Before the 2012 season began, I counted down the Top 10 keys to a successful season. Obviously, the season was anything but successful, so looking back at them is probably not going to be that much fun. Here's No. 9, effective depth on the team.
It's no secret that the biggest flaw with Gary Smith's management of the Rapids was the complete lack of good depth that he kept around. He was able to get quite a lot out of the solid starting XI that he put together, but past those guys... well, let's just say that Wells Thompson could legitimately have been one of our best depth players in our cup winning season. That's no good.
Oscar Pareja didn't do a whole lot right in his first season, but I was pleasantly surprised by a lot of the depth that he was able to pick up throughout the season. Except for the defensive corps, new names were flooded onto the team in large numbers all year long. Just take a look at who was being used as top substitute at times between 2011 and this year.
Forward: Caleb Folan
Midfield: Wells Thompson
Defense: Scott Palguta
Forward: Kamani Hill
Midfield: Jamie Smith
Defense: Tyrone Marshall (OK, we still need work here)
Kamani Hill scored more goals from the run of play in a batch of mostly substitute appearances than Caleb Folan did as a guy who started quite a few more games for Gary Smith. (As was oft pointed out last year, Folan's six goal tally isn't quite as impressive as it looks, with three of those coming from penalty kicks.) If Jamie Smith is your midfield spark off the bench, you're probably in solid shape there as compared to Wells Thompson. There were plenty of other names that could have hit that list as well -- Tony Cascio was great in most of his appearances and versatile as well, playing several different positions throughout the year.
He even attempted to find a diamond in the rough on the defense in Tyson Wahl, but I guess you can't win 'em all. The defense is definitely the biggest area of concern for Pareja after a season where the team let in 50 goals, yet the goalie was still the MVP of the season for the team in the end. (Odd disconnect there, eh?)
There's still plenty of work to do yet for Oscar if he wants to get the team into shape to be a year-in and year-out contender for Supporters' Shields and MLS Cups, but 2012 was certainly a start.