LAUDERHILL, Fla. — The MLS Draft always comes down to one of two principal philosophies: Address a need or take the best player available.
It seems likely that the Colorado Rapids will go with the former.
The Rapids are a day away from entering the MLS Draft with the No. 2 pick, and they are keeping an open mind as to what to do with it. The Rapids very easily could use the selection to scoop up a talented prospect like Joshua Yaro or Brandon Vincent, but may also trade it to move down and stockpile picks or up into the top spot to ensure they get the player they want.
Any of the three scenarios would make sense for the club, as the Rapids are in need of improving a roster that finished in last place in the Western Conference. The attack was downright abysmal with only 33 goals scored in 34 games, and, though their defense held up well, the loss of center back Drew Moor to free agency last month could prove critical.
With several areas needing to be addressed, the Rapids are aiming to take a player that best suits their roster more so than one who represents the top talent on their board. They might be able to get both, of course, because of how high they are selecting, but they also might not.
“I think if you’ve had a bit of success and you’re not really looking for a need in any position, you can look to grab the best player in the draft,” Rapids head coach Pablo Mastroeni told SBI. “I think if you’re really looking to be a bit more pragmatic in your approach because the results hadn’t gone your way and you’re looking to really identify a particular position or particular style of player then it makes more sense to grab the best player in that position.
“It just depends on a lot of different variables, but more importantly I think for us it’s about the best player that can best suit us in a position of need.”
That does not mean that the Rapids are opposed to trading the pick. Mastroeni is open to anything right now, as he believes it is important to be “very flexible” in your approach to the draft given how much things could change. For instance, the Chicago Fire could take the player the Rapids want at No. 1, or someone could offer a sweet deal that the Western Conference side would accept at the cost of moving further down the draft order.
Mastroeni and his staff have rehearsed all the different possibilities in recent days, and are assessing everything, including potentially drafting a player who can help out on the defensive side.
“I think there’s some very good options on both sides of the ball,” said Mastroeni. “Fortunately for us there’s a position or two in the attacking part of the field (that we could fill) and then there’s a position or two on the defensive, so it leaves the option open for us. Obviously we’re looking to bring in some players from abroad to make an impact as well, and so it’s about a lot of things coming together in the next six or seven days that will really kind of allow us to hone in on that particular player.”
Who the Rapids take at No. 2 on Thursday or whether they even stay there remains to be seen. There has been plenty of activity and chatter about potential trades at the combine, and the Rapids could deal the pick just as easily as they could use it.
Regardless, the Rapids are aiming to find someone capable of contributing this season, regardless of where they wind up selecting.
“I think this draft class, you hear a lot of people saying – and this is my third go-around here – that it isn’t deep,” said Mastroeni. “Then when you get to the end of the year you look back and say, ‘Holy cow, there were about 10 or 12 players that impacted the course of the MLS that came from the combine, in starting roles, in significant roles.’
“Trading down to gather more picks is a possibility, trading up, it’s all in the realm of possibilities. There’s so many different variables that go into play, that if you’re fixed on one mindset you might miss a great opportunity to getting a better situation to help the team. It’s not just about one pick, it’s about how I best use this draft in a way that’s going to make our group better at the end of the day.”