Throughout the Desert Diamond Cup, we’ll take a look at some of the best players from each team competing in Tucson for the Cup, as we look to crown the CARF International Most Valuable Player, awarded to the outstanding player of the tournament.

The Colorado Rapids’ 28-year-old midfielder Shkëlzen Gashi returns to Tucson with a full Major League Soccer season under his belt after a productive debut year in 2016.

Nine goals and five assists from Gashi helped lead Colorado to a club-best 58 points during the regular season, which was only bettered by FC Dallas’ 60 points.

Gashi and the Rapids rode that momentum all the way to a Western Conference Final showdown with the Seattle Sounders, before falling to the eventual MLS Champions.

The training grounds at Kino Sports Complex won’t be uncharted territory for Gashi, who joined the Rapids in Tucson last year upon his arrival from Swiss Super League club FC Basel.

Gashi led the SSL in scoring in consecutive seasons – 19 goals in 13/14 and 22 goals in 14/15 – leading up to his move stateside.

The Albanian international has already provided some of the best finishes in the league since his arrival, landing him the 2016 AT&T MLS Goal of the Year for his thunderous free kick against the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Catch Shkëlzen and the Rapids this preseason as they look to finish what they started a year ago. They’ll face New England Revolution on Saturday, February 18th at 1:00 p.m. at Kino North Stadium. (TICKETS)

Click here or below to see both ’17 Desert Diamond Cup event days (Feb. 18 & 25).

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