Rapids Journal

Defense Defines Colorado’s Initial Winter Transfers

Colorado’s defense has seemingly taken shape for 2020, thanks to a flurry of moves over the last two weeks. Sam Vines and Keegan Rosenberry are all but guaranteed to return as starting fullbacks, with fan favorite Lalas Abubakar and newly acquired U.S. Youth International Auston Trusty anchoring the center.

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Roster Updates

Rapids cut Gashi and acquire Green Card for Nicholson

The Colorado Rapids revealed Friday that the club has opted to waive Albanian Designated Player Shkëlzen Gashi. Additionally, Sam Nicholson appears to have acquired a Green Card during the off-season – a development first reported by the Endline Podcast Thursday morning.

Finalizing the two roster adjustments was necessary for Colorado to meet MLS’s domestic player restrictions for the 2019 regular season. Heading into preseason, the club had eight international players and only six spots to utilize.

A source familiar with the decision to waive Gashi’s contract acknowledged that the forward had not performed well enough in preseason to justify inclusion on the regular season roster. Gashi was not cut because Colorado has imminent plans to acquire another Designated Player (though this move does make a high-budget summer addition possible). Rather, the Albanian international simply failed to impress in training – leaving management no other option besides waiving the player.

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Roster Updates

With two internationals too many, the Rapids are not yet roster compliant

One of the seemingly-never-ending quirks of the MLS offseason is the pseudo-drama that arises from front offices desperately attempting to make their rosters compliant in advance of their club’s season openers. While Colorado does not face the problem of moving a fourth designated player that nobody wants, the Rapids still have some work to do in order to fulfill the arduous regulations enforced on MLS clubs.

A month from their season opener, the Colorado Rapids appear to be in need of two additional international slots.

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Preseason

Colorado’s depth chart takes shape in first preseason match

The Colorado Rapids concluded their first stage of their preseason training at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida with a 1-0 loss to MLS expansion side F.C. Cincinnati. Forrest Lasso – one of several Cincinnati players from the club’s USL era – scored the match-winning goal off of a corner in the fifty-ninth minute.

The result, like most preseason games, is largely irrelevant. Kendall Waston was notably shown red in the first half for a rough challenge, but teams in preseason typically allow ejected players to be replaced so the match remains even. Neither team was at full fitness and both sides effectively played a different squad in each half. Furthermore, the match was not aired and no statistics have been made publicly available – so speculating about individual performances is largely a futile effort.

However, the scrimmage did give a glimpse into how Head Coach Anthony Hudson views Colorado’s depth after a week and a half of preseason training. With nine players on trial at the club and four roster spots available, February is prime time for the Rapids coaching staff to evaluate new talent.

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Preseason

Three things to watch for in Colorado’s preseason

The Colorado Rapids first team reported for preseason training Monday morning, forty days ahead of their regular season opener against the Portland Timbers. The second year of the Anthony Hudson project in Colorado has officially begun, and Rapids supporters find themselves relatively optimistic.

A busy Primary Transfer Window has brought MLS veterans, rising stars, and academy standouts to the Rocky Mountains. However, with two nasty years in the rear view mirror, Colorado still has quite a bit of work to accomplish in order to reach their goal of qualifying for the MLS Cup Playoffs in 2019.

Colorado’s preseason schedule will first take the squad to Bradenton, Florida for a week of training and a match against MLS expansion side F.C. Cincinnati. The team will then travel to Chula Vista, California for matches against Ventura County Fusion, the University of San Diego, and Toronto F.C., before closing out the month of February with a pair of away friendlies against Las Vegas Lights F.C. and the L.A. Galaxy.

With quite a few fresh faces in the squad, preseason serves as a chance for the Rapids’ coaching staff to evaluate and observe the new talent directly. Practically speaking, viewers should expect significant rotation, a large amount of minutes given to new players, and experimental lineup choices. Without further ado, here are three things to keep your eye on ahead of the 2019 season.

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Roster Updates

Joining Colorado a “Dream come true” for Hundley, Raben

Following a hectic SuperDraft weekend that added new blood to the Rapids’ roster ahead of their 2019 campaign, the Rapids held a special event Tuesday to announce the signing of two homegrown players: Matt Hundley and Sam Raben. The Colorado natives join Dillon Serna, Kortne Ford, Cole Bassett, and Sam Vines as Rapids academy alumni on contract with the first team.

“I’m feeling ecstatic,” Hundley beamed following the press conference, “It’s a dream come true. Being in my hometown to start my professional career is incredible.”

Raben was similarly enthusiastic about the next step in his career. “The more and more I do with the team, the more I get excited,” the versatile defender explained, I’ve been doing some pre-preseason workouts with the strength coach, Chad [Kolarcik], and it’s just really cool to see all the players – all the players I looked up to – come in and do the same things as me. It’s surreal.”

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Preseason, Roster Updates

Colorado solidifies first team depth during draft weekend

The Colorado Rapids traded away a fan favorite, but made some valuable acquisitions to strengthen their squad squad depth during the MLS SuperDraft. The weekend’s moves were the latest in a whirlwind of activity orchestrated by the Rapids front office ahead of the 2019 season.

Colorado Friday by announcing the successful signing of veteran midfielder, Benny Feilhaber. Half an hour later, the Rapids traded up to the fifth overall pick of the SuperDraft to select standout University of Denver striker, Andre Shinyashiki. Colorado finished the afternoon by drafting Marcello Borges (University of Michigan) and Jacob Hauser-Ramsey (University of Connecticut), but not before winger-turned-fullback Marlon Hairston was sent to the Houston Dynamo in exchange for $175,000 General Allocation Money.

Anthony Hudson expressed relief and pleasure after the completion of the second round of the draft, noting that the new additions “complement” the work done by General Manager Pádraig Smith, who has spearheaded Colorado’s activity in the MLS Primary Transfer Window.

“At the end of last season, we had so many scouting meetings, and we went through all the targets that we wanted,” Hudson explained, “Pádraig and our scouts have delivered.”

Colorado followed up Friday’s acquisitions by drafting Robbie Mertz with their seventy-sixth overall selection during the fourth round on Monday’s supplementary, conference-call draft.

In advance of Tuesday’s special announcement, it is necessary to critically evaluate the impact of these moves on Colorado’s ongoing roster rebuild and understand what role each player can serve in the first team.

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