Ten Keys to the Season #9 - Effective Depth

HONOLULU, HI - FEBRUARY 25: Jason Trifiro #18 of the Melbourne Heart FC and Kohei Yamada #10 of the Colorado Rapids vie for control of the ball during the Hawaiian Islands Invitational Soccer Tournament at the Aloha Stadium on February 25, 2012 in Honolulu, Hawaii. The Rapids defeated Heart FC 1-0 in the consolation game. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

With only nine days remaining until first kick, Burgundy Wave is going to do a countdown of the ten most important things to watch on the Colorado Rapids in 2012 if they want to get themselves a run at their second MLS Cup. Today, we start with number nine.

The Rapids in 2010 had almost no depth to speak of, probably the biggest flaw of Gary Smith's building of the team. Past one of the best starting elevens in the league there was nothing but guys like Scott Palguta and Quincy Amarikwa to speak of. Fortunately, the team remained almost impossibly healthy all season and it was never an issue as the first team steamrolled their way to an MLS Cup title.

The team had no such luck in 2011. A spat of injuries almost as impossible as the health of 2010 ravaged the team all season long and put them in situations where their complete lack of depth was exposed embarrassingly. Wells Thompson shouldn't be starting the third most games in the midfield on any team in Major League Soccer, especially on a team that was supposed to have legitimate title contention hopes.

The team has had a bit of a rebuilding depth-wise, especially in the midfield where tons of new pieces have been added. For the Rapids to succeed in 2012 they will either need to miraculously avoid injury like they did in 2010 or get some top notch performances out of the new depth pieces and some of the young guys who will be graduating to first team duties like Eddie Ababio and Davy Armstrong.

Especially important will be the striker depth, which was depleted a bit when Caleb Folan and Macoumba Kandji were both removed from the line up. That leaves the team four deep on pure strikers. The defensive depth is also still a bit of a mystery, with Tyrone Marshall, Scott Palguta, Anthony Wallace and Hunter Freeman the main four men behind the starting group of Luis Zapata, Drew Moor, Marvell Wynne and Kosuke Kimura. Assuming Eddie Ababio stays at right back and doesn't get moved up to the midfield like the Smith regime was doing, he could be in the mix as well.

Either way, the Rapids fortunes in 2012 will be as much up to the guys behind the starting eleven as it will be up to the starting eleven itself. Fortunately, it looks a lot more bright already than it did under Gary Smith. That's why they got Oscar Pareja after all, the man knows how to coach a deep team, especially one full of youth.

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