COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – Last Friday, Colorado Rapids confirmed they extended the loan of left back Lucas Esteves. He will be with the club through the end of the 2022 MLS season. As first reported by Yahoo, it is believed there is a loan fee of $200,000. The MLS side retains the option to purchase Esteves from Palmeiras. That is believed to be $1 million with a 50% sell-on clause. This is something both sides wanted. This deal in particular gives the club the financial timing flexibility they might need to make this move permanent.
Lucas Esteves Loan Extension Analysis: Settling in, punting on long-term for financial flexibility
Esteves did not dwell on his future the last few weeks but it was hard to avoid. “I believe that if I’m here it’s because I’ve been pleasing [the club]. I am very happy here. I intend to stay. The beginning was difficult, but now that I’ve been adapting. I like being on the team” he told Last Word through a club translator prior to the announced loan extension.
On the field:
The 22-year-old was exactly what the Rapids needed with the departure of Sam Vines last summer. He fits all the characteristics of the Vines Back position, though results have been mixed compared to his predecessor. He has two goals and three assists in 1855 minutes in MLS, about even with Vines in goal contributions/minute. He’s been sent off twice, though one of those was appealed by the Disciplinary Committee. He’s a bit hotheaded, something Vines was never. Looking at his g+ stats, his possession stats have been similar but he cuts inside at midfield less. His defensive numbers are down from last year, but that could be due to Fraser’s tactical shape more than anything. Esteves has been more dynamic in space than Vines. He’s also been inconsistent.
All of this is in the context of the player coming to a new league midseason, a new country, and not speaking the language. The fact that the club got a comparable player who started contributing is a credit to the recruitment team, player, and coaching. This was a good signing and he hasn’t even reached his potential yet. The second half of 2022 should be his best yet.
Off the field:
Fellow Brazilian Andre Shinyashiki, now with Charlotte FC, helped Esteves adjust on and off the field. He provided translation between English and Portuguese when needed. Esteves has even found comfort food at Fogo de Chão.
“I’m enjoying the city, it’s a beautiful city. I’m adapting as much as possible; my English is much better than when I arrived and I’m improving every day with the help of classes,” he said, adding “the rest of the group, coaches and technical staff try to communicate with me in the best way to have a good relationship and it’s been very good for me.”
Esteves has since paid it forward, helping winter signing Max Alves in the same was Shinyashiki helped him. This is one of the most welcoming and together locker rooms in the league. Esteves is hardworking. He’s unselfish and sticking up for his teammates. He likes the city and playing for Robin Fraser. In this, he has become a Burgundy Boy.
The $200,000 is a minor out of pocket expense, but an encouraging one (along with the Max and Gustavo Vallecilla acquisitions) given ownership’s history. This gives the club another six months to see if Esteves can reach another level and absolutely be worth the million dollar investment. They can also further evaluate his potential. Being Brazilian, he would have a higher trade value abroad. This is a short-term sporting decision and a big long-term financial one.
It also gives the coaching staff time to further evaluate and give opportunities to Anthony Markanich. Does Esteves go off in the second half of the season as Colorado makes the playoff? Does this convince the Front Office he’ll be work more than $5 million on day? Does Markanich prove he’s an MLS starter and will be cheaper and just as good as Esteves in the long run?
I also have to wonder with the club spending $1 million on Max out of pocket, potentially $1.3 million on total assets for Vallecilla, and potentially $1.4 million on Gyasi Zardes, if they just weren’t able and ready to deplete the war chest further. The transfer fee for Esteves would technically count towards 2023 financially. Further improvement of the squad and proof of the long term vision might sell KSE on dropping another million on the team. Pádraig Smith may not have been ready or comfortable with asking Mother May I? at this time. If things go well, the timing should be perfect come December.