Thursday, June 30, 2011

2011 Midseason Review

Believe it or not this week marks the midpoint of the Rapids season. 17 games down, 17 to go (plus the CONCACAF Champion's League). Time for a midseason review then!

Goalkeeping: Matt Pickens has been his normal solid self. In fact he's come up big numerous times. He's had two iffy games but has been my Man of the Match 5 times. While the Rapids could upgrade at goalkeeper it would be to a Best XI type player, and even then the upgrade wouldn't be worth the added expense.
Grade: B

Defense: Two games ago the back-line looked damn near perfect. Colorado had given up just 14 goals in the first 15 games and the signing of Marshall was looking inspired. The last two games have seen an own goal, 3 bad giveaways leading to goals, and a total of 7 goals allowed. Drew Moor is still the ironman of the squad, playing every minute of the season again. Kimura has only missed 13 minutes himself. Marshall has been great coming off the bench to grab a starting spot by filling in for injured players. The problems have come due to instability at left back throwing off the whole group. Wallace had a shaky start to the season and seems to have been passed by Earls and Palguta, but both have had horrible games recently. with Wynne injured Marshall and Moor have had to stay inside and that's exposed this weakness. Gary Smith has said he's specifically looking for a left back in the upcoming transfer window to try to solve the issue.
Grade: C+

The best way to describe the midfield so far is strong in the center but fragile on the wings. Larentowicz has played every minute so far, and while he hasn't always excelled he's been a steady presence. Pablo missed two games due to injury but at his age that's a pretty good track record. That means the defensive side of midfield has been solid, but the offensive side has struggled. Jamie Smith has been the MVP of the team so far, but his legs have kept him from starting 4 games and he's regularly subbed off in the second half. Along with Mullan's extended suspension this has exposed our lack of depth outside. Nyassi doesn't have great field vision and he's got a bit of a hot head, which can lead to trouble. Thompson is, at best, a late-game defensive sub. LaBauex had a couple of good games but is still inexperienced. In Gary Smith's system of two defensive midfielders and two wingers, the wings really need to generate the offense and get the ball to the forwards, at the moment it seems only Mullan and Smith can actually do that.
Grade: C-

As expected Casey and Cummings have been the class of the strike core. What wasn't expected is that they would only play together for 105 minutes int he first half of the season. They got 60 minutes before Casey was subbed in the season opener, and they got the whole second half against LA two weeks ago. Otherwise they haven't been available at the same time, which has really hurt the team. The big offseason signing, Caleb Folan, has been a bust. Smith, Larentowicz, and Casey all have more goals than him, despite Folan having played the most minutes at striker. Folan got two goals in one game, and has done nothing else. There are rumors that the Rapids have been approached by teams in England looking to by Folan, if so, they should sell. With Kandji still rehabbing from the ACL injury he received setting up the winning goal in MLS Cup Akpan and Amarikwa have gotten a good chance to show their skills. They are both works in progress, but Akpan seems to fit better than Amarikwa right now. This is a two part grade. A B for Casey and Cummings and a D- for the rest of the group.
Grade: C-

The bench has gotten a serious workout this year. Outside of left back the starting XI is pretty much set when everyone is healthy and available. Besides those 10 guaranteed starters there have been 11 other starters. That's one less than we used all of last season. Only 4 players have started every game (Larentowicz, Kimura, Moor, and Pickens) while every player that's seen game time has started at least one game. Marshall has been the best bench player so far, but Akpan, Amarikwa, and LaBauex have all had good showings. There have been a number of poor performances as well, particularly Palguta and Nane. Bringing in reinforcements in the summer transfer window should be in Smith's plans.
Grade: C

So far Gary Smith hasn't had much decision making to make. His options for the most part have either been obvious or non-existent. While I have some quibbles, such as an over-dependence on Thompson and the disappearance of Wallace, he really hasn't had many choices due to injuries and suspensions. His first real test is coming up next month when the summer transfer window opens. This team needs help, particularly at left back and outside midfield depth, and he's going to need to go out there and find some players. After that the challenge will be balancing league play and Champions League play, doing enough to hopefully advance to the next round (playoffs/knockout rounds) in both competitions. I'm giving the coaching staff an average grade so far, but it could almost be an incomplete.
Grade: C

Overall: So far the team has been very average. Only 5 wins so far is a disappointment, but only 5 losses isn't bad considering the injuries and suspensions. The team has had two really bad games (@Dallas and @Columbus) and a couple of great home games (Portland and DC). When the team is healthy it looks like a team that could compete for MLS Cup again. When the team isn't healthy (or isn't mentally int eh game) it looks like a team that will be playing in the wild-card round of the playoffs, and probably not at home. With a .500 record and .500 play, the overall grade seems obvious.
Grade: C

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