Gutman first impressions, anticipation of Navarro's arrival
In just over a week into the league's Summer Transfer Window, Pádraig Smith and the Rapids have added two new names to the club's roster: forward Rafael Navarro from Brazilian Serie A side SE Palmeiras and left back Andrew Gutman from Atlanta United.
While Navarro's talents on the pitch are yet to be seen, Andrew Gutman saw his first test at altitude since joining the roster on July 5, starting and playing the full 90 minutes in Colorado's 2-1 win over with visiting FC Dallas last Saturday.
"One of the first things we said to [Gutman] was, 'We need you to just come and have the same level of intensity and aggression that we've seen from you over your entire career in MLS and Scotland'," said Colorado Rapids President Pádraig Smith of the signing. "You bring in someone like Andrew, you're immediately on the front foot again, and you see that within two minutes of play, he was overlapping down the left hand side, you know, some of the challenges he went into...it's what's needed. We need to get back on the front foot, we need to show that intensity, that urgency, that aggression, and he certainly plays with that day in and day out. And that manifests itself in training and becomes infectious and it's what we talk about. It's who we are and we need more players who play like that."
Navarro, who was announced on Monday as the club's third Designated Player from defending Brazilian champions Palmeiras, is the other major addition in the week since the Secondary Transfer Window opened. The 23-year-old had long been under the Rapids' radar and was keen to make a move to MLS.
"He was so active and so determined to make this move. I think that spoke volumes for him... his knowledge of the league, his knowledge of the team, the way we play, I think it bodes well for what he's going to do here."
"When you're able to bring in a player like Rafael, it's gonna give the entire roster a boost in the same way that Andrew did... The group is excited about it, there's no doubt about that. And I think they're eager to see what they can bring to the table."
Pending approval of the Brazilian's P-1 visa and his acclimatization to the team, Smith is hopeful Navarro can make his Rapids debut in their opening Leagues Cup clash against Nashville SC on July 23. Andre Hilf, the club's language specialist, has been instrumental in the integration of Portuguese into training, film sessions, and games, translating coaching directions in real-time since he joined the club, and will continue to be an important asset to Navarro, according to Smith.
"[Navarro] is quite keen to make sure that he adapts to English as quickly as possible gets up to speed with everything. Andre has been with us for so long that he knows the system, he knows what we try to do. So it actually makes the translation a lot easier because he's been around the team for quite some time. I think when you see the way [Navarro] plays, his aggressiveness against the ball, in terms of his ability to press, you see the runs he likes to make, the way he can drop off and combine and set plays as well, I think he's going to fit right in."
Future of women's soccer in Colorado
On Tuesday, For Denver FC was introduced as a campaign to bring the women's game to Colorado. While still in its formative stages, Smith is excited by the continued growth of women's soccer both locally and beyond.
"I look at the women's game and sport here in Colorado and it's just had incredible growth over the last number of years," Smith said. "Colorado has such strong history [with women's soccer], it's obviously producing so many good players."
As the FIFA Women's World Cup is about to kick off in Australia and New Zealand, the Rapids take pride in seeing two Colorado natives on the United States' roster: Lindsey Horan (Golden) and Sophia Smith (Windsor). If not for her injury, Mallory Pugh would be a third. Horan was named co-captain of the defending World Cup champion squad alongside forward Alex Morgan for this year's tournament.
"We've been proud to host [the U.S. Women's National Team] here," Smith added. "You look at what's going on on the grassroots level, it's incredibly exciting. The growth of the women's game is something that we're keen to support—we're always going to look at our own opportunities in terms of how we can continue to support the growth of the women's game here in Colorado."
What's next in the transfer window?
With Gutman and Navarro on board and 20 days remaining in the transfer window, Smith is still eyeing a few potential changes to Colorado's roster.
"We want to be active and I think we want to be in a position to take advantage of what else is going on around the league. There are two positions in particular that we're focused on. I think we we are very likely to bring in a third player from outside the league."
"What we're not going to do is make a short-term decision. Whoever we bring in has to be able to impact both now, but more importantly, into the future. So we're not going to rush this. There's one player in particular we are really keen on, we've had good dialogue so far, but it's not there and we're going to be willing to wait to get the right player. We're having discussions with a number of teams about both incoming and outgoing [movements]. We'll be as active as we feel as needed to make the team better."
The club is also finalizing negotiations to bring back goalkeeper Marko Ilić on a permanent basis. The Serbian international has made three regular-season appearances with the Rapids since joining the club on loan in February.