Thursday, March 27, 2008

Projected Starting Lineups: Colorado Rapids

Projected Starting Lineup:


-----------------------C. Gomez-----------------------------

C. Clark-------Mastroeni---------R. Gomes---------T. Cooke



Coming off the bench: GK Justin Hughes, DF Tim Ward, DF Stephen Keel, MF/FW Herculez Gomez, MF Mehdi Ballouchy, FW Conor Casey, DF Dan Gargan

Colorado shipped away last year's bust Nico Hernandez, almost shipped away their keynote player Mastroeni, and brought in a Christian Gomez that throughout the preseason is quite the question mark. Other than all that, things are just peachy in Colorado. Except for the effigy of striking resemblance to Fernando Clavijo hanging outside the "Dick's" front gates.

All kidding aside, if the Rapids are going to make a run of sorts this year - Gomez and Mastroeni will support it, but what really matters is the continued growth of their youngsters. Colin Clark had sort of a breakout year last season and is poised to really turn some heads this year. He might even find himself on Bob Bradley's radar by the end of the year. Second years Nico Colaluca and Nick LaBrocca should find themselves in a position to grab more playing time this year, even with the acquisition of Brazilian Rafael Gomes from Santa Clara in Portugal. Gomes has already shown his abilities in the preseason and could help take the pressure off of Christian Gomez in the middle. The other Gomez - Herculez - with a return to form, could really spark this team into some surprising results. Then you have Mehdi Bellouchy. He was supposed to be Real Salt Lake's playmaker, but instead was shipped to Colorado where he has been waiting in the wings. If Clavijo wanted to, Mastroeni could move back to central defense in his waning years and Ballouchy - if on form - could man the middle with Rafa Gomes.

The biggest question mark lies up top. A lot of people have been waiting for Conor Casey to show his former Mainz self. Due to nagging injuries and lack of fitness, we haven't seen that just yet. If he, along with Omar Cummings, can get the right service from Christian Gomez, you could see a breakout year from one of the two. Jacob Peterson is in that mix as well. Until Casey comes around and Cummings looks the better option, Jovan Kirovski will take a stab at the forward position with limited success last year.

The rearguard has seen some changes. Burciaga, Jr. comes over from Kansas City and if he keeps a cool head on and plays day in day out without making silly tackles, having massive brainfarts, the Rapids could then have a viable left-sided defensive and offensive option. I am still waiting for Ugo Ihemelu to bounce back to his early LA Galaxy form. Hasn't happened yet, but along with Petke, there are two seasoned defenders manning an altogether above-average backline. All this rides on whether or not Facundo Erpen goes spastic this year.

Another year in goal for Bouna Coundoul is exactly what he needs. His style of play, tenacity and aggression in and outside the penalty box will grow increasingly more instinctive as he continues to figure things out. Justin Hughes will have to wait his chance.

Outlook: 4th in the West

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