I'm not a fan of former Rapids midfielder and current Red Bulls forward Mehdi Ballouchy. I don't think this is a secret. I don't believe that trading one of the most beloved players in franchise history for a guy who showed a flash of any semblance of talent once every 3 games was a good idea. Even in the games where the Rapids were blowing out the opposition, he managed to stink up the pitch. Every time the Rapids won 3-0 he was basically a lock for "Goat of the Match" because of his bumbling play. Yet, I still hear that them getting rid of him was a horrible idea.
I've been hearing it since he was traded to New York, even from some people who have watched Ballouchy! Even after the Brian Mullan trade which was so obviously to replace him, these complaints have come out. I honestly don't understand it. He wasn't the worst player in the MLS, but I'm fairly certain that even if he had the talent that he was supposed to have, it wasn't coming out while he wore Burgundy.
Some of the complaints were from people said he was a great locker room presence. And that's a fine thing for him to be, especially since the team was so heartbroken after losing Kyle Beckerman in the worst trade that the franchise had ever committed to. If he was an asshole about it, he would probably have never even made it this far. Locker room presence is a fantastic thing to have, being nice to fans is a nice thing as well, but it's no substitute for talent. He's basically Tim Tebow in that case.
Another argument - and this is PRO-Ballouchy somehow - is that the system in Colorado just never fit him as well as it could have. So what, you wanted Gary Smith to change the entire team around just to fit a player that most of the fans don't even like and whose talent is questionable in somewhere? If he wanted to play at forward, the Rapids already had Omar Cummings, Conor Casey and maybe even Andre Akpan there to work ahead of him. He couldn't play central midfield because he'd steal a spot from Pablo Mastroeni or Jeff Larentowicz. No options other than wide playmaking midfielder made sense for him unless the Rapids were sacrificing more talent on the pitch for a name.
Was he a good playmaking midfielder? People will point to his five assists and say yes. I'll point to the fact that just about the entire season until August the offense was completely anemic. Ballouchy was the starter in the midfield the entire time. This trend of god-awful offense basically continued until the game against Houston in late August where suddenly the Rapids rattled off three. This didn't happen because Mehdi improved, in fact he looked worse than usual. In that and every game that followed where the Rapids had a total of 10 goals, Ballouchy had no goals and no assists. For a play making midfielder, he certainly wasn't sparking a damn thing in the resurgence of the offense.
He wasn't exactly on pace to improve much either this season. In 2009 he had 2 goals and 7 assists at the end of the season. He was at 3 and 5 this season the day he was traded, not exactly a marked improvement. In fact the one extra goal from last season came on a PK of all things. At the rate he was going, a final tally in Colorado of 3 goals and 7 assists sounds about right had he stuck around. For a guy that's supposedly right smack dab in the middle of his prime footballing years that's not the numbers I look for from the guy on your team that makes plays.
Losing him certainly didn't cause any drop in ability of the offense either. His replacement Brian Mullan looked much better than Mehdi in just about every facet of the game that Ballouchy was supposed to excel in. Mullan's passes were crisp and almost always close to or on the foot of the target. Mullan didn't shoot a miracle shot when a pass was more appropriate. And completely blowing Mehdi out of the water, Mullan played strong and effective defense. And by the way, the Rapids still managed to score three. Jamie Smith easily jumped into the fray of assist-master, grabbing two for himself and tying the total that Ballouchy had complied, in five fewer games as well.
You can complain about him scoring for the Red Bulls all you want. In fact, the whole "When he scores against the Rapids to knock them out of the playoffs, then you'll be sorry!" type of thinking is wrong as well. I won't be disappointed in the Rapids for getting rid of him. He was never going to live up to whatever potential he apparently had in Colorado, it's obvious to me. He could be the next Landon Donovan somewhere else, but in Colorado he was what he was. A mediocre player that showed occasional but not often flashes of talent. We can't keep that
Besides, if we're using that argument... Kandji actually got himself an assist of his own today. That's more than Ballouchy did in more games than I care to count for Colorado. Good riddance.