Colorado Rapids Round Table: Homegrowns, a near-complete roster, and future flexibility

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LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 1: Benny Feilhaber #33 of Los Angeles FC battles Luke Mulholland #19 of Real Salt Lake during Los Angeles FC's MLS Western Conference Knockout match against Real Salt Lake at the Banc of California Stadium on November 1, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. Real Salt Lake won the match 3-2 (Photo by Shaun Clark/Getty Images)

Editorial (January 18, 2019) – It’s been a busy week for the Colorado Rapids. Just prior to the MLS SuperDraft, they signed another former Sporting KC player in free agent Benny Feilhaber. In the draft, they traded up to get University of Denver Andre Shinyashiki. They’ve since signed him along with two Homegrown players.

Colorado Rapids Round Table: Homegrowns, a near-complete roster, and future flexibility

The kids are alright:

Just this past week, the Rapids signed three young players with tremendous upside. Their first round draft pick, Andre Shinyashiki had already signed for 2019 along with two promising Homegrown players in Matt Hundley and Sam Raben. All three had productive college soccer seasons. Shinyashiki will fill out a much more competent striker core in 2019.

Hundley and Raben’s immediate impact on the first team is still up in the air. That said, this is the third year in a row the Rapids have signed at least one Homegrown player. Padraig Smith and Anthony Hudson have emphasized wanting to get more out of their academy system. The fruits of their labor appear to be ripening. If Kortne Ford and Cole Bassett are validation of what the club was doing years ago, imagine what they can get out of these two and players yet to come.

The roster is almost complete, ahead of schedule:

At the time of publication, the Rapids have 26 players signed to first team contracts for the 2019 season. Hudson has said in the past that he wants about 25 players involved as an active squad (read: in first team training, not on long-term loans elsewhere). Other than a lock down starting left back, they’ve addressed every positional hole they had last season.

There are just four spots left on their roster and not a lot of budget space to work with. They might have room to get two non-minimum salary players and sign one of their other draft picks. And that’s about it. On the plus side, this time last year, the front office was still wheeling and dealing, having said that a complete squad for preseason was critical. The Rapids are more complete, more talented, and ahead of schedule compared to last year.

Padraig Smith has room to work next January:

Club officials stated throughout 2018 that they would be moving on from Designated Players Tim Howard and Shkelzen Gashi after this year. Both players are out of contract come 2020. Multiple front office members have gone on record that the Rapids intend to bring in a No. 9 and No. 10 as their next two DPs.

The Rapids have signed two players at that position this off-season who are proven in MLS: Forward Kei Kamara and midfielder Benny Feilhaber. Kamara was signed to a two year deal with TAM. Feilhaber is on a one year contract with a team option for 2020.

This gives the Rapids great flexibility for 2020 when they look for two new star players. The Rapids plan to play with two strikers. Signing a second major striker for next year wouldn’t necessarily conflict with Kamara as they can play together up top.

Feilhaber was mostly a No. 8 last season with Los Angeles FC. The Rapids could not pick up Feilhaber’s option, move him back in the diamond, or have him as a depth option. Years ago, the Rapids would have signed these two players to longer deals and had too much overlap and conflict with two new DPs. These were two measured signings in both salary and term.

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