Copa América: Colorado Rapids defender Moisë Bombito becoming Canada star


After Jesse Marsch was hired to lead the Canada men’s national team, Colorado Rapids head coach Chris Armas shared some advice with Moisë Bombito.

Having been on Marsch’s staff with the New York Red Bulls from 2015-18, Armas knew the importance of Bombito adapting to Canada’s new tactics before Copa América 2024.

“He pulled me aside and told me what kind of person and coach Marsch was and what I should expect. Everything he told me has been spot on,” Bombito told from an Atlanta hotel leading up to Canada’s tournament opener against Lionel Messi-led Argentina on Thursday (8 pm ET | FS1, TSN).

“Chris has done an unbelievable job helping me take out some of the stuff I was doing, not wrong, but extra, and switch it into simpler things. At the higher levels you go, it's not about how flashy you can be on the ball. It's just about how consistently you can make that right pass, how you can defend well and how you can win your duels.”

Breakout season

The 2024 MLS season has been formative for Bombito, a second-year pro. He’s now a core piece of Colorado’s backline, providing 2g/1a in 16 matches as the Rapids reemerge as a Western Conference contender.

It’s been a massive jump from a challenging rookie season, where he made just 11 league appearances for a last-place Rapids side after being selected third overall in the 2023 MLS SuperDraft presented by adidas.

As a youth player, few in Canadian soccer were familiar with Bombito before he joined the University of New Hampshire to play in the NCAA Division 1. Now, he’s a core CanMNT player.

“I still feel like I’m inexperienced, but with these big games, I’m going with the flow and playing with top players,” he said, looking to build on his first CanMNT experience at the 2023 Concacaf Gold Cup and Nations League. “Tactically, it helps me learn from these guys, and from my first year at the pro level, I’ve grown a little but need to keep going.”

The 6-foot-3 defender brings an intriguing profile, pairing blistering pace with a vital role in attacking transitions. Against Messi and Inter Miami CF in April, he clocked the top speed in the 2024 MLS season at 23.16 mph, while his 4.75 progressive passes per 90 minutes put him in the 85th percentile among MLS center backs, according to FBRef.

Settling into the Red Bull-esque 4-2-2-2 with Canada, Bombito started pre-tournament friendlies against the Netherlands and France, paired with former Vancouver Whitecaps FC defender Derek Cornelius. The new-look center-back duo was flanked by former Vancouver star Alphonso Davies, as well as former Nashville SC and CF Montréal standout Alistair Johnston.

Overall, 21 of the 26 players on Canada’s Copa América squad are active MLS players or shined in MLS before moving to Europe.

“When you look at [Tajon Buchanan], Davies and Cornelius they all came through MLS at one point,” Bombito said. “When you’re doing well, people are going to be looking and it's just a matter of how you can handle all that and the pressure. With the environment you're in, it just gets you ready for the next level.”

Facing Messi

Early in Marsch’s tenure, Bombito has faced world-class attackers like LAFC’s Olivier Giroud, Real Madrid’s Kylian Mbappe, and Bayer Leverkusen’s Jeremie Frimpong.

Now comes Messi, the 2022 World Cup champion and eight-time Ballon d’Or winner who leads MLS in goal contributions (12g/13a). Bombito, who helped Colorado earn a 2-2 draw at Miami earlier this year, isn’t intimidated by these opportunities.

“Every pro player wants to play against the best. When you get a chance early in your career, it's just a great way to go to those steps,” Bombito said. “When you play against a guy like Messi or Mbappe, they’ve got it all, to be honest. ... For me, just to understand how to position myself and deal with them, it's been good, and I just need to add more minutes against these guys.”

Marsch previously noted: “The fact that the MLS players have been around Messi now means they're probably not as much in awe of who he is and what he is, but I don't think it lessens the danger that he presents."

Bombito finds himself at a critical juncture with Canada, who soon make their Copa América debut and push toward co-hosting the 2026 FIFA World Cup. They’ll also get Group A Copa games against Peru (June 25) and Chile (June 29); each group’s top two teams reach the quarterfinals.

While there are tempered expectations outside the Canadian camp, quiet confidence is brewing among Les Rouges.

“I’m pretty confident that we can do something special in this tournament,” Bombito said. “Not a lot of people think that we can do something... but this is a bigger stage, and we think we can do something pretty special here.”