I know, I know. The first thing that comes to mind for many Colorado Rapids fans is that we need any number of new faces in the Front Office or on the Technical Staff, but we’re sticking to what is going to change, and that’s the players on the pitch.
To the FO’s credit, there was a flurry of decent acquisitions in December, putting the current roster as follows:
Looking at this list, I feel good about our goalkeepers and forwards.
From what I’ve seen last year and everything I’ve heard, the Rapids are likely staying with the 4-4-2 formation for 2019, and I think the core of our midfield is solid enough for now. Nicolas Mezquida is likely our #10, although he seems better suited as a back-up. As CaptnMark42 said in the comments of another article: “I think we are going to use Mezquida as our stopgap as the number 10 this season. All signs point to 2020 as when we blow our load in the transfer market since the Howard and Gashi contracts will be done.” I think he’s probably right.
A midfield of Mezquida, Kellyn Acosta, Jack Price, and Cole Bassett with Dillon Serna and Johan Blomberg slotting in as subs would be decent. Add in Sam Nicholson as a backup in the midfield and/or up top, and the Rapids are potentially setting themselves up to actually play the attacking soccer we’ve been hearing about.
Then there’s the defense.
In my opinion, this is where the Rapids still have some work to do. I personally favor Axel Sjoberg and Kortne Ford as our two centerbacks, but I don’t think Anthony Hudson agrees. Ford takes chances and Sjoberg is the one that anchors it down in the back no matter what. When Ford and Tommy Smith are together, they both take chances and it leads to preventable goals. On the right side, I expect Keegan Rosenberry to start. Marlon Hairston never really got into his groove last year so I assume he’ll be a back-up. I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets traded at some point over the next year.
On the left side, there’s been plenty of discussion about Deklan Wynne vs. Sam Vines. Wynne is obviously on Hudson’s good side—he came in as one of a handful of New Zealand National Team players and earned 22 starts in 2018, most of them in the beginning of the year. Sam Vines spent most of his year with Charlotte Independence and the FO has high hopes for him. Vines has a ton of potential, but is he ready to be a regular MLS starter? I’m not entirely convinced.
To answer the original question that this article presents, I would like to see Padraig Smith and company bring in another CB and a strong LB. Out of the eight defenders currently on the roster, there are probably 3-4 that I see as potential starters. The rest are at best, not MLS caliber, and at worst, liabilities.