As we do every year, Burgundy Wave is counting down our 10 most important things to watch for the Rapids this year. Coming in at number nine, Jose Mari... or whoever takes Hendry Thomas' spot.
Defensive midfielders are the least appreciated people on a soccer field, especially when they're doing their jobs efficiently. To borrow a reference from the gridiron, they're the offensive linemen of soccer: you only seem to hear about them when they screw up. Defensive midfielders are some of the most important people on the field, especially in a league like MLS, though. You might hear the headlines chirping about Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane, but everyone knows that Juninho is the engine that makes the Galaxy run.
Similarly, people underrated the hell out of Hendry Thomas last season. People underrated Pablo Mastroeni for the same reason. They're both incredibly efficient players who have a fighting spirit to them but who rarely play dirty on the field. Thomas was one of the league's most efficient passers in 2013 but turned into a bit of a scapegoat late in the season when the team started dipping and eventually petered out against the Seattle Sounders. (Let's get this straight: Both Thomas and Nathan Sturgis were fine in that game. Oscar Pareja's awful roster management in that match was the reason they had so much trouble on defense and on offense.)
Matt Doyle has the right idea. Losing Thomas was one of the worst things that could have happened to the Rapids this off-season. We're left now with Jose Mari as his replacement, and he has got larger shoes to fill than some people realize. It's as they say: you don't know what you've got until it's gone. Can Mari take over the spot that Hendry wonderfully held down last year? It's yet to be seen. If the transition is seamless, Colorado has a far, far better chance of making some noise this year.
If they're not going to use Mari as the starter there at all, then I don't know what to tell you.