Draft well, Gary.
The MLS Superdraft is coming up fairly quickly, to be held in Baltimore on January 13th. The Rapids have been working this offseason mostly on getting depth for the squad for the longer season next year plus CCL and perhaps more Open Cup matches, doing well with the acquisitions of Sienna Nyassi, Joesph Nane and Tyrone Marshall through various means while only losing Danny Earls and Julien Baudet from the championship squad's regular players throughout the season. That said, you can never have enough depth as Real Salt Lake will tell you and the Rapids would do well to cover the MLS Superdraft with care.
Colorado has two selections in the draft, one from the first and second rounds each. They had two third round picks which were dealt in the deals for Marvell Wynne and Wells Thompson/Jeff Larentowicz. Their fourth round selection went to FC Dallas this year in exchange for Anthony Wallace. Here are three positions you might see the Rapids go for and three that they will most likely stay out of with their two picks.
THREE YOU MIGHT SEE
* Striker - The striker depth on the team was already slightly iffy to begin with past the fantastic duo of Conor Casey and Omar Cummings, but with Macoumba Kandji getting what could - worst case scenario, naturally - turn out to be a debilitating injury with the ACL tear in the final it would be best to err on the side of caution with regards to their striker depth. Mac provides the clear third option still but I'm still not convinced that Quincey Amarikwa has what it takes to be an every day starter in this league. Andre Akpan still has some work to do before he gets there as well despite having more upside than Amarikwa. It hasn't helped that the current regime has mostly ignored Akpan during the season, with only 13 minutes of playing time in a single appearance to his name.
Adding a third young striker to that jumble will most likely produce at least one viable option for third man and eventual second starting forward in the inevitability of Cummings and/or Casey eventually either leaving for greener pastures in search of more pay or just straight up retiring soon. With the teams current plethora of speedy strikers, it might be best for the Rapids to take a 2nd round flyer on a big target guy with upside or at the very least someone who favors size a bit more than blazing speed. The return of the reserves league will certainly help, although it would be foolish to assume one of these guys will turn out to be the next Omar Cummings.
* Left/Right Back - Ever since the trade that got rid of Earls and Baudet, the Rapids have been pretty low on defense. Central defense is a need, but not as much of a need as depth at left and right back. Obviously Drew Moor and Marvell Wynne can always shift outside to the right with Scott Palguta and now Tyrone Marshall moving into the center, but I'm pretty sure that's not the ideal set up for the Rapids defense which uses the strength of Moor and the speed of Wynne in the middle to great success. Anthony Wallace really has nobody to spell him at left back other than Palguta so they're going to need some extra talent on the outside.
The defense was one of the best points of this team last season long and they can't afford to be tired by the time the season is over, with the number of games next year they can't afford anyone getting the same ironman status that Drew Moor held this year.
* Outside Attacking Midfielder - Brian Mullan is getting old. We saw possible symptoms of him slowing down during the MLS Cup Final and although he still has some fantastic talent and has a bunch of his old speed we can't afford to have him penciled in as starting right midfielder next season for all the games. Wells Thompson and Jamie Smith have become the only real options on the outside with the departure of Claudio Lopez and Ciaran O'Brien. Nyassi provides a young but not proven option and Davy Armstrong might be able to play on the outside with enough training, but his forte is in the middle or up top at striker. Only having four really viable options at one of the most active positions on the field is not the key to success.
THREE THEY SHOULD AVOID
* Goalkeeper - Matt Pickens is one of the top 10 goalkeepers in MLS, which is really all you need in a league where the scoring talent still not even close to the best in the world. Although having a Nick Rimando or Kevin Hartman is nice, the Rapids would do well to stick with their bearded wonder for the time being and most likely through several more years. Goalkeepers tend to have pretty good longevity so I can see Pickens remaining a Rapid at least through 2013 with no problems. There is no need for a new backup keeper either as Ian Joyce impressed in his first appearance at goalkeeper for the Rapids, although it was against the fairly hapless Houston Dynamo.
If the Rapids were to take a keeper in this Superdraft, it would most likely be a fourth round flyer on an upside guy but since their only two picks are high in the draft they cannot afford to waste a valuble chance for depth on one of the more important on-field positions. I'm not sure about most of the other positions but I can tell you I'm pretty sure I can say with confidence that there's zero chance that either of their picks go toward a goalkeeper.
* Defensive Midfielder - Pablo Mastroeni and Jeff Larentowicz might have been the best kept secret in the league. While the media lauded the striker duo up top of Cummings/Casey as the stars and catalysts for the Rapids title run, it was the solid rock of Mastroeni and Larentowicz holding down the midfield keeping other teams from effectively breaking down the Rapids shape and style of football. The addition of Larentowicz into the midfield also allowed the aging Mastroeni to have a career year playing his favorite style of box to box defensive midfielder.
Even if Peter Vagenas doesn't ever come back, with Ross LaBeaux from Virginia and now the addition of Joesph Nane the Rapids have adequate depth behind Mastroeni and Larentowicz in the center of the midfield. No outside midfielders with great defensive chops should be necessary since the team tends to use their outsiders as attackers.
* Attacking Central Midfielder - On the same token, there's really no reason for the Rapids to get someone with scoring touch in the middle of the pitch either. Gary Smith used a 4-5-1 formation for the majority of the first half of the season and had a couple attacking guys fitting in around the center of the midfield but since switching to the 4-4-2 was so effective with the two holding midfielders helping with the defense it's doubtful that even with a BPA approach to the draft we'll be seeing anyone with attacking ability or mentality coming through the center of midfield any time soon. The fact that the team already has a guy who is best fit at central attacking midfielder in Davy Armstrong is the only reason that a pick like this would be even viable in case Gary Smith some day wanted to try an all out offensive without having to shift to a 3-5-2 formation like he did against the Columbus Crew in the playoffs.