COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — Rapids head coach Gary Smith has made a concerted effort to deepen his 2010 squad with greater roster competition for starting spots.
And while there are many players who are inked in on the team sheet days in advance of any given game – Matt Pickens, Drew Moor, Pablo Mastroeni and Conor Casey, for example – who form a rock-solid spine to the team, there are still positions on the field that are up for grabs every week.
One of those spots is at left back. Though the Rapids probably wouldn’t admit it publicly, the team has felt the loss of Jordan Harvey this year, who was ever-present last year before going to the Philadelphia Union in this year’s Expansion Draft.
Colorado brought in 21-year-old Danny Earls, a pacey Irishman formerly playing with the Rochester Rhinos, to fill in for the departed Harvey.
Earls impressed from the get-go with his attacking flair down the flanks, but some crucial errors of inexperience in more recent games have left him further down the pecking order.
In a bid to increase competition for the spot, Smith brought in Anthony Wallace, 21, from FC Dallas in July.
The Under-20 US international duly made his Rapids’ debut on Saturday in the 3-0 victory over Chivas USA, sending Earls to the bench.
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Like the rest of his teammates, Wallace looked tentative in a stuttering first half performance against the Goats. But in the second half, the left back played a lot more assuredly – as did the team, who eventually ran out convincing winners.
Wallace was grateful for the opportunity and happy he could play a full 90 and help keep a clean sheet.
“I knew on about the Wednesday [that I would play],” he told MLSsoccer.com after the game. “I was nervous but it was the good type of nerves, especially after being out for so long.”
Wallace was not a regular starter in Texas and his chances could also be limited in Colorado. Not only is there Earls breathing down his neck, but the ever-reliable Moor would probably be first pick at left back when Julien Baudet and Marvell Wynne are healthy and can play in the center.
Smith said he was pleased with his debutant’s performance.
“Anthony has qualities and aggression going forward,” he said following the game. “It’s good to have two young guys battling it out.”
The left back quandary remains a work in progress for Colorado, and the spot is still for the taking in the Rapids’ trip to New York this weekend.
Nick Thomas writes about the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com. Email questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.