The Colorado Rapids signed their first Designated Player ahead of the 2020 MLS season in Younes Namli. The attacking midfielder only enhances their strength: the attack.
At the conclusion of the 2019 MLS season, many questions remained for teams going forward regarding player acquisitions with ongoing CBA discussions that could change how rosters look and function within the league in the near future.
The offseason has brought a lot of roster movement as teams have gone through an expansion draft, re-entry draft, MLS SuperDraft, signings and player transfers. But while vast and expensive moves have been made around the league, the Colorado Rapids have been rather quiet.
Aside from the acquisition of Philadelphia Union homegrown defender Auston Trusty and a trade that brought Lalas Abubakar to Colorado permanently on November 20th, Colorado Rapids fans have been waiting patiently.
Their 2020 roster has begun to take shape as Colorado looks to return to the playoffs after failing to qualify since their western conference finals appearance back in 2016. The previous decade wasn’t a kind one in Colorado. They started it with an MLS Cup victory but then proceeded to qualify for the playoffs only three more times.
The club has attempted to start over, letting go of head coach Anthony Hudson just nine games into the season (a winless stretch for the Rapids) and locking in on former Chivas USA head coach and Toronto FC assistant Robin Fraser in late August. Fraser found success in the Rocky Mountains going 5-2-0 in his seven games in charge at the end of the season and, in Hudson’s absence, the Rapids looked like one of the better teams in MLS, going 8-7-3 in the second half of the season and winning seven of their last twelve games.
The Rapids’ late-season success in 2019 was built on an excellent attacking unit. They scored 58 goals across the year and enjoyed the services of Kei Kamara, Jonathan Lewis and Diego Rubio in an exhilarating attack that almost saw them sneak into the playoffs. And now, a strong 2019 attack has gotten stronger.
This week, the Colorado Rapids announced the two-year loan signing of Younes Namli from FC Krasnodar. Namli will be a designated player and joins Nicolas Benezet from Toronto FC as the other January signing by the Rapids in an attempt to provide offensive playmaking and depth to their attack.
More from MLS Multiplex
- Javier Milei Elected in Argentina: Potential Impacts on MLS and Signings of Argentine Players
- Orlando City and New York City FC in the Battle for Matías Arezo; Grêmio Enters Negotiations! Who Will Come Out on Top?
- USA, Honduras, Panama, and Canada Close in on a Spot in the 2024 Copa America
- De Gea Turns Down Al-Nassr’s Lucrative Offer: Speculation Points to Possible Reunion with Messi at Inter Miami
- Messi’s Magnetic Impact in the United States
And while Benezet played in eight appearances for the MLS Cup runners-up, scoring two goals in the process, Namli comes to the States from overseas but has apparently been on the Rapids’ radar for over two years now per General Manager Padraig Smith, who had this to say about the 25-year-old midfielder on Monday:
"“He’s been a consistently strong performer in the Eredivisie, a league we believe translates well to MLS, and has shown a great ability on the ball and in creating clear scoring opportunities for his teammates as well as getting on the scoresheet himself. We’re excited to finally have him join the club and expect him to be a difference maker for us.”"
Namli comes to MLS from the Russian Premier League and has appeared in the UEFA Europa League and UEFA Champions League. But he has spent the majority of his career in the Dutch Eredivisie with HC Heerenveen and PEC Zwolle, where he totaled nine goals and 14 assists in 97 appearances.
Namli’s acquisition should provide an element to the Rapids offense that may have been what was missing from last year’s squad. He joins an attack that has tons of potential and veteran leadership but struggled for creativity at times. Jack Price was the only player with more than six assists on the season, but nine of his came from set-pieces and eight from corners.
For all of their goals, the Rapids needed a spark. And in Namli, they now have one.