Rapids fans rejoice! The club has finally made a move in the secondary transfer window by signing former 1860 Munich winger Stefan Aigner to a three-and-a-half year contract. Now, what does he bring to the table?
After studying film, stats and German-language articles on Aigner, the first thing that I notice is his athletic ability while in the box. He has a unique ability to contort his body and head to get to an angle where he has the best chance of getting his header in the net. This is the result of his understanding of where the ball will travel and where he’ll need to be. He recognizes the area the ball is traveling to better than most and positions himself in a way that provides maximum pace on the headers he unleashes.
If you want a bunch of examples of how well Aigner creates for teammates, watch the video below. He has an uncanny ability, even when he has no space, to find teammates and put them in position to score. His first touch when near the net is precise. Either he gets a shot on frame or he puts the ball into an area where a teammate needs only to slam it home for an easy goal. His ability to create is above that of an average No. 7. This is something the Rapids desperately need, as the chances they’ve been creating this season haven’t been easy goals. Most goals the Rapids have scored have been the result of amazing individual efforts, not easy goals after smart, team-oriented plays. Aigner should have a hand in helping the Rapids convert their chances more effectively in the second half of the season by creating chances that are easier to put away for Dominique Badji and Co.
With Shkelzen Gashi being sidelined for the foreseeable future due to his seemingly infinite Achilles injury, Aigner fills a hole in the starting XI immediately. He’ll pick up a wing position, and that will open up the lineup for Pablo Mastroeni. Instead of being forced to put Marlon Hairston at a winger position, he’ll have the option to put him back at the right fullback position that Hairston excels at. Then, he can either play Nana Adjei-Boateng or Mohammed Saeid opposite Michael Azira at the defensive midfielder position. If he chooses to put Adjei-Boateng back there (which I think would be more effective), then he’ll have tons of pace in the attack. He’ll pair Saeid with Aigner at the winger positions, two very quick guys, and have another guy with pace, Badji, at one of the two forward positions. If he chooses to keep Saeid with Azira, then Serna can man the left wing with Aigner on the right until Gashi gets back. Then, when Gashi gets back, the Rapids will have a hell of an option for the wing position off of the bench. Every game they’ll have to choose who to start out of Aigner, Gashi, Saeid and Serna, and have great options off of the bench. Hopefully, the ability to rotate all of these players also helps keep the team injury free.
Does the signing of Aigner immediately make the Rapids a contender? No. He’ll have to go through the same adjustment period that Saeid had to, so his impact will likely be mitigated for the weeks to come. However, the signing is a step in the right direction, as offense is the area that the Rapids have struggled in for years now.
But, if his track record is anything to go by, Aigner’s success in one of the best leagues in the world, the Bundesliga, should translate into success in MLS. During his time at Eintracht Frankfurt, Aigner scored 28 goals and added 27 assists in 136 matches.
The signing should also at least keep fans’ dismay with the direction of the team at bay. The issue they’ve had isn’t with the results; it’s with the perceived unwillingness to address the issue causing the bad results that the fans have issue with. The Aigner signing should sate some of that dismay, and if results start turning around, could go a long way to restoring faith in the club.