Throughout preseason, we'll be breaking down the 2020 roster position by position. In our last installment, we're previewing the forwards.
The 2019 MLS Rookie of the Year was the fifth overall pick in the SuperDraft and made his MLS debut in the club’s home opener, where he scored a dramatic stoppage-time goal in what was the coldest game recorded in MLS history. Overall, Shinyashiki made 31 appearances for the Rapids, scoring seven goals and adding three assists.
In 2020, head coach Robin Fraser is looking for Shinyashiki to continue to be a versatile option either on the wing or in the center forward position where he played the majority of his career before last season.
“He is a really intelligent soccer player, and mostly what you see is the evolution of an intelligent soccer player, which is gaining more experience,” Fraser commented. “He has been learning to play other positions but he is so competitive and talented that when he is challenged to play in a different position, he quickly picks it up.”
The Rapids acquired Benezet from Toronto FC in February. The French winger has only been with the squad for a few weeks now, but Fraser already sees the potential he can bring to the attack.
“He is a really talented player,” Fraser said. “He knows where to be and how to get in perfect position to cause uncertainty for the other team. His technical game is superb and he is a great finisher.”
Benezet joined Toronto FC on loan from Guingamp of France’s Ligue 2 midway through the 2019 season and played a key role in helping TFC reach their third MLS Cup final in four seasons. The 28-year-old played in all of Toronto's playoff games in 2019, while scoring a massive equalizer in the Eastern Conference Finals. Overall, he made 12 appearances with Toronto and scored three goals.
Nicholson, 28, is entering his fifth season in Major League Soccer and his third with the Rapids. Nicholson's trademark pace and ability in one-versus-one situations make him a threat on the wing and as he cuts in on goal.
“Sam is one of the best 1v1 players in the league,” Fraser commented. “He is really good at beating players to the ball and has excellent timing to run behind players.”
In 2020, Nicholson will add pace and creativity to the deep pool of attacking players.
The 22-year-old forward arrived in Colorado mid-season via trade with NYCFC and made an immediate impact. In 2019, he featured in 16 games for the club, scoring five goals and adding three assists.
He started 2020 off by joining the USMNT in their January camp where he helped the US see out a 1-0 win over Costa Rica. Once his duties with the US concluded, he joined the Rapids in Orange County and hit the ground running.
“Jonathan is a very fast player and with good timing can be very dangerous for the other team,” Fraser said. “For him this year, it’s just a matter of coming consistent in the attacking end and defending end, but he has a really unique skillset that will be a constant threat throughout the year.”
The Chilean international forward enters his second season with the Rapids coming off a career year. The 26-year-old forward scored 11 goals in 25 starts while adding five assists for the Rapids in 2019. His nose for goal and physical style of play causes plenty of problems for the opposing defenses.
“Diego is strong and very competitive which makes him a great player,” Fraser comment. “He is very good on the ball and can link through midfield, and is a very good finisher.”
Kamara enters his 14th MLS season and brings with him a wealth of experience and leadership to the attacking group. On his day, he's still among the most dangerous center forwards in the league whether from the run of play or winning balls in the air. The Sierra Leone native scored 14 goals in 2019 and currently ranks inside the top five all-time in MLS goals scored.
“The biggest challenge for the forward group this year will be to calmly execute in the moment," Fraser said. "This group will put themselves in good goalscoring opportunities by the way they play, by the way they move, but it’s just the matter of everyone being calm as possible in the final moment."
Niki Jackson and Matt Hundley start off the season on loan with Memphis 901 FC and the Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC. They will both look to continue their development and make an impact with their USL sides.