The Addressing Pragmatic Needs-Draft.
My thoughts on Colorado and the Superdraft
Benjamin Kowalsky
Jan 16th 2011

My evaluation of the Superdraft:

I was underwhelmed, but I don’t think the Rapids went into the Draft to WOW me. They approached the draft pragmatically, addressing our need for versatile defenders; rather than going for needs, which I think would probably be better addressed through other recruiting avenues.

The first thing I have to get out of the way is that some Rapids fans, and Rapids critics, were disappointed that Colorado did not select an attacking midfielder in the mold of a David Ferreira, Javier Morales, or something like that.

The Rapids have a chance to really craft the position that I believe Davy Armstrong is going to someday own: the central advanced playmaker. The player with that golden touch. The Ronaldinho. The Kaka. We didn’t address that chance, and before I get into what I think about what we did during the draft, I just want to say why I think it’s not so bad that we didn’t do what we didn’t do.

People accuse Colorado of being a team that lacks creativity, I disagree with this assessment, but I can see why people say so. People are used to creativity coming from a traditional number 10. In seasons past, the Rapids were looking to Mehdi Ballouchy to be that number 10. He didn’t fulfill those expectations, and nor should we be surprised that he didn’t. Colorado’s creativity doesn’t come by the traditional number 10-playmaker, but from all sorts of different places.

In Jeff Larentowicz, we already have a playmaker that sits deep in the midfield. Anyone who tries to simplify Larentowicz’ game to simply being a disruptor of an opponent’s attack is missing out on what distinguishes Larentowicz from other holding midfielders: his distribution and passing touch.

Paired with Mastroeni as an unflappable box-to-box midfielder (as opposed to just a ball-winner or anchor man as has been his role in seasons past), it should have been no surprise to people that the Rapids made the final. Larentowicz’ versatility allowed Pablo to boss the midfield. No one could beat Colorado in the center of the park.

Another place where creativity was evident was Omar Cummings. Omar Cummings should never be reduced to only being a ‘speedy forward’. He does have speed, but over the past four seasons with the Rapids he has developed a keen creativity and vision for a play that makes him as close to a forward playmaker as any in Colorado’s history.

Did the Rapids really need to get a player who fills that number 10 role? No. And if you’re going into the Draft looking for that kind of player, you’ve got your work cut out for you, because it’s not like they come out ready-made. These sorts of number 10 players are valuable precisely because they are rare, and take many seasons of battle-testing before they come into their own (see: Omar Cummings). The romantic idea that you’re somehow going to go into a Draft and get a kid who is ready to step up and be that iconic number 10 playmaker is just that—a romantic idea.

So enough about what the Rapids didn’t do. What about what the Rapids did?

We addressed our need for defenders. Plain and simple.

We ended up with two defenders at the end of the day. It’s a good idea to take two, just in case one of them doesn’t end up working out: UNC product Eddie Ababio and Michigan State product Colin Givens. Of the two, I’d say Ababio is the more exciting prospect as an attacking Fullback, but Givens looks to be a hard worker so he could work out just fine as well.

With the needs at the back being addressed, Gary Smith and his company still need to work out the following in this off season:

1) Sort out the future of the current squad: if Jeff Plush wants to keep a winning squad then he has to find a way to keep them happy. Does this mean a round of new contracts? Maybe some bonuses? Either way, the players worked hard for the Club and now the Club has to reward them appropriately. Fans will be pleased to know how the boys are being rewarded for a job well done.

2) Figure out a starting Left Back: Is Wally our permanent solution to our Left Back position? Or is it perhaps Jordan Stewart (the ‘mystery player’ who is currently under contract till this summer in Greece)? Left Back is not an easy position to fill, and Wally still needs time to build up his skills. What do we do in the meantime?

3) Sign five more players: We’ve got maybe 25 guys on our roster, if both of our Draft picks end up signing pro contracts with us. That leaves 5 more spots open for Gary to fill. And fill them he must, because next year brings with it Champions League challenges, and Colorado fans will be expecting that their Club will be up to the task.

4) Take advantage of the momentum: Can the FO take advantage of the momentum gained at the end of 2011 and turn this club into constant big news even in a crowded sports market like Denver? In terms of the management team, are they going to bring in some exciting new talent to town? Everyone knows my suggestions (Diskerudd, please let it be Diskeruud), but who knows what the FO has in their hand?

Hopefully, the moves that the FO makes in the off-season are as much exciting as they are practical. The Superdraft left me feeling a bit underwhelmed, but the Nyassi move during the horrible experience that is the Expansion Draft made me hopeful. The Management’s next moves will let Rapids fans know whether or not the FO regards this year as merely the pinnacle of what the Club is able to achieve, or the beginning of Colorado’s ascent to sustained greatness.

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