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Winners & losers with Pareja

January 6, 2012 | 10:04 am 3
By Shaun Schafer

Changing coaches often means changing playing styles, and the decision to hire Oscar Pareja as head coach means the Colorado Rapids of 2012 may look quite different from the teams of 2010-11.

Giving Pareja the reins of his first MLS team is going to create a roster shakeup. The Colombian, a veteran of MLS campaigns from 1998 through 2005, has already talked about the need to find a Carlos Valderrama-type playmaker for the Rapids.

Considering this is a team built on a model of rugged defense, over-the-top balls and just enough skill to get the ball in the back of the net, replacing Gary Smith with Pareja will mean replacing many of the fundamentals that led to an MLS crown in 2010 and the second round of the playoffs in 2011.

This change will produce winners and losers. Here’s some of both.

Winner: Jeff Larentowicz. Bringing in ballhandler for midfield means someone will have to double up on defensive midfield duties. This responsibility will fall to Larentowicz.

The defensive midfielder has consistently been one of the best Rapids on the field since joining the team in 2010. Look for him to have even more work to do, with few shots on goal to take. The workhorse will be critically needed.

Loser: Wells Thompson. He plays with great energy. He plays with great passion. He rarely plays with finesse. The last item will cost him.

Thompson’s lack of touch is anathema to type of short-passing game Pareja espouses. He might get some time as a late defensive substitute, but look for his minutes to dry up in ’12.

Winner: Omar Cummings. Cummings goal scoring went from league-leading in 2010 to barely measureable in 2011. This will reverse with a team that emphasizes getting passes to the feet of players.

Conor Casey did a fabulous job in ’10 of getting the ball to Cummings. Without Casey, Cummings was adrift. With Casey back from injury in ’12, and more short passes, Cummings should thrive.

Loser: Caleb Folan. Pareja’s not looking for the “big and strong” forward to pair with a “small and fast,” and that means Folan’s time on the roster should be limited.

Casey’s nose for the goal and years remaining under contract means the new coach will have to find a way to use him. The same is not true for Folan. The 29-year-old Irish international was going to be under pressure with the return of Macoumba Kandji from injury. Hiring Pareja likely sealed Folan’s fate to find another team for 2012.

Winner: Steven Emory. No, you haven’t seen him on the field for the Rapids. You will this season. From his college playing days at Metro State, we know that Emory can thrive in the short passing game. Expect the young midfielder to show that in training and find his way on to the reserves bench early in the season.

Winner and Loser: Pablo Mastroeni. Hiring Pareja should guarantee Mastroeni makes the move from defensive midfield to center back. This could easily extend a playing career that has produced renaissance seasons in 2010 and 2011.

A new coach and a new position are likely to mean a new role, too. The captain’s armband will likely wrap around the as-yet-unnamed central midfielder that Pareja is seeking. Pareja is looking for a triggerman for attack. That player will set the tone for the 2012 Rapids. And that means the quiet professionalism of Mastroeni is unlikely to allow him to hold on to the captain’s title.

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  • Jessica said:

    I can’t wait to see what this new coach brings to the Rapids and can’t wait to shoot the new team!

  • george tanner said:

    shouldn’t be difficult: playmaking midfielders of the quality of El Pibe are a dime a dozen! good luck with that, oscar! thanks for the insight, shaun.

  • Shaun Schafer (author) said:

    I have used disheartening to describe so many Rapids moves that I no longer can manage the term. I am not hopeful for 2012.

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