When the 2012 MLS season began, we knew it was going to be a strange one for the Colorado Rapids. Not only had they brought in a new manager with a completely different system than the previous regime's, but they had done a complete roster overhaul which has continued through the season. Check out this turnover:
OUT: Macoumba Kandji, Caleb Folan, Danny Earls, Miguel Comminges
IN: Tony Cascio, Martin Rivero, Jaime Castrillon, Luis Zapata, Kamani Hill, Harrison Henao, Edu
That's just the starting candidates, not even mentioning some of the moves that took place in the reserve areas like Josh Janniere being released and the like. With that sort of roster turnover, the team came into the year a big unknown commodity, with four new starters in a brand new system.
The big thing that the Rapids did still have going for them was their veteran leadership keeping the youthful new core going as they tried to learn the new system. MLS veteran guys like Brian Mullan and Pablo Mastroeni were to keep the new guys like Martin Rivero and Tony Cascio on the right track.
That track, unfortunately, has started to get clogged with injuries.
It's nothing yet like last year's injury spat for the Rapids which led to defensive midfielders playing striker and wingers playing left back at times, but it's starting to become a big problem since the guys getting hit are some of the most key players on the team.
Captain and veteran Pablo Mastroeni was the first to go down, with one of the more frightening injuries -- a concussion. He had already suffered one that knocked him out of the playoffs last season and got another right as this year began, which could not only end a few months of his playing time but possibly his career. Before the season even started, the team had lost their starting left back Anthony Wallace, but Luis Zapata quelled those concerns a bit. They're still missing veteran Scotsman Jamie Smith after an ACL tear last year, but he might never even come back to the team because of a lack of international slots -- unproven midfielder Harrison Henao is in his spot until he gets healthy again.
Conor Casey finally came back from his long injury and immediately, his favorite strike partner -- with whom he struck up a famously efficient strike force in 2010 -- Omar Cummings was struck down with a long term sprained ankle. Marvell Wynne and Brian Mullan have also been knocked out for long amounts of time. All the old guard seem to be getting replaced with new faces at a startlingly rapid rate.
This has led to either below average guys taking the spots that the veterans once called their own like Tyrone Marshall and Wells Thompson or guys like Edu being thrown into the fire immediately after being signed to try and patch the leaky holes in the squad.
The new guys all have talent, Oscar Pareja has proven himself as a talent scout. The problem is, putting so many new faces together on a team with a new coach still getting his sea legs is a recipe for disaster. We saw it against DC United and in the first half against Sporting Kansas City -- this team needs their veteran stars back to keep the order and keep the team from crumbling under pressure that they're not yet experienced in MLS enough to handle.
All we can say is thank goodness that after this weekend's game against the Montreal Impact, the team gets a 21 day lay-off for an international break to heal up. The fans are very ready to see Pablo, Brian, Omar and Marvell back where they belong -- maybe then the season can stop the downward trajectory that it seems to be slowly slipping toward.
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