Colorado Rapids Executive Vice President & General Manager Pádraig Smith feels like they’re in a good spot for this early in the off-season.
“We’ve brought in some great young players over the last 12-18 months, but we need a little bit of experience in this group,” he said. We can assume that part of that is bringing in centerback Drew Moor, as multiple news sources (including Burgundy Wave) have confirmed, which also means that Tommy Smith is likely out. His contract option was not picked up this year and the club has made no mention of negotiations with him.
Smith added that they’d like to bring in an MLS-experienced rightback and midfielder as well.
And then, of course, the big thing on everyone’s mind—the Designated Players. Fans have been looking forward to this moment since at least the 2018 season when Shkelzen Gashi wasn’t performing up to expectations and as Tim Howard’s retirement seemed imminent at the end of his contract.
“As everyone knows, we’ve been looking for an attacking midfielder for some time,” Smith said. “We want to make sure we learn from our mistakes in the past.” Smith expressed the importance of meeting players in person to get an idea of their motivation. They ask themselves if coming to MLS another step in the player’s career progression? Do they want to take their game to the next level? Investing in a player is not just about the immediate impact they can have on the pitch, but their value down the line as well.
Smith recently spent time on a trip to South America to “move forward” a potential signing that they’ve been tracking for the past year or so. “We’ve been looking for an attacking midfielder, a winger, for sometime now,” he said. “We are pleased with the wingers we have like Sam [Nicholson] and Jonathan [Lewis] and adding to that young group is very important.”
As we’ve seen in the past, things can change at any time, but the plan is for the Rapids to sign a senior DP who can be a real difference-maker and a young DP that they can develop. “Young DPs are a challenge,” Smith explained. “You have to do your due diligence for 18 and 19-year-olds. They have to be able to handle the environment, the US culture, and MLS, and be able to develop in a timely fashion.”
When Jonathan Lewis and Lalas Abubakar joined the Rapids mid-way through the season, they both mentioned how the transition was smooth and how welcome they felt. The Rapids are cultivating an environment where players can move within MLS and fit right in, but international players are admittedly another challenge.
The Rapids have worked to develop an environment that embraces new people and helps them (and their families) settle in so they feel more comfortable in Colorado. He cited previous players as an example to learn from and how they deal with the language barrier. For example, bringing in a player from South America who spoke no English would have a much different experience now with the Spanish-speaking players and staff than other players might have had in the past.
Smith hopes to sign at least one of the DPs sooner rather than later, but either way, he believes that the Rapids are doing what they promised a couple of years ago. “This is the way we want to do this. We’re building a young, dynamic, attack-focused team. Being able to add these new DPs will be huge for us.”