I said earlier in the year that thanks to the sudden improvement in skill from Quincy Amarikwa, the Rapids were possibly the deepest team in the league when it came to striker. At that point I didn't think that we were going to be down to the guy who is essentially our 6th string - if you're counting Mac Kandji as a member of the group despite his long term injury - by the time we played Chicago in late-April. Unfortunately, injuries have knocked the core down that far, but fortunately it's finally a long term chance to get a good look at one of my favorite prospects on the Rapids, Andre Akpan.
To say that Akpan impressed in his first night would be an understatement of epic proportions. Sure it was his third overall appearance as a Rapid but the other two were for only a couple of minutes each so I consider this his first real shot. His goal was very skilled and has been nominated for Goal of the Week as such. He had several chances to get a brace on his record as well, none better than the header just put over the bar late in the match off a Jamie Smith cross into the box. His footwork was brilliant and looked Cummings-esque at times, he was making fantastic decisions on the ball and he actually looked like a guy who could start for most of the teams in the league.
That brings up a question. Now that Andre has finally gotten his chance to show coach Gary Smith what he's capable of, what does this mean for the rest of the depth chart at forward?Obviously, Conor Casey and Omar Cummings have to remain atop the chart. When they're together there remains no striker tandem in the league with more skill and communication between them. Just watching Omar Cummings play with Andre Akpan revealed a ton of skill between the two but communication was lacking on some passes, through balls etc. Conor and Omar have been playing together for so long that it's almost unthinkable to break them up except for the case of one of them being injured like the last couple of weeks have been. Now that we've seen every forward on this team receive some first team action, we can start to bang out a more accurate depth chart than the one we had last season that featured Quincy Amarikwa coming up first automatically. So after Casey and Cummings - and assuming a healthy Macoumba Kandji will be in play eventually in the season - how do the other four strikers on this squad stack up after the 'big two' up top?
TOTALLY OFFICIAL RAPIDS STRIKER POWER RANKINGS
- Macoumba Kandji - The obvious first choice after his good performance last year as the first striker off the bench. He didn't have a goal to his name until forcing the OG from George John in the final, but had a handful of assists and generally played quite well on the ball. He's maddeningly inconsistent as any NYRB fan will tell you but when he's on his game he has the potential to be the next great Rapids starter after Casey/Cummings leave. The bigger question may be if he'll ever fully recover from that ACL tear.
- Andre Akpan - Akpan has been my favorite Rapids prospect since they drafted him and on Saturday he showed everybody why. If he keeps up the pace he's at he could be the next Omar Cummings for Colorado in the future, and that would be pretty great.
Caleb Folan - Folan has undeniable skills as a big target forward, but has looked lackadaisical and slow in all of his appearances not against DC United's patchwork back-line this season. When he has finally gotten used to MLS he will probably look better but he will probably always be just a poor man's Conor Casey. Still, in MLS that's certainly a starting caliber forward.
- Quincey Amarikwa - Quincy was terrible in 2010, and still managed to be the first striker off the bench simply because there weren't any other options. Now there are other options and Quincy has certainly improved a lot from last year but he's going to need to step up his game even more to keep up the pace that Akpan and Folan have started.
Again, I have to believe that the Rapids are the deepest team in the league at this position. How do your rankings stack up to mine?