2017 ros­ter won’t be com­pletely re­shaped af­ter suc­cess­ful sea­son Rapids look­ing ahead

The Denver Post - - SPORTS OFF & RUNNING - By Daniel Boniface Dan Boniface: 303-954-1104, dboni­face@den­ver­post.com or @daniel­boni­face

In re­cent years, the Rapids have un­der­gone whole­sale ros­ter churn dur­ing the off­sea­son but fol­low­ing an ap­pear­ance in the Western Con­fer­ence cham­pi­onship this year, Colorado has opted to keep the core of its team mostly in­tact.

The Rapids on Mon­day an­nounced they are pick­ing up con­tract op­tions on nine play­ers, de­clin­ing the op­tions on four other play­ers, and sign­ing five play­ers to long-term deals.

Colorado de­clined op­tions for mid­field­ers Marco Pappa and Zach Pf­ef­fer, de­fender Sean St. Ledger and for­ward Conor Doyle. Pappa ap­peared in 20 reg­u­lar-sea­son games for Colorado (10 starts) notch­ing two goals and four as­sists. Doyle saw lim­ited ac­tion in 2016, while St. Ledger and Pf­ef­fer did not ap­pear.

“De­spite not pick­ing up their op­tions, the club will re­main in dis­cus­sions with some of the play­ers about a pos­si­ble re­turn,” Rapids pres­i­dent Tim Hinchey said in a news re­lease.

Mid­field­ers Jer­maine Jones and Se­bastien Le Toux are both out of con­tract, with Le Toux el­i­gi­ble for MLS free agency. Jones is free to sign with any club out­side of MLS, but the Rapids re­tain his rights within MLS and could trade his rights or re-sign him.

The Rapids picked up op­tions on goal­keeper John Berner, de­fend­ers Bobby Burl­ing, Marc Burch, Den­nis Castillo, Eric Miller and Axel Sjöberg; mid­fielder Dil­lon Serna; and for­wards Dominique Badji and Caleb Calvert.

Colorado also an­nounced Mon­day it signed five play­ers to “long-term” deals: Goal­keeper Zac MacMath, de­fender Jared Watts, mid­field­ers Micheal Azira, Sam Cronin and Mar­lon Hairston. Terms of the deals were not dis­closed.

“We be­lieve that we are in a fan­tas­tic po­si­tion head­ing into the off­sea­son, in which we will look to make ad­di­tional ros­ter im­prove­ments for next year,” Hinchey said. “This core group of play­ers will play a key role in our long-term plans and we are ex­cited to build on the suc­cess achieved on and off the pitch in 2016.”

The Rapids al­ready had five play­ers un­der con­tract for 2017: Goal­keeper Tim Howard, de­fender Mekeil Wil­liams, mid­fielder Dil­lon Pow­ers, and for­wards Kevin Doyle and Shkëlzen Gashi.

The Rapids cur­rently have 19 play­ers un­der con­tract head­ing into 2017 and were able to pro­tect 11 of them, plus home­grown play­ers, in Tues­day’s MLS ex­pan­sion draft. The Rapids could lose up to one player to ei­ther Min­nesota United or At­lanta United, which join the league in 2017. Here’s the list, re­leased by the MLS on Mon­day, of the play­ers pro­tected and un­pro­tected:

Cur­rent Rapids ros­ter

Goal­keep­ers (3) John Berner, un­pro­tected Tim Howard, pro­tected Zac MacMath, pro­tected De­fend­ers (7) Marc Burch, un­pro­tected Bobby Burl­ing, un­pro­tected Den­nis Castillo, un­pro­tected Eric Miller, pro­tected Axel Sjöberg, pro­tected Jared Watts, un­pro­tected Mekeil Wil­liams, un­pro­tected Mid­field­ers (5) Micheal Azira, pro­tected Sam Cronin, pro­tected Mar­lon Hairston, pro­tected Dil­lon Pow­ers, pro­tected Dil­lon Serna, pro­tected For­wards (4) Dominique Badji, pro­tected Caleb Calvert, pro­tected Kevin Doyle, pro­tected Shkëlzen Gashi, pro­tected

Not cur­rently on ros­ter

F Conor Doyle, un­pro­tected M Jer­maine Jones, un­pro­tected M Se­bas­tian Le Toux, un­pro­tected M Marco Pappa, un­pro­tected M Zach Pf­ef­fer, pro­tected M Juan Ramirez, un­pro­tected D Sean St. Ledger, un­pro­tected

Marco Pappa may not be back with the Rapids in 2017 af­ter the team de­clined his op­tion. Michael Reaves, The Den­ver Post

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