COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — These days, everything seems a little different at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. First, head coach Oscar Pareja left the Colorado Rapids. Then, following the usual wheeling and dealing of the offseason, newly named head coach Pablo Mastroeni has been experimenting with different players at different positions during the weeks leading up to start of the season.
And sure enough, it’s the Rapids’ backline could look most different for their season opener on March 15.
Veteran defender Marvell Wynne has returned to center back, the position he manned for several years before switching to right back before the start of last season, a move Wynne is happy to make after a difficult season at right back in 2013.
“It’s home,” Wynne told MLSsoccer.com of the move late last week. “The adjustment has actually come fairly easily. It’s kind of a comfortable position being back there. I like having to run backwards instead of forward all the time, to be honest.”
Wynne is far from the only potential defensive change to start the year; Mastroeni and the Rapids have been busy playing musical chairs with their back line during the preseason. Twenty-year-old Shane O’Neill, who stood out at center back last season in his first full MLS season, appears slotted to move to right back.
Veteran Marc Burch was brought in as insurance for both fullback spots and rookie midfielder Jared Watts is seeing time at center back. Even steady midfielder Nathan Sturgis, one of the Rapids’ biggest surprises in 2013, has been thrown in at right back as well.
But it starts with the 27-year-old Wynne, now entering his eighth MLS season, who is also taking on more of a leadership role in 2014 as well.
- Get more Colorado Rapids news at ColoradoRapids.com
“I think I’m just more vocal this year because [Mastroeni’s] tactics and what he wants is very easy to understand,” Wynne said. “So I know what he wants from us. I can relate it easier.”
Wynne was benched for parts of 2013, demoted at times after battling inconsistencies while adapting from center to more of an attacking right back, as favored by Pareja. But paired back up with fellow center back and longtime partner Moor, the Rapids hope the speedy former No. 1 overall pick can help keep goals down and spirits up again in 2014.
“When you have two experienced players playing side by side, you’re going to be able to communicate better, you’re going to be able to manage that backline better,” Mastroeni told MLSsoccer.com. “I think [communication] is the difference between minimalizing the gaffes in games and minimalizing the transition moments in games, and I think [Wynne and Moor] have done a really good job in preseason together.”
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.