Written by: Ian Campbell
The Rapids were off to quick start to cement their position at the top of the league. The day after returning to Colorado with the MLS Cup, Julien Baudet and Danny Earls were traded to Seattle for Peter Vagenas. This was a move to reduce the number of international players on the Colorado roster. Under expansion draft rules, teams are only allowed to leave one international player exposed and protecting extra international players would have left others (like Matt Pickens) exposed. Baudet was nice enough to record a message to fans while at the rally last Tuesday and he will be welcome back at the Dick when he returns with Seattle. Danny Earls started 15 games in his first year in the MLS but was not a factor in the late playoff run. Vagenas’ age (32) and position (midfield) make it unlikely that he will crack the starting 11 on a regular basis but it is likely he will make appearances in the additional games the Rapids play as MLS Cup champions.
The Rapids protected 11 players leading up to the expansion draft: forwards Conor Casey, Omar Cummings, and Macoumba Kandji; midfielders Pablo Mastroeni, Jeff Larentowicz, Jamie Smith, and Brian Mullan; defenders Drew Moor, Kosuke Kimura, and Marvell Wynne,; along with goalkeeper Matt Pickens. The only player from the starting 11 in the MLS Cup left unprotected was Anthony Wallace. Wells Thompson, a key substitute in the postseason run, was also left with an uncertain future. Wallace was drafted by the Portland Timbers in the 4th round of the draft, but Colorado had already worked out a deal that would send Wallace back to the Rapids in exchange for allocation money. With a player drafted, Colorado was able to pull Thompson from the draft.
We were also able to pick up midfielder Sanna Nyassi from Vancouver (who had been drafted in the first round from Seattle). With the upcoming season adding games to the schedule, it was a great pickup for the team because Nyassi will provide additional depth at midfield for Gary Smith (whose substitutions had become routine). And that wasn’t the end of the action for the first week of the offseason. Joseph Nane was acquired from Toronto for a 3rd round pick in the 2012 draft with the Rapids again adding a midfield player for the upcoming season.
It seems almost repetitive to say it, but the Rapids are adding depth to the midfield. Technical Director Paul Bravo has repeatedly emphasized the difficulty of navigating through multiple competitions and the recent moves indicate that the Rapids plan on taking every competition seriously. Hopefully they can repeat the success of 2010 in 2011 and show the naysayers that it was no fluke.