Goalkeeper: We spent a lot of time talking about this position this offseason. I don't want to reiterate so I'll just say that we got a bit worse going from Irwin to MacMath and could get a whole lot of (unnecessarily) better if Howard comes in.
Defense: Yuck. A solid unit last year got an unnecessary makeover and we're left with a lot of questions. First the positives, namely the outside backs. For the first time in what seems like forever the Rapids solved their right back problem before the season started in the form of Eric Miller. I also have high hopes for Mekeil Williams at left back. The bad news? Center back is paper thin and not that strong to start. Right now we're looking at Card Machine Burling, Oft Injured Sjoberg, and Injured For Preseason St. Ledger. St. Ledger and Sjoberg would be my preference and they can probably get the job done but there's no room for error.
Midfield: This group is in pretty good shape. With Cronin, Powers, Gashi, Pappa, and Serna and some depth in Badji, Solignac, and Azira we should do ok. Pappas' laco of playing time this preseason is worrisome, he needs to be integrated quickly. Gashi is the real prize here and if he can successfully be the link between Pappa and Kevin Doyle our offense should be greatly improved.
Forward: Great starters, no depth. Gashi and Kevin Doyle should be the best combo since C&C Goal Facotry. G+D should create some Goal Differential. When they leave for the Euros though we're looking at some combination of Badji, Solignac, and Conor Doyle. That's not likely to get the job done.
Bench: As mentioned earlier today we are very thin at critical points and have less than 80% of our roster. Berner is a fine backup for MacMath and we have options in the midfield but defense and striker has almost nothing to rely on. This, along with coaching, will be our downfall this season.
Coaching: Ah, our Achilles heel. So far this preseason between watching the play in Arizona and reading the various articles I don't see anything that makes me think Pablo's coaching is going to be any better in 2016. With Pablo's "pedagogy" talk and the fact that we've been told that Powers will be playing further back but he has yet to do that, I'm getting a serious deja vu feeling. Spencer has been brought in to help the offense (and be the coach in waiting) but if Pablo doesn't get radically better it won't matter.
Overall we improved relative to the rest of the conference but not enough to make the playoffs. We're going to need some more signings and a quick improvement in coaching to pull that off.
On to my 2016 predictions:
- Rapids finish with points in the low-40s and in 8th place in the West
- The Rapids get less than 12 points in their first 9 games, leading to Pablo's removal as head coach sometime in that stretch.
- Spencer takes over and rides the "new coach" bounce to a win over FSL in game 10
- Colorado pulls an upset in the third Rocky Mountain Cup game in Sandy and retain the Cup for their first back-to-back RMC wins since '05-'06.
- Pablo stays with the organization in another capacity (Academy?)
- We win a USOC game, maybe two, but bow out before the competition gets really interesting
- Howard shows up in July and immediately becomes the best keeper in MLS but its not what the team needs to make a playoff push
- Gashi scores 11 to become team MVP and Golden Boot winner
- Ramirez never returns to Colorado
- The Rapids make one more notable signing (name player, not necessarily DP) this season
- Spencer retains coaching position into 2017 even though results after taking over for Pablo don't really deserve it
- Bravo keeps his job into next year