With the season done and dusted, lets take a look at what the Colorado Rapids might want to pick up during their holiday shopping for 2015. We'll do this at each of the XI positions using the simple 'Upgrade' or 'Hold' of the player in 2014 that most often played the position.
The bench needs work all around, so suffice it to say that if we need an improvement at a starting position, it means we really, really need an improvement at that position off the bench.
Left Striker: Deshorn Brown
Rapids fans probably had higher expectations from Brown in Year 2; he scored 10 goals in 2013 to match his 10 goals in 2014. But he's a hold because A) he can be an electric performer on occasion and B) he's just 23 years old. Hopefully we'll see greater growth in 2015.
Right Striker: Gabriel Torres
Torres actually had fewer starts (11) than Vicente Sanchez (12); but I'm calling him the starter. He scored 3 goals. His health kept him out of the lineup until June. Whether that was due to poor fitness or injury, it was never made clear to the public. Many fans are on the 'lets give him a chance' side. I'm not. He didn't produce, plain and simple, and the fact that he spent long stretches of the season on the bench indicates to me that he never warmed the cockles of Pablo Mastroeni's heart. Torres only emerged as a starter after the team was in free-fall and the lineups got more and more 'creative' (i.e. desperate). Torres is probably worth keeping, but as an Alan Gordon/Tim Cahill off-the-bench guy, not as the creative engine for the entire offense. This is a position we need more production out of then I think Torres is going to give us.
Left Midfield: Dillon Serna
Serna's sophomore year was largely forgettable, save for a phenomenal goal against DC United. But remember: Serna is 20 years old. He is fast and skillful. And he will get better. Still, the Rapids might want to buy low on a veteran MLS player to back him up or mentor him a bit. Note: I am aware that Pablo started Dillon Powers and Wilson Carlos Alvarez here several times. I will pretend that never happened.
Central Midfield: Nick LaBrocca
Verdict: UPGRADE! NOW! PLEASE!
Nick Labrocca played 31 games for the Rapids this year. He had 1 goal. He had 1 assist. He took 32 shots. Only 7 of those were Shots On Goal. I'm not a member of Opta and can't look up to see whether that is just not-very-good or, like, absolutely-worst-in-MLS-bad, but I suspect the latter. He somewhat holds the ball and sometimes breaks up plays about as well as a below-average MLS player. He is not fast, he does not make glorious passes, and he will not anchor the midfield. He might be very nice to have as a late game option in a CDM role. On no planet should he start 27 games for your MLS team, unless you want to be bottom-of-the-table, like Chivas USA. Which is where we got him from.
Santa, what I really want for Christmas is a shiny new central midfielder. Never mind that I'm Jewish.
Central Midfield: Dillon Powers
Everything I said about Dillon Serna. Except that if Serna doesn't get better, we probably can make do. If Powers doesn't get better, we are royally screwed.
Right Midfield: Marlon Hairston
Verdict: Hold. Maybe. I dunno.
This position possibly was the least stable of all the spots in the 2014 lineup. I believe we saw Kamani Hill, Wilson Carlos Alvarez, Serna, Brown, Vicente Sanchez, Jose Mari, and a partridge in a pear tree line up at RM. Hairston was the only one that impressed me, and even then, only a little. I think he might be able to emerge in 2015 as the guy. Or maybe I think its awesome to have a dude with dreadlocks on the squad. (Note: Originally I really did call Carlos Alvarez 'Wilson'. I remembering him doing positively nothing. I literally forgot who he was. Hat tip to Brian Mercer on the correction.)
Left Back: Chris Klute
Among MLS defenders, Klute was 74th in Clearances Blocks and interceptions, 4th among the Rapids defenders. He was 59th in the MLS Fantasy 'Total Points' for defenders 5th among Rapids defenders. (Note: MLS statistics doesn't include any useful numbers for defenders. The Fantasy section is pretty useful, however). This is just evidence of what Rapids fans were saying all year: Klute wasn't very good. If I could find stats for giveaways in our own defensive third and pass completion %, I would suspect that Klute didn't shine in either of these areas either. This from a player who was a USMNT camp call up in January of this year. However, the Rapids defense, which played ok until Drew Moor went down, performed terribly from then on. Defensive players are highly interdependent upon each other: with no Drew Moor and sometimes Shane O'Neill, Klute and Wynne were likely to look worse at the back.
All of this is me trying to say: Klute wasn't very good, but I hope it was an aberration. Hold. But just barely.
Center Back: Drew Moor
He's one of the best defenders in MLS. He can head a ball in defensive box to clear or off a corner on the offensive end to score better than almost anyone in MLS. We'll likely need someone to play the spot until his ACL is 100%, though.
Center Back: Shane Oneill
Oneill was also excellent for the Rapids. It seemed like every game I went to, he was clearing everything within 10 feet of him- like a vacuum cleaner crossed with a snowblower on drugs. If he's healthy all season along with Moor in 2015, we might just be good.
Right Back: Marvell Wynne
I think I am like most Rapids fans: I really, really like Marvell Wynne. He is absolutely a beloved institution of this team. He's played the bulk of the season, every season, for the 5 years he's been here. He had a warm rapport with the fans and always had a smile on his face. But he has a tendency to wander forward a bit too far; and it left the team notably exposed sometimes at the back: there was always a moment in a game where a midfield turnover led to Wynne racing back full speed in emergency-defender mode. On top of that, he might have lost a step since 2014 at a position where pace is critically important. Marvell will be a valuable bench asset for somebody in MLS for years to come, so I'm sad to see him go.
Goalkeeper: Clint Irwin
With a playoff-caliber team in front of him in 2013, Irwin took the starting keeper job away from Matt Pickens, and early this season earned some USMNT buzz. Irwin recorded 7 shutouts by July 25th; almost as many (10) as he had all of 2013. Then, well, you know. I suspect, of all the many players we expect to rebound in 2015, Irwin is the most likely to really pull it off.