Commentary: U.S. Soccer takes note of the Rapids’ youth movement

In 2013, the Rapids became known around MLS as a team that was brimming with young talent. As 2014 starts, it’s clear that the U.S. Soccer technical staff took notice as well.

Rapids defenders Chris Klute and Shane O’Neill were named on Friday to the roster for the United States Men’s National Team’s January training camp, giving the pair an opportunity to make an impact on a wider stage. The annual camp in California often allows some of the top young players in MLS to attempt to make the jump, and now Klute and O’Neill will get that chance.

Young Player of the Year

A year ago, both Klute and O’Neill had only made one MLS appearance, and neither was expected to get many minutes in 2013. But an injury to Diego Calderón on March 23 saw Klute come on at left back as a substitute, and he proceeded to start every match thereafter. By mid-summer, Klute was being honored by many national outlets as the best left-back in MLS, and he was already contributing assists regularly. O’Neill also came into the same match after a Drew Moor red card, and the only significant minutes he missed after that were due to his duties with the U.S. U-20 National Team at the FIFA U-20 World Cup.

The call-ups also showed the success of the scouting and development programs set up by Rapids Technical Director Paul Bravo. Klute originally joined the team on loan from the Atlanta Silverbacks under an arrangement that allowed the Rapids to acquire him permanently for little expense. O’Neill had made the jump from the Rapids Academy, becoming the Rapids’ then second-ever Homegrown Player.

As impressive as the inclusion of Klute and O’Neill is the discussion that will come from not seeing other Rapids players on the roster, like goalkeeper Clint Irwin and midfielder Dillon Powers. Those players also made big impacts in their first MLS seasons, and have been in discussions for future U.S. National Team call-ups. Powers was actually included in U.S. Soccer’s preliminary roster for the January camp, but his concussion at the end of 2013 disrupted his offseason training and he’ll instead start his preseason with the Rapids.

Defensive Player of the Year

The Rapids also have the personnel to continue building the tradition, looking at the Academy as well as Bravo and Pareja’s success in the MLS SuperDraft. Dillon Serna made his debut in the final regular season match and showed sparks similar to what Klute may have demonstrated a year earlier. Quentin Pearson has been turning heads with the Rapids U-16 and U-18’s, earning time with the U.S. Youth National Teams and getting the attention of the first team coaching staff. Time will tell what the 11th pick in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft could do for Colorado.

At least for the next month, Rapids fans will be paying extra attention to the U.S. National Team, hoping that a first cap could be in the card for one or both of the defenders on February 1 against Korea Republic. Perhaps a debut with the U.S. could lead these players to prove they can be just as valuable to their country as they are to their club.