball to one guy and seeing what he can create. With this signing, Aigner and Mason can play this much needed role.
On the latter side, he can play a very similar role to Dominique Badji. He’ll make runs into the box, get on the end of through passes, and round the keeper to score. Head Coach Anthony Hudson had his strikers do that when he was with New Zealand and the forwards have done a lot of that in preseason.
I am slightly worried about him and Badji being a bit redundant in this role, but if they can switch off, the Rapids will find success. Whoever’s turn it is to split the center backs will either get a chance or create space for the other and Aigner et al.
A Year-Long Audition:
Remember that this is a year-long loan with an option to buy. The Rapids didn’t pay a transfer fee to get Mason to the club for the season. This is effectively a try out season for him. If this deal is similar to recent loans with buy options in MLS, the transfer fee is probably already agreed upon and it is a reasonable market value price.
Worst case scenario, he’s a bust and the Rapids rely on Badji, Gashi, and Aigner to score the goals (not ideal, but not the end of the world). If they need an out-of-the-park stud at forward, they can go after that player in the summer with TAM or the open DP slot. Depending on how much allocation money was spent on his 2018 salary, this is a low risk move by Padraig Smith.
Best case scenario, he works out, fills a needed hole for the Rapids and they can buy him if they want at a good price (if not a discount). The Rapids can then use their other resources elsewhere in the summer transfer window or off-season.
This Joe Mason loan is a calculated risk. It is a lower risk with a higher upside than what appears on the surface.