Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Season Review

Yeah, I know I said I'd post this last week. I'll live up to my promises once I get paid for them. ;)

We're a month past the end of the Rapids season, 2 days past the end of the MLS season. Seems like a good time to review how we did.

Goalkeeping: Matt Pickens was a solid yet unspectacular starter in goal for Colorado. He didn't lose us any games but he didn't really win us any games. Preston Burpo was a decent backup, maybe better than average, but the decision to stick with him over a healthy Pickens is puzzling. Going into next season I think we can stand pat with Pickens as the starter, but I think its time to give a younger player like Ceus a shot at the backup role.
Grade: B-

Defense: The best word to describe the defense this season was inconsistent. Most games the defense was good for a blunder a game, but at the same time we saw some good play from young players like Harvey and Palguta. The addition of Baudet at midseason seemed to give the group the veteran leadership it was missing up to that point. Gibbs failed in that role, but we can expect him back next year base don his protected status in the expansion draft. The swap of Ihemelu for Moor was a upgrade IMO, but possibly losing Harvey or Palguta in the expansion draft would be a downgrade. Going into next season we could have 5-6 MLS-level starters on the roster, not counting Gibbs, so our depth is decent. More time working as a unit and more stability is what's needed here, we don't really need to look for new players.
Grade: C

For the first 75% of the season we had a solid midfield with an emerging star in Colin Clark. Then every one's knees gave out and our midfield became a black hole. Clark, Peterson, and Smith were all lost for the season and Peterson and Clark, with ACL injuries, probably won't be back at 100% until the middle of next season at the earliest. The injuries exposed our criminal lack of depth at the wing, and nobody on the roster was able to step up and fill the holes. Pablo played his typical solid defensive midfield all year, though his head-hunting against Houston shows that he still has his impulsive side. He needs to lock that away and become more of a "lead by example" leader to help this team. Smith spent all season swapping Ballouchy, LaBrocca, and Noonan in the central midfield position in front of Pablo without ever finding somebody who worked. LaBrocca came the closest but as we saw when the wingers went down none of them were able to spark the offense on their own. We need to be looking for somebody who can do that this off-season, as well as MLS-level wingers that can provide competition for those spots. The grade for this position is a B+ for most of the season and a D for the last quarter.
Grade: C+

Casey and Cummings had career years, Casey was second in the league in goals and set a team record while Cummings led the league in assists. What we saw when the wingers went down though was an inability for them to generate goals on their own without support from the midfield. Its hard to fault them too much for that though, given what else they brought to the team. After those two though our forwards fell off a cliff. Diz, Schunk, and the waived Richardson combined for 1 shot in 118 minutes played. Noonan, the only other forward on the roster, played a majority of his 843 minutes in midfield and generated 2 goals and 0 assists. Obviously our starters up top are already set for next season, but the Rapids should look for a quality forward that can push them for minutes, especially one that can generate his own chances if the midfield isn't providing them.
Grade: A-

With the exception of the defense, when our bench was called on to perform they didn't deliver. Noonan, Diz, Dalby, Smoth, etc. really didn't have much (positive) effect on the outcomes of games this year. There is a good deal of house cleaning that can be done here. We do have some young players like Ceus and Holody that may turn into solid MLS players. We'll have to see what the draft brings us for bench players next year.
Grade: C-

Clearly the crash and burn of the end of the season is not what the coaching staff was looking for. Somehow they turned an almost sure playoff spot into an early end of the season. Obviously losing 3 wingers in a short time frame is hard to overcome, but thee was still time after Smith and Clark went down to sign somebody. The bigger problem was the idea that we could play all season without a backup for Colin Clark and the fact that once the 4-4-2 with wingers wasn't working the coaching staff couldn't get the team to play any other way. Throw in some of the off-season tension we've heard about and Gary smith's first full season has come to a crashing end. If he can get the team re-focused, find some wingers to give us some depth, and move past these difficulties by starting hot next season we could be in good shape. If we start off inconsistent again though I'm not sure Smith should last the year.
Grade: D-

: I'd say that Paul Bravo and Jeff Plush did an average job this year helping Smith on the field. For every good move like Ihemelu for Moor or signing Baudet there were bad moves like trading for Noonan or cutting Cooke. This will be the first full offseason with Smith as the official head coach and Bravo as the Technical Director, and they will need to come up with some solid moves to fill the holes on this team. Reportedly Burpo is the only player out of contract so getting players re-signed won't be a large part of their work. The expansion draft protected list is pretty solid IMO, with only the decison of Gibbs over Harvey standing out as a poor one, unless Gibbs has a no-trade clause.
Grade: C

In 2007 the Rapids lost their last game against FSL and missed the playoffs after having a 10 game winless streak that season. In 2008 the Rapids drew their last game against FSL and FSL took the final playoff spot from them after the Rapids had a 4 game losing streak that season. In 2009 the Rapids lost their last game against FSL and FSL took the final playoff spot from them (and went on to win MLS Cup) after the Rapids had a 7 game winless streak this season. I'm not seeing much improvement there, we're essentially just treading water. Things only get harder every year with more teams in the league, so treading water isn't good enough.
Grade: C-

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