Defensive-minded Wahl favors well in first start for Rapids

Tyson Wahl crosses the ball in Toronto

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Tyson Wahl’s debut for Colorado was mostly a quiet one. And that’s exactly the way Rapids coach Oscar Pareja wanted it.

In the 2-1 loss at Toronto on Wednesday night, Wahl played the full game at left back, his first appearance since his acquisition from Montreal last week. And after the right side of the Toronto midfield was for the most part held at bay, Pareja said he mostly liked what he saw from his newest addition in spite the defeat.

“As a player, he’s solid," Pareja told MLSsoccer.com on Wednesday. "It’s very simple the way he plays. He’s a simple passer. I thought his adjustment to the group was great. Obviously, we were concerned because he has not trained very much with the team.”

The versatile defender was acquired from Montreal last Friday in exchange for a 2014 international roster spot, with the Rapids hoping that Wahl could help steady a struggling Colorado backline. Wahl had fallen out of favor with Montreal skipper Jesse Marsch in recent weeks, and now the California native is busy trying to win a spot in Pareja’s ever-changing starting 11.

HIGHLIGHTS: TOR 2, COL 1

“I felt OK,” Wahl said of his debut by phone. “I think it took me a couple weeks since I’ve played in a first team match, so it took me a couple games to get used to game speed.”

Wahl, 28, played noticeably further back Wednesday than the man he replaced in the starting lineup, regular left back Luis Zapata, who didn’t make the trip to Toronto. As Pareja explained, having Wahl stay further back was part of the plan after Zapata was caught moving too far forward on the second goal of last Saturday’s 2-1 loss to FC Dallas.

“That was one of the thoughts as well to be more solid [on defense],” Pareja said. “We know what we can get from Luis going forward and getting in those positions where he looks like an attacker. But at the same time, you give away other stuff, you have to be more solid in that defensive zone. In many stretches I thought we got that from Tyson.”

As for the challenge of battling for playing time on a new team, it’s not a new concept for the seven-year veteran, who joins his fourth MLS outfit.

“I don’t really have a choice to welcome it or not, it’s part of being a pro,” Wahl said. “I’ve dealt with the challenge of playing time my whole career. I’m used to it. I’m excited to be in Colorado and battle for a spot.”

Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.