If you were lucky enough to be among the 6500 fans at Dick's Sporting Goods Park for Tuesday's match against Swansea City, you missed some pretty good performances by two players who have been getting calls by fans for more playing time -- Andre Akpan and Kamani Hill.
Hill had been getting playing time, of course. He had proved himself a capable super-sub early in the season playing striker and had gotten some decent starting time in the midfield during an injury spat. Since Conor Casey and Omar Cummings became healthy and Edu was brought in for his exorbitant salary, Hill's playing time started to decrease. Akpan had been mostly shut out of the big minutes this season despite showing flashes in just about every competition he's been put in, always losing the spots to the veterans.
Casey and Cummings are obvious reasons why the two haven't been seeing the field as much, but the contentious name is, of course, Edu. The Brazillian seemed to be brought in by Oscar Pareja as sort of a talisman, considering the hype and the big money hit used to pick him up. Unfortunately, as we've covered before, he's been anything but a talisman. At his best, he's held the ball up decently and provided some nifty back passes. At his worst, a bag of sand thrown onto the pitch could probably do the same job.
Either way, Edu is not providing goals and not even coming close to them. For a team that has had trouble scoring goals in just about any situation and has specifically been awful when it comes to folding under pressure after other teams score goals on them, that's a big problem for a guy who has been sapping up minutes with the squad since joining up.
Oscar Pareja had an interesting quote after the Swansea game when presented with this little conundrum after a brilliant goal by Hill from 25 yards out -- the sort of shot that Edu has never taken or even looked interested in taking with the Rapids so far -- sparked the 'why not Hill' conversations again:
"Kamani’s getting back again to his level. (...) These guys are growing. I have to accept that – sometimes I miss things. I don’t have any arrogance [about] accepting it, sometimes you miss things with them, because this is coming so quick. I say to them, your job is to prove me wrong. All the time. And I would not doubt to accept it, if I see players that are stepping up and I say, you know what, you have to play. It’s a good moment for us, for sure."
Take from that what you will. Along with Akpan's solid performance up top that saw him putting in a Conor Casey-esque header, it's going to be hard for the coach to justify giving those big minutes to Edu for much longer.