COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – It’s been nearly three weeks since the Colorado Rapids played a league match, and the team will have a different look and feel when they return to action on Sunday against Sporting Kansas City (7 pm ET | FS1, FOX Deportes in US, MLS LIVE in Canada).
During Colorado’s break from league play, Minnesota United FC acquired two major pieces from the Rapids in veterans Marc Burch and team captain Sam Cronin, two regular starters with a combined 19 years of MLS experience under their belts.
But for Rapids head coach Pablo Mastroeni, it was a painful, if necessary, move for the long-term improvement of his club.
“You’ve got to take in a lot of different variables,” Mastroeni said of the moves. “We have people in the building that we believe can grow into [those positions], pull the team forward in the long term, and allow some of these guys that have been in the league for three, four, five years now to grow up a little bit more and take some more leadership responsibility.”
From Minnesota, the Rapids announced the acquisition of midfielder Mohammed Saeid, attacker Josh Gatt and an international roster spot. With the moves, Colorado’s roster profile shifted to younger and more attack-oriented.
Mastroeni was high on the new additions saying, “Josh is a player that has European experience. He’s had some injuries, but he’s been on the bright side of that coming into training. Mo is box-to-box, but more so in the attacking sense. He can find a pass in the midfield, slow down the pace of the game, and combine really well.”
Additionally, with the departure of Cronin, offseason signing Bismark “Nana” Adjei-Boateng is now expected be the team’s regular starter in a deep-lying midfield role. The 22-year-old product of Manchester City and top-tier Norwegian side Stromsgodset featured as a substitute in the Rapids' 2-2 draw against Minnesota on March 18.
“If a guy like Nana goes in there, he’s a more forward-thinking player,” Mastroeni said of Boateng. “He drives with the ball, he’s more powerful with the ball, he moves the ball up the field, and he’s scored some goals in his career as well. That push in the final third is the piece that we really want to continue to work towards.”
Mastroeni will also look to replace Cronin in filling the team’s vacancy at captain. He explained that he’ll be exploring a variety of options, but would make a final decision later in the week.
Likely options include veterans Kevin Doyle and Bobby Burling, who have previously worn the armband for Colorado, as well as goalkeeper Tim Howard, who has donned the armband during his time with both the US national team and with Everton in the English Premier League.
Time will tell whether the moves will pay dividends for Colorado. Yet despite the sting from the loss of two key contributors to last season’s successful campaign, the outlook remains optimistic within the confines of Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
“We felt that we have the players in the building that can help move this group in the direction that we want to continue moving in,” said Mastroeni. “It wasn’t that Burchy and Sam weren’t doing that. But it’s about when is the right time to make these moves for the future. There’s never a right time.”