Rapids make defense the offseason focus after shaky 2012

Club makes correcting defensive errors, strengthening backline a priority

Oscar Pareja talks with defender Marvell Wynne

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COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – One of the oldest, and perhaps one of the truest, sports clichés in existence is that defense wins championships. So after allowing 50 goals in their 34 games in 2012, the Colorado Rapids couldn’t have been surprised to find themselves outside of the playoff picture when the season came to a close.

The Rapids worked on defense in their three weeks of postseason training, hoping to correct the issues that allowed them to concede the fifth-most goals in MLS in 2012.

“Just too many lapses in concentration and not being on the same page,” defender Drew Moor said this week. “We just need to be more solid defensively.”

Though defensive issues were helped with the implementation of a second holding midfielder in August with the addition of Hendry Thomas, the backline was a consistent problem for the Rapids throughout 2012. When asked about the biggest culprit in Colorado’s defensive struggles last season, players and coaches unanimously pointed to the same thing.

“Set pieces were a killer for us this year,” Rapids head coach Oscar Pareja said. “We have been evaluating that. That’s something that you control. Set pieces were very poor. … It has to be much better. We have to correct that.”

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Speedy center back Marvell Wynne singled himself out as one of the problems along the back line when asked to assess his individual season this week.

“I don’t think I did very well this year,” said Wynne, who battled a hamstring injury in May and June. “There are many goals I could have prevented if I just made one step this way, one step that way, get a little bit closer to my man. This year was definitely a low point in my defensive career.”

Despite the struggles in the back, the Rapids appear likely to return three of their four starters from 2012. Center backs Wynne and Moor (though Pareja this week did not rule out shifting Moor to right back in 2013), right back Hunter Freeman are likely to return. Left backs Luis Zapata and Tyson Wahl, as well as center backs Tyrone Marshall and Scott Palguta were among seven players released on Friday.

However, even if the starters do return, the Rapids will be looking for depth along their backline.

“We’re looking to create competition more than anything else,” technical director Paul Bravo told MLSsoccer.com last week. “It’s not just our back four, I don’t think you can blame the back four for the goals that we gave up. What goes on in front of that midfield group, are we all on the same page about how we want to go about pressing and making play predictable.”

Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.