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Rapids trade for FC Cincinnati defender Gustavo Vallecilla

The Rapids get stronger at a position of need but spent a chunk of change on an unproven player

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MLS: Colorado Rapids at FC Cincinnati Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Rapids straightened their backline on Monday, announcing a trade for defender Gustavo Vallecilla from FC Cincinnati.

The Ecuadorian comes to Colorado in exchange for $400,000 in 2022 General Allocation Money (GAM) and $400,000 in 2023 GAM, per a news release from the Rapids. Cincinnati could also receive 50,000 in GAM if specific performance metrics are met and retain 10% of his future transfers.

Tom Bogert of MLS.com reports that the Rapids will send another $450k to SD Aucas. Cincinnati had just bought Vallecilla off of loan from SD Aucas this past winter. The extra payment means the total price of this transfer could total $1.3 million. Transfermarkt estimated his preseason transfer to be upwards of $1 million.

A way to look at is, Colorado paid a premium for a young talent to fill a U22 spot.

“Gustavo is a young, explosive defender who is one of the top center back prospects in the country,” said Pádraig Smith, Colorado Rapids Executive VP & General Manager, in a news release. “We believe he has the qualities to develop into a dominant defender in this league and look forward to welcoming him to the club.”

Vallecilla, 22, has yet to play this season due to a leg injury. But the Rapids will hope he adds to a quickly depleting center back group. Auston Trusty is set to leave for Arsenal in a few months, while Aboubacar Keita, who was brought in this winter to get a shot at replacing the future gunner, tore his ACL and is out for the year.

The listed right-footed center back has dual-foot capacity. He was part of the league’s worst defense in Cincinnati last season and has made 25 appearances; all starts over the past two years. He’s primarily played at left-center back.

A native of Esmeraldas, Ecuador, Vallecilla has spent the bulk of his professional career in his home country’s top flight, the Ecuadorian Serie A. After making his professional debut at 17-years-old with Deportivo Cuenca in 2016, Vallecilla went on to make 47 appearances across stints with Deportivo Cuenca (2016-2018), Aucas (2019-21) and Barcelona SC (2020). Vallecilla won the Serie A championship with Barcelona SC in 2020 and made three appearances in the 2020 Copa Libertadores for the club.

Vellecilla debuted for his national team this past December, playing 76 minutes in a 1-1 friendly draw with El Salvador. He has also made a combined 21 appearances for Ecuador’s youth national teams, winning the U-20 South American Championship in 2019 while also playing every minute of Ecuador’s run in the 2019 U-20 World Cup as they finished third in the competition.

The deal is a large one, worth up to $850k in GAM. To put that in perspective, Kellyn Acosta was dealt to LAFC for $1.5 million in General Allocation Money (GAM,) being for an initial $1.1 million plus $400 thousand in incentives. While a big chunk of change was sent, FCC fans are already upset in their initial reaction to the trade losing the young defender. Smith recently was named anonymously to The Atheltic by other executives as one of the league’s best and toughest negotiators. He is known to take these risks on MLS-ready talent, and it’s paid off several times.

An early-season bump by Danny Wilson, which he’s already recovered from, showed how venerable the Rapids could be at center back. FCC could be ambulance chasing the Rapids a bit here, but another perspective is this; Former MLS star defender and current Rapids coach Robin Fraser did a heck of a job helping Trusty and Sam Vines realize their talent. Vellecilla could be the next project.