Finding The Balance Between Prospects And Proven
It was said of Max Alves when the Colorado Rapids signed him last January: “We’re excited to add a player of his quality and potential to our group heading into next season.”
When the Rapids parted with as much as $850,000 for Gustavo Vallecilla at the end of March, it was suggested: “Gustavo is a young, explosive defender who is one of the top center back prospects in the country.”
Ralph Priso was involved in the trade which took Mark-Anthony Kaye to Toronto in early July: “… and we believe Priso is as good, if not the best number six prospect in the country."
Kevin Cabral has, so far, been the big offseason signing, arriving from LA Galaxy for $1m in General Allocation Money. He will occupy a Designated Player spot. “He’s an exciting player with all the necessary qualities to be an impact player in MLS, and yet at 23, still has room for continued development.”
And most recently, Calvin Harris joined from Cincy for as much as $375,000 in GAM: “Calvin is a versatile and dynamic forward who has only begun to scratch the surface of his potential.”
Prospects and players with potential are all well and good, as long as mixed in with proven assets. With the Rapids needing as many as four starters in various positions, including center back, left back, central midfield, and striker, and coming off the back of a backwards step kind of season, the need for tried and trusted is quite high.
When I hear the words ‘prospect’ and ‘potential’, I tend to view it as a ploy to not raise the expectation of fans too much. If the player excels, then the club is viewed as magicians, and if the player takes time to adapt, then - well - we were already prepared to be patient. Kind of hedging their bets.
It’s clear that ownership is not going to drop millions on players. That increases the need to seek out players who fall into the very category of ‘prospect’ or player with ‘potential’. That makes the club’s desire to be a perennial playoff team a little hit and miss, and/or can often take time to bear fruit.
But to truly be that perennial playoff team, at some point there has to be a decent smattering of signings with the resume to get the pulses racing, and for their body of work to suggest they can slide into the starting 11 from game one.
There’s still time, of course, but the players mentioned in this article represent a big chunk of the signings made by the club over the past 12 months. Of the others, Aboubacar Keita was sadly injured for all of 2022, while Felipe Gutierrez and Gyasi Zardes - two players who fit the tried and tested mold - have moved on.
In midfield pairing Bryan Acosta and Sam Nicholson the Rapids retained a couple of their experienced signings from 2022, but the numbers suggest they are the exception rather than the norm.
So, as much as fans will be patient with those young players adjusting to new surroundings, the prospects and potential policy has to be run in parallel with acquiring ready-to-go, proven starters who can help 2023 be a far better experience than 2022.