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Backpass 10-6-15: Elimination means Experimentation

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Now that the team from the salt wastelands with the clown colors has put us out of our misery for the playoffs, the Rapids are free to experiment a little.

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Rapids bowed out of contention for the 2015 MLS Cup on Saturday with a 2-1 loss to RSL. They did regain the Rocky Mountain Cup in the process. But much as our saintly editor John Rosch stated in his somewhat depressive but 100% accurate postgame wrap-up, it feels a little hollow to crow about winning the cup when you lose the match.

I'm a little glad that the Rapids didn't win, because it means the team is free to truly experiment with these last three games, now that there's nothing on the line.

Here's a couple things I think might be worth trying in the upcoming matches against the Montreal Impact, Sporting Kansas City, and the Portland Timbers.

Let Dillon Serna be the Creative Number 10

Serna will be away with the USMNT U23s for Olympic Qualifying until October 13, leaving him certainly out of the Montreal Impact match. When he returns, he ought to get a crack as the team's midfield creator.

After two seasons of watching Dillon Powers try and establish himself as the team's creative engine, I've become convinced that it just isn't to be. It's not that he's out of position. Or that Mastroeni isn't giving him the right pieces or tactics around him. He's just not the slick dribbler, the dead-eyed shooter, or the pacey penetrator that other number 10's in the league are. He can plop the occasional short pass into place, but mostly he's been underwhelming.

Serna can shoot. Check out his Goal of the Week against DC United in 2014...

or his strike against FC Dallas this year.

His dribbling is slicker than Powers is. And he's got speed. Also, he does backflips.

Serna got to play as the attacking center midfielder in the US Open Cup fourth round against the USL's Colorado Switchbacks. The Rapids thrashed them 4-1. You can't extrapolate much from a win over a lower-division side, but still, Serna has played centrally and done it with success. Let's see if that's duplicable.

Give the 4-3-3 a try. Or a 3-5-2.

It's been a while since we even talked formation: back when the Rapids were still sort-of kind-of still in the playoff picture, in July.

The Rapids used a 4-3-3 against RSL and the Sounders and got two wins. But after Solignac went down with hamstring trouble, and Serna was off with the U23's, the team was short on forwards and went back to a 4-2-3-1. The team is currently overwhelmingly healthy, with the exceptions of Axel Sjoberg (knee trouble) and Michael Harrington (plantar fascitis). So get nutty! Maybe try Juan Ramirez or Maynor Figueroa at left wing back opposite Marlon Hairston (remember him?) or Drew Moor. Or go with a diamond midfield and let Jared Watts be a free-range destroyer in central defense. There's nothing wrong with trying something aggressive and different, even if the Rapids lose 3-0 each game. The only thing that'd be bad for the next few games is being boring.

Start Badji, Eloundou, and Watts

We know just what we're going to get with Marcelo Sarvas and Sam Cronin. We've seen all of Juan Ramirez' tricks: A) running fast, B) falling down, and C) taking a terrible shot instead of passing. And with Luis Solignac, we can almost certainly assume that when he's on the field, absolutely nothing's going to happen.

So start the kids.

The reason for the kids is obvious: Watts and Badji have both shown growth this year and should be given a shot at growing their game some more with extra field time. Kids have something to prove. Vets are mostly hoping to not get embarrassed the rest of the way. And that does not make for inspiring soccer.

Why Charles Eloundou?

Because Eloundou did this:

So... he should start, like, all the games. Only Vicente Sanchez has been as entertaining this year, and if the Rapids aren't going to win, they should at least be flashy.