Wednesday, June 18, 2008

40% of the way there, where are we?

We're 40% of the way through the season, so I thought it was time for an update to my last review. We're right in the middle of things now and we'll be able to get a good feel for what's working and not working.

I've gone back and looked at the first 6 games for the last 3 seasons. I chose 2005 as a starting point because it was the first year of the Clavijo era and because the only player remaining with the team from prior to that is Pablo Mastroeni. It should be noted that in 2005 and 2006 MLS played a 32 game season, so these numbers aren't quite at the 40% mark, but I didn't think that adding in the stats for the first 72 minutes of game 13 made much sense. ;)

The Rapids have regressed to the mean under Clavijo. We're right in the middle in points and defense, however we do have the best offense in the Clavijo era. This is largely because 3 of our wins were by multiple goals, while only 2 of our losses were by more than 1. We're tied with 2004 and 2007 for our 4th best start, behind 23 points in 1999 (25 with current rules), 19 points in 2002 (17 with current rules), and 18 points in 2006.

Looking at the team position by position:

Goalkeepers: Preston Burpo has been a stock MLS keeper in filling in for Bouna time! He's made the expected saves but hasn't done anything outstanding. At the same time the defense has fallen apart, so this has resulted in the Rapids needing an outstanding keeper and not having one. Getting Bouna back after thee next game should shore up our defense, but there are two more Senegal WCQ's late in the season.

Defenders: The Jekyll and Hyde nature of our back line has continued. Some games, like when we faced FSL, we looked solid, while toher games like this past weekend in Toronto you wonder if anyone knows the meaning of the word defense. The biggest problem has been the number of different lineups we've used. We've varied between a 4 back and 3 back setup using 8 different players. Mental mistakes haven't helped, with Ihemelu giving up a PK and a point with a stupid handball and Erpen earning a red for kicking LA's Alan Gordon. The team needs to settle on a set back line and allow them to work together to build up a relationship. At this point I suggest Ihemelu - Erpen - Harvey.

Midfield: Midfield started out being our strong point, as most would have assumed at the beginning of the season. Clavijo's random lineup generator has played havoc with this group though, and there are serious questions now about what the midfield is supposed to be doing and who the starters are. Terry Cooke has been mysteriously benched in favor of Jacob Peterson, though Cooke has been the much better of the two this season. Clark and LaBrocca have split time at the left midfield spot, with neither one of them really nailing down what Claivjo wants out of that position. DiRaimondo's injury took him out of most of the season until this last game, as he works back into the lineup we can expect more of the time splitting between Clark and LaBrocca. Finally Christian Gomez was inexplicably benched for the first half in Toronto. While Gomez hasn't been the star player we were all hoping for, he's clearly the best player on the team and should be going for 90 minutes every game. Gomez is on pace to set a personal record for assists, but his shots, shots on goal, and goals average are way down from his prior full seasons in MLS. He'll need to start putting the ball on frame more if he's going to earn his status as unofficial DP.

Forwards: Tom McManus has emerged as the lead striker for the team. His stats aren't all that impressive, but he's shown himself to be dangerous any time he gets the ball within 40 yards of goal, including a Goal of the Year candidate from 35 yards into the upper corner. His ability around goal is better than anyone else on the team. Omar Cummings is proving to have some good skills but hasn't put them all together as a starter, and appears to be better used as a sub off the bench late in games. This has left the second starter spot open for Conor Casey, who's just returning from injury. After a big splash in his first week back he's gone quiet the last couple of weeks, but the spot is his for the taking. The odd man out in all of this has been Herculez Gomez, who hasn't impressed in his limited playing time.

Bench/Reserves: The rapids have played 22 filed players and 2 keepers so far this season, which has given our reserve players some important experience. We have solid, if not great, backups at every position at this point, with our weakest area being keeper and defense. This will help us as we move into CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying and we lose the services of Pablo Mastroeni and possibly Omar Cummings to their national teams.

Coaching: When I wrote the review at the 1/5th point I was praising Clavijo for being patient with his starting 11 and giving them time to gel. Unfortunately he couldn't resist his habit of tinkering and in the last 6 games he's thrown the roster up and reorganized it multiple times. This has led to inconsistent play, players like terry Cooke ending up in the doghouse for no reason, and a continual inability to get into the game until after halftime, where more often than not we've been too far behind to come back. This has been Clavijo's pattern over the course of his career, so there's no reason to think it will get any better until KSE makes a coaching change.

Overall the Rapids are on pace for 38 points this season, which for the last 3 years would be good enough for between 4th and last place in the West. 38 points would not have made the playoffs in any of those seasons.

Clavijo has called Saturday's game against Houston a must win for our playoff hopes, and looking at the numbers its hard to disagree with him. If the Rapids put up a 3rd straight loss, plunging us further down the table you have to wonder if Clavijo's job will be in jeopardy.

1 comment:

Bonji said...

Jason, it is depressing to think we have as many points in 2008 through this point as we did in 2007. Thanks for pointing that out, kill me now.