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Inside the Opposition: Jermaine Jones and the over-achieving Colorado Rapids

The Colorado Rapids made some decisions in the off-season that raised some eyebrows, but a couple of key additions have proven key in a surprising start to their 2016 season.

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The upcoming season didn't look very promising for the Rapids going into the 2016 campaign: having failed to reach the playoffs, and never even really challenging for a spot in the competitive MLS Western Conference, things weren't very good to begin with. However, the state of the club would only worsen with two key departures: both Drew Moor and Clint Irwin left to Toronto FC in the offseason. With Moor acting as the team's captain, as well as their best player, and Irwin backstopping the Rapids for several years, the pair was truly Colorado's spine. Moor and Irwin were extremely important to their own club; their departures created holes not only in the team's starting 11, but also sparked outrage within supporter's groups.

However, the Rapids' front office was able to salvage the offseason with several noteworthy moves. The signing of Shkëlzen Gashi as a Designated Player from Basel was one that caught many off guard. The attacking midfielder still sees time for the Albanian national team, even scoring in one of their UEFA Euro 2016 qualifying matches. Gashi was voted the best player in the Swiss Super League in 2014, proving influential in Basel's Champions League run, which included eliminating Liverpool (Gashi was named to the Champions League Team of the Week for his performance in that game). Adding a player with European experience, while still only 27 years old, is an impressive feat for Colorado.

Equally notable, however, was the signing of Jermaine Jones, after the American international was traded to Colorado after failing to agree to contract terms with the New England Revolution. After serving his suspension earned in New England's playoff loss to DC United last year, Jones made his Rapid's debut on April 16th, scoring a goal and assisting another in Colorado's 2-1 win over the New York Red Bulls. Jones, usually a standard defensive midfielder, lined up as a No. 10, and the results proved positive.

Jones was given free reign by his coach, Pablo Mastroeni, and his athleticism is what made the choice a good one. Jones covered a ton of ground in the game, forcing mistakes from a New York team in a game played under wintery conditions. Jones also showed strong technical ability in this game, demonstrating impressive vision and touch in a decisive through ball on the game-winning goal.

In order for the Impact to regain its winning home-form, it will be key to limit Jones' influence on the game. Montreal's defensive midfield will have to be aware of Jones' positioning, as well as be careful on the ball, so as to limit the number of turnovers caused by Jones in the Impact's defensive third.

How do you think the Impact will fare against Colorado at Stade Saputo?

What do you think the starting 11 will look like?