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Novermber 20, 2010
Ex-Red Bull switches from right fullback to central defense for the Rapids

Marvell Wynne is on the verge of completing a memorable season.
Marvell Wynne is on the verge of completing a memorable season.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
By Michael Lewis Editor

TORONTO -- At first glance it looked like a match made in hell.

Marvell Wynne, all 5-9 of him and arguably the fastest player in the league, was going to be moved from right fullback into the middle of defense for the Colorado Rapids earlier this season.

It had disaster written all over it. Instead, the former Red Bull has thrived with the MLS Cup finalists, who take on FC Dallas for the league title on Sunday (ESPN2, 8:30 p.m.).

In fact, Wynne's head was spinning in late March, when Toronto FC sent him packing to the Rapids for former Rutgers midfielder Nick LaBrocca and a third-round pick in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft.

"I was traded Wednesday, flew to L.A. Thursday, met the coach," he said. "The the next day, Friday morning, he asked me if I would like to play center back. I said OK and I just started off from there."t

Wynne wound up playing 2,383 over 27 games.

"The transition was very easy," he said. "There's a lot of communication involved at center back. Drew Moor and Kosuke Kimura talked to me through it all. So it was very easy to slide in there. I was a little puppet, doing what they told me to do. But now that I'm here and I've been here for a while, I kind of have my own feel about it and we're all just connecting, finally."

Rapids coach Gary Smith, whose team barely missed the playoffs the past two seasons before this year, felt he wasn't gambling with the 24-year-old Wynne.

"Given the times that I had seen him play, his defensive qualities always had been very, very good," he said. "Not just the asset of his pace, but very strong and competitive individual and very durable. He played a good amount of games for Toronto. It was fairly evident in a good defensive position he was able to deal with those knocks and bumps and bruises that you get from being a competitive defender.

Smith added that he felt Wynne "might be able to do a good job in the middle because he leaps like a stag. He gets off the floor extremely well. In 1 v 1 situations, he's very, very good. I don't think his assets are getting forward, although he can do and he enjoys doing it when he plays right back. I always felt his defensive qualities lent itself to him being maybe OK in the middle. He's proved me right."

Colorado is Wynne's third team in five MLS seasons. Selected by the MetroStars as the very first pick of the 2006 MLS SuperDraft, he was dealt by the club (after it was purchased by the Red Bulls) to Toronto in 2007.

Wynne found his way in this city before Preki, then the Toronto FC coach, dealt him to the Rapids.

"I guess we didn't see eye to eye on some thing, so I've heard," he said. "But I never made it vocal or anything. He just up and traded me, said I wasn't part of his plan, whatever that plan might be."

Of course, we'll never know because Preki was fired during the season.

And Wynne and company are still alive and well in the post-season -- as the seventh seed and unlikely Eastern Conference champions.

For the third consecutive season, a seventh- or eighth-seed has reached the final. The No. 8 Red Bulls and Real Salt Lake, the defending champions, made it.

"They feel there is actually an opportunity to make [here]," Wynne said. "It's not so much that, OK, once we're here, the way the system is we're not to make it.' You make the playoffs, you have a chance to win the championship. That's good for everybody, even a seventh seed like us."

No. 1 on the Rapids' and Wynne's list of priorities is stopping playmaking midfielder David Ferreira.

Wynne said teams have to "make sure he doesn't have a lot of time on the ball. Don't let him pick his head up or let him play his own game. Try to make his own game as hard as possible."

Right now, Wynne can't complain.

"This is the epitome of my career right now," he said. "Everybody in MLS, this is where they want to be."
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