Monday, January 1, 2018

2018 State Of The Rapids

I'd call this the State of the Union, but then I'd be talking about Philly and who the hell cares what Philly's status is this offseason? :D

As we enter 2018 I thought it would be a good time to take stock of where we are and what we should be expecting in the 7 weeks between now and our opening CCL match against Toronto. 

I assume at this point that the coaching staff is pretty much set.  We could see an additional assistant coach added or something but really no major news is coming on that front.  So the major additions we'll see the rest of the preseason will be on the roster.  First the numbers:

Signed players: 21
International slots: 7 (Base 8, got permanent one from FSL, sent one to VAN through 2031, one to ATL through 2018)
International players: 6 (Boateng, Aigner, Badji, Blomberg, Gashi, Wynne)
DPs: 2 (Gashi, Howard)

So essentially we have 9 open roster spots but only one open international slot and one open DP slot.  The former number could be improved by sending Wynne on season-long loan or if Badji were to get a green card but more likely we'll need to trade for a slot if we want to sign more than one international.

Lets break the roster down my position.  For this analysis I'm assuming that the Rapids will likely play a 3-5-2 or 5-3-2 as their primary formation this season.  This is due to Hudson's interviews here he's talked about wanting to use wingbacks and talked about liking to play with 2 strikers.  Those are really the only two formations in modern football that allow for both of those.

Goalkeepers: (Howard, MacMath) - We're set here.  I expect we'll draft a keeper late in the draft for an additional backup but whomever that is will likely spend all season in Charlotte or with some other USL team.  Assume one of the remaining nine roster spots will be used here.

Center Backs: (da FonteFord, Miller, Sjoberg, Watts): We need a starting center back for the 3rd man on the back line.  I'm comfortable with Ford and Sjoberg as starters but I'm not convinced Miller/Watts is good enough to be the 3rd starter.  Once we get that we're set as I'm comfortable with those two as backups to the starting trio.  We know that da Fonte will spend all season in the USL and won't matter to the Rapids season.  Assume one of the remaining nine roster spots will be used here.

Wing Backs: (Colvey, Hairston, Miller, Serna, Wynne): I expect Castillo to be announced any day now and added to the list here.  That hives us him and Hairston as starters, Serna and Miller as experienced if not great backups, and Colvey and Wynne as depth.  That's probably good enough but we'll be putting a lot of faith in our youth (Hairston, Miller, Serna) being able to come up with a solid starter all season.  I wouldn't be shocked to see us acquire a solid backup but I'm not sure its necessary.  Castillo will use one of the remaining nine roster spots.

Midfield: (Boateng, Aigner, Azira, Blomberg, Gashi, Hamilton, Perez) - I'm grouping the midfielders into one pile because we don't really know yet what the 3-man/rest of the 5-man midfield is going to look like.  My educated guess is that its primarily 3 attackers with Aigner, Blomberg, and Gashi as the regular starters.  From how Smith and Hudson have talked I don't expect to see a whole lot of playing time for d-mids and there's no way we play tow of them like we have the last few years.  That leaves Azira and Boateng as backups but likely not starters.  Hamilton and Perez are depth that will improve for future years.  The other possibility is that Boateng plays an 8 role with Aigner and Gashi as wingers in front of the wingbacks and Blomberg is backup (or they trade off).  Or one last possibility is Aigner - Boateng - Blomberg with Gashi up top, but I think we all saw that Gashi as a forward is not his strong suit.  Regardless I think Azira will take the biggest hit to his playing time under the new leadership.  I'd expect some backup signings in midfield still but I don't expect a major signing of a starter-level player.

Striker: (Badji, Calvert, McBean) - The biggest area of need on the team.  This is not a MLS quality strike force.  Badji is the only one who should be considered a starter and honestly, I'd prefer him to be in a battle with another player to start.  We clearly need a major signing here, this would be the place to use our DP (and probably international) slot.  On top of that we should sign a second MLS-quality striker to either start or to push Badji as his backup.  You could even make a case for a third signing as I'm not sure Calvert or McBean are ready to be a regular backup.  Assume at least two of the remaining nine roster spots will be used here.

So that leaves us Castillo, a center back, and two forwards that need to be signed before preseason starts, and a goalkeeper and depth signings that will be needed at some point to fill out the roster (two of these will probably come from the draft).  Even with these signings I feel like the Rapids will have a good starting XI but a very shallow roster this year.  Considering where we're starting from thoguh, its hard to expect much more than that in 2018.

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