Behind Enemy Lines: Scouting Colorado Rapids

Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE

Time to check in and see what the Colorado Rapids are bringing to the table for the season opener on Saturday.

The season is finally here. FC Dallas opens up the 2013 season tomorrow night when they face Western Conference rivals, the Colorado Rapids.

Oscar Pareja's bunch has gone through a huge change over the offseason, as most of the usual faces fans would recognize out of them are now gone. The Rapids parted ways with veterans Conor Casey, Omar Cummings and Jeff Larentowicz this offseason, electing to bring in US national team striker Edson Buddle, Ecuadorian defender Diego Calderón and Chilean winger Kevin Harbottle, among others. Only a few key players remain from the club that won the 2010 MLS Cup (grr).

Pareja is hoping to finally be able to institute his 4-3-3 system this year. To do so may take some time yet again this year as several key players on offense are hurt (see below).

On the flip side the defense is a little healthier than they were last year and could be the one factor that will keep them in games this season. Colorado has been testing veteran midfielder Brian Mullan at left back this season, a move that could pay off for Dallas when Jackson goes head-to-head with the veteran. Having a cagy guy like Jackson take on a player new to a position could work out in Dallas' favor.

Calderon and Harbottle were big signings for the club but the trade of Danny Mwanga and Buddle may be more interesting to fans down the road.

The Rapids struggled on the road in 2012 but did manage a win in Frisco on a day that saw two first half red cards for FC Dallas. Dallas was able to get revenge in the next two meetings up in Colorado (2-1 win, that also snapped a long winless rut) and at home.

Roster moves for Colorado:

IN: M/F Atiba Harris (12/3/12 - trade from Vancouver), M Eric Avila (12/14/12 - Re-Entry Draft Stage 2), F Edson Buddle (12/14/12 - trade from LA Galaxy), M Nathan Sturgis (12/23/12 - trade from Houston), D Diego Calderón (1/3/12 - transfer from LDU Quito), F Kevin Harbottle (1/17/12 - free transfer from Universidad Católica), D DeShorn Brown (1/17/12 - SuperDraft), M Dillon Powers (1/17/13 - SuperDraft), M Dillon Serna (1/18/12 - Homegrown), M Nick LaBrocca (1/22/13 - trade from Chivas USA), F Charles Eloundou (1/25/13 - weighted lottery)

OUT: F Conor Casey (11/16/12 - option declined), M Edu (11/16/12), GK Ian Joyce (11/16/12 - option declined), D Tyrone Marshall (11/16/12 - out of contract), M Joseph Nane (11/16/12 - option declined), D Scott Palguta (11/16/12 - out of contract), D Tyson Wahl (11/16/12 - option declined), D Luis Zapata (11/16/12 - option declined), D Hunter Freeman (12/3/12 - option declined), F Omar Cummings (12/23/12 - trade to Houston), M Jeff Larentowicz (1/16/13 - trade to Chicago), M Eric Avila (1/22/13 - trade to Chivas USA)

Key player for Colorado:

It is a toss up for me, on one hand this club will go as Pablo Mastroeni goes. The veteran is back from dealing with concussion-like symptoms and could be a key force in the midfield for the Rapids if he stays healthy all season long.

But really, tomorrow, it could come down to who is up front in place of Edson Buddle. The Rapids yesterday traded for striker Danny Mwanga, if he doesn't start look for rookie Deshorn Brown to possibly get the nod up front.

Injury Update:

Martin Rivero is out for several weeks with a broken foot. Jaime Castrillon is out for four to five months after undergoing knee surgery last week. Buddle will likely sit out Saturday's game due to knee issues as well. Keeper Matt Pickens has also been battling muscle injuries in his shins and could be out for Saturday as well.

Final thoughts:

This is a very manageable game for FC Dallas. Control the ball early, keep the pressure off David Ferreira on the wings and allow Kenny Cooper and Fabian Castillo to have chances in front of Picken's goal. Do all of that and you'll be staring at three points to start the season.

I really like Dallas' chances in this one to control the game from the opening whistle too. Not having Blas Perez up front with Cooper does hurt a little bit but I see Fabian Castillo having a monster game (just like he always seems to do against the Rapids).

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