Colorado Rapids get their defensive issues sorted out, look ahead to playoff push

The Colorado Rapids’ rollercoaster 2013 season ride is back on the upswing, and it’s thanks to a big change in the back.

After a three-game losing streak running through most of June, the Rapids have now won two straight games and will be seeking their third consecutive victory night when they host D.C. United at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park (Sunday, 9:30 pm ET, watch on MLS Live).

“There are a bunch of little things that are getting better,” Rapids head coach Oscar Pareja said on Thursday. “The young boys are maturing. We expect progression from there.”

The Rapids suffered through a brutal defensive stretch before Thursday night’s 2-0 win over the Red Bulls at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, but Colorado posted their first clean sheet since late May this week, following Pareja’s surprise decision to switch regular center back Shane O’Neill to right back. The move paid big dividends on Thursday as Colorado didn’t allow two or more goals in a game for the first time since May 25.

READ: Rapids confident in upcoming home stretch after shutout win over New York

“It felt a little different you know just having my back to the sideline and stuff like that, having to play one touch a lot more,” O’Neill said on Thursday. “And I think it’s just a think, just like center back, you just have to get games in there and keep playing and seeing how you feel.”

Veterans Marvell Wynne and Brian Mullan were on the bench along the Colorado backline in favor of youngsters O’Neill and Chris Klute, who delivered the assist on the Rapids’ second goal on Thursday night. And if Thursday’s results and Pareja’s postgame praise for Klute were anything to read into, Sunday’s lineup won’t change much, at least defensively.

“I think Chris had one of his best games,” Pareja said on Thursday of Klute. “I’m happy for Chris. He knows where he is, he knows he has to continue his progression, he has to be consistent, but he played very well [Thursday].”

Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.