2018 Colorado Rapids Roster Decisions: Thoughts and Analysis

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Editorial (November 28, 2018)Yesterday, the Colorado Rapids announced their decisions regarding 2019 player contract roster options. Four players had their contract options exercised while eight players had their contract options declined. Let’s take a look at what the Colorado Rapids roster decisions mean for the club going forward.

2018 Colorado Rapids Roster Decisions: Thoughts and Analysis

So, here’s what happened:

Players who’s contract options were picked up for 2019: defender Deklan Wynne; midfielders Kellyn Acosta and Dillon Serna; and forward Niki Jackson.

Players who’s contract options were not picked up for 2019: defenders Kip Colvey and Mike da Fonte; midfielders Giles Barnes, Sam Hamilton, Enzo Martinez and Ricardo Perez; and forwards Caleb Calvert and Jack McBean.

Goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra and forward Yannick Boli are out of contract. The club chose not to exercise the purchase option on Edgar Castillo with C.F. Monterrey, but negotiations are taking place.

As it stands, here is the Rapids roster of 18 players for next year:

Goalkeepers (2): Tim Howard, Zac MacMath
Defenders (7): Kortne Ford, Marlon Hairston, Axel Sjöberg, Tommy Smith, Sam Vines, Danny Wilson, Deklan Wynne
Midfielders (7): Kellyn Acosta, Cole Bassett, Nana Boateng, Johan Blomberg, Sam Nicholson, Jack Price, Dillon Serna
Forwards (2): Shkëlzen Gashi, Niki Jackson

Analyzing the contracts that were picked up:

Three of the four are no brainers. Kellyn Acosta is one of the best players on this team. Niki Jackson had a promising rookie season and has room to grow, not unlike the departed Dominique Badji of yesteryear. Dillon Serna might not have a position he’s best at, but is still a serviceable homegrown.

Deklan Wynne is still a work in progress, but if anyone can make him work as a 2-3 year project in MLS, it’s Anthony Hudson, who coached him with the New Zealand National Team.

Analyzing the contracts that were not picked up:

I’ll be honest: A few of these decision surprised me. Barnes and da Fonte were easy decisions. Mike da Fonte was loaned to Phoenix Rising of the USL before the season began and it was clear short of being the best player in USL wasn’t coming back. He’s a yellow card machine and doesn’t produce enough on either side of the ball to make up for it.

Barnes had a few good moments in his debut for the Rapids but was largely unimpressive. For a half season base salary of $200,000 ($400,000 prorated for a full year), he wasn’t worth it. I’m sure he’d be a good veteran locker room presence and would be able to fill in in a pinch. That role’s worth $100,000 and there are plenty of players eligible for free agency who can do that job.

Every other cut was a bit surprising, not that I disagree with them. The Rapids severed ties with three Homegrowns, Calvert, McBean, and Perez. Perez wasn’t able to get into the lineup on loan at Charlotte Independence. Calvert had just one goal in 18 games played with Charlotte and has never impressed at the MLS level.

McBean got lots of playing time in 2018 as Hudson picked him over more experienced forwards, but managed just two goals (one PK, the other a tap in on an open net).

That said, all three of these players still had their HG tag. That provides so much flexibility for MLS teams with their roster moves and budget. Plus, with the affiliation with Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC starting next year, all three of these players could have spent the season on loan developing.

The same could be said of Hamilton and Colvey. Colvey is planning to retire and go back to school, but it’s unclear if this was a reaction or a decision he already made prompting the Rapids to decline his option.

These moves clearly indicate the Rapids were not ready to commit to young below-average talent that hadn’t shown progress. What’s it say about a player when an MLS club at the bottom of the table declines their option as a reserve player scheduled to make the league minimum? And other than Barnes, none of these moves freed up much cap space.

If Colvey’s retirement was a reaction to getting cut, then him getting cut is either an indictment of his attempts to stick in MLS and/or Hudson’s ability to get something out of him. If anyone was going to turn Colvey into a competent MLS player, it was going to be Hudson, with the two becoming familiar from the New Zealand National Team. This pet project didn’t even last a year.

Lastly, Enzo Martinez. Martinez made the league minimum this year. His USL production as an MVP candidate in Charlotte didn’t transition to Colorado, but he showed some good flashed and the effort was always there. He told the media at the last home game that Hudson wanted him back. I thought it would have been worth bringing him back given he doesn’t cost much and can be a depth option at several positions.

Martinez is a class act and one can only hope he lands on his feet.

Players out of contract:

Given the Rapids mentioned they’re negotiating for Castillo but said nothing of Dykstra or Boli, I assume those two won’t be back. Minimum salary third string goalkeepers are a dime a dozen. The Rapids can easily draft a player or take a flyer on a young USL keeper.

Boli’s season was a disappointment with only two goals in league play. Granted, he was put in some tough spots with limited service and playing on an island for most of his starts. One of the good moves Padraig Smith made was to bring in several strikers on one year deals to allow the club to cut bait if things didn’t work out.

2018 was a tryout year essentially for Boli and others. Regardless of circumstance, the results weren’t enough to warrant a long term six-figure commitment.

The club however desperately needs to bring back Castillo. It’s unclear how they’ll make the money work though. Castillo made just $120,000 this year. As hands down the team’s MVP for this year, he deserves a raise. And his form could give Monterrey bargaining power to up the transfer fee. I’ve heard rumblings the original purchase option was in excess of $1 million. Hard to see Monterrey agreeing to something lower given what happened this year.

Can the Rapids haggle that price down? Maybe. Do they have the money to pay for a multi-million dollar transfer? Probably not. Can they pay the transfer fee and give Castillo a raise to a max budget player or possibly a TAM contract? Outlook hazy at best.

Castillo just turned 32-years-old. Can they give him a contract he’ll accept without overcompensating in term or salary? I’ll stop asking tough rhetorical questions now.

Last Word: Strikers

The Rapids only have two strikers on the roster right now, three if you account for Nicholson’s position change in the second half of the year. Those three accounted for just seven goals all season. Colorado is in desperate need for strikers both in number of bodies and production. The front office better be doing some holiday shopping.