It’s been a productive winter for the Colorado Rapids. Executive VP & General Manager Padraig Smith was able to keep the bulk of last year’s core group together and add a few talented pieces, and Thursday’s 2021 MLS SuperDraft presented by adidas offers plenty more opportunity.
The Rapids have four picks – including two in the first round, thanks to Smith’s maneuvering. Colorado holds the sixth pick, acquired via trade with Chicago, and traded from 15 to 21 to get Michael Barrios from Dallas earlier this week. Colorado also holds the 15th pick in rounds two and three of the newly shortened SuperDraft.
“The SuperDraft continues to be a valuable mechanism to acquire players in this league, and I think every single year you see a number of players that come through and contribute to teams,” Smith said to MLSSoccer.com reporters.
At the start of the offseason, Smith said the team was looking to add a strong combination of youthfulness, experience and talent and, in addition, wanted to provide depth in all of the key positions. With two first round selections and one in the top ten, the club has options. They can use these selections as a potential lure in a trade, draft a player and in turn trade him, or add a potential longterm asset.
Colorado's ability to find and develop draft talent is proven. In 2019, the Rapids took eventual 2019 AT&T MLS Rookie of the Year Andre Shinyashiki from the University of Denver at fifth overall after agreeing to a trade with Chicago Fire FC. With the trade, the Rapids moved up ten spots in the draft in exchange sent the 15th pick and $100K in GAM to the Chicago. Shinyashiki finished his rookie year with 31 appearances, 18 starts, and scored seven goals and added three assists in that span. The São Paulo, Brazil, native proved his worth as an impact player with over half of his goals ultimately being game-winning or game-equalizing goals. The Rapids compiled an unbeaten 6-0-3 record in regular season matches where he recorded either a goal or an assist.
In 2020, Colorado traded for North Carolina defender Jeremy Kelly immediately after he was taken ninth overall by Montreal, and he showed promise in eight appearances as a rookie last year. Kelly is an agile right back who makes quick decisions when the ball is at his feet and can impact both sides of the pitch. The 23-year-old defender demonstrated this during the club's 5-0 win over Real Salt Lake, when he set up Cole Bassett's goal in the 88th minutes.
In 2013, Colorado drafted Deshorn Brown, who scored 20 goals for the Rapids between 2013 and 2015, as well as Dillon Powers, who went on to win 2013 MLS Rookie of the Year. In 2014, at 12th overall, the Rapids picked up Marlon Hairston, who made 95 regular season appearances in Burgundy and was a key piece in their run to the 2016 Western Conference Final. And in 2015, Colorado picked up Axel Sjöberg, a 2016 MLS Best XI center back, and found a diamond in the fourth-round rough in Dominique Badji, who bagged 24 goals and 12 assists in four seasons with Colorado.
“There's a lot of different options, and, ultimately, if you take a very holistic approach to it I think you can always put in place the right developmental pathway, so that they're going to be in an environment where they can reach their maximum potential,” Smith said.
In addition, the Rapids have had success in acquiring former SuperDraft selections. Rapids winger Jonathan Lewis and defender Lalas Abubakar who were selected third and fifth overall, respectively, before joining Colorado in 2019. Lewis, 23-year-old striker makes significant impact whenever he steps on the pitch. In 2020, Lewis scored seven goals in only 705 minutes and was presented the Colorado Rapids Golden Boot Award. Abubakar, 26-year-old central defender started every game last season and scored his first goal, the equalizer, in Rapids' 1-1 tie against Houston Dynamo on September 9. Overall, they have been significant players on the Rapids roster since they arrived.
Who will be next?
A full list of available players in the 2021 SuperDraft can be found here.