With the players set to report for the start of the 2013 preseason on January 17 - the same day as the MLS SuperDraft - ColoradoRapids.com will be taking a look at the depth chart at each position, based on the formation the team utilized for the last portion of last year.
The position starts off with the least amount of competition, but one where every player will need to be ready to play at a moment's notice. It's also a spot that could develop as the season goes on.
Veteran and team captain Pablo Mastroeni is back after missing all but the first two games last year. The player brought in towards the end of 2012 to fill in - Honduran international and former English Premier League midfielder, Hendry Thomas - recently signed a new deal to remain in Colorado. Without injury, call ups, suspensions, or other unforeseen circumstances, I expect these two to get the bulk of action in front of the defense. If the backline proves they can handle the opposition with only one defensive midfielder assisting, I expect Mastroeni to be the one that pushes forward with Thomas effectively 'holding.'
After Jeff Larentowicz was traded to Chicago on the eve of the SuperDraft, newly acquired Nathan Sturgis and second-year pro Shane O'Neill will now be counted - possibly even be groomed - to step in when called on.
Thomas had been a regular on the Honduran National Team for the past few years, and with his country playing in World Cup Qualifiers and the CONCACAF Gold Cup this summer, he may be unavailable if he's called back in. And Mastroeni, 36, will have to prove to himself and the staff that he's fully over the concussion symptoms that sidelined him last year, though all signs appear to point that way.
Sturgis, who can also play in the back, has expressed his preference to the midfield. He brings seven years of MLS experience despite being only 25-years old, possibly making him the next in line.
And O'Neill, signed as a homegrown player last year, has become a regular on the U.S. U-20 team (currently in the U-20s). Should the U.S. qualify for the FIFA Under-20 World Cup this summer, and O'Neill make the team, he would also be unavailable for some time.