Editorial (December 4, 2017) – The Colorado Rapids had a busy week last week. They made a number of roster changes going into the off-season and finally announced Anthony Hudson as their new Head Coach. While the Hudson news took the spotlight, let’s take a deeper look at the roster moves the club made.
Reactions to the Colorado Rapids Roster Decisions going into the 2017 Off-Season
As previously announced, the Rapids chose to not exercise contract options on six players. They also chose to decline the purchase option on Luis Gil. Defender Bobby Burling is out of contract and forward Kevin Doyle has chose to retire. With that, the Rapids have 18 of 30 MLS roster spots filled for 2018. Let’s look at each Colorado Rapids roster decision player-by-player.
Reactions to the players who didn’t get their options picked up:
John Berner: John Berner came to the Rapids in 2014 and has mostly been the third choice goalkeeper in that time. He’s only played in five games and made around the league minimum in 2017. At 26-years-old, I think he could contribute for a club down the pyramid, but he was stuck in the third spot in Colorado. I could see the Rapids taking a flyer on a younger player, possibly looking for an academy/draftpick player to sign and get minutes in the USL.
Dennis Castillo and Mekeil Williams: The Rapids are definitely looking to change things up at outside back. Dennis Castillo and Mekeil Williams faded from the plan and the match day roster in 2017. Marlon Hairston is clearly an option at right wing back for 2018 and I’ve got hunch the front office wants to get a dependable left back to replace the gaping hole at left back.
With these two players not contributing much, they’re a poor use of an International Roster Spot. When healthy and fit, Williams can still contribute at the MLS level. He could stay in the league or move to somewhere else within CONCACAF. Castillo should look to sign with a USL club and get more playing time.
Joshua Gatt and Mohammed Saeid: Joshua Gatt and Mohammed Saeid came to the Rapids in the maligned Sam Cronin trade. The two combined for 4 goals and 7 assists, but were underwhelming given who they were moved for. Gatt struggled for playing time. He was good at getting into dangerous positions, but struggled converting his chances. He regularly sought contact rather than use his speed to evade defenders. Saeid was better than his stats show and brought some veteran leadership. His decision was complicated by personal matters.
I’m not sure what’s next for Gatt. A few years ago, he was a dark horse for the national team. Now he’s been discarded by two MLS teams in less than 10 months. An MLS team might take a flyer on him. He could go back to Scandinavia. I think he’d definitely draw interest from the USL. I don’t want to read too much into Saeid’s comments, but my hunch is he’s looking to return home to Sweden, where he’ll definitely be able to find a club.
Alan Gordon: Alan Gordon has widely been considered the most clutch late game offensive threat in MLS for years. By the numbers, his 2017 season was on par with recent years. That said, he was making $180,000 and is 36-years-old. I don’t know what his guaranteed compensation was for 2018, but unless it was a lot less than $180,000, it was going to be too much. I’m a huge Gordo fan, so I’d love to see the club bring him back for his veteran leadership and tenacity. He could return at a lower number. That said, he’ll be eligible for free agency again. If he decides to test the open market, he’ll probably be offered more that the Rapids would be willing to pay him.
Luis Gil: Recall that Luis Gil came back to MLS via a loan from Liga MX’s Queretaro to Orlando City SC. He was then traded to the Rapids for Dillon Powers at the trade deadline. The Rapids then assumed the rights to his purchase option and the contract that comes with that. We don’t know what that number was, but given it was from a Mexican team, it was probably for above market value. Like Gatt, Gil was inconsistent. He wasn’t worth more than a nominal transfer fee. Good luck to him. He probably needs to move on from Oueretaro to find playing time.
Reactions to players who got their option picked Up:
The Rapids picked up options on Eric Miller, Jared Watts, and Sam Hamilton. None of them made over $90,000 in 2017. With the Rapids possibly moving to a system with wing backs, Miller is a viable option at that position. Watts can play a number of positions on the field. Both, at worst, are good locker room characters and depth players that can play multiple positions in a pinch. Assuming their options don’t include huge pay bumps, they good glue players to have on an MLS roster.
Hamilton was rookie this year, drafted out of the University of Denver. He only played in three MLS games, but still has potential. His rookie contract wasn’t too much to keep up. Worst case scenario, he takes up a reserve roster spot and continues to develop in training or on loan in the USL.
Bobby Burling’s future:
Bobby Burling is out of contract and 33-years-old. Some clubs have indicated in their roster decision press releases which players they are in discussion with. The Rapids haven’t indicated either way. Burling wasn’t healthy for much of 2017 and made around $150,000. He’ll be a free agent for the first time this off-season, and lots of MLS teams could use a veteran third choice center back. If I were the Rapids, I’d at least talk with him to see where he’s at and if he wants to take a hometown discount (Burling grew up in Monument, CO). That said, like Gordon, I think he’ll test the market and get more money elsewhere.
The next big item on the off-season calendar for the MLS Expansion Draft. Los Angeles FC is only getting five players though and most of the league won’t be affected by that. As long as the Rapids don’t forget to protect Axel Sjoberg, they should come out of that fine. After that come the Re-Entry Drafts, where the Rapids will have the third overall pick for both Stage One and Two. They could look to add depth there.
After that, it’s all about the MLS SuperDraft and MLS Transfer Window. Look for the Rapids to get a Generation Adidas player who can contribute in 2018. In the international market, they’ll be looking for a new third DP and possibly a TAM level player or two.
I don’t like ending on a negative, but it’s hard to overlook one thing. I was critical of the Sam Cronin right after it happened. It was one step backward for 2017 in hopes of taking two steps forward in 2018. Nana Boateng had to be legit and so did the player they sign with the International Roster Spot. Boateng and Stefan Aigner are in position to be significant contributors in 2018. That said, it’s still bad optics when you trade your best midfielder and a veteran left back for two players you then cut at the end of the year.
I look forward to writing about how that trade was totally worth it in the long run when Boateng and Aigner ball out next year.