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Colorado Rapids Loan Center Back Gustavo Vallecilla to Columbus Crew

The Ecuadorian defender struggled to earn a place in Colorado’s rotation after arriving in 2022

Colorado Rapids v Seattle Sounders FC
SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - JULY 23: Gustavo Vallecilla #24 of Colorado Rapids chases down the ball during the first half against the Seattle Sounders at Lumen Field on July 23, 2022 in Seattle, Washington.
Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

The Colorado Rapids announced on Friday morning that the club has loaned defender Gustavo Vallecilla to the Columbus Crew for the season in exchange for $175,000 in 2023 General Allocation Money (GAM). Both clubs confirmed that the Crew will retain the right to purchase the Ecuadorian defender on a permanent deal at the end of the year.

“Gustavo is a promising young center back, and we are excited to welcome him to the Black & Gold,” Crew General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko said on Friday. “Gustavo provides depth and a different profile along the back line, and we know his addition will strengthen our defensive corps as he competes for minutes.”

Vallecilla initially joined the Rapids in March 2022 from FC Cincinnati, where he was a regular starter in the league’s leakiest defense. Colorado initially acquired the center back as an apparent dual replacement for Auston Trusty, who was preparing for a move abroad in the summer, and Aboubacar Keita, who underwent ACL surgery that kept him sidelined for the entire season.

The move was a pricey acquisition that saw the Rapids part ways with over $800,000 in GAM spread across two seasons and an additional $450,000 payment in real dollars to finalize Vallecilla’s transfer to MLS from Ecuador’s SD Aucas.

Vallecilla struggled to live up to Trusty’s 2021 standard at the back in his inaugural season in Colorado, and the defender quickly lost the trust of Rapids manager Robin Fraser. The Ecuadorian’s MLS appearances cratered following some inauspicious outings with the first team, and Vallecilla ended up accruing more minutes with Rapids 2 in MLS Next Pro than he did for the first team in league play.

“We believe this season-long loan will provide Gustavo with an excellent opportunity to continue his development while gaining valuable minutes against MLS opposition,” Rapids General Manager Pádraig Smith said in a press release announcing the move.

Following the announcement of Vallecilla’s move, Tom Bogert of reported that Columbus will be able to purchase the defender permanently for a fee of $700,000 in GAM. Should the Crew pull the trigger on that buy clause on top of the loan fee, the Rapids will end up recouping the allocation money the club expended to acquire Vallecilla in the first place.

Unfortunately, thanks to the additional payment the club made last year to secure Vallecilla’s initial move, Colorado wouldn’t come out fully whole even if the Crew add the defender on a permanent basis. The Rapids would still benefit from shedding Vallecilla’s $312,000 annual base salary and opening up one of the team’s three U-22 Initiative slots if the center back remains in Ohio.

With Vallecilla in Columbus and young defender Michael Edwards on loan in the USL Championship, the Rapids have appeared to finalize a center back corps of Andreas Maxsø, Danny Wilson, Lalas Abubakar, Aboubacar Keita, and Moise Bombito for 2023.