Colorado Rapids Academy dominates first half of the 2023-24 MLS NEXT season


The Rapids Academy has had a fantastic start to the 2023-24 MLS NEXT season with all three academy teams (U-14, U-15, U-17) sitting in the top three of the standings for their respective divisions. The first half of the season has been marked by impressive individual performances, a strong showing at this year’s MLS NEXT Fest and the potential for continued growth in the second half of the season. Plenty more is on the horizon for the Rapids Academy as the teams prepare to kick off their 2024 campaign.

Rapids Academy U-14s

The youngest of the Rapids Academy squads has impressed in league play this season, putting up a record of 6-2-2 to solidify their third place position in the Frontier Division. 

The U-14s currently sit at the top of the table thanks in part to a strong defensive showing from starting goalkeepers Eithan Valdez and Eli Granatowski. The set of keepers have combined to keep a clean sheet in 50 percent of the U-14's games this season with Valdez recording four clean sheets and Granatowski with one clean sheet. In addition, the defense currently boasts the second best goals against average (.70) in the Frontier Division and the fourth best average in the entire league, having only conceded seven goals in 2023. 

On the attacking front, the U-14s have yet again stood out among the rest of the teams in the Frontier Division, putting up a goals per match average of 2.40. So far this season, the team has scored 24 goals in 10 matches with forward DJ Hornak leading the team with 11 goals. Following Hornak in goal scoring is Gabriel Garcia who racked up three goals for the U-14s in 2023. The team’s standout playmaker this season is Colson Lewis who has added three assists to his offensive stats while Hornak, Garcia, Dylan Zamorano, Nathan Tchoumba and Nolan Nguyen have all added two assists apiece. 

Highlighting the U-14's successful run has been the involvement of the team’s underage players who have put up significant minutes this season to help the team to its third place standing. Among those players are Aiden Appiah, Gabriel Pinedo, Juan Escobar and Alan Macias, all of who have made an impact on the U-14’s winning ways. 

Rapids Academy U-15s

The Rapids U-15s have been unstoppable during the start of the 2023-24 season, having only dropped one match so far this season. The team currently stands in first place in the West Division of the MLS NEXT Pro Pathway with an undefeated 5-0-3 record. On top of their first place standing, the team sits in third in MLS NEXT Flex with a record of 5-1-1. 

The Rapids’ attacking presence has been unmatched as they boast the highest goals per match average (2.00) in the West Division in the MLS NEXT Pro Pathway. So far this season, the U-15s have put away 30 goals across all competitions with forward Owen Malick leading the way with eight goals to his name. Trailing Malick in goals is Alex Hernandez with five goals, Edgar Heredia with four goals and first-year Rapids player Jordan Camacho with three goals. Malick, Heredia and Camacho have also combined to add nine assists this season with Camacho leading the charge with four assists. 

The U-15’s leading goal scorer Malick has not only impressed at the league level but also at the international level. Malick received a call up to the U.S. U-16 Men’s Youth National Team for a domestic training camp earlier this year and continues to fight for more recognition in the international game. 

The U-15’s defense is led by goalkeepers Diego Ambriz and Dash Williams. Ambriz and Williams have been major players for the Burgundy Boys with both keepers posting three clean sheets apiece to bring the U-15’s total to six in 2023. One of the top clean sheet performances of the season came during the team’s 1-0 win over San Jose Earthquakes, which saw the U-15s defeat the number one team in the standings at the time of the match. 

In addition to on field performances, the current online schooling program is made up of 50 percent of the U-15 squad. The team’s rigorous training and competition schedule is complimented by a strong performance off the pitch within their studies where the online schoolers accumulated a cumulative 3.6 GPA at the end of the fall season. 

Rapids Academy U-17s

The Rapids U-17s started the year by adding nine new faces to the team, including U.S. Youth National Team goalkeeper Zachary Campagnolo and top goalscorers Colton Swan, Maxim Scordo and Rogelio Garcia. Since then, the team has seen major success across the course of the season as they currently sit in a third place standing in the West Division in the MLS NEXT Pro Pathway with a 4-1-3 record and a second place position in the Frontier Division for MLS NEXT Flex with a 5-2-0 record. 

On the attacking front, the team has managed to put up 33 goals this season and maintains the second highest goals per match average (2.57) in their division in MLS NEXT Flex. A majority of the team’s goals have come from the run of play (15 goals), however the U-17s have proven to be proficient in converting set piece opportunities with seven goals coming off of set plays. A standout among the team’s and league’s attackers, newcomer Swan has scored 10 of the team’s 33 goals and has added five of the team’s 24 assists, leading the U-17s in both categories. Following Swan in goals scored this season are Garcia and Scordo who have each added six goals. The team’s top playmakers include midfielders Lucas Sarvas and Philip Pak who have added four and three assists, respectively. 

On the opposing end of the pitch, goalkeepers Campagnolo, Leo Medina and Kendall Starks have all shared responsibility between the sticks with Medina leading the charge with 1,180 minutes. In 15 matches, the keepers’ union has managed to concede only 17 goals while maintaining seven clean sheets. Medina has been a stalwart of the backline, recording a clean sheet in four of the nine matches he has played in. Meanwhile, Starks has been able to keep the opposition scoreless in the two matches he appeared in during the 2023 season. Center backs Jaden Chan-Tack and Maddox Brown have also been staples of the defense this season. Brown has recorded the second most minutes this season with 1,705 in total followed by Chan-Tack who has played 1,660 minutes. 

A major positive during the U-17’s current season has been individual player opportunities at the international level. Highlighting the team’s international experience was the involvement of goalkeeper Campagnolo in this year’s FIFA U-17 World Cup in Indonesia and defender Miguel Alvarado’s participation with the U.S. U-15 Men’s Youth National Team in their journey to become champions at the 2023 Concacaf Championship in the Dominican Republic. Alvarado was a mainstay of the U-15 national team during 2023, making nine appearances in total with the U.S. across all competitions. In addition, Chan-Tack recently joined Trinidad and Tobago’s U-20 National Team for training camp ahead of the upcoming Concacaf U20 Championship.