What's eating Dillon Powers? Colorado Rapids seek remedy for Rookie of the Year's inconsistency

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – For most everyone on the Colorado Rapids, 2014 has been a trying year filled with different types of trials and experimentation.

But perhaps no one has felt the weight of those experiments more than the 2013 MLS Rookie of the Year Dillon Powers, who has been shifted around in the midfield all season long – and found himself struggling to stay involved on attack as a result. 

With the Rapids essentially going with a trial-and-error approach tactically in recent weeks, Powers has frequently been asked to switch sides of the field, playing both on the right and left and also seeing varying defensive responsibilities. The frequent shifting appears to have taken a toll on his offensive production, and it has also been mentally challenging at times for the former Notre Dame star.

“It’s been a challenge in some areas,” said Powers, who said he prefers to play more of a traditional box-to-box, central midfield role. “I don’t know if I see myself [playing outside] full-time going forward, but I’m glad to have that experience playing in those positions.”

Powers’ stats mostly tell the story of another productive season for the 11th overall pick of the 2013 SuperDraft: five goals and nine assists in 27 games – quite comparable to the five-goal, six-assist putout from his sensational rookie campaign. But goal-wise, three of Powers’ five strikes this year have come from the penalty spot (he did not take a penalty kick as a rookie), and he has not scored a goal from the run of play in more than three months.

Part of that discrepancy is by design. The 23-year-old typically prospers more as a distributor rather than scorer, and his assists are up. But also embedded within those statistics is a tale of inconsistency.

In the Rapids’ 2-2 draw with the Portland Timbers on Sept. 13, Powers had a goal (on a penalty kick), an assist and three shots on goal. In the two matches before and in the lone game he has played in since, not only has Powers not scored or recorded an assist; he has not recorded a single shot on goal in all three matches, and he’s only managed two shots overall during that spell.

In other words, Powers has tended to be all-or-nothing on attack this season, particularly lately, and his involvement has a major effect on his team. The Rapids are a respectable 4-3-2 this season when Powers collects a goal or an assist, a miserable 4-11-6 when he does not.

Not surprisingly, it’s something head coach Pablo Mastroeni is eager to fix.

“We’ve been trying to find [Powers] a role that allows him to attack freely and find the game, which he’s really good at,” said Mastroeni, who has shifted to more of a diamond formation in recent weeks. “I think as we continue to work through this, we’ll be able to make little tactical adjustments to lessen his responsibility defensively.”

Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.