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Building the ideal Designated Player for the Colorado Rapids

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What exactly do we want in our DP signings?

John A. Babiak - @Photog_JohnB

Between expired contracts and options that need negotiating, the potential of losing some players to trades and transfers, and Robin Fraser getting his chance to put his own mark on the roster he gets to work with, we are all but guaranteed to see some bigs changes before the Colorado Rapids take the field again in 2020.

Perhaps the most important off-season move will be the signing of one (or two) DPs. With Shkelzen Gashi and Tim Howard no longer on the books, the Rapids are left with zero DPs on the roster—and the Front Office has promised two of them to come in 2020. I could see this team signing one over the winter and one over the summer, but I think it is safe to say at least one will come during the winter window because waiting until summer for both would likely bring a lot of backlash from fans after promising DPs.

With this all in mind, the big question is: What do we want in DP? After having this conversation with a few friends and family, I decided to do what any other millennial would do: take it Twitter. Based on all the responses and my personal opinion, this is our ideal DP.

Position

The most obvious question is where this guy will play on the field. Based upon all the responses I received, here are some of the more notable ones from a position standpoint:

Looking at all this, there seems to be one thing we can all agree on: We should sign someone on the offensive side of the ball. That means either a forward, winger, or attacking midfielder. As Justin Hein said, almost all the teams in MLS spend their DP money on forwards because goals win games. Basically, every team would want a Carlos Vela over an Ike Opara. Nothing against the defenders, but that’s just how it goes.

For the Rapids specifically, we need to start by taking a look at the team’s front four. With a full-strength side, the Rapids almost always started Kei Kamara at striker, Diego Rubio at the number 10, and then two of Sam Nicholson/Jonathan Lewis/Andre Shinyashiki on the wings. Kamara and Rubio both put up double-digit goals and are legit MLS players. The three wingers, though all on the younger side and showing promise in their own ways, are the weaker part of that front four.

For that reason alone, it would make the most sense for an offensive DP to be a wide midfielder or winger. That would allow that player to slot in amongst Rubio and Kamara. It would also allow Fraser to have some flexibility to use Shinyashiki, Lewis, and Nicholson as the other wing (or as super subs) based upon the match-up for that given week.

Before we continue, it is worth noting that the Rapids should also weigh the ability of players available when choosing the position of their DP. Even with the wing being the weakest part of the front four, the Rapids would be silly to pass up on a player the quality of a Joseph Martinez or Zlatan or Robbie Keane just because they aren’t wingers.

Playing Style

When it comes to finding a quality winger for your team, play style is almost as important as the quality of the player. Do you want someone who can dribble past a defender in a phone booth like Christian Pulisic or Jadon Sancho? Do you someone who can become a creative force from the outside even if they aren’t as fast, like Bernardo Silva or Kevin de Bruyne (when he plays on the wing)? Maybe someone who will cut inside and score goals all day like Arjen Robben or Gareth Bale?

Getting the wrong fit for your team’s style can be just as bad as getting someone who isn’t actually all that talented, so what works best for the Rapids?

If we get a player that we are planning on building our team around, then it doesn’t really matter. What would matter is if Kamara, Rubio, Jack Price, Kellyn Acosta, and company can all do what the DP would need them to do. That’s a risky game because, like any player, they all have their strengths and weaknesses. Hoping they could all adjust to something new after playing so well in the second half of 2019 is asking a lot.

So, what type of player could fit into what we already have?

I would say someone who is going to provide not only goals but assists as well. Any good winger is going to provide both, but we need a player that can supply both equally well. Someone who cuts inside to score goal after goal is just going to clog the middle with Rubio, Kamara, and potentially Shinyashiki doing the same from the other side. Someone who only stays outside and bangs in crosses puts a lot of weight on players like Kamara and Rubio to finish those opportunities, and it makes that player a little one dimensional to be a DP.

What I would hope for is a player like Diego Rossi on LAFC. He is a player that brings speed to the wings, but he also likes to stay on the wings. The reason that he and Vela work together so well is that Vela pinches inside and he stays wide. Now, Rossi still scores plenty of goals (16 in 2019), and that comes from the level of talent that he is in. At the same time, however, he stays wide enough to play a number of balls into the box. This will allow players like Kamara to still excel, and maybe even score more goals.

Nationality

The final aspect of our ideal DP is their nationality. Of all the answers I received, only one touched on this, but he made a good point. Here is the tweet:

In the same way that the signing of Tim Howard brought American soccer fans to DSGP, this DP could bring in an untapped fan-base if we play our cards right. Getting a big-name player from the USMNT could have the same effect that Howard did in 2016 or getting a player from the Mexican National Team could do wonders to bring in the Hispanic community around Denver.

At the same time, I would take a star player from just about anywhere over an overrated USA or Mexican player any day, but this is our ideal DP we are talking about.

Bringing it All Together

Looking at all this, the Rapids should be going after a true winger. One with speed that likes to stay wide and create goals and assists from there, allowing the central players to still do their thing. Having the player be from a country like the US, Mexico, or somewhere in Latin America would be a plus from a fan perspective too.

So what does this all mean? Well, as I write this, I realize that it means the idea DP for the Rapids would be a player like Chucky Lozano.

Now, Lozano is currently at Napoli and it looks like he will spend many more years being a name in Europe, so I realize that this would never happen. I do think he could be a good archetype for the Rapids to be basing their search off of, however.

Bonus: What About the Second DP?

If we go off the assumption that everything above happens and the Rapids go and find a wide-playing winger as their first DP, what should the second DP be?

After signing Auston Trusty and Lalas Abubakar on Wednesday, this question has gotten a lot easier. Before that, there was an argument that the second DP should potentially be a CB. Personally, I have never thought that a DP defender was really worth it, but none of that matters now.

If the Rapids were to get a second DP, it should be a true number 10. Right now, Rubio is the one playing the role of the withdrawn striker or number 10. It worked out decently well, especially since the Rapids tended to do a lot of their buildup in the wide areas. At the same time, it would make sense to replace Rubio with a true number 10 that plays at a DP level. That could allow Rubio to take up the role of super sub, split time with an aging Kamara, or join the cohort of players that could line up on the other wing.

Have any other thoughts on potential Rapids DPs? Let us know in the comments section below!