Rewind to 2011 and before. The Colorado Rapids were never a team that seemed to take the MLS Draft all that seriously. Remember Eddie Ababio and Colin Givens? They were the haul of the 2011 draft, and neither saw a meaningful league appearance in their careers. In 2010, the Rapids picked Andre Akpan, Ross LaBauex, Chad Borak and Chris Cutshaw. Those four combined for only 49 appearances (all Akpan and LaBauex), almost all substitute appearances.
They ended up with like 6 players from 2009, and I'll just get them out of the way by saying that the undeniable star of the bunch was Steward Ceus. So, yeah. Keep going back and you'll keep seeing that the Rapids occasionally hit on a decent player or two from the draft, but were usually more interested in trading their picks or just blowing them on whatever player they happened to see on the board (hello, Ciaran O'Brian!).
Oscar Pareja decided to follow the Sporting Kansas City method of team building though, with a heavy emphasis on getting solid players in the draft to build a team around.
At the heart of the RapKids movement of 2013 was two SuperDraft selections, Deshorn Brown and Dillon Powers. Both were expected to be good players, but of them was a question mark because of his minimal experience (Brown), but the other had questions about his skill and work rate going into the draft (Powers). The fact that both were to be used as starters immediately raised a few eyebrows.
Turns out that Colorado did their homework. The two of them helped carry the Rapids to the playoffs with a combined 15 goals and 10 assists, winning and finishing runner up of the rookie of the year competition. Fast forward one year, and we've got another group of unknowns, from a draft class that was noted as one of the least impressive in recent years. Early returns would suggest that the Rapids, once again, did their homework.
We still don't know about Marlon Hairston, Grant van de Casteele and Jared Watts, but they've gotten two very good appearances out of the player that was supposed to have the most question marks, John Berner. Even though he let in a goal against the New York Red Bulls (a goal that was caused by a defensive mishap and scored by some guy named Thierry Henry), Berner has looked like a veteran between the sticks, lining up the defense well and making three saves against a very good Portland Timbers offense on Saturday to earn his first MLS clean sheet. He's been smart with runs off his line and other decision-making parts of his game as well, an area that young goalkeepers often struggle with.
Berner has looked just as good as any other goalkeeper that has been drafted in the last several years. He was a fourth rounder who, four months ago, I doubt anyone outside of southern Illinois had heard much about. Most people had Andre Blake as the best goalkeeper in the draft, with Rafael Diaz right behind him and a few other names before they hit Berner. 2009 Colorado would probably have just gone with Diaz if they were going to pick up a 'keeper. He was the consensus pick. The draft-savvy Rapids of 2014 instead went with Berner, and they have four points in their first two games in large part because of that.
I can't wait to see if the other three RapKids of the 2014 draft pan out just as well. If they do, this team goes once again from 'questionable depth' to 'playoff depth' in the blink of an eye.