2012 Colorado Rapids Preview: Depth Will Be Key To Oscar Pareja's Success

COMMERCE CITY, CO - SEPTEMBER 24: Omar Cummings #14 of the Colorado Rapids reacts after being called offside against the San Jose Earthquakes at Dick's Sporting Goods Park on Sept. 24, 2011, in Commerce City, Colo. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

A year after the Rapids were destroyed by their lack of depth, this year will test how far they've come writes Burgundy Wave's Chris White.

Colorado Rapids

2011 record (finish): 12-9-13

Key additions: Martin Rivero, Jaime Castrillon, Tony Cascio, Kohei Yamada, Hunter Freeman, Luis Zapata

Key losses: Sanna Nyassi, Macoumba Kandji, Caleb Folan, Miguel Comminges

Projected starting XI: Matt Pickens; Luis Zapata, Drew Moor, Marvell Wynne, Kosuke Kimura; Pablo Mastroeni, Jeff Larentowicz, Jaime Castrillon; Martin Rivero, Conor Casey, Omar Cummings

Bold prediction: The Rapids will click on all cylinders offensively and eclipse 55 points, making the playoffs with absolute ease for the first time in a very long time.

Depth. That's the word of the year for Colorado, following a season when the absolute lack of depth on the team destroyed them after the injury bug bit. Playing a B side against Sporting Kansas City in the playoffs, you would have thought that the Rapids were a Blue Square Premier side the way they got manhandled.

Because of the terrible finish and the bad depth on the side, Gary Smith was fired and youth master Oscar Pareja was brought in to take over the role and rebuild the team a bit, and rebuild he did. Pareja immediately added a flood of new, solid players to the midfield and switched to an attacking mentality with a new 4-3-3 hybrid style of play.

The key to the Rapids in 2012 is going to be the ability of the team to adapt to the new style quickly and effectively. Essentially, the team is now full of "what ifs" that will determine their fortune. The Rapids still have one of the better back lines in the league so the defense should remain all right, but several midfielders and less effective strikers like Brian Mullan and Quincy Amarikwa have been getting used up high as midfield/striker hybrids in the preseason and they'll need to figure out how to work those positions effectively.

Well hyped signing Martin Rivero is going to need to live up to the hype of being a ‘true 10' playmaker for Colorado. Conor Casey will need to come back and avoid injury and if he doesn't, Omar Cummings is going to need to learn to play his best game without Casey by his side. One thing's for sure - the Rapids are going to be really fun to watch this season, something that pretty much nobody would have said about them in the Gary Smith era.

- Chris "UZ" White, Burgundy Wave

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