Respected or not, Rapids defense struts into 2011

TEMPE, Ariz. – Drew Moor didn’t get the company memo.

The Colorado Rapids starting center back and resident ironman
is supposed to be carrying a large chip on his shoulder into the 2011 season,
his team’s chance to defend the MLS title it was never supposed to win.

After all, as the regular season looms closer by the day,
there are still questions from skeptics left unanswered about the real mettle
of this Rapids team and the defense that did just enough to raise a trophy last
season.

In fact, is there a more underappreciated group in the league
heading into the new season than the Rapids’ defense? Look around. Rapids fans
are some of the only ones actually heaping the praise on the group, rather than
simply chalking up the MLS title to the duo of forwards Conor Casey and Omar
Cummings.

Moor should care, but he doesn’t.

“It doesn’t matter,” Moor said. "We won the championship last year, and I
pride myself on that."

For the first time, Moor and the Rapids can end the
conversation right there. Head coach Gary Smith and the Rapids brass made the
right calls in assembling the group seemingly from spare parts, and then had
the guts to pin their new season’s hopes on largely the same group, aside from
the savvy addition of league veteran Tyrone Marshall and a trade that shipped
Danny Earls and Julien Baudet to Seattle.

[inline_node:323892]The group – Moor, well-traveled center back Marvell Wynne, soft-spoken
Japanese import Kosuke Kimura and FCD castoff and left back Anthony Wallace –
certainly wasn’t perfect in 2010, but they clammed up when they needed to.
Their 32 goals allowed during the regular season were fifth-best in the league
and they posted two shutouts in the postseason, including an impressive smothering
job on Golden Boot winner Chris Wondolowski and the San Jose Earthquakes in the
Eastern Conference Championship.

Moor, Wynne and Kimura were regulars in the lineup, and
Wallace stepped in down the stretch and during the team’s postseason run.  And as Moor is eager to point out, it doesn’t
hurt to have two of the most physical midfielders in the league – veterans
Pablo Mastroeni and Jeff Larentowicz – clamping down when it counts.

“We’re exactly who we were last year,” Moor said. “I don’t
think people realized what a solid unit it was last year, and as a unit, it’s a
competitive and organized group. And honestly, we hate giving up goals. We hate
losing games.”

The starting four should remain the same for the Rapids, but
expect Marshall to compete for time and likely see some starting minutes as the
crush of the CONCACAF Champions League schedule bears down this summer.

The Rapids went with Marshall and Wynne at centerbacks in
the first half of Wednesday’s 4-2 preseason win over the Galaxy, and trotted
Moor out for the second half with Scott Palguta. Both Kimura and Wallace
started and earned substantial minutes before they were subbed out.

“With our group … it doesn’t necessarily mean we’re going to
get a ton of shutouts or we’re not going to win some games 3-2 or 4-3,” Moor
said. “But when you put us up against any team in this league, we feel very
confident.”

And that swagger is something new to this Rapids team and its
defensive group, who aren’t about to start demanding respect now. They’ve already
earned it.

“If people don’t respect us, that’s fine,” goalkeeper Matt
Pickens said. “We know how good we are.”


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