As one of the original MLS teams, there have been many players on the Colorado Rapids roster through the years. And right now, since there isn’t any new soccer to watch, we’re reminiscing about some of our favorite players to have ever suited up in burgundy. So check out our picks and then vote in our poll at the end!
Editor’s Note: Most of us simply could not narrow it down to a single player, so there are quite a few options here.
Marlon Hairston: He went to the University of Louisville and made the most of his opportunities, whether playing defender or midfielder. His speed was phenomenal. I’m sorry that he wasn’t part of the Robin Fraser era—he would have been such an asset to the squad.
Marcelo Balboa: The original Rapid. While I came to be a Rapids fan due to two other early players—Chris Henderson and Marcus Hahnemann—it was Balboa that caught my eye while watching the team. If the anecdote told at his retirement announcement is to be believed, former owner Phil Anschutz had the same reaction after seeing ‘Celo in World Cup ‘94. I’ve always loved seeing defenders who can get into the attack and Balboa was one of the best in MLS history at doing that. Plus, of course, he scored not only the best goal in Rapids history but arguably the best goal in league history.
So, for context here, I started as a season ticket holder in 2016. While I’ve heard the legends of people like Balboa, Pablo, Casey, etc., and they deservedly belong in a list of favorite Rapids players, I never really saw any of them on the pitch. Instead, I’ll be focusing more on recent players from the last 4ish seasons.
Kortne Ford: I have a weakness for homegrown players and Kortne was the first one to really cement that status for me. He started playing in 2017—and despite the injuries that he has struggled with—was always a welcome appearance on the 18. He was a standout player in 2017 on the defensive line, and though his 2018 and 2019 seasons were difficult for him, he has shown a tremendous amount of grit and determination to get back on the pitch and prove why he belongs on the team. It is incredible to see how we, as the Rapids community, really came together to support him and his mother. If there is anyone that exemplifies the Rapids community, it’s our boy Kortne.
Sam Nicholson: Sam came to the Rapids in 2018 after a trade for another great guy, Eric Miller. While Sam has never quite had the lethality in the box as other players, he has been an entertaining spark in the offense. But the reason I love him so much is that he has made the effort to get involved with the fanbase. I’ve had the pleasure of speaking to him multiple times, he’s been out to several C38 events, and just always seems like a fun and genuine guy. I know we have the privilege that many other MLS teams (and sports teams in general) don’t have, where we can actually interact with the players and coaches frequently. Sam has always been and continues to be a great person—even outside of the Burgundy jersey.
Kei Kamara: Kei’s arrival in Denver was a confusing one for me. On one hand, he was a proven MLS striker with many seasons of double-digit goals. But, rumors floated around of him being a dangerous presence in the locker room, so I was a bit worried that he might be a poison to the team dynamic. This may be the clearest proof that I’m an idiot. Kei brought the exact opposite: a unifying presence, an entertaining and funny guy, and someone who quickly adopted the burgundy and blue. Shortly after Kei joined the Rapids, it felt like he had been here all along. He’s a lethal goal scorer with a mad aerial game—and one of the funniest players around. Kei brings smiles with him everywhere he goes, and has been consistently one of the best personalities in all of MLS. Follow him on Twitter @keikamara and on Instagram @2k3. You won’t regret it.
Andre Shinyashiki: After trading $100,000 in GAM to Chicago for their 1st round pick (5th overall), we selected DU’s standout striker. Shinyashiki was an absolute phenom in college, scoring 28 goals in 21 games, including a whopping 5 hat-tricks. He set records, including most goals in a single NCAA season in 20 years, in his senior year. That success translated pretty darn well into MLS, whereafter he scored in the home opener in a crucial tie against Portland in the snow, the game winner against LA Galaxy (securing the first win of the season), and with a total of seven goals and three assists, was named MLS 2019 Rookie of the Year. He came out on top against some strong competition, including Brenden Aaronson from Philadelphia Union and Minnesota United’s Hasani Dotson. Shinyashiki quickly became a fan favorite, for both his goal scoring and his connection to Denver. Here’s to seeing even more goals from him in the future and to a long career in Burgundy.
Dillon Serna: By no means is he the greatest Rapids player of all time, but I always have a soft spot for homegrowns and he was signed right around the time I really started to follow the Rapids. I started to love him, in particular, when he scored the game-winner against SKC in May of 2016 (see 3:15 of the link below). As an out-of-town fan, I don’t get to go to many home games, so that goal is etched in my memory.
Marco Pappa: He was here for only a few games but he was a magical player, coming in and scoring the game winner vs LA was a super highlight. I loved when he brutally megged Michael Bradley.
Pablo Mastroeni: He was always such a wonderful fixture to the Rapids. Pablo was a huge part of bringing the Rapids our only (so far) MLS Cup, he was a coach who led the Rapids back to their deepest run into the playoffs, and my daughter and I loved the Pablostache era! Keep fighting still rings in my ears and heart as a player, coach, and fan of fútbol—and as a human who loves learning from experience and adversity.
Juan Ramirez: Again a super brief stint with the club but I have never seen another tackle-meg even to this day. I wish I could find the video, but he ran up behind a midfielder and slide between the players’ legs tackling the ball from behind. It should’ve been a yellow for dangerous play, but it was completely clean. Juan won the ball while sliding his entire body between the players’ legs.
John A. Babiak
Nick LaBrocca: My youngest son, also named Nicholas’, favorite player and a gritty midfielder. When my Nick took interest in MLS and started to play for the U6 team in the Rapids Youth Club, he gravitated to Nick because of their same first names. He became LaBrocca’s ‘biggest fan’ and Nick caught on. He was always generous with his time when greeting my son, both after games at Dick’s and when we would go out and watch the first team train. My Nick still has several worn and signed LaBrocca jerseys in his kit collection.
Kortne Ford: While he may not be an MVP-caliber player or leading the league in tackles, and his career has been hampered by injuries and we haven’t seen him play a ton, the Rapids homegrown is quite the man off the pitch. In 2017, just one month after signing his first professional contract, his mom received a terminal cancer diagnosis. But Laurie Ford is a fighter and Kortne and Laurie are forever a team—a good one, too. In July 2017, my dad received a cancer diagnosis. It was at a meet & greet event in late 2017, Kort talked to me and my dad at a fan event for 30 minutes and I knew I would forever be #TeamFords. Thanks to some tips from Kortne (passed to him from his mom) my dad’s treatment and recovery was smooth and my dad is now approaching three years cancer-free. Kort holds a special place in my heart and is my favorite player off the field!
Pablo Mastroeni: A player who was selected in the second round of the original college draft worked his way up to become an MLS legend. Pablo Mastroeni is known for his on-field contributions as a midfielder, captain, and eventually coach. He always worked his hardest and was a significant contributor in the locker room. I really admire Pablo for his attitude and play style and while I was very young in his first few years with the Rapids, I loved watching him play. As a former defensive midfielder myself, I cannot be more proud to say I grew up watching the Best Ever Rapids Player. When Pablo left the club, there wasn’t much time for us to be disappointed before he came back as an assistant coach just one year later. While I am disappointed that he was let go in 2017 and think he deserved more of a chance, I am very glad that I got to watch him in many roles. I believe Mastroeni is the best leader and the most skilled player that the Rapids have ever had.
Axel Sjoberg: I’ve met him multiple times and every time he was humble, nice, and easy to talk to. Eventually, he even came to know me by name. I saw the Rapids in Minnesota in 2018 and Axel came over and talked with us for a while. I’ll never forget his kindness.
Who is your favorite Rapids player of all time?
This poll is closed
Other (Tell us in the comments!)