EDITORIAL – The 2020 MLS season came to an end on Sunday for the Colorado Rapids. It was a crazy but ultimately progressive year for the club. They made the playoffs for the first time since 2016 and won the Rocky Mountain Cup for the first time since 2015. The young core developed and contributed. Manager Robin Fraser has his team in position to improve in 2021. Before that happens, decisions need to be made regarding several Colorado Rapids veterans.
Colorado Rapids Veterans: Simple yet Significant Decisions to Come This Offseason
Unlike previous years, the Rapids do not need to completely overhaul the roster. Fraser overall likes his squad. The front office has positioned the club well: There are no poisonous guaranteed contracts on the books for next season. They also have the ability to easily part ways with the older players on the roster if desired.
The Rapids have three field players over the age of 30 in Drew Moor, Collen Warner, and Steven Beitashour. Moor was signed to a one-year deal and is again eligible for free agency. There are club options for Warner and Beitashour for next year.
Additionally, Danny Wilson’s contract has a club option for next season. Per the MLSPA player salaries for 2019, Wilson is the highest paid defender on the team. Salary data has yet not been released in 2020. Wilson has struggled throughout his Rapids career but redeemed himself in many regards this year.
Should the Rapids want to part ways with any of these older players to bring in younger/different options or create financial flexibility, they just need to decline the contract options, or in the case of Moor let the contract expire. Should they want to retain any of these players, it will also be easy. Pick up the option, or in the case of Moor negotiate another free agent deal. The 36-year-old center back is happy at the club and would likely be reasonable with the terms.
These decisions could significantly impact the club next year, especially at the back. Colorado has six central defenders on the roster. Lalas Abubakar is a certain starter for next season. Abdul Rwatubyaye has been on loan in the USL. Kortne Ford is still recovering from a long-term knee injury. Auston Trusty is a young and exciting talent who did not play as much as supporters might have expected this year.
It’s not clear whether Rwatubyaye or Ford will be able to contribute to the first team next season. The decisions around Moor and Wilson involve 70% of the minutes played at center back not included Abubakar. If Moor and Wilson leave the club, it could be a signal that the coaching staff believe Trusty is ready to complete for starting minutes in 2021. Retaining either of them could signal Trusty needs time and might not be ready.
While Wilson played better this year, he mostly has not lived up to his TAM contract plus costing an International Roster Slot. General Manager Padraig Smith could look to decline the option and renegotiate as was tried with Tommy Smith last year.
Similarly, decisions on Beitashour and Warner could signal the coaching staff’s faith in these veteran players or provide an opening for younger/depth players to take up bigger roles at the club.
Colorado also has a decision to make at goalkeeper. William Yarbrough was on loan from Liga MX side Club León. The loan will expire at the end of next month and there is an option to buy, as confirmed by the player to Last Word on Sports. Yarbrough Wally Pipped incumbent Clint Irwin at the MLS is Back tournament, starting the final seven games of the regular season.
The club needs to decide whether they want to pay the transfer fee or try to negotiate more favorable terms to retain Yarbrough. Irwin is a veteran goalkeeper who could peak interest in the trade market if he wanted to leave or the Rapids wanted to fully commit to Yarbrough. Both goalkeepers are 31-years-old.
The Rapids are in a good position going into this offseason. Without much effort or financial hardship, they can retain or part ways with each of the players on the roster over the age of 30. The one exception may be Yarbrough, depending on the transfer fee to get him permanently from León. Without 2020 player compensation information, it’s unclear what the financial fallout of any of these moves are exactly.
These decisions will be procedurally simple but will be massive indicators from the club regarding who they value and what opportunities younger players in the organization may get. They can run this group back together as Fraser builds on this year or they can shake things up. The point is, they hold all the cards.