Colorado Rapids Trying to be More than Average

Phil Shore@@PShore15Correspondent IMarch 26, 2010

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - MAY 30:  Conor Casey #9 of the Colorado Rapids plays the ball against the New York Red Bulls at Giants Stadium in the Meadowlands on May 30, 2009 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Rapids defeat the Red Bulls 3-2  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images for New York Red Bulls)
Mike Stobe/Getty Images

The Colorado Rapids are a competitive team. However, they have epitomized the parity in MLS. They are neither an elite team atop the standings nor are they a cellar dweller. They sit on the fringes of the playoffs each season.

Last year, they were in playoff contention but lost their last two games by a total of 5-1 and missed the playoffs by tiebreaker, marking the third straight year Colorado would miss out on the postseason fun.

This season they will be out to finish the job.

The Rapids boast arguably the league’s best strike force, featuring forwards Omar Cummings and U.S. International Conor Casey.

In 2009, Casey scored 16 goals—second most in the league—and had one assist. He does a good job of finding space, getting open, and is a good player in the air. He’s also still in consideration for a spot on this summer’s World Cup squad, so he should be highly motivated.

Omar Cummings shined last year, his third in MLS. He once again set career highs in goals (eight) and assists (12)—also setting a Rapids season record and tying for the league lead—and he was named the Rapids team MVP. He complements Casey well with great speed and the two form a good tandem.

After those two there isn’t too much scoring punch. The third most goals scored on the team came from midfielder Colin Clark, who put a whopping three goals in the back of the net.

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The midfield is mostly a defensive unit, but they are a strong defensive group.

The group is led by captain and former U.S. International Pablo Mastroeni, an aggressive and tough player. He will be joined this season by another strong central defensive midfielder, Jeff Larentowicz, who in five seasons with the Revolution amassed 111 league appearances entrenching himself into the starting lineup. He learned the position playing next to arguably the greatest defensive midfielder in the history of MLS in MVP-candidate Shalrie Joseph.

Clark is the midfielder that could be the extra push the offense needs in order to be a threat and take some pressure off of Cummings and Casey. His season was cut just about in half last season because of an ACL injury. If he can recover, the Rapids will count on him to have a season like the one in 2008 where he played in all but one game, scored five goals, and assisted three.

It may look like a less-than average performance, but with the duo they have at forward, and if Clark, only 25, can still improve his game, then it may be that extra push the team needs, because their defense is pretty solid.

Matt Pickens will be the man between the pipes after a good 2009 campaign. Last season he posted a 9-6-4 record with a very good 1.16 goals against average and seven shutouts in 19 games.

In front of Pickens, center back Drew Moor will be in his first full season with Colorado after he was acquired in a late-season trade with FC Dallas.

Colorado also acquired yesterday a potential big impact player on defense. The team traded midfielder Nick LaBrocca, a solid player but one that would definitely be coming off the bench because of the team’s depth at midfield, for right fullback Marvell Wynne.

Wynne has blazing speed, which allows him to both cover for mistakes and also push forward on the flanks into the attack. He needs to be more consistent game-to-game and could improve his touch on the ball, but he is a solid defender who could also support Colorado’s offense.

Colorado is a solid club that one generally knows what to expect from them. They have some good pieces that could push them into the playoffs finally, but they also are maybe a creative midfielder away from getting in.