2019 Preseason | Positional Preview | February 24, 2018

GOALKEEPERS

Players In

Players Out

  • Zac MacMath (trade with Vancouver)

Outlook:

In order to acquire do-it-all midfielder Nicolás Mezquida from Vancouver, the Rapids had to part ways with Zac MacMath who spent four seasons with the club. MacMath’s spot was quickly filled when the Rapids struck a deal with Toronto FC to land Clint Irwin, who spent three seasons with TFC after beginning his career in Colorado. In Irwin, the Rapids get an MLS veteran who’s immediately one of the best backups in MLS. Irwin is 29 years old and is a proven shot stopper entering the peak years of his career. Rapids fans will remember the 2015 season when Irwin won the starting job over MacMath and turned in a stellar year with several jaw-dropping performances earning him a spot on the MLS All-Star team. In 2019, Irwin will likely fill in for club captain Tim Howard a handful times in the U.S. Open Cup and other spot appearances. Should Howard be unavailable, head coach Anthony Hudson and his staff will feel at ease knowing Irwin won’t miss a beat when called upon.
 
The third goalkeeper spot was locked down when the Rapids acquired Andre Rawls in the first phase of the 2018 Re-Entry Draft. At 27 years old, Rawls is still a relatively young keeper with plenty of potential and will do well learning from Howard.
 
The newly formed connection with Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC should provide a chance for either of the backup keepers to get valuable minutes during the season.

 

 


 

What Hudson says:

“Obviously coming into his last year (Tim) and I think it is clear to everyone around him that he wants to win. He is desperate for us to be successful this year and that is translating in how he is training.”

"I have been really impressed by them (Clint and Andre) in training. They both have shown really strong signs in not only in their training but in the small sided games, 11v11 we are having, so I have been impressed with them.”  

 


 

DEFENDERS

Players In

Players Out

  • Edgar Castillo (trade with New England)
  • Marlon Hairston (trade with Houston)

Outlook:

In central defense, all four players atop the 2018 depth chart will return. Kortne Ford, Axel Sjöberg, Tommy Smith and Danny Wilson will battle for the two starting spots when the quartet is available for selection. Academy product Sam Raben has been loaned out to USL affiliate Colorado Springs and should become a valuable contributor for the Switchbacks as he continues to develop.

Two players invited to train with the Rapids in preseason were MLS veteran Kofi Opare and SuperDraft pick Jacob Hauser-Ramsey. If either were to be signed, they would add depth to the centerback position. 

*Editors note: It was announced that the Rapids signed Kofi Opare to a one-year contract on February 25, 2019. 


 

 


 

On the outside, the addition of Keegan Rosenberry makes the entire formation better – both in defense and in attack – immediately. The 25-year-old is as good a two-way player at the right back position in the league. He has the pace and technical ability to get forward and create all kinds of problems for opposing backlines. When paired with the new additions in the Rapids midfield, Roseberry’s addition will help lead to more quality chances when he charges forward to create an overload in numbers. He’s positionally and tactically excellent defending counter-attacks and relieving pressure along the back line. He’s a long-term solution for the club at a very difficult position to fill in MLS.

The left back slot is much more up in the air, but no less compelling. Deklan Wynne and Sam Vines entered the preseason in pole position but neither appears to have locked in the starting spot right away. Wynne provides a steady presence and depth across the entire back line, while the pace and technical ability of Vines provide loads of upside when he’s ready for regular MLS action. One other name to keep an eye out for on the outside over the course of the season: Dillon Serna. If head coach Anthony Hudson wants to get an additional attack-minded player on the field at any point Serna would be a superb option to fill the spot. The 24-year-old played in a similar position earlier in his career for the US U-23s and showed well during several preseason run-outs. 


 

 


 

What Hudson says:

“They (defenders) are important to start our attacks from the goalkeeper. They are key on how we want to play. I have been pleased on how we are working. We have to be organized as a unit, all of us on the same page, working for each other and having accountability. So, these are all the habits and work we are doing on the training pitch.”

“We brought in Keegan for a certain reason and in my view, he is one of the best fullbacks in the league. He is an attacking fullback and we want both fullbacks to join into the attack.”

 


 

MIDFIELDERS

Players In

Players Out

  • Giles Barnes (option declined)
  • Sam Hamilton (option declined)
  • Enzo Martinez (option declined)
  • Ricardo Perez (option declined)

Outlook:

This offseason, the Rapids added two creative, veteran MLS playmakers to an already deep player pool in midfield. Feilhaber spent last season with LAFC and his signing was announced as part of a busy MLS SuperDraft day capping an impressive mid-December to mid-January run for the front office. In Feilhaber, the Rapids get a leader on and off the field - wherever the 34-year-old has played, he’s been part of winning sides. Depending on the game situation Feilhaber’s skillset could be most effective in the number eight role as a link between the defense and attack or drifting into a more attack-minded number 10 spot underneath the strikers in a 4-4-2 formation. One thing is for sure – wherever he plays he’ll be a key leader on and off the field for the 2019 side.

Mezquida was an offseason target for the Rapids and he’s impressed both teammates and coaches during preseason games and training sessions. The 27-year-old Uruguayan is very clean on the ball and has the workrate to fit the system Hudson and his staff want to play. Mezquida’s relationship with the other newcomers as well as fellow midfielders Jack Price and Kellyn Acosta will be an important one as the Rapids look to secure points early in the season.


 

 


 

The aforementioned Price begins his second season with the club and is a critical puzzle piece to the employ the possession-based style of play Hudson desires. His vision and passing ability are crucial in breaking pressure and linking the defense up through midfield and into attack.

Acosta enters his first full season with the club looking to again secure himself in the conversation among the best in MLS. When the Rapids were most dangerous in 2018, Acosta was leading the charge through midfield creating chances in and around the box. The increased level of talent around Acosta should free up space for him to operate and impact the game in 2019.

Cole Bassett, Sam Nicholson, Dillon Serna, Johan Blomberg and Nana Boateng provide plenty of depth across the middle of the park. Of that group, fans will be most interested in Bassett’s progression as the season unfolds. There will be ups and downs, but Bassett’s opportunity to learn from Acosta and Feilhaber every day will certainly have an impact on his development. Nicholson is as dangerous as any player on the current roster with the ball at his feet. Look for him to impact games in the second half, and in different spots across the formation. 


 

 


 

What Hudson says:

“The thought of building a team around the players we have here is really exciting for me. My challenge now from the start of preseason until the start of this season is to make sure our midfield is on the same page, play together and build relationship among each other. When you have more quality and some of the experiences we have, it makes my job a lot easier because things are picked up a lot quicker.”  

 


 

FORWARD

Players In

Players Out

  • Jack McBean (option declined)
  • Yannick Boli (option declined)
  • Caleb Calvert (option declined)

Outlook:

It was no secret the Rapids had trouble scoring goals in 2018, and it was clearly a priority to add quality attacking players during the offseason. Kamara is one of the most accomplished scorers in MLS history with over 100 career goals to his name. The 34-year-old still has plenty of bounce in his step and is as dangerous around goal as they come in MLS.

Kamara’s first-choice strike partner, Rubio, was acquired in a trade with Sporting KC and brings an impressive goals-per-90-minute ratio from his 2018 campaign where he trailed only Zlatan Ibrahimovic (LA Galaxy) and Josef Martinez (Atlanta United) in the category. He’s a speedy, creative player who’s lethal when he gets even a half-chance on goal. His partnership with the midfield and his strike partner will be among the most intriguing storylines early in the season.

The Rapids traded up to select University of Denver product Andre Shinyashiki with the fifth overall pick in the MLS SuperDraft. The 23-year-old has quickly impressed in preseason. For him to score goals or generate assists anywhere near the rate he did at the college level, he’ll need to adapt to the MLS pace of play with the ball at his feet.

Shkëlzen Gashi enters his fourth season with the club and the 30-year-old obviously has the ability to impact games in a number of ways. When he’s on the field, he too will be awarded more space to operate with increased talent around the park. Gashi has been sidelined by injuries in recent years but if he can stay healthy and push for minutes, it will make this striker group one of the deepest in Rapids history. Hundley and Jackson will add depth and pace at the position while pushing the group for minutes.

 


 

 


 

What Hudson says:

“We are in a fortunate position because we have a couple of experienced players and we have some young hungry players that are coming through that we all fully believe in.”

“Kei and Diego were two main targets (this offseason). Not only are they goal-scorers but they were high on our list because they know the league, score goals in the league and equally is important they were both strong characters.”

“Diego is a hungry striker that has really done well. He is fitting in immediately. He has really had a ‘team first mentality’ and he is working for the team. He has been brilliant in front of the goal, but the most impressive thing is that he has come in and just has been working for the team.”


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