The Daily Wave: Defensive Holding

USA TODAY Sports

A worry at the beginning of the season has become the least of concerns when it comes to the Rapids gameplay... the defense.

Ice cream headaches (aka Brain Freeze) may be the worst physical feeling in the entire universe. They can cripple you as bad as any severe injury. Fortunately, it's for a very limited amount of time. The wonderful thing about ice cream headaches is the relief when they dissipate, may be the best relief known to humankind.

At the beginning of this season, many were worried about an continuation of a self-destructive defense that had obliterated the back part of the pitch in 2012. It was a constant fear that the counter attack would catch the Rapids defense off guard, and many times it did. Marking was a problem, lack of aggression and deep passes were another, and overall consistency in the back four was also an issue. Hunter Freeman and Luis Zapata were switched in and out almost every other game, Wynne was down for injury part of the season, and Scott Palguta and Tyson Wahl "graced" the field with their presence. There was no way for the back four to find any sort of rhythm.

The defense was a concern at the beginning of the 2013 season because of the opposite reason. There were still thoughts lingering on the possibilities of counter attacks and marking issues, but the back four would be forced to play with the same four every match just because there weren't any defenders on the team with the release of Tyrone Marshall, Tyson Wahl, Hunter Freeman, Luis Zapata, and Scott Palguta. There were four "pure" defenders on the roster including an unproven Diego Calderon. Brian Mullan was a making the transition to fullback from a career of midfield play, and was also unproven. The left back position was still in a three way tug-of-war between Chris Klute, Kory Kindle, and Anthony Wallace. Wallace made his exit early. Marvel Wynne and Drew Moor were the only two that remained, and Wynne was still riding the fence on whether he would be an outside back or a center back. All of these questions floated in the minds of fans and analysts, and most likely, the coaching staff.

We sit now, months later, never questioning the defense. We never wonder how they'll perform. The Rapids are tied for the second fewest goals in the MLS, only one behind the New England Revolution, and tied with the Los Angeles Galaxy with ten. Klute has all but solidified himself in a left back position that has been problematic for the Rapids in years past, and O'Neill has stepped in admirably in the center back position in lieu of Calderon's run in with a post. Brian Mullan, at least in my opinion, has brought his midfield motor to perform quite well at right back. Many have said that he's had a hard time marking, and that may be true, but 99% of the time, I've seen him recover and save his own mistake by knocking the ball way from the ground, or pushing to the outside to allow Moor or a defensive mid to cover him.

All in all, to bring this full circle, it was an ice cream headache at the beginning of the season, but as the defense settled, a few more players signed, the headache subsided, and they are now one of the most enjoyable parts of the game to observe, and one of the safest I might add.

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