It’s been a busy week, full of headlines for Kroenke Sports Entertainment. Matt Stafford has guided the Los Angeles Rams into the Super Bowl. Nikola Jokic was named an NBA All-Star for the Denver Nuggets. The Colorado Avalanche have continued their record home winning streak. And Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is headed to Barcelona.
But it’s another move for Arsenal that really should catch the eye of Colorado Rapids fans. Auston Trusty will be headed to North London this summer, following a winter transfer and a loan to stay in Commerce City for the first half of the MLS season. While obviously, as a Rapids blog this is the thing we’re focused on, I think it’s important to consider the scope of KSE.
Many fans have felt for a long time that the Rapids are a part of Stan Kroenke’s empire that is largely forgotten about—a literal island near the airport. But the move of Trusty shows Padraig Smith has stewarded the club to a place where it’s not the black sheep of the properties. Trusty marks the first transfer of a Rapids player to Arsenal, and the second biggest public showing of the relationship between the clubs, trailing a 2019 friendly.
While there is no doubt a sharing of info, scouts and more things between the operation sides of these clubs, we’ve never really been let behind the curtain. As the Rapids have scouted, found success on, and continue to develop players from this hemisphere, the strength of this relationship has only deepened. The stronger this relationship is, the better the Rapids can be. Just look at City Football Group or Red Bull’s soccer teams.
Every player in the Raids locker room must have been thrilled for Auston, getting a chance to live his dream playing in Europe. A trade sent Trusty here before 2020 and he struggled at times, getting sent to the USL even. Yet the coaching proved to be successful. That makes other players trust coaches and the organization further. On top of that, the recent transfers of Cole Bassett and Sam Vines across the Atlantic to live their dreams make recruiting young talent even more effortless. Within the last several months, the Rapids have shown a system in which they can find players, develop players, have success as a club with those players and then sell those players on to achieve their dreams. This can be all the difference when similar offers roll into the next hot prospect coming from South America.
This conveyor belt which now pushes in the direction of sister club Arsenal, can put a player in the Premier League.
While those players are working on getting there, they hone in their game and play for the Rapids. The more players that get sold, the stronger the club becomes due to the doors it can open in getting talent in the first place.
The Rapids Way is here, and this is what it looks like a few years into the project.
You may be asking yourself, but this will hurt the club in the short term as they try to turn over the roster at a higher rate. It also does come with the risk of missing on a player, which the Rapids will no doubt do at some point. But these swings at young talent are generally more effective than bringing in an aging star who wants to be closer to his cabin near Lewis Hamilton’s in Aspen.
So the club will be built around a league-experienced spine, supplemented by young talent that club hopes to one day sell. Will this work long-term? I don’t know! But it’s already started to for now. I would challenge you to reframe how you think about this Rapids revolving door of young players more like a college sports program. I’ve covered that level of athletics for a long time and success begets success there. The top talent wants to play football at Alabama because many of the NFL’s best players went to Alabama. That top talent has a better chance of one day being Pro Bowler and that will then inspire the next pee-wee player.
Still, there’s a part of the Rapids—that spine—that needs to compete and build off of a first place in the west finish.
A quick look at the club’s last home game, which clinched the west shows that 851 of the 990 minutes played (86%) that day will still be on the Rapids opening roster. That does include the soon-to-be-leaving Trusty. Though the Rapids already traded for his replacement in Aboubacar Keita. So the spine of the roster is still here.
Looking at what the Rapids lost, assuming this is the final outgoing player with the transfer window closing, Trusty played by far the most minutes of the bunch.
Percentage of minutes played in 2021 by outgoing Rapids players:
- Auston Trusty 97%
- Cole Bassett 75%
- Kellyn Acosta 56%
- Sam Vines 33%
- Younes Namli 17%
- Dominique Badji 11%
There’s a good case to be made that the Rapids have basically the same squad as last year. Adding Bryan Acosta should replace Kellyn just fine based on his merit. A strange fact is that the Rapids actually garnered 15% more points with Acosta out of the lineup than in it last year. Cole Bassett has already been replicated on the roster by Max Alves da Silva, who got his visa this week according to a source. They’ll give Keita a spring of practice and some games to see if they’re solid with Trusty leaving. Otherwise, the Rapids will hit the transfer/trade market.
It’s easy to understand why the Rapids would want to run it back after one of their best-ever seasons. In the same vein, it’s easy to understand fan frustration when the roster isn’t being bettered by proven players, aside from Acosta. It’s not like they won it all. Both sides are right. There’s that aspect of the Trusty move, last few transfers windows and recent run of play that deserves some faith. How far should you extend the leash? That’s up to you.
But a source from the league reiterated on Monday that the Rapids are nearing a deal for a striker, narrowing in on their targets in recent weeks. That source also said the club is likely to add another young player in the midfield.
Now we all know MLS takes some time to get used to for new players so performance could take a hit. But if you’re to tell me that the Rapids are still looking to add and already have some ideas in mind for the next transfer window coupled with the fact that they’re largely the same roster from last year’s success? Is that not what we wanted? Or do we just want a Designated Player striker?
I fully expect the Rapids not to be as good later this month as in October. But I also think Colorado will improve throughout the summer and will likely challenge to contend again.
But yeah, a DP striker on a playoff team that’s been shoutout in each of the last two year’s postseasons would be excellent. It’s a layup of a move. They just need to nail it with the right person.
The thing is—these outgoing players and proven track record allow for the club to be bolder. It also allows for the Rapids to have a better operating budget, meaning their margin for error is larger.
What does the Trusty move mean? It’s a sign the Rapids have strengthened ties with KSE/Arsenal and shown a track record of development, but this summer, the club will still need to replace one of its most productive players.