Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Midseason Review

We're at the halfway point of the season. Much like I did at the quarter point, lets see how we're looking so far.

Goalkeeping: Matt Pickens has done a good job in net. He doesn't make the big amazing save very often, but I can't think of a single blunder he's made. The only thing lacking is that I can't think of a game we really won because of his play. Burpo is still a quality backup and Ceus is getting some good experience on-loan to the USL-2 Charlotte Eagles.
Grade: A-

Defense: The defense has not done well over the last few games. They've gone from nearly a 1 goal a game average to a 1.5 goal a game average, and given up multiple goals to NY, Chicago, and Seattle (twice). Ihemelu seems to have regressed to his "one brain fart a game" method of defending, and Cory Gibbs has been less than impressive. On the positive side, Jordan Harvey has been a rock at left back, Scott Palguta is proving he can play at this level, and Kosuke Kimura is turning into quite the 'jack-of-all-trades' off the bench. The Rapids have reinforcements coming in the form of French defender Julian Buadet, maybe he can link everyone together into a cohesive unit, Cory Gibbs sure hasn't managed that.
Grade: C

The midfield has improved from disappointing to inconsistent. When players like Ballouchy and LaBrocca are on their games the Rapids mids are a force to be reckoned with. When only Clark and Pablo show up to play the offense stagnates and the Rapids are lucky to score once. Ballouchy has shown signs of turning into a real MLS center mid, but then he checks out of games for long periods. LaBrocca is still coming along well, but he's been asked to play in all spots in the midfield but he's really only suited to a center role, which means that when he's on a wing the attack on that side suffers. Pablo is still Pablo, he does what he does very well and that's what you should expect. Same with Cooke when he gets on the field. Peterson continues to be a disappointment, with speed his only asset (as seen by his goal on Sunday). Colin Clark continues to improve, and he has caught the attention of National team coach Bob Bradley. His absence for the Gold Cup hurts the Rapids, but will hopefully help Clark become a star int he long run.
Grade: C

Conor Casey and Omar Cummings are having great seasons. Unfortunately after them the attack falls off a cliff. The other true forwards that have been on the roster (Noonan, Schunk, Richardson) have a grand total of 0 assists and 0 goals between them. That was fine when Cummings and Casey started every game, but that duo hasn't started together since May 30th due to National Team commitments. The only other player on the team who has scored multiple goals has been Colin Clark. Somebody needs to step up and become a third striker quickly, or the season is going to slip away from us. Rumors have Argentine Facundo Diz being added to the roster, maybe he's the answer.
Grade: B-

The Confederations Cup and Gold Cup have really exposed our lack of depth up front. While there are still plenty of options in the back, we have no good left wing to cover for Clark and none of our strikers have shown anything. While losing Clark for the Gold Cup was a bit of a surprise, Cummings joining Jamaica should have been expected, and Casey's absence, while maybe not obvious at the start of the season, isn't that big of a surprise. The team has done a good job with loans in getting bench players like Ceus, Harden, and O'Brien extended playing time with the loss of the Reserve League and hopefully we'll see the results of those loans in future years.
Grade: C

Some of the shine has come off of Gary Smith in recent games. From his decision to play the same 6 defensive players in 3 games in a week to his choice of subs, it appears that Gary Smith isn't dealing well with the missing players. Still the team plays like it had a plan, which is more than we could ever say under Clavijo. There's still a tendency to sit on a 1 goal lead but the team does try to push for the next goal more than they have been. My main concern is an over reliance on players like Ballouchy and Peterson when better choices like Cooke have been available on the bench.
Grade: C-

The biggest off-field moves have been the cutting of Ivan Guerrero and Gregory Richardson for Pat Noonan and Julian Baudet. Baudet hasn't been eligible to play yet (July 15th) and Noonan has been less than impressive. I'm willing to cut Noonan some slack as he needs to get used to the altitude and get back into 90 minute shape, but he's going to have to start performing soon or this is going to look like a busted trade. If Baudet can come in and settle down the back line it will be a good move. If he comes in and can't get off the bench or can't reduce the Rapids tendency to give up stupid goals then it will be a waste of a midseason signing. This team still needs depth up front, and while the rumors of Facundo Diz coming in are great, we really needed that depth in June and early July, not late July when both Casey and Cummings will have completed their National Team commitments.
Grade: C

The solid early start we saw from Colorado has been marred by the last 3 games of bad play. Maybe this is just a dip due to missing players to National Teams and once everyone rejoins the team after the Gold Cup we'll see the Rapids we saw to start the season. I'm concerned this is the annual summer swoon though, so for that reason a win on Saturday is important. This still appears to be a team that can make the playoffs and maybe even a conference final, but they don't look like they can stand up to the top teams in MLS right now.
Grade: C+

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