Colorado Rapids 2005 quick hits

Clavijo sparks Rapids attack for '05

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Colorado Rapids

Invesco Field at Mile High (MLS capacity: 76,125)
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2004 Record: 10-9-11, 41 pts. 3rd in the Western Conference
GF: 29 (10th in MLS)
GA: 32 (2nd in MLS)
Finish: Lost to Los Angeles Galaxy in Conference Semifinal (2-1 on agg.)

Head Coach: Fernando Clavijo
Key Departures: Zizi Roberts, Daryl Powell, Joey DiGiammarino, Antonio de la Torre, Seth Trembly, Rey Martinez, Alberto Delgado
Key Additions: Jeff Cunningham, Martin Morales, Luchi Gonzalez, Leo Cullen, Terry Cooke, Wolde Harris

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP

GOALKEEPER
Joe Cannon: Without a doubt the top 'keeper in the league in 2004. His lightning quick reflexes, superb positioning and athletic ability all helped him earn the 2004 Goalkeeper of the Year award.

DEFENDERS
Hunter Freeman: The Rapids' first-round selection in the 2005 MLS SuperDraft is a talented defender with youth international experience (U.S. U-20s). He also can contribute offensively, as evidenced by the fact that he led the nation in assists last season with 21 for the University of Virginia.

Guy Melamed: Another youth international (Israeli U-16, U-18, U-21) draft pick, Melamed had a standout career at Boston College. His size (6-foot-1, 185 lbs.) and strength should aid his transition into the professional game.

Nat Borchers: Now entering his third season with Colorado, Borchers has steadily improved every season he has played. He is good in the air and already seems like a Rapids veteran after claiming a starting stop in his rookie season in 2003.

Ritchie Kotschau: Easily the most experienced member of the Rapids back line, Kotschau has been in MLS since 1998. Coach Fernando Clavijo will look to the New York native to be the team's leader defensively.

MIDFIELDERS
Martin Morales: A seasoned Uruguayan professional, Morales has spent time at clubs all over South America. His play on the left wing could help the Rapids forwards receive better service this season. He is also known to be a free kick specialist.

Pablo Mastroeni: Likely to push into a midfield role after playing in the back last year. Mastroeni is a tough tackler, good passer and one of the hardest working players around. He is also a regular with the U.S. national team, so Clavijo will need to find a suitable replacement due to World Cup qualifying this year.

Kyle Beckerman: A crafty player who needs to step up offensively this season and be the link between the defense and the forwards. With more options up top, the Rapids will probably try to hold the ball more this year, meaning Beckerman should get his chance to be more involved in the attack.

Chris Henderson: Leads by example, tirelessly flying up and down the right flank. Always in great shape, Henderson is still going strong after first joining the club for their inaugural season in 1996.

FORWARDS
Wolde Harris: The Jamaican returns to MLS after testing the waters abroad. He and Cunningham play with a similar style, so how they work together will be a key factor in Colorado's defense. He's fast and powerful and has a proven record in MLS, having notched 50 career goals so far.

Jeff Cunningham: Another Jamaican, his speed is his greatest asset. Cunningham gets behind defenses and makes them pay with precision shooting. Also is accomplished in MLS, having netted 62 goals for the Crew in 182 games.

OUTLOOK

The Rapids have good players from top to bottom, though some are untested at this level, particularly in defense. If Clavijo's rookie backs adjust well, the team should be successful. Having Joe Cannon behind them helps, but he can't be expected to be the hero every time. Colorado needs to score more goals and with the likes of Cunningham and Harris on board, they look to be ready to accomplish the task.

NEWCOMER WITH THE BIGGEST IMPACT: Jeff Cunningham

Blistering speed, good shooting ability and a proven ability to score goals at this level all make Cunningham the most important acquisition for the Rapids this season. He got the job done in Columbus and now will try to repeat the feat in Colorado. He should also get help from Harris and Jean-Philippe Peguero, meaning the pressure won't all be heaped upon Cunningham.

Jonathan Nierman is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.


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