Defender Grant Van De Casteele arrived in Denver earlier this week, and had a locker of his own in the Rapids' locker room when most players arrived on Saturday morning for medical exams. The Notre Dame product is, in fact, already on the Rapids' roster, having been signed to a contract before the MLS SuperDraft ten days ago in Philadelphia.
Prior to the draft, Major League Soccer typically signs several underclassmen to "Generation adidas" contracts, as well as several seniors who clubs rate especially highly. Van De Casteele, on the heels of a strong final season with the NCAA National Champions, was in the selective second category.
"We knew that Grant had already been signed by MLS before we made that pick, and that fact actually made it more attractive, since we knew he'd would be under contract," said Rapids Technical Director Paul Bravo. "We're excited to have him on board, since we feel he's a guy who can give us depth in the back line and could even step in and play in year one."
Van De Casteele was not at the MLS SuperDraft, but rather was at home in the Dallas area, doing a workout to rid himself of some nerves when his name was called as the 19th overall pick.
"I was really excited once I found out that I was going to come to Colorado," said Van De Casteele. "Colorado was one of the places I really wanted to go to. I'm good friends with Dillon Powers and spoke to him all throughout last year, learned about his progress and journey and it seemed like a really good organization and place I would want to be."
The connection with Powers - which extends back to their time growing up in Dallas, as well as at Notre Dame - perhaps made Van De Casteele pay extra attention to Colorado in 2013. Watching his former college teammate, as well as others like Deshorn Brown, Chris Klute, and Shane O'Neill, gave him a good impression.
"I knew that the team had a good mix of veterans, but they also allowed a lot of young guys opportunities to play, and that's something that for a rookie is very exciting," said Van De Casteele. "The potential to have an impact on the team, to make a valid contribution to the team, to get good minutes and to continue to develop through the games, I'm excited about that opportunity."
Van De Casteele joins fellow first-round SuperDraft pick Marlon Hairston on the Rapids roster, while the other four Colorado picks from the draft (Jared Watts, John Berner, Tolani Ibikunle, Albert Edward) are unsigned and will have to earn a spot on the roster. The Rapids will have their first full team practice session on Wednesday at Dick's Sporting Goods Park, with the team then departing Colorado for a week-long stint in Houston on Friday morning.