Think of an interstate. Yes, this is going be my metaphor. It travels at high speeds with no lights and no stops to freely move about the country. We're forgetting about planes for now you clever readers. When driving the interstate, the mind goes into almost a trance, a groove we could call it. Cruising at high speeds with corn rows flashing in a backwards motion on either side of the automobile, the white strips on the road blinking in a rhythm more constant than a drummer as you pass them. It becomes more and more familiar as you travel, almost routine. Hours on the road fly by as you jam to your radio, the scene changes around you, but the road stays the same. Then... as we've all experienced, you see that orange sign. Road construction ahead. You sigh. "Damn", you say to yourself. You prepare to turn your cruise control off, but part of you hopes that the construction sign is a lie, and sometimes (especially in Nebraska), it is.
This is where the Rapids are at this point in the season. A squad, backups as a lot of them are, have found some sort of groove. They've begun to play actual soccer with one another. They've learned each others nuances and styles. They've begun bringing points home and moving up the ladder putting themselves back into playoff contention. These are backups we're talking about. The back four for example. The only constant has been an aged midfielder that has a motor like none another thrown into the defender position. Even the "Iron Man" Drew Moor has missed time. Now that he's back, the back four have found something we haven't seen in some time, and that's consistency. Chris Klute and Shane O'Neill have stepped into a defense that has been inconsistent and prone to counter attacks to make it one arguable one of the best parts of the Rapids game. Even Marvel Wynne has been thrown into different positions, at least when he's healthy. The Rapids striking core has found a groove when Edson Buddle is on the pitch, who has not lost a match when he has played. Stepping in for Hendry Thomas, Nathan Sturgis has played like a rock as the anchor of the midfield understanding how players like Nick LaBrocca and Dillon Powers move on the field. They've found some sort of understanding with each other, and it seems to be working.
Think about where the Rapids began this season, playing a 4-3-3 with Kevin Harbottle, DeShorn Brown, and Atiba Harris all up top. That has changed drastically. The midfield was Pablo Mastroeni, Hendry Thomas, and Dillon Powers. And the defense was Brian Mullan, Drew Moor, Diego Calderon, and Marvel Wynne. We aren't even close to that anymore, and we're winning. The Rapids began their 2013 season 0-3-2 in the first month. Then the backups stepped in for injuries and red cards. Since the beginning of April, and the backup infestation, the Rapids are 4-1-1. Just think about that.
Now the Rapids starters are returning from their injuries. Martin Rivero started his first game last week, and was fairly quiet. Edson Buddle has made significant impact in those matches the Rapids won. I admit he would normally be a starter, but didn't start the season. Kevin Harbottle has practice fully for the last week and a half, if not more, and Mastroeni is near full fitness and has been an available sub the last 3 or 4 games. Brown is returning from injury as well, as well as Marvel Wynne. Pickens is maybe a month out from being able to play, and Hendry Thomas will be back before the season's midpoint. And of course, Deshorn Brown is set to play in San Jose.
The depth that the Rapids have is maybe the best they've in a long while. The shallow water, as I call it is the part you can see and always have, the starters. The deep water is the part you can't see and don't exactly know what it looks like. Our pool seems to be deep, but who becomes the water on top in the upcoming weeks?
Do the Rapids play all of these starters when they are healthy? Or do they ride this "replacement" wave they're currently on? It seems to me that when these players return, the Rapids will have to find a new groove to continue their 2013 campaign. I'm not arguing either way, I'm simply asking questions, pondering possible outcomes.
I leave these questions to you, the readers, the fans to answer and discuss.