For the first time in a very long time, the Colorado Rapids have plenty of depth in just about every position on the field. While the defenders and midfielders seem to be (more or less) set, the big question remains: who will be our starting strikers?
Let’s review our options.
How do you bench a guy who just got a hat trick and has put in four goals in three games? (That’s rhetorical—I don’t think you can.) Each year, Badji has earned more minutes and scored more goals. Speed has always been on his side, but in the past, Badji hasn’t been able to finish consistently, which is a quality you kind of you need in your starting striker. BUT in the past, he’s also been stranded as a lone forward and/or didn’t have the service from the midfield that he has this year. Whether it’s a natural progression or thanks to the influx of competition for that starting spot, I’m hopeful that this is finally going to be Badji’s big year.
When Joe Mason was first signed, I wasn’t super convinced that he was going to be what the Rapids needed. After all, he had only scored seven goals in his last 39 games, and Mason’s goals per game average was similar to Badji’s. But then he showed up and scored a goal just eight minutes into his MLS debut. And it wasn’t just a nice shot: he was calm and collected in the box, dribbled around a defender and last year’s Goalkeeper of the Year, and put the ball in the back of the net.
WATCH: In his #MLS debut, @ColoradoRapids forward Joe Mason needed only 8 minutes to find the back of the net. He's one of the most polite people I've ever met (but I still wouldn't want to defend him on the pitch) #9Sports pic.twitter.com/uf2WyQq35U— Cealey Godwin (@CealeyGodwin) April 5, 2018
He’s a hard worker and he’s fast. He might not be the biggest guy out there, but he’s 26 and has a ton of potential. I like the Mason/Badji striker duo.
This is where a wrench gets thrown into things. We know the FO brought in Boli to compete for a starting spot, and he could be a great compliment to either Badji or Mason. He put in 16 goals in 24 games for his team in the Chinese Super League last season, but is obviously untested in MLS. From what I’ve seen in practice, Boli has been paired up with Niki Jackson so I haven’t seen how he clicks with either of the other guys yet. I don’t think we can make an assessment of how he would fit in until we actually see him on the field, but I’m hoping he will start subbing in soon (especially since the Rapids are at sea level this weekend).
I see Jackson as a super sub for this season or maybe (?) a starting option for a double-game week and/or the Open Cup. His speed and fearlessness is a real asset late in the game when the other team is tired, but he’s a rookie, so he still has a lot to learn.
Before preseason started, I thought Gashi would be a solid option for a second striker, a position he played with the Albanian National Team. I’m assuming we will see Gashi back on the pitch in 2018, but I honestly don’t know where he fits in now (up top or anywhere else), especially if we’re talking about a starting position.
McBean is another guy that I don’t see fitting in as a starter, but could be a good option as a sub or for the Open Cup. He’s not super fast, but fresh legs late in the game can be helpful no matter what your pace is. That being said, would you stick him in over the third main forward option (Badji/Mason/Boli) or Jackson? I really don’t know what Hudson is going to do with McBean. Personally, I would rather see Caleb Calvert in Colorado and McBean go to Charlotte.
Who do you see as the Rapids’ starting forwards?