tBG) What can you tell me about the Colorado Rapids' goalkeeping situation? Is Zac MacMath expected to be a starter or more of a backup?
BW) Based on the preseason it really looks like the Rapids are leaning towards MacMath. There were concerns during the 2014 season about a regression from starter Clint Irwin, and the goalkeepers behind him were either a rookie (in John Berner) or a first year player in Joe Nasco. Nasco was terrible in his starts and Berner had some rookie mistakes that cost points, thus an effort was made to bring in someone who could compete, but more importantly push both Irwin and Berner. I believe that MacMath would be starting on Saturday at PPL Park if he could (his loan to the Rapids from the Union prevents that). Unless Irwin lights it up on Saturday, it would not be a shock to see MacMath in goal for the Rapids home opener on March 21.
tBG) Colorado had a tough season last year, going 8-18-8, and the club made a bunch of moves during the offseason. Do you think they've done enough to contend for a playoff spot in a very tough Western Conference?
BW) The Rapids had a brutal 2014 and the off-season reflected that. 13 players from the 2014 season are gone and 9 new ones were brought in. The team addressed some key areas--defense, goalkeeper and midfield depth. The players they added were upgrades at all positions, but they are still lacking a striker with that killer instinct and that may ultimately be their downfall this year. But they will compete in the Western Conference and will surprise some. They will be in the mix for the 5th or 6th seed in October.
tBG) What are the biggest strengths and biggest weaknesses of the Rapids?
BW) Strengths: The Rapids have one of the best young cores in MLS with such players as Dillon Powers, Deshorn Brown, Juan Ramirez, Lucas Pittinari, Dillon Serna, and Shane O'Neill and have added veterans in key leadership positions. That young core is hungry and with a season like last year they will only get better going forward. They are good at possessing the ball and moving it around the pitch. This will serve them well as they continue to move to a more possession based attack in 2015.
Weaknesses: What is the Rapids identity? And is Pablo Mastroeni the man to lead this team? The Rapids struggled to figure out what their identity was in 2014 with different lineups and formations almost on a whim. Much of that falls on the Head Coach and for this team to be successful, Mastroeni must be better in 2015. It is never good when your biggest weakness is your coach, but supporters will be patient with him...unless the season starts poorly for the club. If that happens, it could be a long season in Commerce City.
Predicted lineup: (4-2-3-1) Clint Irwin; Marc Burch, Bobby Burling, Shane O'Neill, Michael Harrington; Lucas Pittinari, Marcelo Sarvas; Juan Ramirez, Dillon Powers, Vicente Sanchez; Gabriel Torres
Predicted score: Philadelphia and Colorado games are always entertaining...going to go with a 2-2 draw in this one.