Depending on what happens with contract renewals and the waiver draft, the Rapids are a very deep team. The club is solid at every position. What seems to be missing is game-changing quality at some key positions, and in MLS that is tough to find. So while we'd all like to see the Rapids go out and get a Darlington Nagbe or Landon Donovan, I'll keep things realistic here. Assuming Oscar Pareja stays with the team and we aren't in for a new-coach fire sale, any trade involving the Rapids is likely to bring in more depth and/or potential, not a major upgrade in quality.
Here are the Rapids' needs:
- Backup goalie. It's safe to assume Matt Pickens won't want to sit behind Clint Irwin, and the Rapids won't want to pay Pickens' salary to a backup. Stew Ceus hasn't proven to be a good option as backup, so the Rapids need one or two new goalkeepers, ideally one with some experience who won't mind riding the pine for a contender.
- A right back. Shane O'Neill needs to play in the middle with Drew Moor, but Pareja kept shifting him out right to cover there. The coach seems unconvinced that Marvell Wynne is the answer on the right. In a 4-3-3, it's important that the fullbacks can contribute offensively, which isn't Marvell's strength. But I'm not sure there are many better right backs in MLS who would be available, so unless Steve Cherundolo or Eric Lichaj is coming home, I'd stick with Wynne.
- A goal-scoring center forward. This role could certainly be filled by Edson Buddle, depending on his motivation to train this off-season. It could also be Gabriel Torres, though I'm not convinced that's his best position. Either way, unless you rate guys like Toronto's Bright Dike or Justin Braun, or Kenny Cooper or Will Bruin suddenly becomes available, there aren't a lot of trade options out there. If I were Paul Bravo, I would look into Cooper, I might check on Philly's attachment to Conor Casey, and either way I would just ban Buddle from Burger King.
- Depth at winger. If Torres is a center forward, the team needs another guy in the mode of Vicente Sanchez to create chances up front. If you don't trust Sanchez to be healthy all year (and why would you), it would be wise to sign a reliable backup for him who has more offensive ability than Nick LaBrocca--someone like Sal Zizzo, Bobby Convey (moving Deshorn Brown to the right), or outside MLS, guys like Daniel Cuevas or Freddy Adu. But with Dillon Serna, Danny Mwanga, Brian Mullan, and Tony Cascio already on the roster, it seems more likely the Rapids would give one of them the chance to win that spot.
- Depth at center mid. Dillon Powers was sorely missed after his concussion, exposing the Rapids' depth issues at center midfield. And Martin Rivero may not be back, Nathan Sturgis may be legit or may return to journeyman form, and Hendry Thomas is always one flying tackle away from a couple game absence. So unless the forgotten Jamie Smith or Anthony Wallace somehow gets back in the team and fills a role here, it would be wise for the Rapids to find another attacking mid (hard to find) and a versatile holding mid, someone like Tony Tchani of the Columbus Crew.
Tchani looked like a budding talent as a rookie in New York. He showed a good mix of holding midfield ability with some attacking ideas as well. Since being traded to Columbus, he has gotten lost in the mix there, and with new management coming in it seems very possible he could be pried away from the Crew. With the Rapids he could at least provide depth, and maybe even play himself into a starting position.
Trade scenario: Matt Pickens for Andy Gruenebaum and Tony Tchani.