In a surprise move, the Colorado Rapids traded starting left back Marc Burch and team captain and midfielder Sam Cronin to Minnesota United FC for midfielders Mohammed Saeid, Josh Gatt and an international roster spot on Friday.
“We would like to thank Sam and Marc for their contributions during their time in Colorado,” said Rapids Sporting Director Pádraig Smith. “They are both top professionals who always gave everything for the team. As our captain Sam was a leader for our club both on and off the field and his contributions to the club will be long remembered. We wish both Sam and Marc the best of luck in the future.”
Burch had been arguably the team’s best attacking defender this year. He is one of two players with an assist on the season, and had created multiple chances thus far with his willingness to push the ball forward and his skilled crosses into the penalty area from the left side.
In Cronin’s two years with the club prior to 2017, he appeared in 59 games and scored two goals with four assists. He’s been a defensive presence at the midfield position and was a major factor in the Rapids’ impressive defensive performance in 2016.
“While it is never easy to part with good players, we believe that this move is in the best interests of the club both in the short and long term,” added Smith. “Mohammed is a proven talent in MLS and has a successful track record in the league. His passing quality is of the highest level and his ability to find passes between the lines and move the team forward are key qualities we want in our club.
“Although Josh has had injury issues in the past his talent is without question. He brings pace and an attacking boldness which will provide our coaching staff with another weapon on attack. We’re confident the move to bring both of these young players to our club will help bolster our attack while providing us with additional cap flexibility to continue to improve our roster.”
Saeid, a 26-year-old Swedish international, had just recently arrived this season in Minnesota. Before 2017, he played with the Columbus Crew for two seasons and made appearances in 50 games. Last season he didn’t score any goals, but had five assists for the Crew, who struggled to finish the regular season 17th out of 20 teams in the MLS.
The 25-year-old Gatt was born in the U.S. and had yet to make an appearance for Minnesota United. He spent 2016 with Molde FK, a Norwegian club that plays in the Tippeligaen and scored one goal in his six appearances.
The trade means that Nana Boateng impressed the Rapids’ front office enough that they felt comfortable letting Cronin go. Boateng made his Rapids debut against Minnesota United on March 18 and didn’t get on the stat sheet, but controlled the ball well and quickened the Rapids’ pace which improved their overall offensive game.
Head coach Pablo Mastroeni will now have to decide what he wants to do with the back line. The defensive unit was already wounded with the injury suffered by 2016 MLS Defender of the Year nominee Axel Sjöberg on March 11 against the New York Red Bulls, and will now have to replace another starter. The lineup that they went with against Minnesota was Burch and Mekeil Williams on the outside and Jared Watts and Bobby Burling in the two center back positions.
Now they’ll have to replace Burch. Their options are limited as they just shipped Dennis Castillo to the USL side Charlotte Independence last week and they didn’t pick up any defenders in return from Minnesota. Their options are Eric Miller, who played in nearly every game for the Rapids in 2016 but caused an own goal that cost the Rapids the game this season against the Red Bulls, Kortne Ford, who is in his rookie year but had an impressive three seasons with the University of Denver which includes 2016 when the Pioneers were within one game of the final, and Mike da Fonte, a recent signee from the USL side Sacramento Republic FC.
Ford played many minutes with the first team during the preseason games, and da Fonte has never had the opportunity to compete with the Rapids in a competitive match. The obvious choice is Miller, but how much faith Mastroeni has in him after the own goal is yet to be seen.
Another interesting storyline to follow is the international roster spot that the Rapids received. The team freed up big salary money to make the trade, enabling them to go after an international player if they so choose.
Saeid and Gatt will have some time to develop chemistry with the team as the Rapids don’t have another game until April 9 against Sporting Kansas City. Minnesota United plays Saturday against the Rapids’ rivals Real Salt Lake, but it’s doubtful that Cronin or Burch see any playing time after not being able to practice with the team.