The Colorado Rapids are finally getting somewhere in the offseason. Their front office blow-up is almost complete - Coach Pareja still needs to hire some assistants after all - right in time for the 2012 MLS SuperDraft. Last season the Rapids went out and picked up defender/midfielder Eddie Ababio with the 18th overall selection, and considering his fantastic showing the one time he appeared, it looks like that was a great selection.
In fact, every selection during the Gary Smith era has looked pretty good. Andre Akpan and Ross LaBeaux have both bloomed into borderline starters on the squad, with Akpan especially looking ready to crack the starting lineup as an every day striker with his fast and furious growth over the past two years.
It's a new era now though, the era of Oscar Pareja doing the managing. Pareja has had a proven record of developing youth - to the point where FC Dallas is considered the best youth system in the country - so I'm not worried about the players that he will select. The question is, what position should we expect to see selected? Three ideas after the jump.The Rapids only have a single selection in this year's draft, the 14th overall selection out of 19 picks. Their second round pick belongs to the San Jose Earthquakes after trading it for Quincy Amarikwa. (How useful was THAT pick!?) It's very possible to get a mediocre starter at 14th overall but the Rapids are likely going to be looking for a depth player. Where do they need that depth?
* Attacking Central Midfielder
With an attack minded former midfielder as our new manager, I wouldn't be surprised at all if the Rapids picked up a guy to play in the center of the pitch and provide some attacking flair. Gary Smith built a system around box-to-box defenders clogging the middle which is great for defensive purposes but won't provide much excitement in the way of goals. With Pablo Mastroeni likely on his last legs, getting a replacement for him to provide some attacking flair more cohesively than Ross LaBeaux can will likely be a priority, be it by this SuperDraft or by some other method. If not this year, Jamie Smith proved that he could play that role and Wells Thompson might even be able to fill in at times, but eventually you have to imagine that Pareja's vision for the Colorado Rapids includes more young, fast offense in the middle of the park.
* Center Back
Drew Moor is one of the best defenders in the league and Marvell Wynne is fast as all get out with some defensive ability as well, but past those two the center back position for the Rapids is a bit bleak. Tyrone Marshall had some impressive moments over the course of 2011 but all too often he looked like the 36 year old that he is. Past him - assuming he doesn't retire of course - our best option seems to be Mike Holody, which is a very frightening prospect for anyone who has ever seen Holody play. While the top center back pairing for Colorado might be one of the tops in the league, a single injury has the potential to send it shooting down. CB is probably the biggest depth need for the Rapids; they're two deep at every other defensive position.
* Attack-minded Winger
Strikers are a dime a dozen for the Rapids, especially if Caleb Folan under some new coaching guidance can figure out how to put the ball in the back of the net more often. The crosses to the strikers are coming mostly from Kosuke Kimura and Anthony Wallace though, and that's a problem. Gary Smith loved his defensive-minded guys on the wing like Brian Mullan and Wells Thompson. Even Sanna Nyassi was moved up to striker when he started to show some offensive ability because it was taking away more defense from the midfield. We're not in that frame of mind any more and Nyassi won't get a chance to move back to the wing, sadly. The Rapids could use a guy who can score 5 goals a year and make even more goals happen off his foot manning the side of the midfield.
Who do you want to see the Rapids pick up?