SuperDraft Scouting: The Colorado Rapids’ Weak Hand

As anyone watching this space knows, I adopted two of Major League Soccer’s (MLS) original teams for the 2008 season: the Columbus Crew and the Colorado Rapids. Today, I’m going to make a stab at figuring what each team can or should do ahead of and/or during Friday’s SuperDraft. For simplicity’s sake, I’ll start with the Rapids.

And why would that be simpler? It could be down to the seeming absence of trading news coming out of Denver; the contrast with the comparatively hopping Ohio scene rather nicely sets up my planned narrative for the season. It could also be that I don’t see them getting up to much between here and Friday evening. I’m not alone in that: read through Steve Davis’ article for MLSnet.com about how unpredictable the smart set expects the ’08 SuperDraft to be and look for Colorado’s name; I know I didn’t find it, not even in the refuse heap acknowledged as “other teams?”

MLSnet.com hasn’t yet updated the order on the SuperDraft to reflect the latest (at least not that I know of), but the press release/article they sent out Monday showed Colorado with picks #5, 36, 47, and 49. That, however, may no longer hold: a somewhat stealthy aside on Soccer by Ives mentioned the Kansas City Wizards sending Jose Burciaga Jr. to Colorado in exchange for a pick. And, as I speculated in an earlier post, I’m guessing – or, rather, hoping for the sake of Burciaga’s ego – that the Rapids coughed up that #5 pick. So…assuming the Rapids did give up the #5 pick, that leaves them with picks #36, 47, and 49 – e.g. short of finding the Hope friggin’ Diamond in the rough, that’s not a lot to work with.

(UPDATE: In the comments, J Five passes on word that Colorado traded for a 2009 draft pick; further, arguably more direct, confirmation appears here.  Thanks to him for that. Given that, pay more attention to the stuff below that assumes the Rapids held on to the #5 pick. Don’t think that changes the big picture all that much, but, as they say, it beats a kick in the head.)

The next question is, what are they needs? Here, we have a couple things with which to work. First, there’s a “Murphy’s Law” column written by Rapids assistant coach John Murphy, a piece in which he gives away little more than a stripped-down draft-day philosophy. Other, more detailed thoughts on team-by-team needs come from an ESPN piece by Jeff Carlisle and, well, me in the form of my review of Colorado’s 2007. Here’s what we have/had to say, starting with Carlisle (who, y’know, pays more attention and takes less license with content, so do lend him your ear):

“The league’s worst defense in 2006 improved to third-best in 2007, but in the meantime, the attack sunk to near the bottom of the league. With that in mind, along with Conor Casey’s latest long-term injury, expect Clavijo to try to bolster his front line, especially since many of his current options seem to be midfielders masquerading as forwards.”

And now me:

“OK, here’s what this team needs in more practical terms: OFFENSE. Or, more specifically, a healthy Gomez and at least two good forwards; an understudy for Pablo Mastroeni, who doesn’t have that many years left; someone the coaching staff (preferably a new one) trusts in the playmaking role – the two guys filed under ‘Anyone Who Ought to Leave’ ain’t the answer.”

With that general agreement on needs – e.g. we both pegged forwards as a need, though one could expand that to “attackers” based on my comments – what comes next for Colorado? To answer the incoming part of the equation, I’ll lean on the SuperDraft scouting reports Buzz Carrick wrote up on the forwards and midfielders for ESPN; for potential trade-bait, I’ll check for some tasty, tasty excess fat on Colorado’s roster (and back that with a quick look at last year’s salary numbers, which can be downloaded from the MLS Players’ Union’s site).

So, what’s Colorado to do? By my count, there’s not much they can do if they chucked in the #5 pick (and whether Burciaga provides enough to make the exchange pencil out is something else again). Assuming they are only going to enter the game at #36, there’s every chance they’ll pick up a player off one of Carrick’s lists, but there’s an equal chance that anyone they pick up will be more a project than an MLS-ready player. In other words, someone better equipped to help Colorado pick up their third consecutive reserve division title as opposed to the team’s first MLS Cup.

This doesn’t mean Colorado is doomed to enter 2008 with the same team that limped out of 2007. There is some value on their roster, players they can use to trade up in the SuperDraft or just straight-up trade to fill an attacking need. Why, the could even engineer a swap with my other subject, the Crew, who, as Steve Davis points out, look to be shopping for a center back. Mike Petke, anyone? (At that salary…whoa, Columbus is better off hoping for one of Julius James or Andy Iro with that #6 pick.)

The hard truth about the Colorado roster is that they have an awkward mix of good, reasonably priced players they can’t afford to lose (think Terry Cooke) and mediocre/old, expensive players few teams would take (think, Pablo Mastroeni (file under “old”) and Jovan Kirovski (conceivably both)). They could try to bundle some of their high-upside youngsters (Colin Clark, Jacob Peterson, and Stephen Keel) to leverage a deal, but those are really, um, solid, economical players – e.g. the kind you get more value from keeping than trying to get something better from a trade, especially via the SuperDraft.

But say – hope, if you’re a Rapids fan – they did hold that #5 pick. Who would they take? Which position seems the more important? More to the point, who could they take? If it were up to me, I’d go with a forward, probably one in the beefy, Conor Casey mold – and pray all the while that Herculez Gomez doesn’t spend half the season injured. Knowing as little as I do about the SuperDraft class, I’d consider someone like Xavier Balc. From what I’ve read, he didn’t show all that well in the Combine, but I’d still risk the acquisition in hopes of getting a good “big/little” starting tandem. That’s just a gut-level thought, though; caveat lector.

Mmm…sorry, Colorado fans. Looks like the smart set is correct in thinking you’re in for a dull Friday. The Burciaga deal, assuming it comes through, could be all you get; and I wouldn’t look to him to solve your offensive woes, either. Hopefully, the front office has plans to lure in some new talent…preferably better and, um, thinner (ahem…Roberto Brown…cough, cough) than last year’s crop.

6 Responses

  1. I heard that the draft pick traded to KC was for the 2009 season

  2. Thanks for the catch, J Five. I’ll update the post. Fortunately, I least addressed the possibility in the above.

    And that sure makes more sense from Colorado’s perspective. Glad to hear their FO is not as dense as they often appear.

  3. […] 2008 season: I’ll cover the Crew’s drafty-day prospects in this post; the Colorado Rapid’s appears below. Consider this a stab at figuring what each team can or should do ahead of and/or during Friday’s […]

  4. I’m not sure who the Rapids should draft. I don’t follow the youth well enough to have a position on that. If I were the one making the choice I would draft not by immediate team positional needs but in terms of who I thought had the best potential to make it in the MLS.

  5. That’s a funny thing, Allen. Because, since writing this, I’ve been thinking roughly the same thing. What good is a forward who can’t cut it, right? To make the opposite case, though, the Rapids need help at forward yesterday and I’m not sure where else they’re going to get one who might make a difference right away. So, it’s worth a gamble, I guess, but it’s also definitely a gamble. Good point.

  6. […] just checked my pre-SuperDraft posts (Crew and Rapids) to confirm that neither team traded away their spots; looks like they both stood pat. Given where […]

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