Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports
I am a big fan of team chemistry. When the Rapids finally settled into a rhythm mid Summer, I believe Pareja had found a core group that worked well together. The other big time sports (and the Premier League) seem to think that throwing a bunch a stars on the field will produce a winning team. Therefore looking towards 2014 and assuming we start the year healthy, I don't really think one player will make our team that much better. I mean the 2013 Rapids with a weak start, great middle, and so so finish ended with a 51 point total, highest in club history. Throw in a win at either San Jose or Vancouver late in the year and we finish with 54 points and possibly finish 3rd in the West.
So looking at a most likely starting position of strength we have Brown, Buddle, Torres (Sanchez) up front, followed by Powers, Rivero, Thomas, and Sturgis (LaBrocca) in the middle, and Klute, O'Neill, Moor, and Wynne (Mera) in the back with Irwin in goal. Looking at this lineup, the only real player that might need upgrading is Wynne. To be honest, Wynne is one of my favorite players. His speed and gutsy play make him a fan favorite but at a salary of around $200,000 - $250,000, my guess is the 27 year old is probably expendable at this point. He had moments in the doghouse with Pareja throughout 2013. Also Pareja experimented with O'Neill in his spot during the playoff game which really didn't make the Rapids better. I prefer O'Neill tucked in with Moor to make a better defense. So really the one area of upgrade would be a defenseman preferably a right one.
The Rapids are most likely to make a trade versus signing a free agent this off season. The reason for this is I think 2013 made it clear we have some extraneous parts. For instance we have a top end keeper in Pickens. Looking around the League and wondering who might need a goalie; the most likely trade partner right now is probably the New England Revolution. Their goalie Reis, who almost took them to the Eastern Conference Finals is out 5-7 months due to quadriceps surgery. They do have a capable backup in Shuttleworth but since he didn't play in their playoff run, I'm guessing they aren't high on him.
So with Revolution being a potential trade target what might they have? Well the big dog that jumps out is their 2013 first rounder, Andrew Farrell. OK I admit we are in fantasyland at this point but the editor simply suggested who we wanted in the off-season. He didn't tell me I couldn't write a post from Bizarro World! The 2013 draft was good to the Rapids, could we add another? Doubtful but maybe Rapids could part ways with a few more pieces. Rapids would ultimately land a much younger (21 years) player with a great upside. Imagine a back line with three youngsters and Drew? Ultimately this would lead the way for the defense of the future here in Colorado.
So now back to reality. If I had to guess Rapids might find a cagey veteran kind of like a Mullins who can bring something to the locker room and provide some key minutes throughout season. Ultimately defensive back will probably be found with the 2014 draft pick. As I said in the beginning I think 2013 edition of the Rapids really came together. I think a full season of the Rapkids and a taste of the playoffs will help drive this team forward without the addition of a free agent.