Squad Status: Loaned Out
Season in a Sentence: Rodriguez had an up-and-down year as the primary goalkeeper for Rapids 2, but made noticeable strides in his development over the course of the season.
From the perspective of the Colorado Rapids, goalkeeper Abraham Rodriguez was arguably the biggest beneficiary of the nascent MLS Next Pro project in 2022.
The 20-year-old homegrown had trouble getting a consistent run of games with the USL’s Colorado Springs Switchbacks over three seasons with the club, and needed regular minutes to take the next step in his development. Thankfully, the re-formation of Rapids 2 quickly provided plenty of matches for the club’s third goalkeeper. Rodriguez got over 1,500 minutes across 17 starts as captain for the B squad in 2022, and he was busy. Only two Western Conference teams faced more shots than R2 (137) did last season, and Rodriguez had to watch a staggering 44 of them hit the back of the net.
A significant portion of those goals weren’t necessarily his fault, but Rodriguez had very few standout performances from the run of play for R2. MLS Next Pro doesn’t offer much in the way of advanced goalkeeping metrics, but the basic stats don’t paint a pretty picture: Rodriguez averaged 2.59 goals conceded per game, posted a save percentage of only 54.6%, and only held one clean sheet in the reserve league all season—a match where he faced zero shots.
While his reaction time has been impressive, the youngster has been let down quite a bit by his 5’8” frame. No matter how quickly he gets off his line, a lot of shots consistently fall out of his reach. The personnel in R2’s back line also didn’t grant him any favors, as the young core regularly gave up high-percentage opportunities that gave Rodriguez no chance at making a save.
Critics can point to his up-and-down performances between the sticks, but Rodriguez can respond by highlighting his shootout showings. Thanks to MLS Next Pro’s decision to revive post-draw penalties, Rodriguez got plenty of time to shine under the spotlight. Rapids 2 won four of the five shootouts that the homegrown participated in, and he made six saves when it counted. The lone shootout loss involving Rodriguez came when R2’s penalty takers failed to convert a single attempt.
Rodriguez demonstrated that calmness under pressure when he made his MLS debut—a substitute appearance on the road against the Portland Timbers following an injury to William Yarbrough. Yarbrough’s nominal backup Clint Irwin was nurturing a knock of his own, which led to Rodriguez making the bench for the game. He got hung out to dry by his defense on all three goals the club allowed during the match, but the youngster still made two saves in a hostile road environment.
Irwin’s contract expired at the end of the season, but Rodriguez is still very much in the early stages of his development and probably isn’t ready to be the backup behind Yarbrough just yet. While the Colorado native is impressive when facing penalties, there are still some holes in his game. He’s best off ironing those out at the highest level possible, be it in MLS Next Pro or the USL. That most likely involves another season with Rapids 2, where he can keep earning valuable experience as a captain that’s constantly in the line of fire.
Colorado will certainly add another goalkeeper to the roster by preseason. The club nabbed the rights to Marshall University shot-stopper Oliver Semmle in the second round of last Wednesday’s SuperDraft, but could opt to look elsewhere if the right player surfaces.
Rodriguez earned $84,000 last season and will remain on a cap-free homegrown contract until his current deal expires. Colorado didn’t publicize the length of his agreement when Rodriguez put pen to paper in 2020, but the club confirmed that they exercised an option in his contract for the 2023 season. That’s a clear vote of confidence in his progress from the club’s perspective, so it’s on Rodriguez to now take his chance.
Stats via MLS Next Pro.