Nick LaBrocca, a career starter in MLS, might not have a starting spot on the Rapids if he signs. That's not necessarily a bad thing.
OK, so let's assume that the Colorado Rapids are going to sign Nick LaBrocca before the start of the season. The reason why they traded the rights to Eric Avila for the rights to LaBrocca is still up in the air, but I assume that it had something to do with an inability to come to terms with Avila contract-wise. So since they made that trade, I would assume they think they can get LaBrocca onto the team.
A chat between Burgundy Wave's Ben and Bryan on twitter inspired me to think about what LaBrocca's role on the team will be, assuming that he signs. (I really hope he signs quickly so that I can stop adding the 'assuming that he signs' qualifier to everything.) After thinking about it for a bit, it made me realize just how good we have it depth-wise on this team.
LaBrocca has been a starter just about everywhere he has ever played in Major League Soccer, in part thanks to his skill and in part thanks to his versatility in the midfield. His first few years were spent with the Rapids, and he was a starter from the Clavijo years to Gary Smith's first 10-10-10 season before he was traded for Marvell Wynne.
In Toronto, he was on the field almost every game the season he was there, scoring a goal in 28 appearances for the Reds. After that, he was traded to Chivas USA and spent two years there as one of their top performers. He scored 10 goals for the Goats in 63 appearances over the two years and even earned an All-Star appearance thanks to his breakout performance at attacking midfielder.
So now, he's back in Colorado for his second stint, and I'm having trouble finding a place to stick him in the starting XI. A starter for every year but his rookie campaign, he'll likely be relegated to bench duty for the Rapids in 2013, and might even have trouble scraping the seven spots below the starters if there are some good performances.
If he's going to act as an attacking midfielder, he'll have his best chance at getting in but he'll still have to crack past Martin Rivero, rookie Dillon Powers and guys like Kamani Hill, who have proven their ability to play that spot well. If Jaime Castrillon comes back, it'll be even harder to see LaBrocca getting a consistent starting spot. If he wants to play as a holding midfielder, his chances are even lower. Hendry Thomas and Pablo Mastroeni are great players there, and there are some up and coming names like Shane O'Neill that will be looking for that bench position as well.
Is that necessarily a bad thing? Having a talented player who has proven he can stick in Major League Soccer as a 15 game a season guy instead of a 30 game a season guy proves how far this team has come depth-wise. The biggest question is going to be if LaBrocca will be willing to be that 15 game a season guy after starting his entire career -- but it should spur him to put in the extra work to get onto that field every time he can, and that's really the point of what Oscar Pareja is trying to do.