Colorado Rapids Acquire Aboubacar Keita from Columbus Crew
Aboubacar Keita tackles Jordan Rezabala during a 2019 FIFA U-20 World Cup Quarterfinal Match between the United States and Ecuador | Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images

The Colorado Rapids announced that the club had finalized the acquisition of defender Aboubacar Keita from the Columbus Crew in exchange for $450,000 in General Allocation Money on Wednesday.

As part of the agreement, the Rapids will part ways with $300,000 in 2022 GAM to the Crew, with an additional payment of $150,000 due if the 21-year-old New York native reaches certain performance milestones during the 2022 Major League Soccer season.

“Significant Upside”

Colorado's Executive Vice President and General Manager Padraig Smith had high praise for his club's new acquisition. In a press release announcing the move, Smith highlighted Keita's potential to become a strong central defender in MLS.

“Bouba is a young, athletic player who is comfortable on the ball and has all the attributes to become a physically dominant defender,” Smith explained. “In Keita, we believe we have acquired a player with significant upside who is only beginning to scratch the surface of his potential.”

Keita signed his first professional contract with the Crew in 2019 as a Homegrown Player and went on to accrue 37 league appearances for the club, including 11 during Columbus' 2020 MLS Cup-winning season, though he did not appear in the playoff final. Keita's average of 2.73 blocks per 90 minutes ranked in the 99th percentile among MLS Central Defenders in 2021.

“From the time he joined the Academy in 2016 to helping us capture MLS Cup in 2020 and the Campeones Cup last September, Bouba’s hard work and dedication on and off the field has been truly appreciated,” Crew President and General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko said of the trade. “We wish him all the best in Colorado.”

The defender has historically featured for the U.S. Men's National Team as a Youth International. Keita made eight appearances with the U.S. Under-20 Youth National Team, including five starts at the 2019 U-20 World Cup.

“I just want to take the time to thank Columbus Crew, the academy, staff, and fans,” Keita explained in a statement on social media. “I had an amazing experience with this team, and I am grateful for the journey.”

As a Homegrown Player, Keita occupied a spot on Columbus' Supplemental Roster during his time in Ohio. Until the defender signs a new contract with the Rapids, he will retain his status as a Homegrown and take up a slot on the Rapids' Supplemental Roster.  As a result, his wages will not contribute to Colorado's Salary Cap in 2022. According to data from the MLS Players Association, Keita earned a base yearly salary of $100,000 in 2020 and $110,000 in 2021.

Rapids “Targeting” Domestic Players

The move is yet another in Colorado's history of employing the internal MLS market to acquire underutilized domestic talent.

Much of the Rapids' core players came to the Rocky Mountains as a result of intra-league trades. The club previously signed Canadian International Mark-Anthony Kaye from Los Angeles F.C. in 2021 and forward Michael Barrios from F.C. Dallas at the end of the 2020 season. In fact, The Rapids also acquired defenders Lalas Abubakar and Auston Trusty, as well as USMNT mainstay Kellyn Acosta and Chilean International Diego Rubio within the league.

“We are committed to targeting the best young players in the domestic market,” Smith said.

Keita will join Abubakar and Trusty, as well as Drew Moor, Danny Wilson, and Michael Edwards as Central Defenders under contract with the Rapids for the 2022 season. The club remains in ongoing negotiations with Homegrown Kortne Ford for the coming year.

Colorado will begin their slate of 2022 competitive fixtures with a visit to Guatemala City on February 17 to face Comunicaciones F.C. in the first round of the CONCACAF Champions League.