Role: Deep-Lying Playmaker, Central Midfielder
Squad Status: Regular Starter
Season in a Sentence: Price showed his class when he saw the pitch, but a string of nagging injuries kept the captain sidelined for most of the year.
The entire trajectory of the 2022 Colorado Rapids season might have shifted had Jack Price not sustained a string of injuries during multiple critical stretches of the club’s regular season.
Price, 30, had just completed his best ever year for Colorado by recording 12 assists in 2021, and was instrumental in the club’s push to the top of the Western Conference. His passing fueled the Rapids’ offense, and his set piece delivery was lauded by observers across the league.
The club captain was rewarded for his play with a significant contract extension during the off-season, and looked certain to remain a fixture of Colorado’s midfield for the coming year. While he didn’t make an impact in the club’s opening Champions League fixtures, Price rebounded by delivering a string of strong, albeit unlucky, performances in MLS play.
While Price’s bread and butter—his set piece delivery—remained exquisite, the Englishman was unfortunate to never record an assist during that early stretch of the season. His rate of 2.44 key passes per 90 (95th percentile) and 1.78 dead ball shot-creating actions per 90 (99th percentile) remained in line with his 2021 totals of 2.42 (95th percentile) and 1.71 (98th percentile) throughout the year. That led to the Captain recording an average expected assists mark of 0.19 per 90 (86th percentile)—a statistically-insignificant drop from his rate of 0.20 last year.
Despite some poor finishing from his preferred set piece targets, Price seemed destined to keep up the pace from his 2021 production. That all changed when the Englishman sustained a hamstring injury in the first half of Colorado’s 0-0 draw against Charlotte FC, which led to his first exit before the 45th minute in club history. The knock resulted in Price’s absence in the club’s next three matches, but he returned as a substitute in Colorado’s 2-0 win over Los Angeles FC. The Captain went 45 minutes against Sporting KC four days later and played 160 of the team’s next 180 minutes before the international break. He kept regularly training during the FIFA window and remained fit by featuring in a half for Rapids 2.
It looked like the midfielder’s injury concerns were behind him when he suited up for Colorado’s next league fixture against New York City FC, but Price came off during half-time. The club indicated that the Englishman had sustained a minor calf injury, and Price went on to miss the Rapids’ next seven games. When he finally came off the injury report for Colorado’s late-season home match against Minnesota United, Price cracked his rib, punctured his lung—injuries which saw him miss Colorado’s next six.
The Rapids’ postseason hopes were already on life support when the captain returned ahead of the club’s final five league games, but Price did his part by assisting a clinching goal against the Whitecaps—his first and only primary assist of the year. He followed-up the performance with another strong bench showing against the San Jose Earthquakes on the following Wednesday before earning his first start in over a month in a season-defining away fixture against the LA Galaxy.
Price didn’t impress in the 4-1 loss, and the Rapids got officially eliminated from postseason contention without kicking a ball a week later. Colorado immediately put him back on the injury report and kept him sidelined for the rest of the year. He ended the season with only 1,110 minutes in 17 league matches—around a third of the year’s worth of game time.
What made Price’s nagging injuries so frustrating was that the club looked far better than their record when the Captain graced the pitch. Colorado’s average points-per game with Price (1.47) was far above the pace needed to finish above the red line (1.38) and would’ve kept the club in the mix for top four in the West (1.47) if extrapolated over the course of the season. He averaged more key passes (2.44 per 90) and passes into the final third (5.45 per 90) than any other player on the roster (min. 1000 minutes), and only Michael Barrios (0.29) averaged more expected assists per 90.
Rapids PPG w/ Jack Price: 1.47— Joseph Samelson (@jspsam) September 26, 2022
Rapids PPG w/o Jack Price: 0.93
1.47 points per game, over the course of the entire season, would currently put the Rapids in contention for a home playoff game in the Western Conference.
According to the club, Jack Price is on contract through the 2023 season, with club-held options for 2024 and 2025. He earned $725,000 in guaranteed compensation last year, but the Rapids notably opted against using General Allocation Money to buy-down his cap impact below the max budget charge. That meant that he technically got budgeted as a Designated Player in 2022, and that KSE ponied up $112,500 to cover the difference between his earnings and the max charge. Colorado could have theoretically done the same with Diego Rubio ($629,583), Michael Barrios ($680,000), or Bryan Acosta ($706,667), but got the most bang for their allocation buck by dipping their toes ever-so-slightly into the KSE well to get Price’s deal on the books.
No matter where the captain stands on the roster, Colorado will be eager to witness Price’s regular return to starting lineups in 2023. Midfield depth was a consistent problem for the club in 2021, and Bryan Acosta failed to replicate the Englishman’s strengths when called upon as a replacement. Price may not be able to single-handedly take a club in transition to the postseason, but the team is unquestionably better with him on the pitch.