Reinforcements are on the way to Colorado Rapids, it’s just a matter of how soon they can start contributing.
In the days leading up to Saturday’s match at Austin FC, Rapids general manager Pádraig Smith and the front office sent financial considerations to acquire midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye from LAFC and Dominique Badji from Nashville. Kaye is not expected to be available Saturday, as his Gold Cup run with the Canadian national team ended late Thursday night, but Badji, according to coach Robin Fraser, is available. Badji could make his second debut for Colorado Rapids with Diego Rubio, who missed last week’s loss at Real Salt Lake with injury, questionable against Austin.
“We know the thing Dominique has in just droves is pace, and he’s different than Andre (Shinyashiki) and Diego in that he looks to get behind. He’s real threat to get in behind and with his timing, that’s really what he’s done. He’s been able to time runs well to get behind, and it helps stretch the opposing team a bit,” Fraser said Thursday.
“The opportunity to add people of the right mentality just further enhances our culture.”
Center back Danny Wilson and midfielder Younes Namli are also expected to be out with injuries Saturday, while Sam Vines, Kellyn Acosta and Jonathan Lewis will be with the United States Men’s National Team through Sunday’s Gold Cup final against Mexico.
There are rumors that Vines, a Colorado Springs native, is on the verge of a transfer to Belgian club Royal Antwerp, while other reports have linked the Rapids to a possible replacement, Brazilian left back Lucas Esteves.
“We’ll have to wait and see,” Smith answered when asked if he thought Vines would return to the Rapids for an Aug. 7 match. “I think, look, there are discussions going on, but nothing’s finalized at this point in time. So our focus remains on making sure that we’re prepared for all eventualities, and that we’ve got a team both in the short term and the long term that can go out there and become the perennial playoff team and MLS contender that we want. Our focus is always on making the team better.”
Though Austin sits at the bottom of the Western Conference with 13 points from 14 matches, well behind Colorado’s 24 points in the same number of games, Fraser expects a tough test Saturday night.
“They continue to be a really good possession team,” Fraser said. “They have such good understanding between their players and spacing. They’re able to play out of a lot of things, and as a result, they’ve been able to maintain a lot of possession, which, ultimately, is going to yield chances. The fact they haven’t finished their chances is really not indicative of how they’ve played.”
The Rapids return home the following Saturday, potentially with more players available to take on Sporting Kansas City, which currently sits second in Major League Soccer’s Western Conference. Austin and Kansas City are responsible for one of Colorado’s four losses to this point in the season, but the Rapids coach said he’s been pleased with his team’s ability to handle the adversity of a roster limited by injury and international duty over the course of a couple of busy weeks.
“We’ve worked on being able to play in a couple of different shapes and been able to be successful in identifying some things that make us successful regardless of what shape we’re in,” Fraser said.
“I think we’re very much in the growing process. We’re certainly far from where we think we’re going to be at the end.”