The second and final MLS transfer window is open: players may now be brought into a club or traded to another MLS club from Monday, July 4 until Wednesday, August 3.
The Rapids have a few areas of depth. First, the team has four or five fullbacks for two spots, and one of those fullbacks, Eric Miller, can play centerback pretty well, too. The team also has a spare box to box midfielder, a extra winger, and an unused creative midfielder. The team has a stalwart defense in which it might be possible to sell high on a CB. And, of course, they have a goalkeeper with 16 starts this year who has proved to be a more-than-serviceable MLS backstop, and is now relegated to the bench.
And they have a few areas to address. First, no Rapids forward has more than three goals. That's not great. A striker upgrade, either to start or come off of the bench, would be helpful. At defensive midfield, the team is relying on Micheal Azira and Sam Cronin to stay healthy. A loss there would mean needing to shift Dillon Powers, Jermaine Jones, or Jared Watts back to defensive midfield, which might open a hole elsewhere. A spare d-mid would be useful. Finally, with Dillon Serna out, the team has lost a pacey young winger, and might want someone that can play that role if needed.
This whole scenario also assumes that the Rapids see the team the way I do: that some spare parts are expendable, and that to win MLS Cup, the team must have an upgrade on Kevin Doyle. If you want more on why I think the Rapids need to get a new striker, go here.
Both of those are assumptions, that the Rapids need a scorer and have spare pieces they'd be willing to trade, may not necessarily be so. A compelling argument can be made that Dillon Powers is a great piece to have for a stretch run, and his true value is not as an in-MLS trade right now, but as European sale-bait for the January transfer window. And the Front Office might have some reason to think that Kevin Doyle will start scoring in bunches. Also, I might win the lottery this weekend. Those things could all happen.
So here are five trades I think are reasonable within MLS. The Rapids can certainly buy a player from USL or a foreign league instead. But the vast scouting here at Burgundy Wave can only cover so much terrain. Another caveat is that this is going to assume the Rapids are fitting guys into the 4-2-3-1 they've been using for the past two seasons.
"But if they shifted to a 5-3-2, they could add Player X as a third central defender, and only have to give up..."
No. 4-2-3-1. That's the system this team will be playing this year. Do not delude yourself into thinking a team in a playoff spot is in need of a total facelift. That idea is bad and wrong.
1. F Patrick Mullins (NYC) for GK Zac MacMath (COL)
The 24 year-old Mullins was the fourth pick of the 2014 SuperDraft, then became an expansion draft pick for NYCFC last year. But the University of Maryland product has yet to get a full chance with either of his MLS team, clocking only 27 starts through three MLS seasons, but with 10 goals to his credit. Mullins is a pacey right footed striker, with great field vision and an accurate shot. Mullins was second on NYCFC in 2015 with 6 goals over 1040 minutes. That's a 0.52 G/90min rate, or roughly double what Kevin Doyle has achieved this season. This year, Mullins has been leapfrogged on the NYC depth chart by Tommy McNamara, Khiry Shelton, and most recently the very talented Jack Harrison.
Meanwhile, MacMath has proven he's a capable starter, with 6 clean sheets in 16 MLS games this year, and a total of 121 starts in a six year MLS career. The current NYCFC keeper, Josh Saunders, has been a lightning rod of criticism for New York fans, deserved or not.
This move makes a ton of sense for both parties. I'd love to see it happen.
2. Raul Mendiola and/or Jose Villarreal (LA) for 2017 TAM and GAM*
The LA Galaxy have two talented attackers with nowhere to play, and no prospects of ever passing guys at similar positions like Gyasi Zardes or Sebastian Lletget. The Galaxy are also in deep need of oodles of cash for 2017, since the word on the street is they bagged Nigel De Jong on the cheap in year one for a handshake deal on a big contract in year two when Steven Gerrard is off the books.
The Galaxy don't want to build towards a Cup two or three years from now with a core of young guys. They want to win with flashy stars, every year. Mendiola and Villarreal are 22 and 23 years old, they're both forwards, they're both Mexican-American, and they're both technical, talented, darting scorers. Either one would take the place of Conor Doyle, who hasn't really distinguished himself yet for the Rapids. So one of them might actually be a useful bench asset for the Rapids, unlike C. Doyle to date.
3. F Nelson Valdes (SEA) and GAM for MF Dillon Powers (COL)
Valdes is a 33 year old Paraguayan international. He was supposed to take up the middle number 9 spot in the Seattle 4-3-3, flanked by Lucas Melano and Jordan Morris.
It hasn't worked. Valdes has played 10 games and has zero goals. Valdes hasn't looked great, but his physical presence in the box is undeniable. Moreover, it looks clear that Seattle problems at forward are the result of a midfield that's pretty useless. Erik Friberg and Andreas Ivanschitz are totally ineffective offensively, and Clint Dempsey hasn't quite figured the linkup with Lucas Melano that was supposed to move the ball. Seattle could use a talented passer with Dillon Powers skills. Seattle would be getting the better end of this deal, so some GAM or TAM allowing the Rapids to have a little more freedom to deal before 2017 would be necessary.
I don't really love this trade: I think 21 year-old Oalex Anderson would be a much more exciting option, even though he's more of a left winger. But I also don't think Seattle would part with him. It's really all about what folks think Dillon Powers projects as: is he a second-coming of the best years 2014-vintage Michael Bradley, like many wish him to be? Or have we seen all there is to see of Powers - a solid if unspectacular midfielder who can pick out a ground pass every now and again?
4. F Brian Rochez (ORL) for Bobby Burling (COL)
Orlando have been sitting on 21 year-old Rochez, a Honduran Center Forward, for two years without giving him his shot, since he's buried behind the scintillating Cyle Larin on the depth chart. Rochez has zero minutes for the Lions this year. The Honduran showed wonderful flashes of talent in 2015, scoring 3 goals in his 297 minutes, which is a hot (and probably unsustainable) 1.02 G/90min. Meanwhile, Orlando SC sit just below the red line, they've just fired their coach, and they have conceded 29 goals to date, putting them 17th in MLS. Their wing defense of Brek Shea and Rafael Ramos have been good enough. Their central defense of Tommy Redding, David Mateos, and Seb Hines has been less than good. They lack height and are vulnerable on set pieces. They need defensive help.
Bobby Burling has been very good for the Rapids, and I think it's fair to argue that a successful CB pairing this season should not be split up. I fully agree. Which is why the Rapids shouldn't split up Axel Sjoberg and Jared Watts.
Put down the pitchforks.
Jared Watts has started in 7 matches for the Colorado Rapids this year. The team has conceded only 5 goals in those 7 games, and Watts played all 90 minutes. And 2 of those conceded goals were in the US Open Cup against FC Dallas. As a central defender, Watts has taken the role that Drew Moor had in past years; making blocks and tackles, leaving the clearances to the towering Nordic pine tree known as Axel Sjoberg.
Centerback depth is really great, guys. But so is scoring. And Bobby Burling is in a sell-high situation. His value has been inflated a bit by the Rapids exceedingly successful defense this year. Burling is certainly getting a degree of ancillary benefit from the excellent work of Azira, Cronin, Sjoberg and MacMath. So sell high.
All of this is affected if Sean St Ledger finally returns from injury, adding more CB depth for Colorado. If he becomes healthy and fit, then Burling should be sold for the right price.
It's entirely possible that the better deal for the Rapids here is to sell Zac MacMath. I don't think Joe Bendik is the root cause of Orlando's problems. But if Orlando does, well, I'd trade MacMath for Rochez in a second.
Another option is for Rochez to get sold for GAM/TAM. Which, if Orlando are going to spend some dough to try and claw their way into the playoffs by buying a new player, they might need extra cash to do it, putting the Rapids in a potential position of power.
5. F Erick Cubo Torres for 2017 TAM and the Rapids 2018 1st round pick
Cubo Torres was an electric poacher and long range scorer who is only two seasons removed from bagging 15 goals for a Chivas USA side that was walking the plank to oblivion, a la the Tampa Bay Mutiny and Chicago Sting. The problem is that Torres earns $650,000 a year for Houston, and doesn't seem to be able to crack the lineup in his time there.
But Houston is almost certainly in rebuilding mode, and I can't imagine that when the team gets blown up in December, Torres is still there. So if Houston will chip in some of his salary in 2016 until the season ends, the Rapids could offer up TAM for next year and their 2018 first round SuperDraft pick. Why not 2017? It's possible, but if the Rapids finish in the playoffs, that's a pick somewhere between 10th and 20th; which is getting into the spots of guys that are 50-50 to make it in MLS at all, and so those picks are not very valuable. 2018 is still a mystery.
Dillon Powers and Dillon Serna are possible trade-ables here, since both are still young and could be building blocks for a rebooted 2017 Dynamo team. Serna's unlikely to be swapped, since it's kinda cold to sell a guy to another team while he's recouping from a blown ACL . But hey, you've got to do whatever it takes if you think you can win the Cup this year. It'll be very interesting to see what the Rapids do in the next 27 days.
* GAM is 'General Allocation Money'; MLS cash that can be traded to increase a team's cap space above the current $3.66 million. TAM is 'Targeted Allocation Money'; MLS cash that can be traded to buy down the cost of a player that would otherwise be a DP costing over $457,500. Both numbers reset at the end of the 2016 season, so a promise of GAM or TAM is tied to a single season that it is designated. Go here for more, but I'll warn you, it's complicated.