It seems like just yesterday that the Colorado Rapids were lifting the MLS Cup trophy in front of adoring fans in downtown Denver. Now, preseason is just a few weeks away.
Head coach Gary Smith has spent the short period in between MLS Cup and now trying to refine his championship-winning squad. Some of that time was spent in his native England looking at prospects, and some of it was spent renegotiating deals with key players like Marvell Wynne and securing veteran Tyrone Marshall via the Re-Entry Draft. The club also signed defensive midfielder Joseph Nane from Toronto.
The next personnel moves could come during the 2011 SuperDraft to be held Jan. 13. Smith told MLSsoccer.com he is flying down to Florida on Jan. 6 to have a look at potential recruits in the MLS Combine, and added that the draft and all of its peripheral events are an opportunity to negotiate with other clubs to get the right prospects.
“There’s always an awful lot of movement down there [at the SuperDraft] and we will want to position ourselves so that we can try and force someone’s hand on one or two targets,” Smith told MLSsoccer.com.
One of those targets could well be a striker. Smith has made no secret of the fact he needs a back-up to Conor Casey and Omar Cummings, who is currently training with Aston Villa in England. Macoumba Kandji faces a lengthy recovery from the torn cruciate ligament he sustained in MLS Cup and is unlikely return until the summer at the earliest. Finally, Andre Akpan and Quincy Amarikwa remain trusted back-ups, particularly with the extended season involving CONCACAF Champions’ League games.
The Rapids players are due to report back to Colorado Jan. 24, with the first training sessions set to take place a couple of days later. Smith said part of the preseason could involve a trip to the United Kingdom, where the club has before held offseason training at the facilities of sister club Arsenal, including a 1-0 win against the Gunners' reserves.
Smith described the possibility of going to London for such a trip at the end of February or beginning of March as “very likely.”