On March 1, the Rapids announced the pre-season roster that will be traveling to Tucson, Arizona, ahead of the 2021 MLS regular season. All contracted players will be traveling, along with five trialists, three of whom are Rapids Academy players.
Two former Rapids have been invited back to pre-season camp this year: free agent left back Edgar Castillo and former Homegrown Player Dillon Serna. Castillo was traded to the New England Revolution as part of a three-way trade that helped the Rapids land Diego Rubio from Sporting Kansas City in December 2018. After a year with New England, Castillo entered free agency and was picked up by Atlanta. His option was declined following the 2020 season. Castillo joined the Rapids on loan from Monterrey in Mexico for the 2018 season and performed well, scoring three goals and adding five assists. If the 34-year-old impresses in camp, he could be a decent depth piece to back up Sam Vines, as he’s already acclimated to the league and has proven he can be effective in MLS. Plus, Castillo was a fan favorite while in Denver.
Speaking of fan favorites, the second invitee is Colorado native Dillon Serna, who spent seven seasons with the Rapids from 2013-2019. Serna played 105 games for the Rapids, missing significant time after an ACL injury in U.S. Open Cup play in 2016. Serna spent 2020 with Sporting KC 2 and has already signed for the Colorado Springs Switchbacks ahead of the 2021 season. At only 26, perhaps Serna can impress enough to earn a contract and get himself back into MLS.
Three youngsters from the Rapids Academy will also travel to Tucson in hopes of a first-team deal. Highly-rated 16-year-old attacker Darren Yapi is among the three academy products and also seems most likely to land a Homegrown deal. Yapi had an impressive 2020 season in both the DA League and the Generation Adidas Cup, and has recently been called up to the U-17 U.S. Men’s National Team. Not to mention Yapi fills a place in the Rapids’ arguably shallowest position: center forward.
Yapi is joined by fellow young players Cullen “Cam” Wilkerson and Oliver Larraz, both midfielders. Wilkerson is technically not an academy player yet, but will be joining the Rapids Academy at the start of the 2021 season. Wilkerson already has professional experience, as he made four appearances with Portland Timbers 2 in 2020. At only 16, Wilkerson also has a very high ceiling, and both he and Yapi very well might spend time with the Colorado Springs Switchbacks this season to further their development.
The fifth invitee, Larraz is becoming a familiar face for the Rapids, as the 19-year-old has been with the Academy for four years and was a regular at first-team training last season. Larraz has also spent time in Germany with MSV Duisburg’s U-19 team.
The only player on Colorado’s roster that is missing from pre-season is Will Vint. The Homegrown was loaned to the Colorado Springs Switchbacks for the 2020 season. He will not be attending preseason for personal reasons, per the club.
With plenty of starting spots to fight for, along with roster spots for the five training camp invitees, pre-season will be intense and full of competition for the Rapids. Pre-season camp will kick off on March 8 and, after more than three months off, finally get the ball rolling for the 2021 season.
I, for one, can’t wait.