MLS Superdraft: Rapids in from the beginning
From Jean Harbor in 1996 to Robin Afamefuna in 2020, the Colorado Rapids have played a role in every single MLS draft, with the 26th edition awaiting us all this Thursday, writes Richard Fleming.
Two players picked by the Rapids went on to become MLS Rookie of the Year; Dillon Powers in 2013 (another Rapids rookie, Deshorn Brown, was placed second) and Andre Shinyashiki in 2019.
And then there were those who would have lengthy and/or successful careers, such as Tyrone Marshall (1998), Dan Gargan (2005), Jacob Peterson (2005), Jordan Harvey (2006), and Omar Cummings (2007), Nick LaBrocca (2007), Kosuke Kimura (2007).
Ross Paule, drafted by the Rapids in 1997, had his career cut short by concussion but left his mark within the club’s history books. He was one of three players to hit double-digit goals in the 1998 season, bagging 10 on the year, behind Wolde Harris (13) and Paul Bravo (11).
In all, Paule netted 18 goals and provided 29 assists (including 10 in 2001) in 11 appearances. One of those 18 goals came on August 18, 1998 at Giants Stadium and was the first conceded in MLS by a goalkeeper called Tim Howard.
Other draft picks of note include Kerry Zavagnin. He was selected in the third round of the Supplemental Draft in 1997 but before kicking a ball for the Rapids was traded to the Metrostars in exchange for Peter Vermes. Vermes would play a key role in helping the Rapids to MLS Cup that year. Zavagnin has been assistant coach at Sporting Kansas City since 2009, under Vermes.
Down the years, even before homegrown players were a thing, there have been players identified locally. The inaugural draft in 1996 saw the Rapids take Steve Trittschuh and Scott Benedetti, who had both played for the Colorado Foxes.
Matt Harrell was a sixth-round selection, 61st overall, in the 2002 draft. He emerged from the University of Denver, as did Liam Girard in 2006. Fellow-Pioneer Nat Borchers had earlier gone undrafted in 2003, but would eventually sign for the Rapids and excel within MLS.
More recently, there was Sam Hamilton (2017) and Shinyashiki, who was a shining light at the University of Denver before the Rapids selected him in the 2019 Superdraft.
There are three available Pioneers in the 2021 Superdraft, Josh Drack (forward), goalkeeper Will Palmquist, and midfielder Jacob Stensson.
Historically, the Rapids has also selected quite a few from UCLA, among them the number one pick in the 1997 draft, Tahj Jakins, as well as Tom Poltl (1999), Ryan Lee (2001), Adolfo Gregorio (2004), Jordan Harvey (2006), Javan Torre (2016), and Brian Iloski (2018).
And then there are those from such educational powerhouses as:
Harvard (Andre Akpan, 2010)
William & Mary (Paul Grafer, 1996; Adin Brown, 2000)
Dartmouth (Bobby Meyer, 1999)
Boston College (Casey Schmidt, 2003; Guy Melamed, 2005)
Brown (Keith Cauldwell, 2006)
Georgetown (Dan Gargan, 2005)
Stanford (Matt Moses, 2002)
Notre Dame (Kevin Richards, 2004; Greg Dalby, 2007; Dillon Powers, 2013; Grant Van De Casteele, 2014)
Wake Forest (Amir Lowery, 2005; Jared Watts, 2014; Tolani Ibikunle, 2014).
Combined, and to include the inaugural draft, plus subsequent supplemental, dispersal, allocation, and college drafts, the Colorado Rapids has selected a total of 155 players.
They are sure to add to that number when the 2021 MLS SuperDraft takes place this Thursday (January 21) at 12 PM MT. Watch Round 1 on mlssoccer.com.