Friday, August 1, 2008

60% Of The Way There. Where Are We?

We're 60% of the way through the season, so time for another update to my last review. We're coming up to do or die time so we need to get things working.

I've gone back and looked at the first 18 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 60% mark.

Over the last 6 games the Rapids have dropped from one of their better seasons to one of their worst. We had less points at the 18 game mark only in 2001 and 2007, two of the three years we missed the playoffs. We're tied with 2005 for our third worst season to this point. We are right on the mean in the Clavijo era for goals against at this point, but way ahead on goals scored. This is largely due to our two big 4-0 wins.

Looking at the team position by position:

Goalkeepers: What happened to Bouna Time! post-Senegal? He doesn't look like the same Bouna Coundoul from earlier this season. I don't know if he's trying to integrate new skills he picked up in National Team camp, if Clavijo's comments about his absence have unnerved him, or if his youth is just catching up to him, but his game has downgraded in the last couple of months. Still an MLS-caliber keeper, but he's lost a bit.

Defenders: Erpen and Ihemelu have become liabilities on the back line in a 3 man defense. Erpen more so than Ihemelu, but most of the goals scored against us in the last 6 games have come from mistakes they made. Pablo meanwhile has been a rock on the back line, and with the play of LaBrocca in midfield I see no reason to move him. If Petke can get his fitness back I would put him in for Erpen immediately, between the two of them they should be able to cover for Ihemelu's lapses. Even better would be a 4 man back line where Ihemelu can be pushed out wide where his mistakes won't hurt so much.

Midfield: The midfield has settled down somewhat over the last few games. The Jacob Peterson experiment seems to be over and Terry Cooke has regained his starting spot, which he never should have lost. Colin Clark is solid on the right, and LaBrocca and C.Gomez make up the midfield. The only remaining question is the 3rd central spot, which has rotated between Pablo, DiRaimondo, and Ballouchy. If we must stay with a 5 man midfield I would consider putting DiRaimondo out there and playing a high possession game. The real key is to stop the defenders (and I'm looking at you Erpen) from bypassing the midfielders with long balls. Also if we keep 5 in the midfield we need to take the shackles off of Cooke and Clark and give them the freedom to go forward.

Forwards: Our forwards have gone AWOL again. We're getting very little consistency up front. One game McManus will be on, the next game its H.Gomez, the game after that its Cummings. we need somebody to step up and be the go to guy. McManus looked like he was turning into that before his injury, but until we get that guy its going to be a crap shoot every game.

Bench/Reserves: The reserves still give us plenty of options off the bench in defense, but we don't have an attacking super-sub of any strength. Ballouchy, Peterson, Cummings, etc. have all had their chance to be a force off the bench, and have not delivered. Still the drop between starters and bench players isn't a large one, which is a positive when we get hit by the injury bug.

Coaching: Clavijo has been up and down this season. At times his tactics have been strong and he's been patient with the lineup. At other times he's played the "Spin-A-Wheel" lineup game and he seems happy to settle for a draw when we should push for the win. More than anything though, his lack of foresight in getting a striker is coming back to bite the team right now. Add to that his embarrassing comments after the loss in Columbus and its (still) time for a change.

Overall the Rapids are on pace for 29 points this season, which for the last 3 years would be good enough for between 4th and last place in the West. 29 points would not have made the playoffs in any of those seasons.

At this point almost every game is a must win for us if we want to make the playoffs. Luckily we're only a point out of a tie for the last two playoff spots, but there are so many teams competing for those spots that its going to take a real effort to get there. Certainly we must win our pair of upcoming home games to have any hope.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

...but where are the actual grades?

G'Day...Ron ;)