Role: Fullback, Central Defender
Squad Status: Regular Starter
Season in a Sentence: Rosenberry wasn’t as impactful as he was in previous years for the Rapids, but the club’s resident Iron Man still did a lot of things right for the side in 2022.
If any member of the Colorado Rapids can stake a claim for the “Mr. Reliable” tag, it’s Keegan Rosenberry.
Since arriving at the club following the end of the 2018 regular season, the defender has played in more than 95% of the Rapids’ 120 league games. Rosenberry surpassed 10,000 minutes with Colorado in the final match of 2022, and his name has effectively been written in pen on Robin Fraser’s lineups.
That Iron Man-esque reputation has made Rosenberry an indispensable piece of Colorado’s defense during the Fraser era, but most metrics indicate that he took a step back this past season. While Rosenberry has historically been one of the club’s top defenders in terms of interrupting opponents’ attacks, the defender didn’t match that standard this year. His 1.09 tackles and 1.28 interceptions per 90 were his worst yearly figures in his four seasons as a Rapid. He completed fewer passes per game (38.5) relative to his 2020 (58.7) and 2021 (56.4) totals, and his 79.2% completion rate on the season was the worst of his seven-year professional career.
But those stats don’t tell the full story of Rosenberry’s 2022. While the Pennsylvania native usually played as a fullback during his first three years in the Rocky Mountains, Rosenberry spent chunks of the season as an outside center back and occasionally earned minutes in the middle of a back three.
That versatility is valuable from a coaching and squad-building perspective, but it makes things a bit trickier for an end-of-season retrospective. It’s difficult to identify broad trends from his per 90 figures because he was tasked with three very different roles as the squad’s personnel moved around.
As a result of his positional shifts, Rosenberry made fewer touches than his 2021 standard (63.6 → 56.2) and recorded fewer shot-creating actions (1.55 → 1.37) per 90—expected declines from a player that adopts a role involving less attacking play. The handful of games in which he replaced Danny Wilson as the team’s primary long-ball pinging defender could also account for Rosenberry’s fewer defensive actions.
The shuffling around might have factored in Rosenberry’s occasional dips in form. He looked out of his depth when the Rapids conceded nine goals across a run of three highly-important bouts against the Whitecaps, Dynamo, and Union near the end of the season. Rosenberry wasn’t the only defender to struggle during that stretch, but the club would have been in a much better position to sneak into the playoffs had he kept up his 2021 standard.
Despite his shift into a more defensive position during parts of the season, Rosenberry still managed to get on the scoresheet a handful of times. The defender loves taking shots from the right side of the attacking third around Zone 15, and Colorado usually organizes their set pieces to give him a chance to take a crack at a loose ball that falls just outside the box. He’s good for one or two goals a year from that space, and 2022 was no different. His long-range bangers in wins against the New York Red Bulls and San Jose Earthquakes saw him become one of the few Rapids to out-perform his expected goals (+1.2 G-xG) on the season.
Keegan Rosenberry got named to MLS's TOTW for Week 31. As you may or may not be aware, he scored a goal that some would describe as "pretty good"pic.twitter.com/6P2CPuf13i— Joseph Samelson (@jspsam) September 15, 2022
Rosenberry’s also provided the club a lot of utility from the sidelines, and his long-throws have allowed the club to generate more set piece-like opportunities in the attack. He got his lone assist of the year by throwing a beautiful ball straight to Diego Rubio against Minnesota United. His throws created mayhem in the box and opened up opportunities for others.
Last January, Rosenberry signed a three-year contract extension through the 2024 season, with a club option for 2025. He earned $400,000 in 2022, which made him the team’s tenth-highest paid player. That’s generally good value for an above-average fullback, even during a relatively down year. For comparison, Lucas Esteves took home $26,000 more during the season for worse performances on the opposite side
The return of Aboubacar Keita from injury and the addition of University of New Hampshire standout Moises Bombito via the SuperDraft might allow Rosenberry to stick closer to his bread-and-butter role at fullback during next year. That said, supporters shouldn’t be surprised if the 29-year-old begins to fully make the transition to central defense when he enters his 30s. Rosenberry’s never been prolific as an attacking wing back, and Fraser began handing Sam Nicholson and other wingers more defensive responsibility on the right side near the end of the season. Those decisions temporarily shifted Rosenberry to the team’s back three, and the future might see him earn more minutes there.
Stats via FBref.