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2022 Season Review: Aboubacar Keita

The youngster tore his ACL in preseason and didn’t feature at all for Colorado in 2022.

MLS: Player Headshots 2022 USA TODAY NETWORK

This is part of a series of individual player reviews by Joseph Samelson. You can follow him on Twitter @jspsam and read his work elsewhere at josephsamelson.com.

Role: Central Defender

Squad Status: Injured

Season in a Sentence: Keita was brought in as an heir-apparent to Auston Trusty, but the youngster tore his ACL in preseason and didn’t feature at all for Colorado in 2022.

Grade: Incomplete

With the Colorado Rapids planning for Auston Trusty’s transfer to Arsenal, the club concocted a contingency plan to shore up the defense for the stalwart’s eventual departure by trading for Aboubacar Keita in January.

The acquisition, which netted the Columbus Crew $300,000 in allocation money in exchange for the homegrown center back, looked like a promising move on paper. The circumstances of Keita’s arrival closely mirrored those of the defender that the New York City native was meant to replace. Like Trusty, Keita joined Colorado as an early 20s-something US Youth International and MLS homegrown starved for playing time and in need of a fresh start.

Much of the Rapids’ 2022 season didn’t go according to plan, and Keita’s inaugural season with the club was no different. The youngster sat out of Colorado’s opening exhibitions due to an undisclosed injury, but he did manage to make one preseason appearance for the club as a substitute in the Rapids’ Desert Showcase finale against the Houston Dynamo. It wasn’t the team’s greatest defensive outing—Colorado conceded two goals after Keita entered the match, and the young defender got caught with his pants down when Adalberto Carrasquilla scored the stoppage time winner.

A month later, the Rapids dropped a bombshell by revealing that Keita had undergone successful surgery on his right knee to repair an ACL tear, an injury which ultimately sidelined the defender for the entire 2022 season. With Keita out for the year and Trusty due to depart in a matter of months, Colorado panic bought Gustavo Vallecilla from the league’s worst defense in a bid to improve squad depth. That move that didn’t pan out well either.

Looking Forward

Supporters haven’t gotten a true look at Keita since he joined the club, but he’s expected to work his way into the first team after he completes his recovery during the off-season. The youngster profiles as a low-floor, high-ceiling central defender, and put up impressive per 90 figures in long balls (7.45 per 90, 87th percentile) and shot blocks (1.41 per 99, 99th percentile) during his last healthy season with the Crew. Robin Fraser’s tactics have relied on similar production from Danny Wilson in defense, and Keita’s presence should provide some competition for the Rapids’ usual starting center backs next year

Colorado triggered the sole option in Keita’s $135,000 contract after the end of the 2022 season, and the club will need to offer the defender a new deal to keep him around post-2023.

Stats via FBref.