First things first. I have now been initiated into the cult of writerdom, because I wrote a thing, then a big thing happened, and then I gotta re-write the thing.
His sin was... well what exactly? He was given a first year team full of misfit toys; including, at first: Adam Nemec, Ned Grabavoy, Mehdi Ballouchi, Kwame Watson-Siroboe, and RJ Allen. That was mixed with a disappointing Mix Diskerud, a disappointing Andrea Pirlo, and half of season (or less) of a disappointing Frank Lampard, all of whom were foisted upon him. The team lacks defense in the middle and speed pretty much all over. It had bright spots in Kwadwo Poku, Josh Saunders, and David Villa. That hot mess of a team STILL scraped together 10 wins and 37 points- that's the same amount of points as our Colorado Rapids. His sin was probably that Manchester City think they can get Fabio Capello or even Jose Mourinho. Both of whom, I would bet, will flounder mightily in MLS, at least at first. It's madness.
Which leads me to the immediate million-dollar question: should the Rapids go out and get Jason Kreis? No. No they should not.
For one, the team, like it or not, has said that Pablo Mastroeni is the guy for 2016. Changing course now, regardless of who you get, is just bad form. It is a sign from the front office that their word is utterly worthless. Set aside for a moment how little you trust the current front office: this would make it worse. Moreover, I think the basic premise that "We have to get Kreis before he's gone!" makes him out to be the Phil Jackson of MLS. Kreis is good, and young, and full of promise. He had a winning record of 102-77-60 at RSL, and took them to MLS Cup in 2009 and 2013, winning it all in 2009. Still, he has yet to earn the kind-of ‘Get him right now!' excitement that I would have for, say, Sigi Schmid or Bruce Arena. Still, if you asked me, tactically, who I'd prefer to coach my team right now: Kreis or Mastroeni? It's Jason Kreis, hands down.
Carlos Vela to Rapids? Is this a thing?
As reported by Jeff Carlisle at ESPN FC and our own John Rosch, the Rapids hold the discovery claim to Mexican international and Real Sociedad player Carlos Vela. Let's go through the basics of what an MLS discovery claim is, and then analyze the possible outcomes of this claim for the Rapids.
In short, the Discovery Process is a list by which a team can make a claim to one of seven non-MLS players who would be DP signings in the event the MLS team wanted to acquire them. In the event that two teams have the same player on their list, the team with the lowest points-per-game gets him. This allows the team the right to negotiate with the player, and if they fail to reach a deal, the MLS club retains their rights. If two or more teams hold a players discovery rights, they can sell them to another team for $50,000 in allocation.
First, a little on Vela. Vela was signed by EPL powerhouse Arsenal at the age of 16 and spent his formative years on loan in La Liga and in the English Championship, before settling in with Real Sociedad in 2012, in the Basque city of San Sebastian. Sociedad currently hover just above the relegation zone in La Liga. So at least if Vela came to the Rapids, he'd be familiar with playing for a struggling club, albeit without the pressure of the drop. Vela has tallied two goals so far in La Liga play in 10 games, playing nearly every minute for his side.
Where would he play?
In his time with Sociedad and the Mexican national team, he's lined up as one of two strikers in Mexico's 5-3-2 under Miguel Herrrera. He's played as the RW in a 4-3-3 also. Real Sociedad this season has lined up in the same 4-2-3-1 that Pablo Mastroeni prefers. For Sociedad manager (and former Manchester United skipper) David Moyes, he's lined up as both Central Attacking Midfielder and the Right Attacking Mid.
So what's gonna happen?
Option A: The Rapids Acquire Vela
Carlos Vela is 26 years old and in the prime of his career; he's a marquee name with 46 caps for the Mexican National team. He'd attract a huge following of Colorado latinos to DSGP, and put the team on the map with a critical fanbase that the Rapids have yet to capitalize on; a latino fan base that the LA Galaxy have with Giovani Dos Santos. A DP signing with dual appeal is also how Orlando built a huge following, both with Brazilians and non, around Kaka. It's almost a no-brainer. It doesn't even matter that much if Vela is successful on the Rapids: his name and his potential fan base make him an extremely valuable addition.
This assumes two things: 1) that Vela wants to come here, and 2) that Stan and Josh Kroenke want to shell out big bucks for a known talent.
Vela probably doesn't want to come here: Jeff Carlisle reported that he's been linked recently with San Jose and Chicago, both of which are cities that are both a bit glitzier and more well known for their strong latino community. Still, if a billionaire with vision wanted him, I think a charm campaign could convince Vela to come to the Mile High City. A flight on a private jet into DIA; courtside seats at the Pepsi Center; dinner at Sushi Den; a private party off Federal with Pancho Villa's Army; and tour of torta and taqueria joints around town. Colorado is a pretty dope place to live, whatever country you grew up in. I think we can convince him that here in Denver he'd be the one and only Carlos Vela; the Rapids first huge international name (no offense to Marcelo Balboa or Kevin Doyle.) Unlike in Chicago, where he'd have to be the next Cuauhtemoc Blanco.
Do the Kroenke's want to shell out the dough to get Vela? Vela is said to earn around $6.9 million for Sociedad this season. Clearly it'll take $6 million + to get him here. He's worth it: he makes the Rapids, an afterthought in Colorado with sports fans of every type, a big deal. He sells jerseys in Arizona and New Mexico and TV rights and commercials all over the Front Range. He's a get for MLS, never mind Colorado, and MLS is in the business of raising it's profile all over the world. And to Stan Kroenke, a man Forbes values at $7.7 billion, Vela's salary is chicken feed. $7 million is the money he earns on a 10 second hiccup on a couple of NASDAQ stocks. It only sounds like real money compared to what John Berner makes. It's a risk to put that much on one player. But I think with the right people crunching numbers and properly marketing Vela, it's a medium risk, high reward investment.
You'll notice I didn't say much about whether this is a good soccer move. And that's because it doesn't matter that much- acquiring him is as much a business move as it is a soccer move. It is Colorado's ‘Beckham' moment.
Still, since Vela's good enough to earn a start in a top flight league, and to start regularly for one of CONCACAF's two reigning powers, he's clearly an offensive upgrade for the goal-starved Rapids. He should slot in either up top alongside Kevin Doyle in a two-striker system, or play the number 10 in Mastroeni's 4-2-3-1; he will be an upgrade over Dillon Powers, allowing Powers to either try his hand as a deep lying defensive mid, playing long passes to the scorers, or use Powers as bench depth. He could also slot in as the replacement to Vicente Sanchez on the right side, since Sanchez isn't getting any younger.
Option B: Trade Vela's Rights to Chicago or San Jose
If the Rapids can work it right, they may be able to convince Chicago to part with some valuable assets in order to trade them the rights to Vela. Remember that every team in MLS has a list of discovery claims, and that Chicago or San Jose must REALLY want Vela, and not the next guy down the list, in order to make a trade for Vela. Also, with their abysmal win-loss this year, the Fire are high on the list for joint discovery claims, so any other players that pop on on the same discovery claim as the Fire are likely headed to Chicago. So put the thought of a massive draft pick haul or of prying loose Matt Polster and David Accam out of your head. Still, maybe Mike Magee and a second round pick, or Kennedy Igboananike (who plays roughly the same position as Vela) might be reasonable hauls.
Option C: Pass. Collect $50,000 in Allocation
The Rapids are good at picking up allocation dough, then not spending it. They get allocation for missing the playoffs. They got allocation for selling off Deshorn Brown and Shane O'Neill, and for trading Chris Klute. They've got the mother-of-all allocations in having a third DP slot sitting unused.
Allocation money is useful in order to spend over the MLS cap, which this year was $3.49 million. It's hard to figure out how much allocation money the Rapids have: but I think it's safe to say it's in the ballpark of around $1 million. Fifty thousand isn't much to add to a cool mil. Still, Chicago doesn't have much to offer in trade, and if they refuse to part with some of the aforementioned desirable options, $50,000 is better than bubkis. Do we really want Jeff Larentowicz again? Or the dessicated remains of Ty Harden? I looked at the roster. There isn't much to choose from. Might be advisable to take the money and run, especially if Vela can't fathom living in a Cherry Hills mansion next to Peyton Manning.
My hope is clearly that we land Vela. Even if we land Vela, reports of him being petulant and at-odds with his national team coaches makes me nervous. Having the Chicago Fire's experience of big-time DP Shaun Maloney turning into a bust makes me wary as well. But I'd rather the Rapids went for it with a big signing than have another offseason of little moves for veteran MLS talent in hopes that the sum will be greater than it's parts.