Well this has not been how I was expecting today to go. The Rapids made moves and it was nothing but positive.
The Colorado Rapids traded their #6 draft pick with Houston Dynamo FC in exchange for $200,000 in General Allocation Money and the #3 overall pick in the 2021 MLS Superdraft. The expected #1 pick was dubbed the most MLS ready player and somehow was still available at the #3 selection. Austin FC selected midfielder Daniel Pereira at the #1 overall pick who many thought the Rapids were trading up for. The second overall pick went to FC Cincinnati with forward Calvin Harris. It was a shock to me and many analysts as the Rapids were able to select Philip Mayaka of Clemson University at #3 overall.
The Kenyan native is small in stature at 5'7" and 135 lbs but is a hard tackler in central midfield. Philip moves with grace and composure on the ball and was a catalyst to one of the best attacks in college soccer the last two seasons. He is very much a team player with a great mentality and capable of playing multiple positions in central midfield. He adds depth to the central midfield position where he could be a long term replacement for Cole Bassett and provide cover for US call ups for Kellyn Acosta and Bassett. Rapids Executive VP & GM Pádraig Smith said this to say about our pick "When we talk about Philip we talk about him being a #6. A Darlington Nagbe".
It doesn't appear that Mayaka would be an immediate starter however. Captain Jack Price and Acosta are very expected to be the ideal starting central midfield pairing. Namli likely moves into the #10 role with new addition Michael Barrios becoming our right winger. If we do this Cole Bassett may not even be starting. It's a real puzzle as to how Coach Fraser will fit our best 11 onto the field.
I doubt he's going to change formations which means that Bassett is an attacking midfielder off the bench and Mayaka a more defensive minded sub. One possibility is the inevitable sale of Cole Bassett to a European club. I don't think anyone would be surprised as we've seen rumors in Germany and have more than one week remaining in the transfer window (Europe's transfer window that is). Mayaka could even see some loan time at USL club Colorado Springs Switchbacks to slowly progress him into professional soccer. Who know's what's going to happen but it sure is an exciting time to be a Rapids fan!
Other Offseason Moves
It has been a very productive and positive offseason for the Colorado Rapids. We were able to retain our core group of players through contract negotiations several weeks ago. We even made a big splash in the transfer market! Welcome Michael Barrios. The veteran winger was acquired in exchange for an international roster spot and a SuperDraft pick swap with FC Dallas on January 13.
This move adds considerable depth to our winger position including the likes of Jonathan Lewis, Nico Benezet and Braian Galvan as well as Designated Player Younes Namli and winger/forward Andre Shinyashiki. It is still possible we see Benezet or Lewis depart in order to make room elsewhere in the squad for an addition. Barrios had a fantastic season in 2019 bagging 5 goals and 15 assists in 23 matches. The 29 year old played 22 games last season contributing with 1 goal and 5 assists. Beyond the goals and assists he ranked in the top 5 or 10 in most categories including chances created from open play (we could use that couldn't we!?!) and big chances created and expected assists.
Rapids executive VP & GM Pádraig Smith had this to say about the signing, "We’re excited to reinforce our roster with a player of Michael’s quality. Michael has consistently been among the top chance creators in this league and offers blistering pace that’s hard to match. We believe he’ll be a strong addition to our group as we build toward next season”.
It would appear we still have a need for a starting striker, a true #9. It's still possible to make some moves and we'll see if Smith has any tricks up his sleeve. I'll have an expected starting eleven up soon on my twitter feed, @burgundyboys96, where I keep up with all things Rapids. Until next time, stay safe out there soccer fans!