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The Daily Wave: Questionable Depth And Short Roster Issues

The Colorado Rapids' roster isn't quite as full as it could be, and there's an issue with quality depth. Does this mean that the Rapids are going to enter 2014 with a short roster, or are there some more last-minute signings in the pipeline?

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Spor

MLS teams are allowed a 30-man roster, and the best teams in the league tend to use those rosters to the fullest of their abilities. The great Real Salt Lake teams through the first few years of the 2010's often boasted that they had at least 20 players who would 'start anywhere in MLS', and they backed that up on the field by winning their games regardless of who they put out.

Sporting Kansas City and the LA Galaxy, the two most recent (one of them two-time) MLS Cup Champions, have the same idea. Use your 30-man roster to its fullest and build from the bottom as well as from the top, and you can go places. Even before they instituted a 30-man roster, teams with big depth tended to get the goods. The Dynamo teams that won the Cup were good enough to be able to use Dwayne De Rosario in his prime as a super-sub. The 2008 Crew had only the one true superstar in GBS, but his supporting cast was varied and talented all the way down. Funny enough, the last MLS Cup winner that that coasted to a win on a good starting XI alone was... the 2010 Colorado Rapids, who magically had their preferred starting XI for nearly the entire season. Contrast that with the 2013 Rapids, who got to their playoff spot despite one of the worst seasons in terms of injuries that most of us have probably ever seen.

Where am I going with this? Well, this is the Rapids roster at the moment according to their site:

Goalkeepers: Clint Irwin, Joe Nasco, John Berner, Matt Pickens
Defenders: Davy Armstrong, Marc Burch, Brenton Griffiths, Chris Klute, Drew Moor, Brian Mullan, Shane O'Neill, Grant van de Casteele, Marvell Wynne
Midfielders: Marlon Hairston, Nick Labrocca, Jose Mari, Dillon Powers, Nathan Sturgis, Dillon Serna, Jared Watts
Forwards: Deshorn Brown, Edson Buddle, Marvin Chavez, Charles Eloundou, Kamani Hill, Danny Mwanga, Vicente Sanchez, Gabriel Torres

Here's the real big issue of the Rapids off-season. It wasn't all about the coaching situation, nor was it all about the loss of Hendry Thomas (Jose Mari should provide a decent, at worst, replacement for him in the starting XI). The biggest, yet quietest, issue is that the depth of the Rapids was absolutely demolished in the off-season.

Look at that roster up there, and you'll notice that the team doesn't even have 30 names on it. There are only 28 names up there. Among them is Matt Pickens, who will not be seeing time for the Rapids again after he was usurped as a starter and saw two new back-up GKs signed ahead of him, but remains on the roster until officially signed by another club.

The Rapids got away with one last year when they brought a team full of youth into the season. Oscar Pareja was somehow able to use wizardry to get big seasons out of tons of youngsters when they had to step up o the plate. In 2014, they'll start the season with eight players who have fewer than 200 minutes of pro soccer under their belts. (Joe Nasco got all of his pro soccer experience in the NASL, a noted step below MLS.) If injuries strike, can we expect John Berner to step up like Clint Irwin did? Can Marlon Hairston step up like Dillon Powers did? Can Grant van de Casteele step up like Shane O'Neill did? We probably shouldn't hope to count on it.

The Rapids aren't likely to be signing world-beaters with their extra roster spots, either. Samuel Galindo, Albert Edward and Juan Guzman, all of whom trialed with the Rapids this preseason, seem the most likely candidates. Two of them fit that same mold of no top-flight experience, and the other has played only minor minutes in countries like Bolivia. There's still time for the Rapids to surprise us with a move for a guy like Vicente Sanchez last-minute, but the 30-man roster doesn't seem likely to be stocked with unbelievable talent when they take the field against the New York Red Bulls in just over a week.

If there is a reason that the Rapids are going to struggle this season, I don't think it will be because of Pablo Mastroeni or because of the starting XI. Rather, it will likely be because squad rotation and injuries prove to be too much for a team with precious little depth to spare.