Will Dillon Serna be thrust into the spotlight sooner than expected? - Christian Petersen
With Martin Rivero sidelined with injury for 2-3 Months, who can step up to take his spot for the beginning of the season?
Let's go through some possibilities that Chris Bianchi (@rapids_news) mentioned for possible replacements while Martin Rivero recuperates from injury.
As I tweeted last night, expect new signing Kevin Harbottle to get the majority of the minutes in his place.— Chris Bianchi (@Rapids_News) January 30, 2013
Kevin Harbottle: Brought in as more of an attacking player out on the wing, and we havent' seen much of him this season save for some YouTube videos. He's an unknown quality, but from preliminary reports from camp indicate that Harbottle is a bit quicker than Martin Rivero, but not quite as sharp as a controlling midfielder. With this replacement, I'd expect the Rapids to be playing at a bit of a faster pace. Harbottle also can roam the pitch like Martin, but his position seemed to be slated as being out wide. If Harbottle is the heir apparent here as the Rapids' midfield wunderkind, expect more width and speed, but a bit less control in the center of the park.
Keep this in mind: If Rivero is out, could increase likelihood Jamie Smith gets a contract. Rivero took #Rapids' set pieces.— Chris Bianchi (@Rapids_News) January 30, 2013
Jamie Smith: We all know Jamie Smith, and many Rapids fans LOVE Jamie Smith. This would be welcome news for them, as the loss of Rivero gives Jamie a bit more leverage in those pesky contract negotiations. He does fill a need on set pieces, but what about as a field player? The risk with Smith has always been injury, if he does come in, there's always a high probability that he won't last the full season without spending a lot of time on the phsyio's table. That may be a risk that the Rapids have to take at this point in order to ensure they have that depth. The drawback is that while some Rapids fans see Jamie Smith as being that creative midfielder (a position he only played once, in Salt Lake in 2011) other fans simply (myself included) simply think that might be a case of hero-worship. Smith's game seems to be better suited to receiving the ball out wide and then cutting inside--similar to youngster Tony Cascio. While the Rapids could certainly use Smith's delivery on set pieces, expect to see a slower game with less control at midfield if Smith gets the starting job here.
New signing Charles Eloundou another possibility. Remember he's signed on loan - so chances are he plays this year.— Chris Bianchi (@Rapids_News) January 30, 2013
Charles Eloundou: That's an intriguing prospect. But the jury is still out on him. No clue what this guy could do for us in that creative attacking role because I don't know what he can do, period.
Serna, Kamani Hill, Atiba Harris other possible alternatives for Rivero at attacking mid.— Chris Bianchi (@Rapids_News) January 30, 2013
Dillon Serna: This is the one that caught me the most. Serna isn't a player the Rapids fans know a lot about on the field, but he is a player that the other Rapids players know very well; he's trained with them for many seasons. The reason this catches my eyes is because one of the things that a player who occupies that kind of position, the position that Rivero occupies for the Rapids, would benefit most from is a familiarity with player tendencies. This would make Serna actually one of the more experienced players who could take this role in that regard. However, the other side of that is that many of the players Serna is familiar with (especially the forward players) are fairly new to the team. While I'm intrigued by the prospect of the most anticipated Rapids Homegrown signing getting some time in an important role right away, he'd be facing a very steep learning curve. I don't know if I'd want that kind of learning curve to be confronted in the midst of a battle with the Western Conference.
Kamani Hill: Seems a very likely choice. Has the technical skills that Rivero has, plus a bit more size and he's got more experience under his belt. Hill also is attack-minded like Rivero, and he likes to stay in the center of the park. Hill has also seen some time at this position so it appears to be a no-brainer here. While Harbottle is being tapped as Rivero's likely replacement, I would actually tap Hill as the preferred choice, provided he keeps his fitness. I mentioned one of the drawbacks of Hill as being that he didn't appear to have the strength to be a complete Center Forward in the league. If that's been addressed in the offseason, I think he could do very well for himself in a supporting role for the attack. Kamani Hill gets my vote for the guy who can fill Rivero's spot.
Atiba Harris: That one kind of surprised me. I never thought of him as the kind of guy who can pull the strings like Martin, but he has shown over his career that he can hold the ball up and play other players in. But, then again, so could Conor Casey and I wouldn't ever put Conor Casey as a midfield maestro in the vein of Martin Rivero. He could do in a pinch, in more of a withdrawn attacking role, but I can't see him as really the orchestrator of attacks. But who knows what Pareja sees as his potential.
All of these players require an adjustment tactically on the part of the Rapids. Either the Rapids play more with width, or try and drive through the center of the park. Some of these guys (Harbottle, Smith) would give the Rapids more width with their preferences of play style, but others (Hill, Harris) would more than likely give the Rapids more punch right in the middle of the park.