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Building a Winner Part Two: Why the Signing of Zat Knight Was Great for the Rapids

Say WHAT Rosch?

Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

You are probably thinking to yourself:

"John is smoking the Hippy Lettuce right now"

A couple of points:

1) I don't smoke

2) Let me explain

First--some history for those who do not remember.

It was transfer window time in 2014 and the Colorado Rapids season was starting to spiral out of control.  They were losing games and suffering through a pretty significant injury crisis.  Shane O'Neill was hurt.  Drew Moor was hurt.  Jared Watts (playing a converted center back position) was hurt.  Grant Van de Casteele did not work out.  Guys were playing out of position all over the place.  And the Rapids would go on a run that would not see them win for 18 games.

It was as ugly as it could be.

To attempt to fix the defense and bring leadership to the team, the Rapids signed journeyman defender Zat Knight to a deal to help.  Needless to say, it was an unmitigated disaster.  Hell, look at this goal against Chivas USA

To make matters worse with the Knight signing,  Pablo Mastroeni gave him the armband.  THE CUSSING ARMBAND.  The armband that means so much to a team and to the players who wear it.  He gave it to a guy who had barely played for the Rapids.

It was a disgrace.  Quite honestly, it may have been the worse signing in Rapids history.

So how was this signing great for the Rapids?  Here are my reasons:

1)  Managing the Transfer Window: the Rapids have freely admitted that they screwed up the window in 2014 and that screw up led to them having a better window in 2015 (they picked up Sean St. Ledger and Maynor Figueroa). And this off-season (and resulting transfer window) got even better.  They signed Shkelzen Gashi and Tim Howard and Jermaine Jones.  They learned from the massive mistake that was the acquisition of Knight and got better for it.

2)  Calling Mr. Smith: one of the key takeaways from that botched window is that they realized they needed help in identifying talent and to do that they hired Pádraig Smith as their sporting director.  But more importantly they used analytics and his knowledge to help make decisions on signing Gashi, Howard, Jones, Sam Cronin, Axel Sjoberg, Bobby Burling, Micheal Azira and Kevin Doyle.  His impact on the team cannot be understated at all.  But screwing up the 2014 transfer window was key to getting the Rapids at the place where they could admit they needed a Sporting Director.

3)  Letting Popular Players Go: soccer, at its heart, is an emotional game.  We grow attached to players who have bled burgundy for us and it sucks to see them go.  This past off-season saw Clint Irwin, Moor, and Vicente Sanchez (among others) depart the club.  That is never easy to do, but here is the thing: the Rapids are better without those players.  So it seems like the Rapids learned that even though a decision may be unpopular, it does not make it the wrong decision.  Signing Knight was unpopular and wrong, and the Rapids learned from it and got better because of it.

4)  Pablo and the Armband: Pablo messed up royally when it came to giving Knight the armband.  It was a mistake that he slowly started to rectify when he settled on his Captain in 2015.  Now, you can take umbrage with the way the transition from Drew Moor to Cronin was handled, but at least Cronin had MLS experience and was willing to take the responsibility.  It took bringing Knight in to show Pablo that the armband is earned and not just given.

So...have I convinced you?  Am I just full of it?  I would be curious as to your comments, so please hit me up in the comment section and let me know how wrong (and maybe even right) I am.