Monday, December 13, 2010

Season Review - Defenders

Continuing our review with the guys in the back.

Kosuke Kimura - A contender for the most improved player in 2010 and the clear winner for the most passionate player on the team. Koz did not get off to a good start this season, almost immediately being replaced in the starting xI when Wynne was acquired and having a string of average-to-poor games that really kept him from reclaiming the starting spot. Kimura didn't let this get him down though, and he continued to work and improve. When Baudet started having serious injury issues and Danny Earls was proving not to be the answer at left back, the door was open for Kimura to return to the starting lineup and he stepped through it. He had the biggest goal of his career (and one of the biggest in the team's history) in the Eastern Conference Final when cross turned into a shot and the only goal in the 1-0 win.

At this point Koz has the right back spot locked down. He can get up the line and into the attack when called on, but doesn't let his defensive assignments lapse. He might be the most pesky defender we have, as he'll challenge again and again until he wins the ball or is completely beaten. His biggest weakness is his distribution, even on a good day his passing is only average and he's not one that's likely to jump start an attack. Koz is the visible soul of the team on the field, pumping the crowd up and giving 100% every minute of every game.

Drew Moor - My vote for defensive MVP this year, Moor played every minute of every regular season game, every minute of every playoff game, and all but one half of the 2 USOC qualifiers. That's right, in 3300 minutes of competitive soccer for the Rapids this season, Drew Moor played 3255 minutes of it. He deserves every minute of his vacation. He had one goal, but it was a big one, scoring late in the home game against Columbus while the Rapids were playing down a man to give Colorado a 1-0 win.

Moor is a solid, quiet, center back. He doesn't make big plays very often because he doesn't need to. He knows his position and where he needs to be, and he simply does it. One thing I'd like him to do next year is become the leader of the backline. Our backline's ages right now are 26-24-26-21, so we need a calm organizer back there. Moor seems like the logical choice.

Scott Palguta - Palguta spent much of 2009 as the fill in starter, and probably expected to have that role coming into 2010. up until the day before the season started it looked like that would be the case, but the trade for Wynne just before the opening game changed the hierarchy. Palguta was now the 6th defender instead of the 5th. Scott only started 5 games and only appeared in about half the games and didn't play in the playoffs. Still he was there when called on, and with our recent moves he's moved back to that 5th spot. As long as he's satisfied being the first defender off the bench instead of starting, the Rapids should be happy to have him.

Anthony Wallace - One of the numerous late-season additions to the squad, once Wallace was up to speed he immediately found his place at left back. As the youngest player on the squad other than homegrown player Davy Armstrong he had to learn on the fly, and while he was inconsistent at times you could tell he was getting good lessons. His biggest difficulty seemed to be regaining his position after his forward runs. There were multiple times where players were able to get in behind him or were left without pressure to serve a ball into a box. The most dramatic example of this was the Dallas goal in MLS Cup.

The Rapids showed their commitment to Wallace on the day of the expansion draft, having already arranged a deal with Portland to have Anthony selected and traded back to Colorado in exchange for allocation money. I think it safe to say that he's expected to be the starting left back come March. In order to keep that spot he's going to need to improve his positioning and awareness to force the opposition back inside into the waiting arms of Drew Moor. He'll also be expected to contribute more to the offense, but that goal should be secondary to locking down the defense.

Marvell Wynne - Certainly the biggest surprise of the season, both his acquisition and subsequent play. Nobody saw Nick LaBrocca being traded for Marvell on the day before the season started, and the reaction form the Toronto fans was that he was a fast guy without a real good soccer brain. Well apparently Gary smith saw something they didn't. expected to be our right back he moved to center defender early on and excelled. He easily took Julian Baudet's starting job from him when Baudet was nicked up, and suddenly the Rapids had a central player who could push forward to support the attack while also being able to cover his defensive assignments. combined with Drew Moor they became one of the better central duos in the league.

Wynne just signed a new multi-year contract with the Rapids, so we should expect to see him starting for a long time. At 24 he still has things to learn, and right now his speed makes up for his lack of experience. sooner or later Wynne will need to improve his positioning and stop relying on his speed to get him out of trouble. For now though, he might be the fastest player int he league in a flat-out sprint and attackers are still surprised to find out that they don't really have him beat. That should keep things interesting for the near future.

Julian Baudet & Danny Earls - Both players put in good efforts for the Rapids this year. Earls was clearly surplus though once Wallace was acquired. Baudet would be nice to have for depth. The drawback to both of them, being international players, was too great to carry into the expansion draft though and they needed to be moved. This hurt us though, now we only have 5 defenders on the roster. There will be work to be done in the off-season to rebuild or depth in the back.

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