Sunday, December 19, 2010

Season Review - Wide Midfielders

I'm hoping to finish these player reviews before Christmas, but with the schedule I have this up-coming week, we'll see if I get to the forwards or not.

Brian Mullan - Many people see the acquisition of Mullan as the turning point of the season. I'm not sure I'd go that far but it was critical. Not only did it exchange a injured player that wouldn't help us in 2010 for a player who could go straight into the starting XI, but it also allowed us to trade Ballouchy for Kandji, which became VERY critical in the overtime of MLS Cup. Biran had 4 rings and a wealth of experience when he returned to his hometown, and I was quite happy to see him get "one for the thumb". Mullan only played in 7 regular season games for the Rapids, picking up 2 assists, but the threat of his play allowed Jamie Smith more freedom on the left and gave Koz cover to make overlapping runs.

Mullan is the second oldest player on the roster right now, behind Pablo. Its a question mark how long he can be effective on the right. I don't see any reason to expect a fall-off next year based on his play for us in the latter part of the season. Its a safe bet though that he can't be expected to play in the league, Open Cup, and Champion's League games we have next year though, so we should expect to see him rotated out pretty frequently so that he's available for the home stretch. While he's in I just expect him to do more of the same.

Sanna Nyassi - An expansion draft day pick-up from Seattle (by way of Vancouver), Nyassi can be the relief a player like Mullan needs. He's young and raw, but has speed to spare. He started about half the games for Seattle in his second pro season last year, as well as being a regular in the lineup for their victorious U.S. Open Cup run. The highlight of the season was Scoring both goals in the Open Cup final. While I don't see Sanna being a regular starter for the Rapids, he'll probably be the first sub int he midfield if the team needs more attacking power.

Jamie Smith - In 2010 we finally got to see what a healthy Jamie Smith looks like and now we understand why Gary Smith signed him. He led the team with 8 assists. Combined with his one game-winning goal he was involved in more goals than anyone but the C+C Goal Factory upfront. While injuries were still an issue, they had less of an effect on him once he was on the field and kept him off the field for less time than in 2009. Jamie is the third member of the Rapids 30 and older club though, so we can't expect those injury concerns to go away, if anything they'll become a bigger problem.

The biggest thing for Smith in 2010 will be working with the young Wallace behind him. Anthony is still struggling with his positioning, especially after going forward to overlap Smith, so Jamie will have to make sure he covers for Wallace and holds up his end of the defensive duties. On the attacking side I hope he's able to establish himself as a threat to score goals as well as set him up. The more threats in the midfield we have the more space Casey and Cummings get to work with in front of them.

Wells Thompson - Wells came over in the trade with Larentowicz and everybody regarded him as the throw away player to balance out the trade. There weren't many expectations for him this season. I think that Thompson actually contributed more than was expected though. He was the "utility infielder" of the midfield, being plugged in when necessary to cover for injuries or to give people some rest but never really being a starter. I think he filled that role quite well without particularly standing out.

I think Thompson's role in 2011 will be very similar to 2010. Not a top 11 player but called to start on a regular basis, especially with the expanded schedule. I think he's a better defensive player than Smith, but not nearly the offensive player. I can see Nyassi and Thompson being regular subs depending on the game situation, Thompson when we're happy with the current scoreline and Nyassi when we feel like we need another goal.

Ciaran O'Brien - In 3 years he had 19 minutes, 1 red card, and 1 championship ring. One of the odder career stat lines. He clearly was never in Gary Smith's plans and the team isn't going to be hurt by losing him.

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