Ten games into the 2015 Colorado Rapids season and the Burgundy Boys are sitting on the outside looking in at the top six in the Major League Soccer Western Conference at 1-2-7. Despite the less than exciting start the Rapids are just four points out of the playoff spots and they have gotten results in eight of 10 games.
And there are still 72 available points out there for them to take.
So....time is on their side.
But the question is what is the ideal starting XI with the recent changes that the Rapids have made to their squad to maximize their point redemption going forward. Now, some of this will absolutely fall on the shoulders of Pablo Mastroeni and what he is looking for as a coach. Taking all emotion out of it (I really like Dillon Serna and Shane O'Neill and wish they played more) the question is simple: what is the Starting XI that will get the most out of this club and have them make a serious run at a playoff berth.
GK: Clint Irwin. Next
DEF: This is one of the spots on the field where there is plenty of competition and the club has had to use that depth due to injuries and International Call-Ups. In an ideal world, based on the roster that we have now, I would prefer a back four of (L-R) Marc Burch, Drew Moor, O'Neill and Michael Harrington. That being said, I think there are only two players that are sure fire bets to start each match (assuming they are healthy) and that is Moor and Harrington. It is clear that Mastroeni likes having Bobby Burling, James Riley and Axel Sjoberg out there and for the most part the defense has stayed consistent. It is concerning that O'Neill is not playing more, but so far the defense is improved significantly from last year.
MID: Again, another area that needed work from last year and the upgrades have been well received and successful. Or have they? Both Marcelo Sarvas and Sam Cronin have settled the defensive midfield position, but both have also spent time on the trainers table. Nick LaBrocca has also played meaningful minutes in the D-Mid role but the real question comes when Luis Solignac and Kevin Doyle are fully integrated into the squad. You do not sign those guys to have them sit on the bench and if the Rapids continue to run a 4-2-3-1, some changes are going to happen. With this in mind, I could see the following: Sarvas and Dillon Powers in the D-Mid role, Juan Ramirez (although I think Serna warrants a longer look than he is getting as Ramirez is a defensive liabilty) and Gabriel Torres on the wings. Torres is a must start at this point.
And for the Center "Attacking Mid" role I like the idea of Doyle being there. Have him just behind the striker and you will get the benefit of his finishing and his ability to create on the attack. Plus with Powers behind him in a D-Mid role, Doyle will not be left alone in the middle.
F: Solignac was brought in to be a target forward and while I could see him interchanging with Doyle and Torres, I think he needs to be the starter. That leaves players like Dominique Badji and Charles Eloundou as bench/change of pace players, but this may be better for them as they will be learning from more established Lads.
So what do you think Rapids fans? Who do you think should be starting? Let us know in the comment section below!