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PREVIEW: Rapids still have lots to sort out
by Paul Kennedy, March 3rd, 2014 2:22PM

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TAGS:  colorado rapids, mls

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[MLS 2014: Western Conference] Following a month of preseason play, it isn't hard to figure out who stands where on the field at most MLS clubs.

An exception is Colorado, which had yet to confirm Pablo Mastroeni, who ran preseason with the title of special assistant to the technical director, as the successor to departed head coach Oscar Pareja, let alone sort out any number of personnel issues.

2013 Colorado Rapids
Record: 14-11-9
Finish: 5th in Western Conf.
Playoffs: lost in play-in.

The Rapids were last season's surprise in the Western Conference, making the playoffs with one of the youngest teams in MLS, but halfway through the preseason-ending Desert Diamond Cup, Mastroeni admitted he didn't have a clue who would start. Part of that's because two of the young stars dubbed the "Rapkids" were slowly coming back from injuries, but also because the Rapids were two deep at just about every position.

Irish-born Shane O'Neill, who earned his first call-up to the U.S. national team at the age of 20 in January, was nursing a hamstring injury and played just 40 minutes in Tucson as Mastroeni shifted Marvell Wynne from right back into the middle. Dillon Powers, the 2012 MLS Rookie of the Year, had his first season cut short because of a concussion and also battled tendinitis in his knee, and he played just 75 minutes over the last two weeks.

Western Conference Preview:
Chivas USA

WHY BE OPTIMISTIC? For all the question marks in the Colorado lineup, it should be remembered Mastroeni, assuming he is named head coach, will have an extra week to sort things out and get everyone healthy as the Rapids don't start until March 15.

Up top, Deshorn Brown emerged as one of the most dangerous young strikers in MLS with 10 goals in his rookie season. Goalie Clint Irwin, left back Chris Klute, O'Neill and Powers were also playing their first full pro seasons in 2013 and will only get better.

Dillon Serna
, O'Neill's teammate on the U.S. U-20s, was pushing for a starting job. Mastroeni was working hard to empower veterans like Drew Moor, Marvell Wynne, Edson Buddle and Vicente Sanchez and Buddle with leadership roles.

WHY BE PESSIMISTIC? Powers' health issues are concerning. The Rapids have no one who can replace his all-around game in midfield. Spaniard Jose Mari, who was brought in during preseason with the idea that he'll replace Honduran hardman Hendry Thomas, who was dealt to FC Dallas, is untested in MLS.

The roles of a lot of players need to sorted out: Marvin Chavez, Kamani Hill, young Cameroonian Charles Eloundou, Sanchez and Buddle. Panamanian Gabriel Torres, Colorado's first Designated Player signing, could be one of the best strikers in MLS, but he saw spot duty in Tucson as Mastroeni was trying to downplay the pressure on him to carry the team in his first full season in MLS.

PROJECTED FINISH: 5th-8th place. Who needs a settled coaching situation? New York entered preseason without a head coach in place, and all it did after hiring Mike Petke was win its first Supporters' Shield. Could the Rapids do the same? Not impossible, but it will require some heavy lifting to move ahead of the big four in the Western Conference -- Real Salt Lake, Portland, the LA Galaxy and Seattle.



PROJECTED LINEUP: 4-4-2
Goalkeeper:
NO. PLAYER (AGE)/COUNTRY
1-Clint Irwin (24)/USA (2nd season)

Defenders:
NO. PLAYER (AGE)/COUNTRY
27-Shane O'Neill (20)/USA (3rd season)
22-Marvell Wynne (27)/USA (5th season)
3-Drew Moor (30)/USA (6th season)
15-Chris Klute (23)/USA (3rd season)

Midfielders:
NO. PLAYER (AGE)/COUNTRY
6-*Jose Mari (26)/Spain (Real Zaragoza)
2-**Nick LaBrocca (29)/USA (2nd season)
7-Vicente Sanchez (34)/Uruguay (2nd season)
8-Dillon Powers (23)/USA (2nd season)
17-Dillon Serna (19)/USA (2nd season)

Forwards:
NO. PLAYER (AGE)/COUNTRY
26-Deshorn Brown
(23)/Jamaica (2nd season)

First off the bench:
NO. PLAYER (AGE)/COUNTRY
9-Edson Buddle (32)/USA (2nd season)
99-Marvin Chavez (30)/Honduras (San Jose Earthquakes)
24-Nathan Sturgis (26)/USA (2nd season)
10-Gabriel Torres (25)/Panama (2nd season)
Colorado Rapids: complete roster.

Note:
returning players in bold.
*currently unsigned.
**second stint with club.

MARCH SCHEDULE:
March 15: at New York, 4 pm ET
March 22:
Portland, 6 pm ET
March 29: Sporting KC, 6 pm ET
Colorado Rapids: complete schedule.


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