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Kévin Cabral Traded From La Galaxy to Colorado Rapids: What It Means

Another distressed asset, but financial flexibility gone?

MLS: LA Galaxy at Colorado Rapids Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Colorado Rapids have acquired Kévin Cabral in a trade, the club announced Thursday morning. In exchange, LA Galaxy have received $1 million in total General Allocation Money, 600,000 in 2023 and $400,000 in 2024. Cabral will occupy a Designated Player spot for the Rapids. LA will retain a percentage of any transfer fee should Cabral be sold outside MLS.

“Kévin is a dynamic and explosive attacking threat with experience both in MLS and in Europe. He’s an exciting player with all the necessary qualities to be an impact player in MLS, and yet at 23, still has room for continued development,” said Pádraig Smith, Colorado Rapids Executive VP & General Manager.

Cabral joined Los Angeles in 2021 from Valenciennes for a reported fee of $6 million. In two season, he made 61 MLS appearances, recording six goals and five assists. He mostly played as a left winger, but did spend time at center forward and right wing. The 23-year-old Frenchman was criticized for his poor finishing. In 2022, he was second in MLS for worst G-xG (Goals minus Expected Goals) with -4.3. He has not justified the transfer fee, $1.65 million annual salary, nor the DP slot to date. Reports are the Galaxy are picking up half of his salary for the remainder of his contract.

Rapids fans have a right to be skeptical and upset:

The Rapids were sitting on some GAM between the Mark-Anthony Kaye trade and other moves. They chose not to pick up the buy option on Lucas Esteves last week. They likely still have league money in the war chest. To the extent KSE is giving them out of pocket money in 2023, that money has not been touched. They probably have room for at least one more big move. Probably a midfielder, a center back, or left back.

With the domestic market as it is, $1 million is the starting price for a player of value and/or potential in MLS. Given the Galaxy are eating the transfer fee and half his salary, the valuation is largely based on his perceived potential. His underlying numbers are good. Smith could be playing for a Michael Barrios 2021 level surprise.

Rapids fans have a right to be skeptical and frustrated. They’ve complained about the team needing 3-4 moves to rebuild the team. The club’s first big action is to trade for one of the worst DP in LA Galaxy history.

Smith and Head Coach Robin Fraser are going Distressed Assets FC on this one. A change of scenery for a young player who had a rough year. A coach and club who embrace young players and have a track record of getting more out of them. And a locker room of dogs who will embrace him and have an us against the world mentality. He’s been raked through the coals by Galaxy fans and the media. Now they’ve shipped him off to a club that’s not supposed to win anything. Let’s see if the disrespect, perceived or actual, brings out the best in him like it has for Diego Rubio, Lalas Abubakar, Kellyn Acosta, and others.

How will this affect the rest of the offseason?

Given LA is picking up half the salary, I don’t think this affects any negotiations that are going on with Gyasi Zardes. The Rapids were never going to offer Zardes a new contract at his old salary. Past the age of 30, he was going to take a pay cut. I’ve been saying ~$700K a year, about where Rubio is at would work. Zardes is eligible for free agency.

Colorado’s unlikely to get involved in a bidding war should the rumors of Austin FC’s interest be true. It’d be more prudent to move Rubio back to center forward and thus focus on midfield reinforcements.

I do believe this signals Colorado will not make any big moves to sign a front three player, other than re-signing Zardes. They have Rubio and they put too much money into getting Cabral. If they’re giving up another $1 million in GAM, there are positions of greater need.