The Colorado Rapids players and coaches have performed well so far this season. How about the front office? It was a very busy offseason, with a lot of player turnover. It's hard to know what combination of Paul Bravo, Tim Hinchey, and Oscar Pareja is making personnel decisions, so I'll lump them together and review their collective results.
Player Acquisitions, Part 1:
Clint Irwin - Grade: A+
As the San Jose Earthquakes' television announcer said during their game on April 18th, "[Irwin] has been spectacular since coming in for Troy Perkins." This comment is telling for two reasons. One, San Jose's announcers were unimpressive homers. Two, this undrafted free agent from Elon University (what?) has played well enough to not only be backstopping the Rapids to a very good start to the season, but he has made people forget Matt Pickens, the team's 2012 Most Valuable Player. Maybe the best part for the Rapids front office, this was a seemingly unnecessary pickup. They had the traditionally durable Matt Pickens entrenched at starter, a young backup with plenty of upside in Steward Ceus, and a veteran backup in Ian Joyce. They could easily have stood pat with those three goalkeepers and missed out on Irwin.
Nathan Sturgis - Grade: B
Perhaps no one on the roster personifies the team's depth better than Sturgis. He was traded to a team stacked at central midfield, and stayed professional until he got his chance, which he has taken very well. Whether he plays much the rest of the way or not, he has been a solid pickup and provides the team depth at several positions. Scores goals too!
Deshorn Brown - Grade: A
Brown could be leading the league in goals if his finishing were better, but he has been a thorn in the side of every defense he's played against. He works hard, plays defense, creates chances, and keeps opposing defenders honest with his speed and tenacity. For anyone who argues with this grade, let me remind you of the previous top 10 first round college draft picks in Rapids history: Mike Gentile (1996, pick #9 overall), Tahj Jakins (1997, #1), Andrew Mittendorf (1999, #8), Adin Brown (2000, #3), Wes Hart (2000, #7), Alan Woods (2000, #10), Hunter Freeman (2005, #7), Nico Colaluca (2007, #6), and Ciaran O'Brien (2008, #5). How Brown develops over the coming years will depend on a lot of factors, but for right now he has proven to be well worth the 6th pick on the 2013 draft, and not just by Rapids standards.
Nick LaBrocca - Grade: B
Like Sturgis, LaBrocca is a great squad player who gives the Rapids quality depth. He can play a variety of positions well, has useful intangibles like leadership, and it's nice to have a fan favorite back on the Rapids. He may not be a regular starter, but he can help the team in many ways. Giving up Eric Avila to get LaBrocca seemed like a very good trade for the Rapids at the time. Especially considering their comparable salaries, it still seems like a great trade for the Rapids.
Diego Calderón - Grade: B
Calderón has only given us a small sample, but he appears to be a legitimate starter. Before he went down with a freak injury, he seemed to be adjusting quickly to MLS and was helping to solidify the defense. Whether he unseats Shane O'Neill when he gets healthy is to be determined, but at $50,000 a year, he's a cheap backup if that's his role. And with the quality he showed in his few games so far, there's every reason to think he will still play a part this season. He is a good find for the front office, assuming he gets and stays healthy.
I'll continue the grades next week with more player acquisitions. In the meantime, vote below on which of these five players is the biggest win for the front office.