Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Midseason Review

We're coming around the final turn of the season, 75% complete. Time for a final mid-season review.

Goalkeeping: Things haven't changed much in goal from the midway point. Pickens has been solid but not spectacular, Burpo's a capable backup, and Ceus took the Charlotte Eagles to the USL-2 championship before losing in the final.
Grade: A-

Defense: The defense is still wildly up and down. Last week we saw them shut out the top team in MLS, but the week before they gave up 3 goals in the last 18+ minutes to turn a road win into a road loss. With the move this week of Ihemelu for Moor its obvious that Gary Smith sees this as the weakness and is trying to work on it. Gibbs still hasn't shown an ability to organize the defense which results in the team relying on individual talent as much as an actual game plan. Baudet has looked good in 2 of the 3 games he's played, maybe he's the piece the back line was missing. The Rapids fortunes will live or die onbthe ability of the defense to play as a unit.
Grade: C

The loss of Colin Clark for the season is a huge blow for the defense. Now we're missing Jamie Smith for at least a game and Pablo Mastroeni's stupid decision to go head-hunting last week has turned a 1 game suspension into 3. This leaves the midfield very thin with the likes of Noonan and Dalby expected to get playing time. When healthy (and not suspended) the midfield has done an adequate job, but nobody has stood out. Now more than ever we need LaBrocca and Ballouchy to step up and run the midfield. You also have to question cutting Terry Cooke instead of a defensive player since we are now hurting from our lack of midfield depth.
Grade: C-

Conor Casey leads the league in goals, Omar Cummings leads in assists and is a legitimate MVP candidate. They are the best striker tandem in the league. Because of this Noonan and Diz haven't had a chance to show much, but Noonan hasn't been particularly impressive yet. His play last week makes it look like that maybe he's turned the corner though. The only downside is that Casey and Cummings have played so well that they're missing games for National Team duty. Casey also has developed an annoying habit of picking up unnecessary cards for dissent or kicking balls away. He's on the verge of a second suspension for yellow card accumulation, something you don't see very often from a striker. Still you could hardly ask for more form the starting duo.
Grade: A-

19 players have started for the Rapids this season, which shows a solid bench if not a real deep one (especially since two of those players are no longer with the team). We have solid backups in goal (Burpo) and defense (Harden, Moor, Palguta) but as we're seeing as we move forward the backups are more questionable. Dalby hasn't been great, Noonan has been iffy, and Diz hasn't had enough time to really make an impact. With the reduced rosters its hard to fault the team for not doing better on numbers but it would be nice to see the quality backups spread over the field more. We're going to see the bench tested over the next couple of games and we'll see who comes up big and who doesn't.
Grade: C

Gary Smith has shown some good moves and his bad moves. As bad as the defense was in Chicago they weren't helped by the decision to sub wide players for more defensive players and go into a shell. At the same time we see subs like Ballouchy and Baudet combine for the winning goal last week. The team is playing better soccer but we haven't gotten as many results as we probably should have. Smith has his work cut out for him in the final 8 games of the season, dealing with major injuries and suspensions. Time to see how he can get the team playing down a stretch of relatively easy games.
Grade: C

: Some big moves since the last review. Signing Jamie Smith and cutting Terry Cooke looks like a lateral move at best so far, and possibly a bad move. That isn't completely the team's fault though as nobody can predict injuries. This week's move of Ihemelu for Moor plus getting a draft pick and allocation money was a great move by the Rapids. The earlier moves are a mixed back. Baudet has looked good while Noonan's time is running out. Diz hasn't seen enough time to really judge. Smith and Bravo seem to have a plan though, which is an improvement over prior years.
Grade: C

The Rapids have improved form their mid-season dip but they aren't up to the level of play early in the season. I think we're seeing that Colorado was lucky to face some of the better teams like Columbus and Houston when they weren't at full strength. The Rapids are a team that can win on any given day and they're as good as any of the non-top teams in the league. They aren't consistently up to the level of a LA, Columbus, or Houston yet. That's the difference in being in a fight for the playoffs or being in a fight for a better seed. Colorado is in the former group still.
Grade: B-

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