EDITORIAL – Rather than any big names or splashy Designated Player signings, recent moves show there was a decision by the Colorado Rapids to emphasize Homegrown signings this offseason. Colorado has doubled down on the approach that has seen young USMNT players such as Sam Vines and Cole Bassett become key figures in the Rapids’ first team, recently signing four new players to Homegrown contracts for the 2021 season.
Rapids Emphasize Homegrown Signings To Fill Roster
The “why” to signing Homegrowns is obvious: Young players with high potential at a bargain price. Such a strategy is essential to a team like the Rapids, who rarely spend big on designated players.
Targeting Homegrown players is nothing new for the Rapids. Neither is targeting talented young players developed by other MLS academies: Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Jonathan Lewis (Chicago Fire), Auston Trusty (Philadelphia Union), and Keegan Rosenberry (Philadelphia Union) all came from other teams’ development academies.
The Rapids’ own academy already contributed heavily to the roster prior to the four new signings. This includes such prospects as Cole Bassett, Sam Vines, Sebastian Anderson, Kortne Ford, and Abraham Rodriguez. Sam Vines has recently signed a four year extension with the Rapids.
The new signings bring the Rapids’ average age on the squad down to 24.6 years old according to @RapidsJason.
Rapids’ New Signings At A Glance
#77 Darren Yapi – Rapids Academy
Deal: Rapids sign Yapi to a five-year Homegrown contract. Yapi becomes the youngest player in Rapids history at 16 years and 104 days.
Description: Forward. 6’1”, 175 lbs, 16 years old. Yapi made his professional debut on August 1, 2020, with Colorado Springs Switchbacks. He also scored 64 goals in 95 appearances for the Rapids Academy.
#34 Michael Edwards – VFL Wolfsburg
Deal: Rapids send $75,000 in 2021 General Allocation Money (GAM) to D.C. United to acquire Edwards’ Homegrown rights.
Description: Defender. 6’3”, 176 lbs, 20 years old. A product of D.C. United’s academy, Edwards joined Wolfsburg’s U-19 team in 2018 before quickly being promoted to Wolfsburg II in the German fourth tier.
#37 Dantouma “Yaya” Toure – NYRB
Deal: Rapids send $50,000 in GAM to N.Y. Red Bulls and acquired Toure’s Homegrown rights.
Description: Forward. 5’8”, 148 lbs, 16 years old. Toure scored three goals and tallied three assists in 13 appearances with New York Red Bulls II in the USL Championship.
#30 Oliver Larraz – Rapids Academy
Deal: Rapids sign Larraz to a two-year Homegrown contract. Larraz became the thirteenth Rapids Academy player to sign a contract with the Rapids.
Description: Midfielder. 5’10”, 140 lbs, 19 years old. Larraz has also spent time with German club Duisburg and Barcelona’s residency academy in Arizona.
Remaining Numbers An Indication Of Signings To Come?
No. 8 and 9 have notably been left absent, giving hope that this isn’t the end of the new signings for the Rapids.
Is it possible that the Rapids will fill that No. 9 with a Designated Player? Yes.
Is it probable? No.
The Rapids have rarely had more than one DP. One of the few years they did, in 2016, they finished second in the league. It does not take a statistician to see that DPs make a massive difference, the eye test will do.
The Rapids’ emphasis on Homegrown players got them to playoffs last season. Perhaps in the long term the new young signings will provide one of the missing pieces to transform the Rapids from an occasional playoff contender to a championship team.
In the short term, high profile designated players like Carlos Vela, Alan Pulido, and Josef Martinez will continue to dominate MLS.
As pointed out by @soccer_rabbi, with 31 players currently listed for the Rapids and 30 available spots on the team, it’s almost a certainty that some of the new signings will be loaned out to the Rapids’ USL affiliate Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC.
Who will make the cut with the first team and who will be loaned down south will likely depend on the players’ performance in the upcoming pre-season games.