Steve Guppy, the Rapids’ assistant coach, had to put a consoling arm around defender Kosuke Kimura the day the team traded Nick LaBrocca to Toronto. Not only had the Japanese right back lost a friend in the locker room, but also LaBrocca’s replacement was going to be Marvell Wynne, a player with international experience who was an obvious threat to Kimura’s starting position.
As it turned out on opening day, Wynne played in the center with Drew Moor, allowing Kimura to play in his customary right back position. But now Julien Baudet, who was on the bench against Chivas because of a calf injury, appears to be fit again and could move back into his normal position of center back to partner Moor. Intuitively, Wynne or Kimura would then play right back with newcomer Danny Earls, a natural left-sided player, slotting in at left back as he did against Chivas.
But all is not clear. Head coach Gary Smith has used Moor at right back, too, and Wynne’s speed at center back could be a real asset to the team—especially after losing speedster Ugo Ihemelu to Dallas last year. Smith this week suggested that Moor could be used at right back. In yesterday’s practice scrimmage, Moor and Wynne played at center back with Kimura at right back. Baudet was on the reserve team.
Whether Wynne slots in at right or center back, his arrival is clearly a major threat to Kimura's status as a starter, given Moor’s versatility and the fact that Baudet would only play center back.
Kimura has faced many challenges in his soccer career—not least coming to the U.S. with no English speaking skills to land a soccer scholarship—but is adjusting to this one. He said he enjoyed playing with Wynne in the Chivas game and was reassured by the former Toronto star’s pace and positional sense.
“I think he played really good,” Kimura said after training his week. “He is a good guy. He listens. I felt very comfortable having him right next to me. He never came outside after the first few minutes. He has really good speed, he is athletic. He’s very good in the air.”
Obviously, the signing of Wynne gives the Rapids several options at the back. Kimura added that there could be different formations whether the team is playing attacking soccer at home or in a more defensive mode on the road.
“We have really good players at the back,” Kimura said. “Who knows? Maybe it will be different going away. At home, maybe Gary wants more people pushing forward. We will see.”
The sense is that the incredibly hard-working Kimura may be the odd man out on more occasions than he would like and could often be used as an impact player off the bench. One thing’s for sure: Kimura, a fan favorite in Colorado, won’t back down from the challenge and will be pressing Wynne and his other defensive teammates all the way for a starting position.