Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Different Type Of Season Review - Goalkeepers

Well, after a couple of weeks off to catch my breath after that great run (and get some non-soccer stuff in my life done) I'm back. Normally after the season I've done a season recap and a post about what I think the Rapids should do on a player-by-player basis. Things are a little different this year, obviously, with the MLS Cup win. While I'm sure I could find other grades than A to give to the various parts of the team, I still haven't come off my high from winning it all and I don't want to kill the buzz.

In the same way I think the player decisions this offseason are fairly obvious. There's maybe 2-3 players that i would consider making any moves with, the others are obvious keepers or didn't get enough playing time for me to judge. Instead I'm going to do a player-by-player season recap. I'll also include what I expect form the player coming up, but it won't be the same sort of review I've done in the past. Today we start with the goalkeepers.

Matt Pickens - Jesus was the undoubted number 1 this year, there was never even a hint of anyone else being the starter. Back spasms kept him out of the home game against Houston but he played every minute of the other 29 games and the 4 post-season matches. Pickens was the only keeper to have 2 post-season shutouts and was 3rd in shots faced this year. Of course his biggest save was in the 120th minute of MLS Cup when he appeared out of nowhere to stop what looked to be the tying goal from George John.

Matt is a solid if not flashy goalkeeper. That save in MLS Cup is the only really big save that stands out from the season, but at the same time I only remember one blunder from him all season too, the disaster at the end of the final regular season game against FSL. Pickens is just where he needs to be when he needs to be there most of the time. His big problems have been his injuries (back spasms and groin strains). I also don't expect him to jump start an offensive attack ever (unlike Tim Howard against Algeria), but that's as much about our style of play as Pickens. I seen no reason to make a change unless somebody like Brad Friedel falls into our laps. Certainly our time is best spent finding help elsewhere.

Ian Joyce - A 'Yank Abroad' that I'm not sure any American fans had heard of when the Rapids brought him home last offseason, Joyce had a quiet season. He was only called into action twice, once in a U.S. Open Cup qualifier and once in a league match. Oddly enough both games had the same 2-0 scoreline, once with the Rapids winning and once with them losing. The 3-0 loss to NY in the USOC was largely due to Drew moor having a horror of a game and leaving Joyce with no chances. In the Houston home game the Rapids were up 3-0 after 23 minutes and the Dynamo never really generated a serious threat.

Its hard to tell based on 2 games, but Joyce seems a capable backup. Assuming that Pickens returns at a similar level (and at age 29 you would expect that) we don't need a second number 1 keeper. We need a clear number 2 who can fill in when necessary. With the expanded rosters next year we can have a 3rd young keeper who's training to be our keeper of the future while still have a solid more experienced backup option. Joyce seems to fill that role. Plus it doesn't hurt that I won his jersey in the season-finale "Jersey Off Their Backs" promotion. ;)

Steward Ceus - Ceus is in his second year after being drafted by the Rapids in the 2009 Superdraft. Last year he spent much of the season with the USL-2 Charlotte Eagles, taking them to the USL-2 championship, and he expected to do the same this year. Unfortunately he broke his wrist soon after arriving in Charlotte and returned to Denver to spend the rest of the season in rehab. He did play in the first U.S. Open Cup qualifier for the Rapids, but that's the only significant game action he got with the team. Steward did get to spend time during the playoffs with the Haitian National Team in their pre-Digicel Caribbean Cup training camp in Brazil. He then got the start for all 3 of their second round group stage games before Haiti was eliminated.

I'll leave it up to the training staff that got to see him play this year to make the judgement. If the lost time due to the injury didn't set him back he seems like a young keeper that we could be training for the future. Haiti may not be a great team (especially now when there are so many more important issues in Haiti) but the fact that he's at least starting at times for them in competitive matches (the Digicel Cup is the Caribbean qualifier for the Gold Cup) is a positive sign.

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