The Colorado Rapids Soccer Club announced two player acquisitions in the last 48 hours. It's fair to say that these are moves that definitively improve this team at the right time. Mark-Anthony Kaye and Dominque Badji are now officially Colorado Rapids players! I have a breakdown on both players, the transfer window in general and some intel from today's press conference with Head Coach Robin Fraser as well as Executive VP & General Manager Padraig Smith.
The Rapids announced a blockbuster trade on Tuesday, 7/27.21. The largest sum of allocation money the club has ever paid in a trade. Officially it's a $1 million in General Allocation Money (GAM) move and a 2022 international roster slot to LAFC for Mark-Anthony Kaye. Performance incentives could raise this figure as well. 10% transfer fee to go back to LAFC if the Rapids sell Kaye in the future. Currently on duty with the Canadian national team at the CONCACAF Gold Cup he will join the squad shortly afterwards.
Transfermarkt value $6.60 million
Weight 170 lbs
Birthdate: 12.2.1994 (26) Birthplace: Toronto, Canada Nationality: Canada
General Manager of the Colorado Rapids, Padraig Smith had this to share, “We’re thrilled to welcome Mark-Anthony to the club and reinforce our midfield with a player of his quality. He’s been one of the best central midfielders in the league over the last several years and has played a critical role in the success of the teams he’s been a part of. We look forward to seeing him integrate with our group as we enter the second half of the season and continue our push for a playoff spot”.
(Image: Associated Press)
Kaye was raised by a single mother who emigrated from Jamaica to Toronto. He came up from through the Canadian collegiate system at York University. Then the Toronto FC academy in 2013 before a brief loan to USL team Wilmington Hammerheads. He didn’t have the easiest or most normal road to the MLS. It didn’t quite work out until he left Wilmington and headed to Kentucky.
Kaye began the ascent of his professional career at Louisville City FC of the United Soccer League Championship. In 2016 they reached the Eastern Conference Final before winning the 2017 USL Cup. Kaye would go on to play for LAFC for 4 years. During his breakout 2019 season he record 4 goals and 8 assists (both career highs) and an MLS All Star selection. Last season his played in half as many games but still added 3 goals and 4 assists. Today he’s easily considered one of the best central midfielders in the league.
How will Kaye fit into the squad?
With the current roster as it stands, there is space to fit Kaye in. But it also starts to look crowded if you have a healthy selection of Kellyn Acosta, Jack Price and Cole Bassett. Also in contention in any given week is Nicolas Benezet, Nicolas Mezquida, Collen Warner and if he returns from injury in 1-2 months Younes Namli. More long term you have Oliver Larraz, Philip Mayaka and any potentially new call ups from the academy. That is an embarrassment of riches. Quality in the defensive, box to box and playmaking roles. As exciting as this prospect is, we must consider the probability that at least one current player is leaving.
Does this mean we're selling players?
Nothing new to report but speculation is that Cole Bassett and Kellyn Acosta are both open to progressing their careers with a future move away from Colorado. Reported last week in The Athletic , Sam Vines is on the verge of a move to Belgium. Royal Antwerp to be exact. Where, by the way, he could potentially see immediate action (Jordan Lukaku completed his loan from Lazio) in the Jupiler League and Europa League. My best guess is that one player, either Bassett or Acosta, will be leaving during the summer transfer window. Another factor to consider in this whole saga is what happens to Younes Namli. After successful ankle surgery he could be playing again in 1-2 months. His loan deal concludes at the end of the season. If the Rapids can sign him for a bargain fee, I can see it happening. But if he’s negotiating above what the organization is willing to pay, he could walk. Very possible he stays within MLS but Europe isn’t out of the question either. Unfortunately, no way to know how this will shake out. Still something to keep in mind.
Hypothetically let’s say Acosta is sold. Kaye slots right into his spot very well. It’s a like for like and Kaye being left footed works out nicely too. If it’s Bassett that goes, then we have more of an attacking role to fill. Which we already have in the ranks potentially with Larraz, Mayaka on the younger side and Mezquida and Benezet on the veteran side. Either way I feel good about our depth. Worst case scenario we lose both Acosta and Bassett, then we have more work to do. We’d likely need to add another more defensive minded midfielder if this were to develop during the summer transfer window. The window officially closes on August 5th 2021.
Kaye is a executive member of the MLS Players Association and the Black Players for Change. He’s a strong advocate for social justice and equality. He joins a great list of players who are part of the Black Players for Change (BPC) organization, including fellow Rapids players Auston Trusty, Lalas Abubakar, Kellyn Acosta, Jonathan Lewis and Collen Warner. Although Kaye is a natural leader on the field, he demonstrates the same traits off the field as he strives to leave a positive impact on the world.
In February of this year, BPC leased a collection of limed edition apparel as a charitable fundraiser to support FC Harlem. The project is a collaboration between Black Players For Change and Participation Trophy Studio for Black History Month. FC Harlem is youth development organization in Harlem, NYC, making a positive impact on the lives of young people through soccer since 1990. FC Harlem is focused on providing opportunities and unique experiences that cultivate young leaders. Kaye was one of 8 players participating in the collective effort. This is but one great example of the young man's character.
Bringing it full circle
At the end of the day any sports team and their fans want to be successful. So how does Kaye actually fit into this squad, the culture and the manager?
Robin Fraser manages his team with a strong focus on player rotation, maintain competition in each position and implores a strong work ethic for all of his players. Although he is a former defender, he's got this team playing an attacking, open style. When the team wins the ball back defensively, they have been extraordinarily effective in transitioning to counter attack the opponent. This is one of the key area's the Rapids have improved in the past season or two. They've also grown mentally, as they're closing out games and becoming more consistent. If we add Kaye into all of this, I don't think it could look any smoother. He can be a key linchpin in winning the ball back and transitioning to attack efficiently. The possession based, high tempo attacking soccer is what Kaye does best.
One major change for Kaye is going from a star studded team in LAFC, to what most in the media call a team without stars, the Rapids. $1 million is a high fee to pay in MLS transactions. Immediately he comes in a star player. An impact on and off the field. He will command a large presence in this sense. One that the Rapids quite frankly haven't had too often. Kaye doesn't appear to be the type that would have any kind of negative impact that sometimes comes along with stardom. A much more humble, hard working approach seems to be his modus operandi. Which leans right into the overarching point here, Kaye looks like he'll naturally fit right in.
GM Smith confirmed this in today's press conference adding "We've been looking at him for a long time actually. Really good fit for this group. He adds to what we've been building on these last few years". HC Fraser piled on the praise adding "From a character standpoint, it was an easy easy choice. As a player, it's also an easy choice. He can do everything well. Plays well in a crowded, fast midfield".
WELCOME BACK DOM!!!
The Rapids acquired Dominique Badji today from Nashville SC in exchange for $50,000 in 2022 General Allocation Money (GAM), the club announced today. Nashville would also receive an additional $50,000 in GAM if the Rapids re-sign Badji for the 2022 season.
(Image: Major League Soccer)
Transfermarkt value $880k
Weight 170 lbs
Birthdate: 10.16.1992 (28) Birthplace: Dakar, Senegal Nationality: Senegal
“As we begin to navigate the most congested period of the season and regularly face multiple games per week, having additional depth in key positions becomes all the more important,” said Pádraig Smith, Colorado Rapids General Manager. “Dom not only provides another attacking option for us, but also a veteran presence who is familiar with our club. We’re delighted to welcome him back to Colorado.”
Dom, as he is nicknamed, has 33 goals and 18 assists across 146 MLS matches (115 starts). He began his professional career in 2015 with Colorado, where he logged 24 goals and 12 assists in 91 appearances for the club. He left the Rapids in 2018 through a trade to FC Dallas, then joined Nashville SC ahead of their expansion season. More recently he fell down the pecking order where Nashville had a plethora of options.
The Rapids continued their intra-league strategy by picking up a great option in attack. Badji brings more pace in the attack than we have currently. He has the ability to get in behind defenders. This is a new threat, one that could work in tandem with Rubio in a starting role. However it's more likely that he would be a rotation player, occasionally starting in place of Rubio and coming off the bench as a sub. Either way we have a second true striker on the team now.
Clearly part of the approach by the Rapids organization is taking into consideration the team chemistry. Badji played here before and was close with Kortne Ford and others. This appears to be a move that could be a seamless transition. The roster moves taken as a whole also indicate a sense of urgency. That the Rapids will be going for silverware. And at the right time. Currently sitting in 4th place in the Western Conference of MLS, this is the time to push. And pushing they are.
I'll have anupdate for you on this blog as well as on Twitter @BurgundyBoys96 moving forward. ESPN Brazil reported that Brazilian left back Lucas Esteves from Palmeiras has been loaned to the Rapids. This was not confirmed by HC Fraser or GM Smith as the situation is still developing. The same can be said of reported interest in Cole Bassett from Germany and Switzerland, via The Athletic. This means currently we have two transfers in that are confirmed, Kaye and Badji. Nobody has left the club yet although we know there are discussions on-going. When asked about Sam Vines's departure, both the HC and GM were unable to confirm it's been finalized. So it's a "wait and see" approach for now regarding his potential move to Belgium. We should expect to see Vines leave and a replacement like Esteves come in at left back. It's hard to imagine further roster changes this window but you never know. I'll keep you up to date on the chaos of this transfer window. Something we're not used to here in Rapids country!
The Rapids travel to Austin FC on Saturday for their next MLS match. After losing 3-1 in their first matchup, the Rapids will look to bounce back with a win this weekend. The expectation is that we will be putting a rotation squad out there. Gold Cup is still going on meaning that Kellyn Acosta, Sam Vines, Jon Lewis and now Mark-Anthony Kaye are all unavailable. Danny Wilson is confirmed to be out of the next match while he recovers. Robin Fraser said Diego Rubio is questionable for Saturday's match as well.
Road games are always tough and the new Austin FC stadium looks to be challenge to compete in. Look for the Rapids to control the game, maybe even slow it down in the first 15-30 minutes of the match. The formation is a wildcard as are the player selections. Fraser loves rotating the squad and when you have a deep bench that is great for competition. This team performs well on the road and as Fraser has said before, it's all about the mentality. Until next time, stay safe out there soccer fans!
Austin FC vs Colorado Rapids
7pm MT kickoff
ESPN+ out of market. On Altitude Sports via Comcast or ATT&T Now.
92.5 FM on your radio dial in the Denver metro area