What does it say when players the caliber of Jamie Smith, Matt Pickens, and Anthony Wallace can't get on (or anywhere near) the field? Where do Jaime Castrillón, Vicente Sánchez, or Martín Rivero fit in? For the Rapids, a deep team continues to be a great problem to have.
A few weeks ago I wondered if Gabriel Torres' signing might light a fire under Edson Buddle, and maybe it has. Buddle looked more lively when he came into the game on Saturday. He did what he has done well this year (holding the ball, occupying defenders), but he also did things he hasn't been doing as much (making runs forward, getting into the box, and scoring). With Torres looking like he may work well with another forward, perhaps Buddle still starts in the middle, with Torres on his right and Deshorn Brown on his left. But that's just one option, with the Rapids depth offering many other good selection problems for Oscar Pareja.
The two traditional problems with having good depth are:
- Too many good players, no great ones. Who will be the game winner(s) for the Rapids? I don't see that as a problem for this team. There may be no Thierry Henry on the roster, but the Rapids don't just have depth, they have real quality at each position. They have so many guys who can create and score, I suspect they scare other teams more than New York does.
- Managing egos for guys who are good enough to start in MLS, but can't get minutes on the Rapids. Again, I don't see this being a problem, at least this season. Because of injuries, most of the team has had a chance to play meaningful minutes this season and be a part of the team's success, and they likely all know they could play again at any time. And I haven't seen or heard any obvious warning signs of discontent. It helps that Pareja seems to be a players' coach, who mixes caring for his players with high expectations. That's an ideal style to manage the types of egos on the Rapids, at least for now. Maybe by next year some of the veterans may not be thrilled about riding the pine, but there's a grace period (which admittedly also has a lot to do with winning) for checking one's ego that the Rapids seem to be in.
So who plays in the midfield? Who plays up front? Who's the right back? These are great problems to have when there are so many good answers.