Getty Images

It's the end of an era for the Columbus Crew. Gyasi Zardes has been traded to the Colorado Rapids for 300k of General Allocation Money (GAM) upfront, though the deal can rise to around 1.4 million dollars due to additional incentives. Zardes is out of contract at the end of the season, so most of those incentives will depend on whether he stays with the club longer term. While Zardes' salary for this year isn't known yet, he will remain a designated player for the Rapids and made $1.4 million last season making it a reasonable assumption his salary remains in that range.

Zardes will be available to make his debut against Charlotte FC on Saturday.

After losing his starting job in Columbus to Miguel Berry, the writing was on the wall that Zardes was likely getting a move. But, due to his no-trade clause, it had to be somewhere that suited him. The Rapids are a destination that makes sense, since they've only scored nine goals across their seven matches this season. Diego Rubio is the only forward on the team with multiple goals and manager Robin Fraser has been trying anything that he can to get the attack going after losing Dominique Badji to Cincinnati and midfielder Kellyn Acosta to Los Angeles FC.

"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," said Padraig Smith, Colorado Rapids Executive VP & General Manager. "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."

Zardes has mainly played as a central striker, but, since he can also play both wings, he'll likely interchange with Rubio a bit in Fraser's 3-4-3. The Rapids have only taken 80 shots this season but they have put a decent amount on target with 38.8 percent of their shots testing the keeper. The hope is that Zardes' experience, he's scored 101 goals and assist 31 more for both the Crew and LA Galaxy, will help the Rapids but he has only made 19 starts and scored 10 goals across the past two seasons. 

Generally taking up good positions, Zardes has been a striker that doesn't do as much as he should in those positions and it shows in his shooting percentage of 16.7 percent this season. But Zardes can create chances for his teammates which helps with a ball progression issue for the Rapids that was created when Acosta was traded.

It's a low-risk move for the Rapids as Zardes is out of contract at the end of the season, but if he produces for them, they'll likely try to extend him at the end of the season.

Why would the Crew move Zardes?

It's all about the money. Caleb Porter has already made his decision to back Berry and that shows in his six starts this season. But Berry also hasn't produced, scoring only one goal in 455 minutes played. The difference is that Zardes is making over a million dollars in salary so this sets them up to hopefully make a corresponding move to assist the attack. It's not like Zardes was contributing much to the team this season so letting him move makes sense.

If the Crew want to compete in the Eastern Conference they'll need to get Lucas Zelerayan some help sooner than later as they sit ninth in the East. Of their ten goals scored this season, Zelerayan has scored or assisted half of them which isn't sustainable across an entire season. Without help from a forward, this team isn't making the playoffs.

Zardes' national team future hangs by a thread

Due to Gregg Berhalter's familiarity with Zardes (Berhalter managed the Crew from 2013-2018, and brought Zardes to Columbus in 2018), there is always a chance that he finds a way to feature in the World Cup. None of the forwards ahead of him are doing particularly well and his experience does mean something to Berhalter. Zardes was left off the roster of the final round of World Cup qualifying due to lack of playing time and that's sure to be something that is in the back of his mind when making this move to the Rapids.

This will likely be Zardes' final chance at making the trip to the World Cup so that will drive him when he's on the pitch for the Rapids. If he can go on a hot streak, that can fuel a chance at Qatar making the move worthwhile on multiple levels.