Will eager youngsters solve Rapids' woes at left back?

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – After years of using a revolving door of players at left back, the Colorado Rapids are hoping to solidify the spot in 2013 with a crop of young players eager for the job.

Three youngsters appear to be the primary competitors for the Rapids’ left back role this upcoming season, with 23-year-old Anthony Wallace, 22-year-old Chris Klute and 21-year-old Kory Kindle all competing for minutes in place of veteran Luis Zapata, who parted ways with the Rapids in November.

“It’s an open competition like any other position, [but] especially in that part,” Rapids head coach Oscar Pareja said this week. “I don’t think we were good there last year.”

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Last year’s primary left back, the Colombian newcomer Zapata, was often a force on the attacking end but also found himself pushing up too far, frequently leaving the backline exposed. Poor wing defending contributed to 50 goals allowed (fifth-most in MLS), and Pareja allowed Zapata (26 starts in 2012) and right back Hunter Freeman (18 starts) to leave after the season.

But last year’s problems at left back were no anomaly for the Rapids. With names ranging from Danny Earls to Miguel Comminges to even Drew Moor getting time at the position in recent years, Colorado have failed to find a consistent answer at the position.

Wallace, a starter on the 2010 MLS Cup-winning team and the likely early favorite for the spot, will be back after missing the entire 2012 season with a torn Achilles tendon. Klute impressed after being acquired last September from the NASL's Atlanta Silverbacks. And Kindle unexpectedly slipped to the Rapids at 25th overall in the SuperDraft earlier this month, and his natural ability to push forward could be a match for Pareja’s attack-based formation.

“That’s the style of play we played at Cal State Bakersfield, always keep the ball on the ground,” Kindle said. “I definitely think the system works for me.”

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But Wallace, who has 26 career MLS starts to his name since being drafted ninth overall by FC Dallas in 2007, believes he can be the solution to the Rapids’ left back woes – so long as he can stay on the field after two injury-riddled seasons. Wallace started all four of the team’s postseason games in 2010 en route to winning MLS Cup.

“First and foremost, I just need to stay healthy so I can still have the opportunity to take over that spot,” Wallace told MLSsoccer.com this week. “But just being in there I also need to be consistent, get a little other aspects of my game down, like my air game, a little more intensity.”

But whichever way they go, Colorado hope one of their youngsters will blossom into a long-term answer at left back.

Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.

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