This article was written by Brian Jennings, a guest contributor. You can find him on Twitter.
Colorado’s newest addition, Stefan Aigner, was formally introduced to the media Friday afternoon at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park just after finishing his first few days of training with the Rapids. The German midfielder, who has spent his career between the Bundesliga’s top two divisions, brings a well-rounded attacking mindset. “We’ve been looking for a wide player that’s a threat on both the goal-side and the assist-side,” said interim General Manager Padraig Smith.
“I’ve scored a fair amount of goals and a fair amount of assists,” Aigner told Burgundy Wave through interpreter Chris Zitterbart. In fact, Stefan has recorded a total of 56 goals and 50 assists during his time with hometown club 1860 Munich then Eintracht Frankfurt before coming to MLS. “It’s not really due to one thing,” he said. “I’m always working to make myself better and helping the team no matter what - whether that’s assists or goals - it doesn’t really matter. Whatever the team needs.”
“These are very good levels and to be a threat on both sides is pretty unique,” Smith added, referring to Aigner’s success not only scoring but creating assists in Germany. “We want him to play his natural game-to get on the ball, create, be a threat in behind-and really just help us in the attacking side. We’re talking about somebody with a very high soccer IQ and the technical qualities to go along with that.”
However, Colorado fans will need to be patient and not expect the newest Rapids player to be ready to jump in and take on 90 minutes just yet. Aigner repeatedly stated that getting himself to match fitness was important before he takes on a significant role within the match day squad.
“It’s a little bit of everything,” Aigner said about what he needs to work on in order to contribute during matches. “I’m a player that sprints a lot during a game so it’s a little bit of fitness and a little bit of muscle. I sprint a lot and run during the game and it’s tough to recover to make that next sprint as well (right now) throughout the game.”
“It will take time,” agreed Smith about his newest acquisition. “It’s not easy to adjust to the altitude, a new team, a new country. He’s moved over with his wife and young son and think that’s really important. He is somebody that’s going to fit in and really bring something extra on the attacking side.”
One way to further that along is accompanying the team on their upcoming road schedule: the Rapids have two away games in the next week followed by two more on the road before finally playing in Commerce City again. “Even if he doesn’t get on the field right away we’re bringing him with us (on the road),” Smith explained. “It’s important that he’s around the group, he’s training with the group, he’s interacting with the group.”
Signing Aigner hasn’t necessarily been a long process, however, Smith noted that once the opportunity showed itself, the Rapids were very clear in their intentions to bring in the 29 year-old midfielder.
“We had a couple of targets in Europe that we were actively talking to. Once the 1860 Munich issues started to unravel we very quickly identified Stefan as somebody that we need to take a look at here because this could end up being a real positive for us,” said Smith when explaining how Aigner showed up on his radar. “Initially, to be honest, where he’d come from, where he’d been playing, the contract he was on, we felt that maybe it was a bit ambitious. But, you don’t know if you don’t ask so we made contact. He had a number of offers but said he’d have a look (at Colorado) and think about it.”
And that he did as Aigner visited with Smith and the Rapids FO on a 3-day trip to Colorado to see the team facilities as well as the surrounding communities of Denver, Boulder, and the Rocky Mountains.
“When I came over prior to signing, Padraig did a very good job of showing me around, taking me different places and the environment around here,” Aigner explained of the process. “Things just came together. It wasn’t just one thing, but it was talking to Padraig every day over a couple of weeks and Padraig really showing the club wanted me to come here. “
“We were pretty persistent to be honest,” laughed Smith. “We did keep in contact almost daily with Stefan’s representatives, and just explained a little bit on what we were looking to do, what we were looking to change, and how we wanted him to fit into the group. Once he agreed to come over we felt very confident. Once players see the stadium, see the facilities, see the quality of life, it’s a very attractive position for them.”