Over the next two weeks, MLSsoccer.com will preview each of the 19 teams in Major League Soccer, beginning with the clubs that brought up the bottom of the table in 2012 and ending with the Supporters' Shield-winning San Jose Earthquakes. This is part two of two previewing Colorado's 2013 season. You can find Part 1 here.
2012 record: 11-19-4 (37 points); 44 GF / 50 GA (-6 GD)
Depth Chart: 1. Matt Pickens, 2. Steward Ceus
Strengths: Pickens can make highlight-reel saves with the best of them, and he singlehandedly kept the Rapids in several games last year despite a leaky back line in front of him. The 30-year-old was re-signed in July and he is firmly established as the team’s top keeper heading into 2013. The Rapids felt Pickens should’ve made the All-Star team last year and his 6-foot-3 size, quick reflexes, leadership and ability to make big stops will assure him the top spot between the posts in 2013.
Weaknesses: Pickens missed the final two games of last year with a groin injury and suffered another injury in training camp. If Pickens is forced to miss significant time, Ceus has only two games of MLS experience under his belt, and positioning and timidity have been problems for the 25-year-old. The Rapids parted ways with experienced third-stringer Ian Joyce at the end of last year, so the third ’keeper spot is still up for grabs.
Wild card: Ceus now has four years of backup experience under his belt, and the hulking ’keeper (he measures at 6-foot-6) is also extremely athletic. A New York native who has earned seven Haitian national team caps, he needs to polish his game up before Oscar Pareja has full confidence in him, but if injury should strike, Ceus will almost assuredly have his number called.
Depth Chart: RB: 1. Marvell Wynne 2. Brian Mullan; CB: 1. Drew Moor-Diego Calderón 2. Marvell Wynne--Shane O'Neill LB: 1. Anthony Wallace 2. Chris Klute
Strengths: There is plenty of experience along the Colorado back four although no projected starter is older than 29. Wynne is expected to move to right back, a role he played earlier in his career and one where his speed can be put to better use at both ends of the field. Moor is MLS’ ultimate "iron man," the only field player to play in all 90 minutes of all 34 regular season matches in 2013. Strong in the air, Calderón is expected to improve set-piece defense, a big weakness for Colorado in 2012.
Weaknesses: The Rapids targeted an upgrade at defense after allowing 50 goals at 2012. Transition defense and set pieces were a major issue for Colorado last season. Left back is dicey, with Wallace returning from a knee injury and not overly impressive in preseason. Experienced depth is a problem at that spot as well, with only youngsters Klute and 2013 SuperDraft second-round pick Kindle currently behind Wallace.
Wild card: Homegrown signee O’Neill has emerged as a regular with the US Under-20s, and the 19-year-old will be tested at centerback with the Rapids after playing most of 2012 at holding midfield. Pareja likes O’Neill and if injuries occur in central defense, the Boulder, Colo., native could find himself in the equation.
Depth Chart: Holding midfielder: 1. Hendry Thomas 2. Nathan Sturgis; CM: 1. Pablo Mastroeni 2. Nick LaBrocca 3. Dillon Powers; Attacking midfielder (CM): 1. Martín Rivero 2. Kamani Hill 3. Kevin Harbottle
Strengths: This is the deepest and most experienced part of the Rapids’ team. Mastroeni’s 318 career MLS appearances are 11th all-time, Thomas impressed after his acquisition from Wigan FC in August and Rivero was arguably the team’s MVP in his first season in Colorado. Veterans LaBrocca, Sturgis and Hill and impressive rookie Powers provide plenty of options for Pareja to choose from if injury strikes.
Weaknesses: Rivero’s broken foot will keep him out for the first month or so of the season. Mastroeni is a big question mark after missing the final 32 games of 2012 with concussion-like symptoms. The concentration of depth in the midfield will be tested right away.
Wild card: A versatile box-to-box midfielder, Powers has enjoyed a strong preseason, with Pareja going out of his way to compliment him. If Mastroeni or Thomas were to go down, Pareja – who has shown that he isn’t afraid to play inexperienced or younger players – may look to the 11th overall pick from the 2013 SuperDraft to help provide cover.
Depth Chart: LW: 1. Tony Cascio 2. Kevin Harbottle 3. DeShorn Brown; CS: 1. Edson Buddle 2. DeShorn Brown 3. Andre Akpan; RW: 1. Atiba Harris 2. Charles Eloundou 3. DeShorn Brown
Strengths: If Buddle can return to his 2010 form, he will be a major upgrade over injury-prone strikers Conor Casey and Omar Cummings, who were both let go by the Rapids during the offseason. The Rapids like Harris’ size and Cascio was a major contributor as a rookie in 2013. Brown and Harbottle will both likely get a lot of action in their first seasons in burgundy.
Weaknesses: Apart from Buddle, this is an extremely inexperienced group. The Rapids liked what they got from Cascio in 2012, but he hit a rookie wall in the middle of the season and had trouble finishing at times. Harris has only played in 12 matches the last two years, mostly due to injury troubles. And behind those two is a rookie (Brown), a new signee who has never played outside his native Chile (Harbottle), 18-year-old newcomer Eloundou, and a little-used reserve (Akpan).
Wild card: The Rapids shocked many when they selected Brown over Walker Zimmerman with the sixth overall pick in January’s SuperDraft, but Brown could be a steal. Speedy and a solid finisher, the Jamaican looks like he’ll be Buddle’s primary backup, and he’s versatile enough to play both wing striker spots, meaning he’ll likely see a lot of rookie minutes in 2013.
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.