Colorado Rapids, Preseason

Colorado’s depth chart takes shape in first preseason match

The Colorado Rapids concluded their first stage of their preseason training at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida with a 1-0 loss to MLS expansion side F.C. Cincinnati. Forrest Lasso – one of several Cincinnati players from the club’s USL era – scored the match-winning goal off of a corner in the fifty-ninth minute.

The result, like most preseason games, is largely irrelevant. Kendall Waston was notably shown red in the first half for a rough challenge, but teams in preseason typically allow ejected players to be replaced so the match remains even. Neither team was at full fitness and both sides effectively played a different squad in each half. Furthermore, the match was not aired and no statistics have been made publicly available – so speculating about individual performances is largely a futile effort.

However, the scrimmage did give a glimpse into how Head Coach Anthony Hudson views Colorado’s depth after a week and a half of preseason training. With nine players on trial at the club and four roster spots available, February is prime time for the Rapids coaching staff to evaluate new talent.

“It was an opportunity for me to see lots of trialists, and the guys from the draft,” Hudson explained after the match, “So this now gives me an idea before we go to San Diego to really get a look at this final test and see who’s coming with us to San Diego.”

The first-string lineup played in the opening half largely seemed to select itself, with a few notable exceptions. Tim Howard captained the side, with new signings Diego Rubio and Andre Shinyashiki making the start up top (Shinyashiki presumably starting in the wake of Kei Kamara’s injury). Nicolas Mezquida, Benny Feilhaber, Kellyn Acosta, and Jack Price made up the midfield diamond.

The defensive line is where things got quite a bit interesting: Dillon Serna replaced an injured Sam Vines early on at left fullback and Axel Sjöberg began alongside Tommy Smith in an increasingly-more-utilized center-back partnership. With Keegan Rosenberry away on international duty, academy trialist Sebastian Anderson got his first action with the senior team at right back.

The second half saw a brand new Rapids squad on the field – with like-for-like substitutions for every role. Matt Hundley and Niki Jackson replaced the striker duo of Rubio and Shinyashiki; Shkëlzen Gashi, Cole Bassett, Johan Blomberg, and Jordan Schweitzer occupied the midfield diamond; and Danny Wilson, Sam Raben, and Marcello Borges slotted in on the back line.

There are a few things to take away from the match in light of Colorado’s preseason preparations. The first item of note is that Benny Feilhaber started alongside Nicolas Mezquida. With Feilhaber’s experience as a No. 10 and a midfield shuttler, it was largely unknown which role the veteran would seize in the diamond formation. The inclusion of Mezquida – a pure attacking midfielder – shows that Hudson, at least at this stage of preseason, sees Feilhaber as a midfield partner for Kellyn Acosta.

In terms of Colorado’s left fullback competition, most should be unsurprised that defender Sam Vines got the nod for the first team start. Curiously though, Dillon Serna – as opposed to Deklan Wynne – replaced Vines following his injury. While the versatile homegrown played in the position at various youth levels, it was the first time Serna was asked to fulfill the left back role during the Anthony Hudson era.

The final takeaway from this match is that Colorado is still having difficulty finding the back of the net. While it is unwise to read into results of a glorified scrimmage with players lacking full fitness, it is somewhat disheartening to see nothing from the side in terms of goal production.

It is certainly not the time for panic in Colorado, but as far as homegrown midfielder Cole Bassett is concerned, there is definitely room for improvement.

“There were a couple times when were kind of off, as far as timing on passes,” the U.S. Youth International said, “For the most part it was a good start, but we have a lot more that we need to build on because if we want to go deep the in the playoffs this year we need to be at a higher level.”

Colorado’s squad will return to Denver before departing for Chula Vista, California on Wednesday, February 6 for the next stage of preseason training.

To remain updated with Colorado’s roster moves, bookmark the Rapids Republic Roster Tracker.

Image Credit: Colorado Rapids

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