What to expect from the Rapids ahead of Sunday's road match in Colorado
Note: Game has been postponed to Sunday, March 10 at 3 p.m. ET
Wholesale changes highlighted the offseason for Colorado, who begin their second year under head coach Oscar Pareja.
Pareja, who spent 14 years as a player and assistant coach for FC Dallas, guided his new team to a 11-19-4 record in 2012, finishing six points shy of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
That prompted the busy winter for the Rapids, who moved on from veterans Omar Cummings, Conor Casey, Jeff Larentowicz, and Tyrone Marshall. The club parted ways with 11 players and brought in 13 new faces.
Colorado is one of four teams that Philadelphia has yet to beat since joining MLS in 2010. The Union are 0-3-2 all time against the Rapids, with a 0-1-1 record at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.
In 2012, Pareja took a straightforward 4-4-2 team and tried to install a more free-flowing and attack minded 4-3-3. The transition wasn't exactly fluid, but it looks as though Pareja now has the personnel to run his system.
There were surprises in his opening day lineup, with rookies Deshorn Brown and Dillon Powers getting their first professional starts. Brown, a Reading United standout, played at the top of the 4-3-3 with Powers on the left side of the midfield. Veteran Atiba Harris played at right forward, with 22 year old Chilean newcomer Kevin Harbottle on the left.
Some of those decisions were forced, with veteran striker Edson Buddle and second year players Martin Rivero and Jaime Castrillon all recovering from injury. Buddle has knee issues and doesn't expect to play Saturday. Rivero is dealing with a broken foot, and Castrillon will be on the shelf due to knee surgery.
Still, there's good forward and midfield depth, with guys like Andre Akpan, Tony Cascio, and Kamani Hill on the roster. Additionally, the Rapids just went out and picked up former Union striker Danny Mwanga, who should be available for selection.
The midfield is more stable, with veteran Pablo Mastroeni next to Honduras international Hendry Thomas. Those are the two guys who will win the 50-50 battles and protect the backline.
We could also see the Rapids debut of midfielder Nick Labrocca, formerly an all-star for Chivas USA.
There are familiar faces on the backline, with Drew Moor centrally, Marvell Wynne at right back, and Brian Mullan coming in at left back for the departed Luis Zapata.
Stepping in as Moor's CB partner is 26 year old Diego Calderon, an Ecuadorian who had 200+ appearances for power house club LDU Quito.
Defensive depth should be provided by Nathan Sturgis, Chris Klute, and Anthony Wallace.
Goalkeeping was an issue on opening day, but longtime starter Matt Pickens should be between the goalposts on Saturday. Last weekend, with Pickens on the bench, backup Steward Ceus committed a huge gaffe that lead to the Dallas game winner.
Possible Starting XI: Pickens (GK), Mullan, Calderon, Moor, Wynne, Thomas, Mastroeni, Powers, Harbottle, Brown, Harris (4-3-3)
All time, the Rapids are 11-2-4 in home openers. They have not lost a home opener since 2003.
Denver forecasters are calling for Saturday highs in the 35 to 40 degree range. Evening snow showers are also on the radar.
Contact Union writer Kevin Kinkead at firstname.lastname@example.org