Honolulu, Hawaii - Luis Zapata smiled broadly as he posed for his photo with the Rapdis scarf on Waikiki Beach in Honolulu Thursday afternoon. The Colombian defender had just signed his Rapids contract in the Hilton Hawaiian Village business center and had it faxed to Major League Soccer headquarters for approval. As a new member of the Colorado Rapids, he proudly accepted the burgundy and white scarf which is given to new members of the club.
"I want to thank the coaching staff for this opportunity," Zapata told ColoradoRapids.com. "And everyone at the Colorado Rapids for their confidence in me."
In joining the Rapids, Zapata joins countrymen Jaime Castrillon in addition to head coach Oscar Pareja and assistant coach Wilmer Cabrera.
Pareja said the coaching staff wanted to bring Zapata in to get a first-hand look at how he fit in with the group as well as how quickly he could adapt. After three weeks on trial, the staff had their answer.
"Luis has progressed immensely in the adaptation," added Pareja. "The group has accepted him very well and he has accepted the group very well, and accepted the routines that we have. We're all happy to have Luis within this group."
Zapata was nicknamed "el Morumbi" after scoring the game-winning goal for Millionarios against Brazilian powerhouse Sao Paolo in the 2007 Copa Sudeamericana quarterfinals, which was played in Sao Paolo's Estadio Morumbi. He said he doesn't have a nickname yet with the Rapids, but has been well received by his new teammates.
"From the first day I arrived I was welcomed by a group of players that made me feel at home," he said. "When you find a group like this that gets along well, you gain confidence. It's been a great experience so far and think it will only get better each day."
Zapata fills a need in a position that has been platooned the past few seasons.
"We're happy because Luis gives us a solid option on that side of the field," said Pareja. "He is a left back with a left sided profile, which is what we were after. We wanted a left back that was in his natural position."
The 32-year old likes to push into the attack, and he's been getting a lot of work in training in taking corner kicks and free kicks.
"I try to support the team from the left flank and be an offensive outlet, when it's there," he said. "But my priority as a left back is to be responsible for my defensve mark."
He will be officially added to the roster upon receipt of his International Transfer Certificate and visa.