COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – Reinforcements are starting to arrive at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
With the transfer window open and the MLS SuperDraft looming, the Colorado Rapids continue to build for 2017, announcing a pair of Homegrown signings in center back Kortne Ford and midfielder Ricardo Perez. This marked the next step in the Rapids front office plan, kicked off by returning a majority of players from a successful 2016 campaign.
“One of the first things we tried to target this year is make sure we had a lot of continuity and consistency,” Rapids sporting director Padraig Smith told reporters on Friday. “We had a very successful season last year, even though it wasn’t as successful as we would’ve wanted. But I feel we have a very strong nucleus and a strong foundation on which to build upon.”
Head coach Pablo Mastroeni echoed these sentiments, noting the 2016 season marked an important stepping-stone for the Rapids. "Bringing back a great group of guys and a core group of guys," he said, "the expectation is that we stay in form and we continue to build a great product that can sustain success for many years to come.”
Perhaps most important? Colorado will bring back their back six from a defense which conceded a league-low 32 goals in 2016. Still, both Mastroeni and Smith acknowledged areas of improvement for the upcoming season.
“We’re looking to fortify every position, really,” said Mastroeni. “I think a lot of times, you set your sights on a position, and that player isn’t available during this transfer window. So it’s important for us to be open-minded and look to improve at every single position on the field. We’re scouring the globe and [the front office] is doing a fantastic job of making sure we’re finding the best fit for this group.”
At the top of the agenda is a pressing need to fill an open Designated Player spot and the void left by the departure of Jermaine Jones, whose rights were traded to LA this off-season. The Rapids have been recently linked with 22-year-old Ghanaian midfielder Bismark Adjei-Boateng of Manchester City as a replacement option.
The team would not provide comment specifically on Boateng, but Smith did confirm the Rapids’ global search for attacking targets.
“We would like to score more goals, so we’ll be looking to add in the attacking area. But every position we’ll look to improve upon,” Smith said. “We’ve identified certain targets in the market. We’re making sure that the targets we bring in fit in with the culture we’ve got here and on the field.”
While both Smith and Mastroeni conceded that it will be difficult to find a like for like replacement for Jones, they hope to find a player with similar attributes, including power, pace and a will to win.
“You try to see and identify what positive attributes he really brought into the game and the team and try to identify that in other players,” explained Smith. “[Jones] was great; we were happy to have him for the year, but I think it was the best decision for us to move on at this point. We’re confident that we’re going to be able to bring in additional players that will make this team better.”