Everyone on the Burgundy Wave staff has picked a player or two from inside MLS that they want to see on the Rapids come next season. This week, we'll see their picks.
When UZ asked me who the Rapids should go for, I had to think a minute about it. Do I say go for people that I would like but won't realistically get? Or, do I stay realistic and try to look at factors that might go in to getting us a decent player. I don't think anyone is going to be particularly shocked when we don't get, say, Omar Gonzales or Steven Beitashour, because they are both necessary cogs in their respective teams which are all riding waves of success on their performances. Plus, they'd be hard to replace, and it doesn't look like they are going anywhere.
So before we look at players, lets look at teams who could be looking to deal in the off-season. Top of the list would be teams who have made a fairly recent management change (that is, made one during this season). With management change comes turnover, inevitably, so let's look at those teams in one category as teams that may have surprisingly good stuff to offer. Because you never know, a player could be good, but not good for a new management style.
Let's also make another category for teams who have had disappointing seasons. They may not have made a management change, but after a disappointing season, people will be looking for change. And you know what that means? Turnover.
All of the teams from the previous list are in there, including the Red Bulls, even though they finished high on the table--another trophy-less season is still going to be disappointing.
I'll add three more names in this list, because while they haven't had a coaching change during the season, they are going to be looking to deal after this season.
So that makes the final list of teams that are going to be looking to deal, and could give up something quite good:
New York Red Bulls
Real Salt Lake
Just striking out Real Salt Lake because there is no way I can even fathom dealing with them. Judging by the way our last deal with them went, I don't think that Paul Bravo and the Technical Staff are going to be altogether too interested in jumping back into the Lion's Den.
Toronto FC, Portland, and Chivas are the weakest links here. These guys are going through a major overhaul and they are definitely going to be looking to deal or they are going to do a huge waiver-dump. The problem is, I don't think they will be dropping any big names or players that the Rapids would want to pick up (Casey Townsend excluded). And no, while I think Juan Agudelo's stock rose from his performance with the USMNT in Russia, that's going to contribute just as much to Chivas USA hanging onto him as it is for the Rapids to gun for him. I don't think that deal will happen.
The Union have a promising corpse to pick at. After a huge year of drama, whose aftershocks still haven't totally settled, there's going to be some serious movement here. Adu looks the most likely to go, but I'm not sure where. I'm not even sure he'll end up in MLS. Other than that, it's hard to see the Union as having particularly great assets after this season. And if you're concerned about the chemistry in the boot room, would you really want anyone from Philly's mess coming in?
The Impact is another team I'm having trouble parsing. I'm not sure who is going and who is staying and if we have a shot at anyone good. I'd need to know more about this new, seemingly more Italian-oriented, direction of the Technical Staff. If Jesse Marsch were still in charge there, I would have an easier time picking out who is going to be available. If anything we can hope that Montreal drops Andrew Wenger, but that's kind of far fetched and I don't know what the Rapids would do with him.
Of all the guys on this list, the most tempting to me are the New York Red Bulls and FC Dallas. Because New York puts so very much of its resources into their DPs and building a team around the big name players, a management change may leave nearly everyone else expendable. This is great news for clubs looking to make a deal or pick up a gem in waivers.
FC Dallas, however, is where I would look for major turnover and big deals. The Rapids and FC Dallas have a long history of making big and mutually beneficial trade deals. Despite the rivalry, Colorado and Dallas seem to respect each other at the trading desk. Hyndmann and Clavijo are going to be looking to deal some players, and a new-look front office in Colorado is going to make sure that the Rapids are the first name on Clavijo's mind when he's thinking he wants to make a deal.
So here's who I think the Rapids should deal for in the offseason:
The big offseason deals.
The ones that are going to shake the earth and probably destroy all the Rapids fans forever and cause a bonfire of season tickets....
Fabian Castillo for Omar Cummings
Dax McCarty for Jeff Larentowicz
I cannot tell you how awesome it would be to get Castillo on the Rapids, and what a coup it would be. Maybe I don't even need to tell you. I think there may be a slight chance of it happening as well.
When these trades are announced I expect it will cause something close to total panic in the streets. But I don't fully expect that they will actually happen. But here's why I think my two Rapids players are trade-bait.
Jeff Larentowicz is the jewel here because he's not only a great player but since the signing of Hendry Thomas he's fallen into that negative space of being expendable and yet not expendable at the same time. Kind of like the position Kyle Beckerman and Pablo Mastroeni were in back in the Clavijo days: both of them were defensive midfielders. Gary Smith's defensive system required that all midfielders be essentially a forward line of disruptors/defenders. So having Jeff and Pablo in the middle made sense. But in a new-look midfield that looks to be more attacking oriented, there may only really be space for one true pivot or anchor.
The Rapids won't waive him, but they certainly could trade him. He's too good to just be given away for anything less than a trade. FC Dallas would want him as they are losing Daniel Hernandez and may require a more experienced player to hold down that pivot position and organize their defense. New York might be looking for someone to replace the perpetually out of favor Rafa Marquez--who has turned out to be an utter disaster.
Dax McCarty is a very different animal from either Larentowicz or from Thomas, and would fill a place in midfield that could actually be quite useful: the midfield pest. If you watch McCarty's game, he's constantly chasing the ball down and closing down lanes with frenetic energy. If you liked Wells Thompson but thought he could do with a bit more offensive acumen and a lot more poise in defense, then McCarty is your man. Both Larentowicz and Thomas have a much calmer approach, but that kind of pure midfield energy, especially if you're looking to play a high pressure game, is absolutely invaluable, and it's a dimension McCarty can bring to the table.
Omar Cummings might also be good for Dallas as well, but it depends on what they want. They had a great year when they had a truly seasoned striker up top (Jeff Cunningham) along with their younger players. They might want to see what a Ferreira/Cummings combination would produce for them. Cummings has been out of his element for the past few seasons, and Clavijo (who selected Cummings in the Draft from Cincinatti, if you'll recall) might think Dallas has a better environment to bring the out of form striker back into form.
Reasons that won't work out: it's going to be a huge coup for the Rapids to take Castillo for Cummings, and it might be too high a gamble for either side. On the one hand, Rapids would have to be betting on Castillo growing even more proficient in this league. One ace that they have in that regard is that Castillo seems to always perform at his best when Oscar Pareja is around. There's personal reasons for that, but personal reasons can't be neglected when thinking about something like a player transaction. Dallas would have to be betting that Cummings can return to 2010 form with a different strike partner like Brek Shea or with support coming from David Ferreira.
Anyway, these are the trades that I am thinking about happening in the off-season. Omar Cummings or Jeff Larentowicz for Dax McCarty or Fabian Castillo. I could be wrong, but I think those guys are good targets for what the Rapids need as they look for the right personnel to fit their newfound groove.