I've heard the argument a lot since the Real Salt Lake debacle that this team should be better than the one that we saw sneak into the playoffs in 2013. I don't completely agree with the assessment considering the point that coach-wise we're back to square one with a rookie, but it's on the field where it gets interesting.
If we're being honest, it does look like this is a Rapids team that should be looking better than their recent record shows. Deshorn Brown and Dillon Powers are both better than last year, Vicente Sanchez has shone all year long and they've added some very good players to the mix in Marlon Hairston and, his appearance last year in garbage time aside, Dillon Serna.
Unfortunately, the Rapids appear to have forgotten the secret ingredient that got them where they were last year: depth. This Rapids team is in clear need of at least two or three new names ASAP, and the window to pick them up is closing very quickly. The help isn't necessarily needed in the Starting XI, though adding a big name like Jermaine Jones or something would certainly not hurt the team at all. (This is especially true considering it's Nick Labrocca, likely the weakest link on Pablo Mastroeni's most frequent preferred XI, who would be the one upgraded there.)
It's more prudent, however, for the Rapids to consider adding some extra players of Labrocca's caliber, the type who could start, but would act mostly as good depth for the team in times of need. I probably don't need to point out to you that most of Colorado's worst performances this season have come in times of injury and squad rotation. The 3-1 loss to Chivas, the 0-0 draw against Chicago and the 3-0 loss to the Revolution are the first ones that spring to mind. All three of those matches were ones against teams in horrible form that saw the Rapids snap streaks by playing mostly B-team squads, which couldn't hold their own.
Despite that, there seems to be a general air about the team of the roster currently being good enough. While it's true that the Starting XI is fantastic -- how could it not be with names like Brown, Powers, Sanchez, Irwin, Klute, Jose Mari and Moor in it? -- there is a steep, steep drop in potential right after that, and that's where the Rapids are ignoring their second biggest flaw as a team. (The first biggest is, obviously, the hilariously bad finishing that the Rapids have been plagued with every single year since 2011.)
The reason 2013's team was so good was because of the great depth, but this year we aren't getting another RapKids revolution, and there were no real veteran names picked up other than Jose Mari, either. A few notes on the depth:
- Jared Watts has, as anticipated, been given a lot of minutes, but has shown far more growing pains than we were hoping to see.
- Neither of the team's newest two center backs (Grant van de Casteele and Gale Agbossumonde) have managed to inch their way into the first team picture, which has pushed Marvell Wynne into central defense, always a less effective proposition than having him on the right.
- On that same note, the team has almost no fullback options after Wynne, Chris Klute and Thomas Piermayr.
- Danny Mwanga has looked exactly the same as he did last year; ditto for Edson Buddle, but minus the big goals that he was scoring last season. Past Deshorn Brown and, assuming he's actually in form again, Gabriel Torres, there is a black hole at striker.
- Carlos Alvarez, who was the only major pick-up for the Rapids other than Jose Mari and Agbossumonde, has looked decent but unimpressive in the few minutes he's had so far.
- Multiple roster spots are being taken up by players who likely won't see a minute this season like Brian Mullan and Davy Armstrong.
It's abundantly clear from watching this team that moves need to be made if a charge for the playoffs is going to gain much steam through an abysmal schedule in August and September. It doesn't need to be Mix Diskerud or Jermaine Jones (again though, won't complain) but we've seen too many collapses by the team's bench players and B-team to be convinced that this is truly an MLS Cup-caliber side in the year 2014, which I think we can all agree is something that we were expecting there to be a chance to be.
A very deep team was the secret behind Oscar Pareja's playoff push in 2013. It might be the secret weapon that can get Pablo to the big show as well, assuming the team is willing to add some assets.