Not pictured: Will Hesmer saying "Oh holy jesus help me" as this ball comes toward the net
MLS recently introduced a wonderful new feature called the Chalkboard, brought to you by OptaSports. After some game we will be dissecting a player or two from the Rapids using the Chalkboard from the previous game.
The first Chalk Talk that I ever did on here was detailing Brian Mullan in his first game after the 10 game suspension he had to serve after the Zakuani incident. It was largely a sad sight to see, with Brian staying stuck on the sideline all game, turning the ball over a ton and looking like he was an old, tired guy going through the motions. Not at all the five time MLS champion that he'd shown himself to be last season.
I'm happy to report that after completely crapping up the pitch against Columbus earlier in the season, he chose the second match against the Crew to turn in what might be his best performance in his short history playing for the Rapids.
Check after the jump for some analysis.
Brian's game against Columbus earlier in the season was marred by an inability to perform his trademark wing defense, his lack of offensive creation and his general invisibility on the pitch as he seemed frightened to leave the area five yards farther into the field than the sideline. He had certainly been slowly improving in all areas in games since then but for him to put together such a complete game
His passing was obviously better than last time when I lamented how he could barely manage a 2:1 ratio of successful to unsuccessful passes. A 27:10 count this time might not exactly be a point of excitement that will get Rapids fans doing cartwheels around the room but I'll take a 3:1 ratio over a 2:1 any day from a winger. More importantly, the closer to the center of the pitch and the closer to Matt Pickens he got, the more accurate his passing seemed to get, with every single botched pass coming from the offensive half. (He did botch a chip and a throw-in just beyond the half-line, to be fair.)
It was his defense that was most striking - though his goal was fantastic enough to cover up just about everything else he did on the night - in the improvements department. Nine ball recoveries as well as six interceptions kept the ball on the Rapids feet all night and he seemed to enjoy sneaking into central midfield in order to bolster Pablo Mastroeni and Jeff Larentowicz's already tough defense in the middle with great success, something we didn't see at all at Crew Stadium.
Focusing on his offensive contributions, he was playing very high into the offense, going end to end and providing a ton of tough crosses - a 4:2 success/unsuccess ratio by the way - that could very nearly have turned into a couple of assists had it not been for some bad finishing by Omar Cummings and Sanna Nyassi at times.
And of course, there's no mistaking that the goal he scored was a thing of beauty, but there's really no statistic that can encompass the 'wow' factor that strike brought. Either way, this was an encouraging game from Brian. He obviously doesn't need to perform this well every week, but as the Rapids as a whole continue to improve themselves as a team through the season, decent to good performances out of Brian will have to be the rule and not the exception. This game seems an encouraging step in the right direction to the point where we will once again be able to look at the right side of the pitch before every match and know that we won't need to sweat bullets when thinking about who will play there and how.