New York Red Bulls and Colorado Rapids completed a trade early Tuesday, with midfielder Medhi Ballouchy going east in exchange for Macoumba Kandji. The Red Bulls announced the news here (club web site), with Colorado publishing a corresponding confirmation.
Ballouchy had been enjoying a strong season for the Rapids, providing a wide, attacking presence complementing Jeff Larentowicz and Pablo Mastroeni. This year, Ballouchy's fifth in Major League Soccer, the 27-year-old Moroccan has three goals and five assists in 21 appearances.
Kandji carried high hoped into the regular season after a strong preseason, but an injury, the acquisition of Thierry Henry and attempts to find a home for him as a wide player have led to the Senegalese attacker being marginalized in Hans Backe's set-up. In his second full season in Major League Soccer, the 25-year-old had one goal in 13 appearances, eight of them starts.
Kandji moves to a similar quandary for Rapids coach Gary Smith. Colorado has two established strikers in their two forward set-up, where it seems unlikely to unseat either Omar Cummings or Conor Casey. That leave Kandji to play wide, taking the 6'4" attacker farther from goal.
New York, however, gets a player who can fit into multiple spots in Backe's four man midfield, potentially creating a potent partnership with holding midfielder Rafa Marquez. While Ballouchy can also play in wide positions, New York could gain a valuable, creative presence at the level behind their forward should Ballouchy team-up with Marquez, Joel Lindpere and Dane Richards.
For New York, it's a perfect fit, augmenting a midfield that may have been excessively relying on rookie Tony Tchiani as they chased the MLS Cup. For Colorado, the logic is unclear and hints at more off-season moves. While it's possible the Rapids see Kandji as a wide player, Ballouchy seems a high price to pay to see that bargain play-out. If they envision Kandji as a striker, the Conor Casey trade rumors could quickly resurface.
New York's next match is in Dallas on Thursday. Colorado hosts New England on Saturday.