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2022 Season Review: Nicolás Mezquida

Mezquida and the Rapids finally parted ways when the 30-year-old joined Greece’s Volos FC.

MLS: Los Angeles FC at Colorado Rapids Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

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: Attacking Midfielder

Squad Status: Departed

Season in a Sentence: After dutifully serving as a dedicated super-sub for four years, Mezquida and the Rapids finally parted ways when the 30-year-old joined Greece’s Volos FC during the summer.

Grade: D+

Supporters had plenty of reason to be skeptical when the Colorado Rapids first plucked Nicolás Mezquida and a chunk of allocation money from the Vancouver Whitecaps in exchange for Zac MacMath after the 2018 season. Some were puzzled to see MacMath—a fan favorite and the heir-apparent to Tim Howard—depart in exchange for a player who had failed to deliver on his potential across five seasons of play in MLS. Others felt the addition wouldn’t move the needle for a club that had just reached the end of a disastrous first year under future U.S. Men’s National Team assistant Anthony Hudson.

But Colorado quickly quelled fans’ off-season demands for goalkeeper depth by bringing Clint Irwin back to the club, and Mezquida proved his doubters wrong when he finally donned the Burgundy and Blue. While the Uruguayan primarily remained a super-sub during his ensuing four-year stint in Colorado, Mezquida exemplified a team-first mentality and provided the club plenty of value off the bench. Three different managers were quick to call upon the attacking midfielder when the Rapids needed to spark a change in the final third during 2019, and Mezquida showed his flexibility by delivering strong substitute showings in both the attack and midfield.

While his total goal contributions dropped after the 2019 season, the Uruguayan remained one of Fraser’s favorite game-changing options in 2020 and 2021. He played significantly fewer minutes at the start of the decade thanks to Colorado’s pandemic-suppressed season, but his combined goals and assists rate per 90 minutes (0.38) didn’t drop much from his first year (0.44). That translated to team success, too, as Mezquida’s dribbling and creativity regularly raised the floor of his fellow teammates.

His “make something happen” mentality in the final third persisted into his last full season with the club. During Colorado’s historic 2021 run, the Rapids put up a goal differential of +9 when Mezquida was on the pitch—a figure good enough for top ten at the club and ahead of Michael Barrios (+8) and Kellyn Acosta (+6). While he wasn’t able to ever deliver the goods in his starting shifts, the Uruguayan consistently led MLS midfielders in dribbles (2.59 per 90, 97th percentile) and shot-creating actions (3.68 per 90, 88th percentile) off the bench in 2021.

Unfortunately, Mezquida’s utility waned after he turned 30 ahead of 2022. His substitute minutes dropped during the season as a result, and the midfielder failed to register a goal or assist across nine fruitless appearances off the bench. Colorado’s team success also fell when Mezquida saw the pitch, as the team put up a negative expected goal differential (-1.3 xG +/-) during his limited minutes. That culminated in the end of his Rapids’ career and subsequent mid-season departure to Greece.

Looking Forward

Mezquida joined Volos FC for an undisclosed fee in the summer, and most saw his exit on the horizon. The veteran had previously signed a one-year extension in advance of the 2022 season, but saw his annual compensation drop from $380,000 to $84,000. He’s since started eight of the Greek side’s 13 league matches and looks to be enjoying life in the Mediterranean nation.

Colorado never managed to find a consistent first-off-the-bench option during the rest of the 2022 season in Mezquida’s absence—a result of a string of unfortunate injuries to key depth pieces. Dantouma “Yaya” Toure came close to being that guy when he went on a hot streak during the summer, but the homegrown tore his ACL and missed the last two months of the year. A healthy Braian Galván or Oliver Larraz would have also freed up some minutes in the team’s midfield and attack during the season. Their recovery—along with the return of Cole Bassett and acquisition of Kévin Cabral—could allow the team to have more Mezquida-esque flexibility on match day.

Stats via FBref.