Deceptively, the Colorado Rapids have one of the more complete rosters in MLS. And they are now rounding it out by adding true quality in Younes Namli.
The Colorado Rapids ended the 2019 season as one of the best teams in Major League Soccer. They were almost the story of the entire campaign, making an unlikely second-half surge into the playoffs. Decision Day did not go their way, but the Rapids’ surge should not be ignored.
The Colorado Rapids won five of their final seven games. On the year, they scored 58 goals, a figure bettered by only Los Angeles FC and New York City FC, the two leading teams of each conference. Robin Fraser, who came into Colorado midway through the year, really got his team playing an expansive, exciting brand of football. And it was a successful one, too.
Fraser provided a cohesive and connected gameplan that the Rapids bought into. He asked players to do what they were capable of, put the pieces of the puzzle together, and formed a team, not a collection of individuals. As he stated to Joseph Lowry of The Athletic earlier this offseason:
"“In a very short period of time, I felt that we were able to get pretty unified in our ideas and, as a result, we were able to put ourselves in some good positions to get results. I think with having unified ideas and some very talented and determined players, we were able to pull off some results last year that I think people probably wouldn’t have thought that we would have been able to.”"
And the Colorado Rapids have a hard-working, industrious, cohesive squad that mirrors the plans of their head coach. They have revitalised the careers of Jonathan Lewis, Kei Kamara, Lalas Abubakar, Kellyn Acosta and Keegan Rosenberry. They are now trying to emulate with Auston Trusty, who signed from the Philadelphia Union and will join Abubakar to form what could be a brilliant centre-half partnership.
But for all of the promise in Colorado, from the plans and tactics of their head coach to a burgeoning roster of revitalised MLS veterans, to truly catapult themselves into the realm of playoff contention and more, they lacked the necessary quality of the elite players in MLS.
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This collection of players is neat and it forms the foundation of a very capable team. But to challenge for MLS Cup, teams need that elite quality that only very few players can provide. LAFC may have had a terrific foundation, but it was Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi that took them over the top. The same is true for the MLS Cup sides, Seattle and Toronto, with Nicolas Lodeiro, Raul Ruidiaz, Alejandro Pozuelo and Jozy Altidore all starring.
Well, it now seems as though the Rapids have found that elite quality that every great MLS team requires. This week, Colorado announced their first Designated Player signing this offseason with the acquisition of creative attacking midfielder, Younes Namli.
Namli will slot straight into the heart of the Rapids midfield. With support behind him in the form of Jack Price, width in Sam Nicholson, Lewis and Andre Shinyashiki, and goals from Kamara and Diego Rubio, there is a roster that he should be able to elevate. And that is precisely what elite players are there to do.
The difference between capable DPs and every other decent player in MLS is the impact they have on the entire team. Yes, they score and create goals at an astounding rate, but it is their overall effect on the team, the way they smooth out possession, the way they create space, their pressing without the ball, and the creativity in the final third, that really differentiates them from normal MLS players.
The Colorado Rapids have lots of very good but normal MLS players. They now need that special something, and Younes Namli might just be it.