Rapids close to deal to land Chilean midfielder Harbottle

The Colorado Rapids are hoping they’ve uncovered yet another diamond in the South American rough.

A source familiar with the negoitations told MLSsoccer.com that the team is close to finalizing the acquisition of Chilean attacking midfielder Kevin Harbottle on a free transfer from Chilean powerhouse Universidad Católica.

The Colorado Rapids declined to comment when contacted by MLSsoccer.com.

The expected move is part of a continued overhaul this offseason at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. After disposing of once-core veterans Conor Casey, Omar Cummings and Tyrone Marshall earlier this offseason, the Rapids have already signed Ecuadorian international defender Diego Calderón, traded for Edson Buddle and Atiba Harris and, now, could be on the verge of acquiring the skillful Harbottle.

The acquisition of the 22-year-old would also be the latest in a continued string of Latin American-based signings for team technical director Paul Bravo as Colorado look to add skill and youth to their  4-3-3 tactical look. After the arrival of Colombian Oscar Pareja as head coach last January, the Rapids have brought in a slew of South Americans, including last year’s leading scorer Jaime Castrillón, leading assist man Martín Rivero, starting holding midfielder Hendry Thomas and last year’s starting left back, Luis Zapata.

The Rapids are pushing for skilled, youthful and attack-minded players for what they perceive as a better fit for Pareja’s 4-3-3, and Harbottle can play either left or right wing, or as an underneath striker in a 4-4-1-1 formation. Harbottle is expected to push Castrillón, youngster Tony Cascio, Kamani Hill, newcomer Harris and possibly even Rivero for a spot in Pareja’s starting lineup.

The diminutive Harbottle (at 5-foot-5, he would be the shortest player on the Rapids roster) scored five goals in 32 league appearances for Católica, but he struggled to find playing time during the recently completed Clausura, notching just three substitute appearances.

But prior to his disappointing campaign, Harbottle was seen as one of Chile’s top young talents, even earning an international cap for the national team in a 2010 World Cup warmup match against Trinidad and Tobago.

Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.