How Sam Nicholson’s return to Colorado Rapids started the day he left

Sam Nicholson Colorado Rapids
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COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – Yesterday afternoon, the Colorado Rapids announced the return of winger Sam Nicholson after two years at Bristol Rovers. The Scotsman and the club have agreed to a two-and-a-half-year deal with a club option for the 2025 MLS season. This was a move the Rapids had been thinking about since the day he left.

Sam Nicholson’s return to Colorado Rapids started the day he left

Just before the MLS Is Back tournament, Colorado and Nicholson parted ways, with the player sighting personal family reason. He joined the club in 2018, playing in 46 games, recording four goals and six assists. He was expected to have his best year in MLS in 2020 under Robin Fraser prior to COVID-19 disrupting the season.

“We were understanding if disappointed when he had to come home. We’re delighted things are better there,” Pádraig Smith, Colorado Rapids Executive Vice President & General Manager told Last Word.

“We talked to Sam from the very day he left here. Sam knew he was always going to be welcomed back. We had talked about him coming back in the future. He had become part of the Colorado Rapids family. He wanted to come back if the timing was right,” Smith added.


Shortly after this news, Nicholson signed a two-year deal with Bristol Rovers in the EFL League One on a free transfer. This made it so Colorado retained Nicholson’s MLS rights. The then 25-year-old recorded 11 goals and seven assists in two years. Rovers suffered relegation in 2020-21 with Nicholson missing the final two months of the season. They won promotion on the final day of the season last month.

“We continued to watch him from the far. I’d spoken to him, some of the players had spoken to him, the coaches had spoken to him throughout his time in Europe,” Smith said. He described re-signing Nicholson a unanimous decision.

Rovers sources informed Last Word Nicholson was likely to be a squad player if he stayed and possibly was offered a new deal with a pay cut. He was not completely healthy this past season. This was an issue in Colorado, especially his back, that finally got sorted in 2019. With the staff in place at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, he might not play 90 minutes every week, but he will be fighting fit. Rovers had 46 league games each year in the lower divisions of English Football. Fixture congestion may have contributed to Nicholson’s knocks. The rest of the MLS season will not be as congested.


“Sam is such a great character on the field and such a dynamic threat on the field from an attacking perspective. It’s going to add a critical component to our attack in the second half of the year.”

Nicholson is more versatile than Michael Barrios and Jonathan Lewis. He’ll force them to be better to start, or be a great super sub. He’s proven in MLS. He’s well liked by the players, coaches, and fans.

Presumably, he’s an a reasonable salary around or below the $340,000 he was making in 2019. This is a familiar, feel good, low risk, high reward deal. Pádraig Smith slow cooking this for two years made it all the better.

Photo Credit: John A. Babiak @Photog_JohnB