The Colorado Rapids have been linked with multiple European goalkeepers. Last Saturday, oe24 reported the club is interested in Austrian Patrick Pentz (26), who is currently riding the bench at Stade de Reims in Ligue 1. Wednesday afternoon, Luca Bendoni of gianlucadimarzio.com reported that the MLS side and Toulouse FC are interested in Nigerian Francis Uzoho (24) of AC Omonia in Cyprus.
Are the Rapids really looking at two goalkeepers and not a left back? Why in January? Is William Yarbrough on the way out? Would Colorado pay a transfer fee and use up an International Roster Slot to bring in a goalkeeper?
Excl. Understand MLS side, Colorado Rapids are interested in Omonia's GK, Francis Uzoho. #MLS— Luca Bendoni (@LucaBendoni) January 18, 2023
First talks are taking place - Toulouse [Ligue 1] asked info too. #Toulouse #transfers pic.twitter.com/7WFMmUAIFl
First, let’s take a step back. No outlets are reporting that a deal is done or close. Sources familiar with the situation have told Burgundy Wave that talks with both players are preliminary.
Why now with Yarbrough under contract for the year?
Yarbrough is in the last guaranteed year of his contract with a team option for 2024. He’ll turn 34 in March. He wasn’t great last year. If the club thinks it’s plausible they’ll decline his option, planning for his replacement should start now.
The timing of this chatter is probably due to the nature of the European January transfer window and the coverage of it. The Rapids have a history of getting players they wanted the window after they establish contact with the selling club. Jamie Smith, Kellyn Acosta, Kévin Cabral, I could go on. It’s easier for European clubs to do business in the summer. The Rapids could be making the rounds now to make closing the deal later easy. The other club can think about it. If the player ends the year disgruntled, he’ll know he has a soft landing spot elsewhere.
For Colorado, you get the player with a half season to get settled before challenging/taking the starting spot in 2024.
Why two international goalkeepers when MLS grows them on trees?
Pentz and Uzoho still have plenty of good goalkeeper years left. Pentz started the first seven league games for Reims but has been on the bench since. Uzoho has been a regular starter for the defending champion in the Cypriot First Division, which is not a well regarded league in UEFA.
Both have appeared for their senior national teams. Uzoho started for Nigeria at the 2018 World Cup. Pentz has one cap for Austria’s senior team and played for the U21s and U19s.
In terms of their club situation, both fit the I’ll leave Europe, have an American adventure, and play regularly in MLS for a few years and then see what happens mold. See Aljaž Ivačič and Đorđe Petrović.
For what it’s worth, transfermarkt lists their values at €1.50m and €500k. The moves to their current clubs were both free transfers. If the transfer fee isn’t more than $500k, the Rapids can make this move work and still have room for a left back and other Robin Fraser wishes.
The analytics team and goalkeeper coach Chris Sharpe could have identified something in a foreign keeper. Get him at a discount. Mold him into a better version of Yarbrough. Stabilize the position for years to come. If Jack Price and Danny Wilson finally get those green cards, the INT slots won’t be a big deal.
That said, I still think MLS teams should exhaust all domestic options looking for the next Brad Stuver or Tim Melia before looking internationally. I’ll gladly admit I’m wrong three years from now when Uzoho leads MLS in clean sheets.
Why goalkeeper when there are bigger priorities?
Just because the Rapids are pursuing a goalkeeper doesn’t mean they aren’t trying to sign other players. Connor Ronan is all but official. Maybe their left back recruitment isn’t as far along. Maybe Fraser wants to see if one of the kids emerges in the first weeks of preseason. Maybe Steven Beitashour’s crushing it and the coaching staff is convinced they’re good. There’s 39 days till the season opener. The transfer window doesn’t close till April 24.
Should the Rapids be focusing on a left back over other positions, including backup keeper? Yes. But there is still plenty of time.