Commerce City, Colo. – When Rapids head coach Gary Smith submitted the lineup for the team’s opening match, two players stood out due to their position on the field. Newly acquired Marvell Wynne, long known for manning the right side of a defense, was inserted at center back. In the midfield, Mehdi Ballouchy, who has more often played in the center of the park, was lined up on the right side.
Injuries were a major reason for the lineup shift, though Smith contends that versatility within the roster is carries value, regardless of injuries.
“It means that we’ve got good depth, and we can cover a multitude of positions with fewer players,” said Smith. “It also means that we can be adaptable to our opponents. It also means if we have physical health problems, then we’ve got players that can move around and fill those slots.”
For Ballouchy, the shift from the center to the right side was not too uncommon.
“I’ve played a few times on the right,” said Ballouchy. “The times I’ve played on the right I’ve always been tucked in, as it was the case with the Chivas game. It’s actually harder that way, I think, for left backs to track you then if you just sit outside.”
Wynne’s debut in the center was much different.
"I don't think I've ever played there in my professional career," Wynne told the Denver Post following the game. “"I felt comfortable. I didn't feel out of place."
Smith decision to play Ballouchy wide was due in part to the central pairing of Pablo Mastroeni and newly acquired Jeff Larentowicz.
“He’s a good full player, and he’s an adaptable player,” said Smith of Ballouchy. “What he gave us this weekend was a little bit more stability on the right, tucked inside nicely, got tight to our center midfield players, and just made life a little bit more difficult with his central midfield mentality.
Ballouchy credit’s his comfort level as a center mid in helping him adjust to the wide role.
“I think when you play in the center midfield, you understand all the other midfielder positions, because you’ve got to organize it,” he said. “I’ve been in the center midfield long enough where I know what every position kind of needs to do.”
For Smith, the versatility of the roster presents competition for each position.
“For example, if Marvell Wynne is a more productive right back on any given weekend than Kosuke (Kimura), or Drew Moor is a better right back than either of the previous two, then I have some flexibility to move players,” added Smith.
“To me, the main thing is competition,” said the four-year veteran. “If someone doesn’t perform, then the next guy just comes on to that same position. That keeps training great. Training has been the most fun it’s been in a long time, because everybody is trying to do the best they can to get on the pitch.”