[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:
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
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
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
, O'Neill's teammate on the U.S. U-20s, was pushing for a starting job. Mastroeni was working hard to empower veterans like
, 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:
, 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:
(20)/USA (3rd season) 22-Marvell
(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)
NO. PLAYER (AGE)/COUNTRY
(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
(2nd season) Colorado Rapids: complete roster.
returning players in bold.
**second stint with club. MARCH SCHEDULE: March 15:
York, 4 pm ET
Portland, 6 pm ET
Sporting KC, 6
pm ET Colorado Rapids: complete