Depth, Depth, and yet more DEPTH

COMMERCE CITY, CO - MAY 26: Kosuke Kimura #27 of the Colorado Rapids looks for another centerback pairing that might have a lower GAA than Marshall/Palguta. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

I get a bit cynical on Twitter when I hear the word "injuries" come from the Front Office of any sports team. Whether it be the USMNT having injuries to their two right backs, then having an injury take out their last resort in Jose Torres, or it be Arsenal talking about why they will spend yet another season without adding to their trophy case. "Injury" is the panacea to fans so that we can talk amongst ourselves and say "well, we woulda won if it weren't for missing Jack Wilshire, I'm sure when he comes back everything will be better."

We've been through this dance before, but right now I want to talk about something good. I want to talk about a magical place in Colorado where depth is not a problem. In fact, we've only talked about it as a problem area once in this entire season.

I want to talk about the midfield. I want to talk about what "having depth" means when you've actually got it. In the end, both statistically and in fan perception: it means that you will see the same product on display week in and week out regardless of who happens to make the starting 11.

So, how bout dat midfield?

I want to look at the loss of two key players in midfield, and see if that makes a big difference with regards to the kind of game that's played. Results, of course, may vary, and they do, but we're focusing on performance for now and then we'll focus on results later.

So how am I rating the midfield? Considering most of the Rapids passing is happening in the middle third of the field, what I thought would be a good metric for how the midfield is doing is how many passes get completed versus how many go wanting. The results are fairly to mildly shocking, and I'm not sure in what would be best to interpret them. So let's look.

Let's take a good win with Captain Pablo and Brian Mullan playing on the same field. Columbus was a pretty good one, even though Pablo went out with an injury, but when hasn't that been the case this year? Anyway, so the passes complete to to incomplete was 151/53, or about 74%.

Now let's take a bad loss without Pablo or Jeff Larentowicz, the New York Red Bulls game. How did that go for our passing? Pretty bad, right? Nope. Turns out our midfield passing accuracy was even better with 139/31, or about 81%.

And what happens when you put Martin Rivero into the mix? How does that go for our passing in the midfield? How about that Chivas game for a good game when we had Rivero in the mix and were playing against 11 guys? We get 161/51 or about 75%.

What's the big difference between these games? For one thing, the Rapids lost the possession battle overall against Chivas and New York Red Bull, but that's not the thing that I think really makes passing accuracy translate to winning games.

Rapids attempts on Goal v Columbus? 17. Chivas? 15. New York? 8.

Yes, you can win the occasional lucky game (Montreal Impact, anyone? Philadelphia Union?) with less than 10 shots on goal. But a good Rapids win means at least 15 attempts on goal. That's just attempts. That's just trying to get a goal going. The more our midfield is able to assert control and be confident in possession of the ball, which translates into better passing accuracy... the more chances we should have to go forward and make an attempt on goal.

So what's the deal? Our midfield has been consistent, even with injuries, why are results varying?

My answer: Because defensive depth is still lacking.

I brought this up on Twitter and got a couple different responses. Most telling was Club President Tim Hinchey's statement:

This is crucial because it's someone from the Front Office acknowledging what we've been saying this whole time: it's not a problem of injuries as much as it's a problem with depth. If Scott Palguta and Tyrone Marshall are not a centerback pairing that is capable of winning trophies, then it's less likely that the Rapids will win a trophy.

Think of a midfield you don't want to see. I know, it's difficult. I can't think of one that hasn't performed consistently with regards to being a passing engine, though results vary with chance creation. But no one is going to say that we need to address midfield depth. We seem to be pretty deep there and with Jamie Smith looking to be in fine form and gearing up for a return to the first team, it's only going to get better.

Now, think of a back four you don't want to see and I'll show you the Kansas City game. I'll show you any game. The back four can be built on a foundation of a solid group. I think that Kimura, Moor, and Wynne are that group. Regardless of what you may think of Kosuke Kimura's performances, people cannot deny his consistent attitude and the way he motivates his fellow team mates. A lot is being asked of Kimura this year and he has to grow in that position.

That being said, these are guys you can build on, not guys you can hang everything on. People get injured (Wynne). People fall in and out of form (Kimura). But a difference of almost and entire goal in our GAA is not acceptable defending. This affects the entire team because the midfield won't be confident enough to go forward and will track back to help defend. This affects performances with regards to our attempts on goal.

I know, I sound like a broken record, but it's true. Look at the Rapids midfield. Look at the Rapids at forward. Now look at the Rapids defense. Now back at the forwards and midfield. Two of these are being built the right way, one of them is not. While performances may remain consistent in the midfield (thanks to depth) results will vary due to poor depth at the back.

Quote me on that.
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