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Four Rapids to watch for Improvement from in 2011

This is no time to dance, Quincy.
This is no time to dance, Quincy.

The Colorado Rapids did not win the 2010 MLS Cup on the backs of a gang of superstars like an LA Galaxy type team would, but instead won it by performing as an incredibly solid team unit with no real holes and very few mistake prone players. Unfortunately as the team is right now - and this is probably the biggest knock on the squad that doesn't involve the word "creativity" - the squad has a very easy to predict starting XI and then obvious depth players rather than having a lot of great players to go to in case of injury.

Here are four players from the Rapids 2010 squad who will need to show some improvement if they want to either have a shot at breaking the starting line up this year or even getting significant playing time off the bench with the new additions.

Scott Palguta: The only back up defender to survive the great "purge to Seattle" that saw Julien Baudet and Danny Earls leave the Rapids, Palguta had a disappointing 2010 season as the first depth man off the bench. In fact, I maintain that the only reason he is still a Rapid is because he isn't an international. His play in 2010 was lackluster at best, with some terrible errors throughout the season and one of the worst performances by a Rapid the entire season against DC United, the worst team in the league. Despite being 28 years old, the central/left defender is still fairly green when it comes to MLS play, having played only in the USL up until 2009. He has some talent so I'm personally willing to give him another year, but with Tyrone Marshall also on the defensive depth chart he's going to have to improve himself immensely in order to be the first choice man off the bench for Gary Smith. 

Ross LaBeaux: The Rapids second round draft pick out of Virginia came into last season looking to be the #1 guy when it came to backing up the middle of the midfield filled by Pablo Mastroeni and Jeff Larentowicz. Fortunately for us all, they didn't need to be spelled very often. A national champion at Virginia, LaBeaux showed how inexperienced and unready he was for MLS every time he appeared on the field last year in his five appearances. His play left him mostly invisible minus his biggest screw up of the year which helped in part to give RSL the late goal at Rio Tinto in the infamous 1-1 draw there last season. The Rapids picked up another young guy in Joesph Nane this offseason who can play defensive midfield so LaBeaux's position is now a bit of a hot seat. Time will tell if he can boost himself to the challenge.

Anthony Wallace: The only starter to appear on this list, and the player who probably requires the least amount of work this season in order to become the top flight player that the Rapids have needed at left back for a long time. Wallace showed up about halfway through the season and needed several games on the bench to convince Gary Smith he was worth starting. He had great games against teams like Chivas USA and the Houston Dynamo but was a bit bland against some of the better teams, being one of the two defenders caught completely out of position in the title game as David Ferriera scored his goal. He is still young with mountains of potential and he's going to need to capitalize on some of that potential in order to quell a still skeptical fanbase and keep himself at the top of list for automatic starters at left back.

Quincy Amarikwa: To hear Gary Smith talk, Quincy is the clear first starter off the bench when it comes to the striker position right now with Mac Kandji still recovering from that horrible ACL tear he had in the MLS Cup final. After watching a season of Quincy playing here, that is a bit frightening. Quincy is not a great striker from what he showed last year, a speedy guy but a guy with very little scoring touch and very low skill on the ball as well. 38 total MLS appearances and only two goals to show for it doesn't bode well for the 23 year old striker, especially when you consider that his only Rapids goal was an easy tap in from Mac Kandji that a dead dolphin in a fishing net could probably have deflected in. With another young guy with tons more potential on the bench in Andre Akpan coming up the ranks and Mac Kandji certainly coming back from the injury during the season, the burden of proof is on Amarikwa to prove that he still belongs on a championship caliber MLS squad.