Commerce City, Colo. - The good news keeps on coming for the Colorado Rapids.
On a day when multiple teams lost key players to Portland and Vancouver in the MLS Expansion Draft, the Rapids not only kept the Cup winning team's starting XI intact, but they also added a player to strengthen the squad.
Left-back Anthony Wallace was selected by the Portland Timbers in the fourth round of the Expansion Draft. However, the Rapids and Timbers had worked a deal that would send the young defender back to Colorado in exchange for allocation money.
With Wallace drafted, the Rapids were also able to pull back midfielder Wells Thompson from the draft.
“We didn’t want to lose ‘Wally’ (Anthony Wallace), and we didn’t want to lose Wells (Thompson),” said Paul Bravo, the Rapids Technical Director. “Once we heard rumblings that someone was going to take Wallace and move him to another team, we had to figure out a way to get one of the teams to take our guy and send him back to us, which would allow us to pull the other back and maintain all of the pieces.”
In a separate move – arranged before the draft - the Rapids sent one of their seven available international roster spots to Vancouver Whitecaps for midfielder Sanna Nyassi, whom the Whitecaps selected with the first pick in the expansion draft from Seattle.
“We had talked a little bit over the last couple of days with both expansion teams to try to figure out the best road to go down,” said Bravo. “We had talked about Sanna (Nyassi) and another player, and we had a deal done for both players ahead of the draft.”
Nyassi started 16 of the 38 regular season games in which he appeared for Seattle over the last two seasons, scoring twice and adding three assists. A native of Bwiam, Gambia, Nyassi has also made scored once in his two appearances for the Gambia National Team.
With Rapids forward Mac Kandji expected to be out for 5-6 months while he recovers from surgery to repair the torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, Nyassi’s addition could prove to have greater importance.
“We fully expect Mac (Kandji) to make a full recovery,” said Bravo. “But this was not just done because Mac was injured. It was done because we want to continue to strengthen our team.”
Along with a 34-game regular season schedule, the Rapids have qualified for the CONCACAF Champions League next summer as a result of being the MLS Cup Champions. The team will also participate in the U.S. Open Cup tournament, making for a much heavier schedule than in 2010.
“It’s not easy to navigate through multiple competitions,” said Bravo. “You have to have depth and you have to have players who can play - whether it be in the Open Cup, in League, or in Champions League.”
The team added that depth in the versatile and speedy Nyassi, who has won the last two Open Cups title with Seattle, and also participated in the group stage of Champions League this past summer with the Sounders.
“We can certainly look back on this week as being a great week for the club," added Bravo. "Not only hoisting an MLS Championship, but being able to keep 90 percent of our roster intact and making an addition to add depth.”