Colorado Rapids, Preseason

11 Potential Rapids Designated Player Signings

 

It’s about that time of year again where I look on TransferMarkt, WhoScored, and peruse my copy of Football Manager to search and find players that the Rapids could snap up to fill out their Designated Player slots. There’s nothing quite like seeing the “Available Players” tab on TransferMarkt and thinking “Huh, that guy is available?” and then proceed to watch highlights of said player and think “This is exactly what the Rapids need!” Looking around some databases, I’ve gathered exactly what type of player the Rapids should sign as well as who exactly they should sign.

As I’ve mentioned before, the Designated Player spots should be filled by creative midfielders who can spark attacks, create chances, and score goals. A dribbler who can cut in would work, but the Rapids already have those players in Sam Nicholson and Jonathan Lewis. Would adding another player like that help? Of course. That’s not something that I would necessarily do. The Rapids next DP needs to be a midfielder who can not only #Elevate the rest of the team but also be that game changer. I think of players like Diego Valeri, Federico Higuain, and Ignacio Piatti as the archetype of player the Rapids should sign. Not only were they experienced players, but they went on to be focal points in the clubs that they signed for. They became club icons if not legends. I hope whoever the Rapids sign can have that legitimacy, prowess, and longevity.

But of course, that’s only one type of player. There is also two other spots and another type of player the Rapids could sign. I mentioned earlier that the Rapids had two speedy wingers in Lewis and Nicholson. I looked around the databases and tried looking for players that could fit this mold of a quick, pacey, and dribbly type of winger. Seeing players like Alberth Ellis, Johnny Russell and Carlos Vela run down the wing, cut in and lose their man with such grace would be a welcome sight for Rapids fans. So, I’ve also compiled a list of wingers that could be good fits for the Rapids that fit this archetype.

Finally, there’s the third DP spot which most likely will not get filled. However, if Colorado decide they want a third DP, a better route would be to get a Young Designated Player who the Rapids could help develop and then later sell on.

So, on to the list…

Player Position Age
Christian Cueva Central Attacking Midfielder 28
Juan Fernando Quintero Central Attacking Midfielder 26
Lucas Lima Central Attacking Midfielder 28
Lucas Zelarayan Central Attacking Midfielder 27
Maximiliano Meza Central Attacking Midfielder 26
Roberto Alvarado Central Attacking Midfielder / Winger 21
Rodolfo Pizzaro Central Attacking Midfielder 25
Edison Flores Winger 25
Juan Iturbe Winger 26
Jurgen Damm Winger 27
Pablo Piatti Winger 30

All these players come from various places in Latin America. Argentina, Peru, Brazil, Paraguay, Colombia and Mexico are all represented within this list and all are players who can fit in to what Colorado is currently building. Every player on this list is valued below $12 million with a median price of around $5 million. Most of these players the league would be able to help bring in and there’s always the hope that Kroenke ponies up some money (HA!) to bring in those more expensive players. But nonetheless, I think most of these are possible with a few being longshots.

The Longshots

These are the players who Colorado would sign without any question in an alternate reality where the team is owned by an owner who is willing to spend big. In reality, you’re more likely to witness these players joining LAFC or Atlanta United.

  • Maximiliano Meza
  • Rodolfo Pizzaro
  • Juan Fernando Quintero

Maxi Meza and Rodolfo Pizzaro are probably the biggest stars out of the entire list. Both are just entering their prime and are already two of the best attacking midfielders in Liga MX and they’re both ON THE SAME TEAM. Pizzaro is more likely of the two seeing as he’s a Liga MX homegrown. Meza on the other hand is probably the biggest longshot for the Rapids. He was bought for $15 million dollars and I don’t think Monterrey is keen on selling him for any less. Juan Fernando Quintero has recently been linked to MLS and I could see him entering the league next year. The question is not if he goes to MLS, but when will he and who will be the team to get his rights and sign him to a Designated Player deal. If the Rapids can find themselves in the conversation to bring Quintero to the team it’s not such a longshot to think that maybe the Rapids could sign JFQ. I think the league, however, is more likely to send him to the newly rebranded, newly relocated, and rebuilding Chicago Fire.

The Wingers

Four of these players are pacey, dribbly, and can consistently take on defenders. The other sits wide and creates with space. The downside these players offer is that it would relegate another one of Lewis, Shinyashiki, or Nicholson consistently to the bench.

  • Jurgen Damm (Right Winger)
  • Edison Flores (Right Winger)
  • Juan Iturbe (Right Winger)
  • Pablo Piatti (Left Winger)
  • Roberto Alvarado (Left Winger)

Pablo Piatti is the oldest of the crop of wingers here, however with age comes plenty of experience. Valued at around $4.5 million, the Argentine has a total of 73 goals and 67 assists in his entire 423 appearances. His contract expires April of 2020 and could be a great Summer DP to bring in to play for the Burgundy and Blue. He’s not as fast and quick-footed as the rest of the wingers on this list but he plays wide, finds space and creates from the wings. He’s a lot like his namesake Ignacio Piatti and – if signed -could provide the team with just the creativity it needs. The rest of the wingers are all players from Liga MX who could follow in the footsteps of Tito Villalba and make a move to MLS. Edison Flores is a staple in Peru’s system and has had a very good career. He’s the most technical with his feet in this list and if the Rapids want to bring in someone to slice and dice their way through players then Flores is the player to go with. His team, Monarcas, just got knocked out of La Liguilla, and he’s currently uncertain about his future. Perhaps a move to MLS and more specifically the Rapids? Growing up, Juan Iturbe was always touted to be one of many “next big things” but ended up becoming a flop. A flop I would happily take at Colorado. He’s only 26 and has plenty of upside still. Just because he was a flop in Europe doesn’t mean he wouldn’t have a successful run in MLS or any other comparable league. Valued at just $2.3 million, the Paraguayan international is at a very reasonable price for any team in MLS who’s looking for pace on the wings. If you’ve seen Jurgen Damm play, the first thing you’ll notice is just how quick the guy is. Arguably the fastest winger on this list, Damm possess an innate ability to run on to through balls and even set his forwards with a lot of assists. The Mexican international has bagged more assists than goals in his career and if you pair him up with a player like Kei Kamara who knows where to find the space to score goals, Colorado would have an easy recipe for scoring goals. Now, if you want a player who possess the technical ability of Flores, the potential of Juan Iturbe, Piatti’s ability to create, and the speed of Damm, look no further than Roberto Alvarado. One of Mexico’s and Cruz Azul’s most promising young winger, the 21-year-old looks to be one of the best on the left-hand side. He’s already managed to find himself in Tata Martino’s Mexico side and will continue to make the most of his chances. He is more a longshot for the league as Cruz Azul will most likely want to sell to a team overseas for large amounts of money.

The Attacking Midfielders

  • Christian Cueva
  • Lucas Zelarayan
  • Lucas Lima

All these players can create chances, score goals, and spark attacks. The Rapids for the longest time struggled to create chances and it hurt them most in the 2016 conference finals and for stretches of games where no attacking idea ever came to fruition. Now, under Robin Fraser, the Rapids find themselves getting open, attacking dangerously on the counter, and more importantly are creating scoring opportunities. Just look at the Red Bulls away match and you’ll see plenty of runs into open space and some glaring missed chances. I think that at this point, the long-awaited wish for a DP #10 will never happen. Pundits and fans have been screaming for one and they have yet to show any sign that that’s where they’re going. You can’t tell me, however, that these players wouldn’t be game changers for the Burgundy and Blue. They are all attacking midfielders who have an eye for the attacking phase of soccer and who would increase the productivity of the team. The biggest one for me is Lucas Zelarayan. He is another version of Maxi Meza and he would fit like a glove in Major League Soccer. Lucas Lima, while not a clear-cut finisher like Rubio, could provide plenty of assists and could create chances for wingers like Nicholson and Lewis. If you were at Dicks Sporting Goods Park when Orlando City played against the Rapids, you’d notice a large contingent of fans were there to see one player in particular: Yoshimar Yotun. There’s no doubt in my mind that if the Rapids were to sign Christian Cueva (or Edison Flores) that the same thing would happen.

With any DP the Rapids sign, the  club must make sure it’s the right person. Philosophically speaking, you don’t want to sign a player who could potentially be bigger than the club. The core group that the Rapids have right now heading in to 2020 are all cogs in the machine that all have a specific function and purpose within the overall system. If the Rapids sign a player who isn’t willing to check the ego at the door then you lose the cohesion and ruin a system in place. Also, as I mentioned before, all the players in this list are of Latin American descent. They’re not just there to tap into Colorado’s Latino market. If the Rapids want to do that just sign Chicharito. I, however, don’t want another Tim Howard-esque DP of a player merely brought in to fill butts in seats and secure a sponsorship. Tim Howard did nothing to help the on-field product and if you think signing Chicharito would fix the issues the team has you’re sorely mistaken. The Rapids should sign players who will benefit the team and not worry about whether more Latinos are going to games. Just build a quality team that is worth going to see for anyone. More than anything, Colorado should not bring in a player merely as an attraction.

Follow Juan on Twitter: @JuannersFC

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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