Sunday, June 10, 2012

Midseason Review

Technically midseason isn't until after the 4th of July game, but this long break seems to be a good time to assess where the team is at this point.  First lets start with my predictions from the beginning of the season:
The Rapids struggle to hold on to a playoff place all season and miss out on the playoffs in the last couple of games of the season.  The struggle to adapt to the new style early in the season will cost us just enough points to finish 6th in the West and just outside the postseason.
Well we're currently tied with Vancouver for the last two playoff spots, 4 points ahead of Chivas in 6th.  We've certainly dropped points we shouldn't have so far (@New England, LA) and they may come back to bite us.
Due to the unfavorable schedule of two games in Utah before FSL comes to Colorado for the final game the Rapids will lose the Rocky Mountain Cup again.
Being down 2 goals with another game still to go in Sandy isn't really pointing towards us winning hte RMC, but you never know what might happen.
Colorado makes a deeper than expected run in the U.S. Open Cup before losing on the road in the semifinals to another MLS team.
Well I was half right.  We lost on the road to a MLS team, but it was only in the 4th Round not the Semifinals.
Cascio will be the best rookie the Rapids have seen since Hunter Freeman in 2005.
I might have underestimated Cascio.  Freeman started 14 games and played over 1200 minutes in 2005.  Cascio has already started 12 games and played over 1000 minutes.  If tihs continues he might be the best rookie the team has ever had.
Casey comes back just as strong as before and gets at least 10 goals.
Not so far, but there's still time.  If he can bounce back from his current injury quickly he can get to double-digits.
Late in the year, but before the final game, Pablo announces his retirement.
With his current concussion issues, this seems even more likely now.

So I was off on the USOC and so far am off in Casey's return, but other than that my predictions are looking pretty good.  That's largely because this team seems to be exactly what it appeared to be before the season.  A new mixture of players, coaches, and tactics that hasn't figured out how to gel yet.  Breaking it down by position:

Goalkeeping: Pickens has been better than I expected.  I won't say he's been standing on his head but he's come up with some huge saves at times.  Ceus got one game against Tampa in the USOC that should have been a shutout.  Grade: A

Defense: Clearly the weak point on the team.  Injuries have shown we have no depth at center back and while we have 3 outside backs of roughly even quality none of them have played consistently well.  If we can get a stable 4 on the field we can do OK but any time we have to change the back line problems occur.  Grade: D+

Midfield: The Jekyll and Hyde part of the team.  Sometimes our new additions of Castrillon and Rivero look like maestros and sometimes they look overmatched in this league.  Larentowicz is doing his best to fill in for our sorely-missed captain, but he doesn't have Pablo's grit yet.  At times Mullan has played as more of a midfielder which has helped.  This was expected to be the area that saw the biggest upheaval with the change in tactics and personnel and their play reflects that.  Grade: C

Forwards: With the number of injuries to Casey and Cummings its hard to judge how well we've played.  Cascio has been great for a rookie, finding Hill as a super-sub has been a bonus, but Edu has been a disappointment so far.  Cummings has not played well in the Casey role of a 4-3-3 but when moved back into the traditional 4-4-2 he's found a bit of his old style.  Casey's injuries have kept him off the field most of the seaosn but you can see what he brings to the team when he's been in there.  Grade: C

Bench: Yuck.  Other than Hill as a super-sub there hasn't really been a strong presence in our subs and backup players.  Palguta, Thompson, Marshall, Edu, etc. have been mediocre as a whole.  Grade: C

Coaching: For a new coach Pareja has certainly said all the right things.  Papi realized the 4-3-3 wasn't working with our available personnel and shifted back to a 4-4-2.  He took the USOC as seriously as the injury situation would allow.  His moved to sign players when necessary have been quick, though many haven't paid off yet.  All thing considered he's actually done a bit better than I expected.  Grade: B-

Overall: A solid but unspectacular start to the season for the Rapids, which the 6-6-1 .500 record reflects.  The silver lining is that the record has been earned playing one of the toughest schedules in the league so far (I've seen it ranked between 1 and 3 in the last few weeks) while playing without up to 8 of the starters from MLS Cup 2010 due to injury.  For a team integrating as much new personnel as Colorado is that's actually more than just an average start.  Grade: B-

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