COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – The Colorado Rapids center backs have potentially been locked in for 2020. The club announced today the acquisition of Lalas Abubakar from Columbus Crew SC and Auston Trusty from Philadelphia Union.
Colorado Rapids Center Backs Acquired at Value
Abubakar spent most of the 2019 season on loan with the Rapids after not getting much playing time to start the year. It was unclear what his role would be with the club had he stayed in 2020.
Trusty worked his way into the first team with the Union after some time spent as a teenager with Bethlehem Steel in the USL. He started every game of 2018 and played in 22 matches this year but hasn’t appeared for Jim Curtin since the start of August.
Rapids defender Tommy Smith is out of contract as of January and his future is uncertain.
TRANSACTION: Colorado Rapids sign defender Lalas Abubakar on November 20, 2019 in exchange for $400,000 in 2020 GAM and a 2020 international roster spot.
Pronunciation: Lah-las ah-BOO-bah-car
Weight: 180 lb
Birthplace: Kumasi, Ghana
TRANSACTION: Colorado Rapids sign defender Auston Trusty to a new multi-year contract on November 20, 2019 in exchange for $300,000 in TAM and $300,000 in GAM.
Pronunciation: Austin TRUSS-tee
Weight: 187 lb
Birthplace: Media, Pennsylvania
Analyzing Abubakar’s Market Value:
The biggest uncertainties for the Rapids going into this off-season were the starting center back roles and the DP roster spots. Abubakar’s loan had expired and the club had a decision to make with Tommy Smith having a team option for 2020.
Now they’ve got two full-fledged starting caliber center backs. Trusty has been a youth national team player in the past. If you’ve been watching the Rapids this year or reading my writing, you know what Abubakar brought to the team when he showed up.
There were rumblings that the Crew could have had an asking price of $1 million for Abubakar. As I reported earlier this month, there was an offer at the time of the loan for $500,000 to buy him and the negotiations were closer to that than seven figures.
An international roster spot has inflated in price to upwards of nearly $200,000 in allocation money as of last year. So lets say then that the total assets exchanged were at most $600,000 in GAM equivalent. That’s more than the May offer but far less than some might have expected looking at the Ike Opara transfer as the bench mark.
Abubakar is entering his prime and had a 2019 guaranteed compensation of $145,000. The Rapids acquired a starting center back at a reasonable cap hit for a market (maybe even under market) price transfer fee.
The Boss and the Rose:
This is the second time in two off-seasons that the Rapids have acquired a starting defender from the Philadelphia Union. Last year they bought Keegan Rosenberry for $200,000 in allocation money plus a $100,000 performance incentive.
They’ve now bought Auston Trusty and signed him to a new contract. We don’t know the details of that yet, but he was making $124,000 as a Homegrown this year. Presumably, he will still be a budget player in 2020.
Trusty was bought with a combination of GAM and TAM. There’s precedent that suggests that $1 of GAM is worth $1.50 of TAM. So just as we did with the Abubakar transfer, let’s convert the Trusty transfer fee into GAM equivalent:
$300,000 TAM * ($1 GAM/$1.5 TAM) + $300,000 GAM = $450,000 GAM.
That’s probably the biggest inter-MLS transfer fee from a non-international caliber 21-year-old center back. He’s still young and the Rapids could be playing more for potential in a few years than what he is right now. This transfer could be an investment.
Trusty has bonus value to the Rapids thanks to being reunited with Rosenberry. These two could very well start together on the right side of the backline and immediately have chemistry.
As long as Trusty isn’t making over $250,000 with the contract extension, this is probably a good move but we’ll have to wait and see.
Last Word: Tommy Smith
The club just bought two center backs who were regular starters this year. They’re expecting to have Kortne Ford back next year as well. As of now, they’re still holding onto Axel Sjoberg and Danny Wilson. These two signings probably reduce the chances they’ll re-sign Smith.
The fact that they declined his team option suggests that they might not want to use TAM on him going forward. He’s expressed interest in returning to England, Ipswich in particular, at some point in his career. He might be less of a need now as the Colorado Rapids center backs are set, further reducing the amount they’d be willing to pay him to bring him back.
The two sides might be further apart now and Tommy Smith might be looking for more lucrative options that would also provide more guaranteed playing time.
Main Photo: Lalas Abubakar, Colorado Rapids, MLS Photo Credit: John A. Babiak @Photog_JohnB