Monday, March 5, 2012

Wallace Out For The Season

Bad news out of Commerce City today as Anthony Wallace ripped his Achilles in training yesterday and he'll miss 6-9 months.  That means if he takes exactly 6 months and no longer he can get back for the final 7 games.  Realistically he'll be back closer to the final 2 games, at which point hopefully the Rapids will be in their playoff push.  If that's the case odds are they aren't going to want to upset the apple cart re-integrating Wallace into the team.  I think the only way we see Wallace on the field for Colorado this year is if the Rapids are out of the playoff hunt and he gets some time in the last few games to get some minutes in.

That segues into my planned topic for tonight, the first half of the season preview.  I was going to go over the roster by position tonight then do a wrap-up and prediction post midweek before my game preview on Friday.

No changes at all this offesason between the pipes.  Pickens is still the #1, Ceus is the #2, and Joyce is the #3.  The real question will be which Pickens do we get.  The one from the first half of 2011 and earlier or the one from the second half of 2011.  The latter part of the year Pickens seemed to lose a step in his positioning and reaction time.  Maybe it was just the number of games or maybe he's on the backside of his career.  Even with that he was still a solid MLS keeper but he was less likely to "stand on his head" to win us a game we were unlikely to win.  Ceus has shown himself to be a capable keeper but nothing special so far.  Joyce is unlikely to see the field in anything outside a friendly or reserve game.

We lost 3 defenders (Comminges, Earls, Holody) and signed two (Freeman, Zapata).
Right Back: Kimura, Ababio
Center Back: Moor, Wynne, Marshall, Palguta
Left Back: Zapata, Freeman, Wallace

Its pretty obvious that left back was an area of concern this offseason as both new players play that position.  As we see with the Wallace news its good that we added that depth as we're going to need it.  We saw last year that Palguta, Moor, and Wynne can also play outside and Ababio has gotten time in the center this preseason so there's some real flexibility in this group which will come in handy if injuries mount up.  Kimura, Moor, and Wynne have been the starting group along the backline for a couple of seasons and they play well when they're in their natural positions with a solid left back.  They struggled when Moor was moved around last year and they lost the familiarity with the lineup.  Hopefully with Zapata and Freeman this group can stay in their natual positions and play to their strengths.

We lost 2 midfielders (Kandji, Nyassi) and signed 4 (Cascio, Castrillon, Rivero, Yamada).
Left Mid:  Cascio, Smith, Thompson
Center Mid: Castrillon, Larentowicz, Mastroeni, Rivero, Armstrong, Emory, Janniere, Nane, Yamada
Right Mid: Mullan, LaBauex

Its kind of hard slotting the midfielders into specific spots.  That's roughly where they would have ended up in last year's 4-4-2 but in this year's 4-3-3 you'll probably see players like Mullan, Smith, and Cascio playing in the front line even though they're listed as midfielders.  This was the area of biggest change this offseason and probably the critical area for success in Colorado this year.  From what we're seeing in preseason we're going to play 3 central midfielders in Larentowicz, Castrillon, and Mastroeni and expect the outside forwards to handle the wings.  How these 3 are able to link up with the front line is going to decide this season.  If the Rapids are forced to go back to playing long ball it will be a long summer, but if this new passing attack can create chances up front we'll see excitement never seen before at the Dick.

Behind the starting 3 there's plenty of depth but most of it is untested.  Only Thompson has significant minutes in MLS and those haven't been particularly impressive.  Rivero is expected to have somewhat of an impact this year but primarily I think they're grooming him to take over Mastroeni's role next season.  Yamada had some good ball movement in Hawaii but he's going to have to work to get playing time.  The rest of the group got limited minutes last year and that probably won't change much this season.  One question that we won't see answered until midyear is where Smith fits into the system.  with his ACL tear I expect it will be June before he's ready to get significant playing time.

We lost 1 forward (Folan) and signed none.
Forwards: Casey, Cummings, Akpan, Amarikwa

On paper both the strongest and weakest group on the team.  There may not be a better strike duo in MLS when Casey and Cummings are healthy, but if their not there isn't much  backing them up.  Akpan and Amarikwa have yet to show they can carry a team's offensive needs.  In the new 4-3-3 we'll probably see a wide midfielder like Mullan or Cascio (or possibly Smith) take the third spot next to the C + C Goal Factory.

Casey won't be healthy until April though, so I wouldn't be shocked to see the rookie Cascio starting on opening day alongside Mullan and Cummings.  Without a holding forward like Casey they're going to be depending on the midfield to get them the ball in a dangerous location.  If Casey can return to form though, look out, this formation could really play to his strength as he holds the ball in the box and is able to either pass to an oncoming forward on either side or turn and shoot if those forwards draw off defenders.

If Casey and Cummings aren't healthy or suffer significant injury the team will have to make a move IMO.  Last year showed that the AA Battery isn't ready to power the offense and I don't think pushing midfielders forward will do it either.

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