Commerce City, Colo. - Today, January 11, 2012, marks the 10 year anniversary of one of the busiest days in Colorado Rapids history. On this day in 2002, the Rapids acquired midfielders Pablo Mastroeni, Chris Henderson, Kyle Beckerman, and Mark Chung. And before the day was over, the club had also traded team captain, Marcelo Balboa.
Early in 2002, Major League Soccer made the decision to contract the two Florida franchises, the Tampa Bay Mutiny and Miami Fusion. In order to accommodate the players from those teams, the MLS Competition Committee approved allocations, and the selection order for the remaining teams wanting to pick up players from the two discontinued teams. Since the Rapids failed to qualify for the 2001 playoffs, the Committee assigned the Rapids the first overall pick. Colorado was also assigned the 4th pick due to the fact the team had not used their previous year's allocation.
On a conference call with the League office and the remaining teams, Rapids General Manager Dan Counce and head coach Tim Hankinson selected Miami midfielder Pablo Mastroeni with the first overall pick. The team then traded the 4th pick to the MetroStars (now New York Red Bulls) in exchange for All-Star left-sided midfielder Mark Chung and two draft picks.
When round two came up, Colorado used the first pick to take Chris Henderson, bringing back the midfielder who was part of the inaugural Rapids team and part of the 1997 side that advanced to MLS Cup. In the third round, the Rapids took a relatively unknown youngster - in terms of the pro game - by the name of Kyle Beckerman.
The excitement of the day was tempered later on when the club traded All-Star defender and the face of the team, Balboa, to New York in exchange for two draft picks.
As history would show, the day set the stage for the next tens years for the Rapids. And, little did anyone know that two players acquired that day would be instrumental in helping the club win their first championship.
Let's recap: An injury prevented Balboa from playing for the MetroStars and he made his only appearance in the final game of the season before calling it a career. Meanwhile, in Colorado, Chung enjoyed his most successful stint in MLS by twice being named to the MLS Best XI team. Henderson would go on to set numerous club records - including total minutes and games played and started - only to see those records later claimed by Mastroeni. And Beckerman enjoyed great years with the Rapids before being traded to rivals Real Salt Lake in the prime of his career for Mehdi Ballouchy. A few years later, the Rapids traded Ballouchy to New York in exchange for Mac Kandji. As the Rapids faithful remember, it was Kandji's attempted cross in overtime of MLS Cup 2010 which was deflected in to give the Rapids the 2-1 lead and first-ever MLS Cup Championship.