The deal will see the Crew receive $300,000 in 2022 General Allocation Money (GAM), with Colorado paying an additional $1.1 million in GAM if certain incentives are met. Zardes will occupy a Designated Player spot on the Rapids' roster.
A source told ESPN that Colorado is picking up all of Zardes' salary and that the player had to waive a no-trade clause in his contract to get the deal done. His contract expires at the end of the current campaign, but Colorado is optimistic it will hang on to Zardes beyond this season. In the short term, the Rapids are hopeful Zardes will be in uniform when the Rapids take on Charlotte FC on Saturday.
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"Gyasi is an elite level attacker with a strong history of production and a successful track record both in MLS and with the U.S. men's national team," Colorado Rapids executive VP and general manager Padraig Smith said in a team release "His character, mentality, experience and goal scoring prowess will greatly benefit our team. We're thrilled to bolster our offense with his signing and look forward to welcoming him to Colorado."
For the Crew, the trade frees up a Designated Player spot in addition to the salary budget relief, and they intend to fill the DP spot this summer.
Zardes' spot with the Crew had been increasingly tenuous since the start of the season, as the current U.S. international had lost his spot in the starting lineup to Miguel Berry, starting just one of Columbus' seven league matches. Zardes had also seen his playing time with the U.S. national team decrease.
"First and foremost, we want to thank Gyasi personally as he has been an important member of the Crew and the Columbus community since joining in 2018," Columbus Crew president and general manager Tim Bezbatchenko said. "We know Gyasi quickly became a fan favorite given all of his contributions both on the field and throughout Central Ohio and we did not take this decision lightly."
For Colorado, the acquisition of Zardes fills a need up top, though incumbent Diego Rubio had performed well this season, scoring four goals and adding one assist. Colorado has a total expected goals mark this season of 11.95 but has tallied just nine times in 2022. Zardes is a proven finisher in MLS and the expectation is that he'll convert with more regularity.
Zardes, 30, played the previous four-plus seasons in Columbus, in which he scored 61 goals in 122 league, cup and playoff appearances and helped them win MLS Cup in 2020. The spell marked a rebirth in his career, as he quickly earned the trust of then-manager Gregg Berhalter. Zardes began his professional career with the LA Galaxy, signing as a Homegrown player prior to the 2013 season. He scored 40 goals in 155 appearances.
At international level, Zardes has made 68 appearances for the U.S., scoring 14 goals.