The Colorado Rapids dipped back into the trade market once again, this time for their most opulent expense of all.
The Rapids made waves this week, acquiring Mark-Anthony Kaye in a trade with LAFC in exchange for $1 million General Allocation Money, a 2022 international roster spot and the potential for further incentives.
Part of Colorado’s roster-building strategy focuses on adding intriguing talents from around MLS, dubbed by some as “distressed assets,” be it talented youngsters blocked by a lack of consistent playing time, those looking for new contracts, or players available for cheaper than the Rapids’ valued them. Kellyn Acosta, Jonathan Lewis, Auston Trusty, Lalas Abubakar, Diego Rubio, Michael Barrios and Keegan Rosenberry all fit the mold.
Kaye’s haul is easily the most expensive of the bunch as the price wasn’t cheap, but the Rapids believe it’ll be plenty worthwhile.
“From a character standpoint, it was an easy choice. As a player, it was an easy choice,” head coach Robin Fraser succinctly told media on a virtual press conference.
Kaye was a long-term target of the club.
The 26-year-old Canadian international made 77 appearances over three-and-a-half seasons with LAFC, including as an integral member of their 2019 record-setting team. He won the 2019 Supporters’ Shield with the Black & Gold and helped lead them to the 2020 Concacaf Champions League final. During his time with Louisville City, he won USL Cup in 2017.
“Mark-Anthony Kaye is a player we’ve been looking at for quite some time,” EVP & GM Padraig Smith said. “As everybody knows now, we’re quite keen on trying to bring in players who elevate the whole group. We talk about winning as a team and we felt he was a really good fit for this group. Someone who could come in, add to what we’ve been building over the last number of years. We targeted him for quite some time. It took longer than we wanted to get him, but we’re glad to have him in now.”
Kaye will slot into Fraser’s strongest XI when he returns from this summer's Concacaf Gold Cup. He elevates an already strong central midfield depth chart that's led by Acosta, veteran Jack Price and rising homegrown talent Cole Bassett. Younes Namli, a Designated Player who's currently out with an ankle injury, can play centrally or out wide.
“He can do everything well,” Fraser said. “He can play fast, he can play in a crowded midfield. He can hold the ball. He hits very good final passes, he’s an intense defender and very good on set pieces. The opportunity to bring him in is certainly something we’ve talked about for a while. We think he’s going to be a really good fit for us."
The Rapids sit fourth in the Western Conference standings as the league nears its halfway point. They made the playoffs in 2020 and have been among MLS' top clubs in terms of points since May 2019 when they made a coaching change, relieving Anthony Hudson of his duties after picking up just two points over their first 11 matches of the season.
“We want winners at this club,” Smith said. “We haven’t been shy about what our ambitions are. When Robin talks about the quality of his character, that was one of the components we looked at. He’s been a big part of successful teams and had a big influence. Adding that to our group is something we’re delighted about.”
Rapids stay busy after Kaye deal
Kaye wasn’t the only acquisition this week for the Rapids, who remain busy during the Secondary Transfer Window.
On Thursday, the club acquired forward Dominique Badji from Nashville SC in exchange for $50,000 GAM that could rise to $100,000 GAM total. Badji previously featured for the club between 2015-18 and gives Fraser another option up top, alongside regulars Diego Rubio and Andre Shinyashiki.
“A lot of the moves we’ve made is about adding to our group,” Smith said. “We’re pleased with the group we have right now, but we don’t overlook opportunities to bring in new players and add to what we’ve got here, to put us in a position to be competitive. We’ve known Dom for a long time, we know what he’ll bring both off and on the field. It was a wonderful opportunity to add real depth to the group and manage a congested second half of the season.”
Colorado are also finalizing a deal to transfer left back Sam Vines to Belgian club Royal Antwerp in a deal worth up to $2 million and a sizeable sell-on clause, sources confirmed to MLSsoccer.com as first reported by The Athletic. Vines is still with the US men's national team at the Gold Cup.
They've been linked with left back Lucas Esteves from Palmeiras, while Bassett remains the subject of widespread interest from Europe.