It’s been a quiet last month since the Colorado Rapids’ season ended in mid-October.
On Thursday the team showed signs of the budding and soon-to-be busy offseason period as the Rapids made their year-end roster decisions and also announced the players the team will protect ahead of Friday’s expansion draft.
Colorado extended contract options for six players while three had their options declined. Two notable veterans had their contracts expire and two more will have to continue to renegotiate their loan deal. After Thursday, the Rapids have 22 players on their roster.
The players who had one-year options extended for 2023 include: Michael Barrios, Aboubacar Keita, Oliver Larraz, Anthony Markanich, Abraham Rodriguez and Diego Rubio. It was a just reward for Rubio, who earned a call-up to the Chilean national team for a pair of friendlies after a phenomenal season in which he tied the single-season goal record with 16 goals.
Keita has yet to play for Colorado since arriving from Columbus Crew last season but tore his ACL and missed the 2022 season, while Markanich made two appearances after he was a first-round draft pick from Northern Illinois University.
The three who had their options declined and could become free agents are Steven Beitashour, Michael Edwards and Philip Mayaka. Edwards was a Homegrown Player and was loaned to the Colorado Springs Switchbacks for the USL Championship playoffs, while Mayaka was selected third overall in 2021 from Clemson, but unfortunately did not pan out after spending 2022 with Rapids 2. Beitashour, 35, and Edwards, 21, are still in negotiations with the club.
Backup goalkeeper Clint Irwin’s contract expired and will leave the club as a free agent with the second-most shutouts in team history (26). Gyasi Zardes’ contract also expired, but the team said it is still in negotiations with him, as he scored nine times for the Burgundy Boys. While he is a popular locker room figure, re-signing him will come at a cost.
The two players whose loans expired, Brazilian Lucas Esteves and Chilean midfielder Felipe Gutiérrez, are also in ongoing negotiations. Per the Rapids, Major League Soccer has until Dec. 1 to exercise the buy option on Esteves’ loan to make a move from Brazilian giants Palmeiras permanent.
Rapids protect 12 players ahead of expansion draft
The Rapids also announced Thursday the 12 players the club will protect ahead of Friday’s MLS Expansion Draft for St. Louis City SC, the 29th team set to begin play in 2023.
The protected senior players include: goalkeeper William Yarbrough; defenders Lalas Abubakar, Keegan Rosenberry, Gustavo Vallecilla; midfielders Bryan Acosta, Max Alves, Jack Price, Braian Galván and forwards Michael Barrios, Jonathan Lewis, Sam Nicholson, Diego Rubio. Homegrown Players are also automatically protected from being selected.
Those left unprotected and are eligible for selection are: goalkeeper Clint Irwin; defenders in Beitashour, Esteves, Markanich, Drew Moor and Danny Wilson; midfielders Gutiérrez, Mayaka and Collen Warner; a forward in Zardes. If a Rapids player is selected, St. Louis City SC will owe Colorado $50,000 in General Allocation Money. The five-round event will start at 5:00 p.m. MT.