The midfield position is arguable one of the most important on the pitch. A proper midfield sets up the attack and a proper midfield helps to stifle the oppositions runs up the field. In 2014 the Colorado Rapids truly showed some bright moments throughout the year, but the midfield struggled in the second half of the season. And as the midfield struggled, the offense and the defense began to struggle.
One thing of note: six of the players listed below are 23 or younger and all are under 30.
Here are the player ratings for the listed midfielders on the team. It is important to note that although Jared Watts and Davy Armstrong spent time in the defense, I am rating them here as this is how the Rapids classifies their positions. A few stats to get the discussion going is listed in the table:
GP: Game Played, GS: Games Started, MN: Minutes Played, G: Goals, A: Assists, ST: Shots, SOG: Shots on Goal
Nick LaBrocca 5.5
There was a lot of good in LaBrocca's play this year and he seemed to be more comfortable in a Pablo Mastroeni based system rather than the system he played under Oscar Pareja. His starts, games, minutes were all up and led the team in minutes.
Top Moment: Playing Time
As I mentioned, LaBrocca looked much better this year in what became more of a defensive midfielders role (not so much of a destroyer role, but more D-Mid then in 2013). He was able to snatch a goal and was unafraid to give it a go. He became someone that Pablo trusted and this was shown with the amount of playing time he got.
Not So Top Moment: Seriously, With The Card Again
LaBrocca was booked nine times this year and often times the cards came at dumb moments. Or they were for such things as talking back to the ref or late tackles. I am a fan of LaBrocca, but if he is going to have a place on this team, he needs to be more aware his surroundings in the game. There is a time and place for a caution in a game, but he would do it at the worst possible moment.
Dillon Powers 6
Powers had an interesting year and although his numbers were extremely similar to 2013 (5 goals, 6 assists) but I think he suffered through the constant moving around on the pitch. Was he a D-Mid? Was he a withdrawn forward? Was he an attacking Mid? Did he play on the outside or on the inside?
Top Moment: Future Leadership
Powers was tapped to become Rapids captain after Drew Moor went down and he strikes me as a quiet leader who tends to lead by example. But he seemed to do this before he got the armband and I think it is quite apparent that Powers will one day be the full time Captain in Colorado/
Not So Top Moment: Inconsistent Play (But Not His Fault)
Powers was really up and down this year, but honestly it was more to do with the constant lineup changes, formation changes and the mixed messages that seemed to be coming on how the team should play. Powers does seem to be better suited on the outside, but honestly he needs to be left alone to continue his development. The constant lineup shifts were brutal on him. But he is one of the foundations of this team and I am excited to see where it goes.
Dillon Serna 5.5
Serna is a young, exciting and dynamic player who showed what he brings to this club. His pace, ball movement and cannon for a leg were on full display in the 27 matches he participated in. He brought some terrific things when he was on the field, and demonstrated that the Front Office can really identify talent.
Top Moment: Uh, That Goal
Was there a better goal in Major League Soccer in 2014 than the goal that he scored against DC United? I think not.
Not So Top Moment: Defensive Lapses
Serna did bring a great deal of excitement to the pitch but his defensive skills at times could be lacking. He seemed to struggle when he needed to track back and play defense.
Marlon Hairston 5.5
Hairston was a revelation this year and it showed again that the front office knows what they are doing in identifying talent. He featured in 22 MLS matches this year picking up a goal and showing flashes that he may just be a starter next season.
Top Moment: Damn, He Is Fast
Opening his MLS account was huge for him and he did in the heartbreaking loss to Los Angeles at home in August. That goal happened because of his flat out speed.
Not So Top Moment: Inexperience
Like many of the younger players that were thrust into playing this year, Hairston suffered from a lack of experience. He was good in offense and the defensive end at times, but was taken to task by more experienced players on the opposite side. I expect this to change going forward in his career.
Jose Mari 6
Mari was a good addition to the Rapids, occupying the defensive midfielder role that was vacated after roster moves last off-season. He may not possess some of the defensive prowess that his predecessors but did offer more on the offensive side of the ball.
Top Moment: Physics and Ball Movement
If there is anyone that can explain that first Vancouver goal, I would love to hear the physics on it.
Not So Top Moment: Not Quite The Destroyer
For as wonderful the goals were for Mari this year, it ultimately did not help the Rapids reach their goals. I have to believe that he would have been more effective with a stronger defensive presence helping a relatively inexperienced Rapids back four.
Jared Watts 4.5
Watts had an interesting first year. The first half of the season he played mainly in a midfield role, before injury and ineffective play (in other defenders) led him to play along the back four. His inexperience played out for good portions of the year, but there were bright spots as well.
Top Moment: Flexibility
Watts played in a couple of different roles this year and did so without complaint and to the best of his ability. And it could be argued that losing him in the Los Angeles game in August was the reason the Rapids ended up going down in defeat. He showed that he can play multiple positions and will be a fixture going forward.
Not So Top Moment: Not Quite Physical Enough
For 2015, I would like to see Watts put on some some weight and muscle so that he can stand up to some of the bigger offensive players in MLS. It will help him become more physical and not lose some of the battles that will come his way.
Carlos Alvarez 4.5
Alvarez was a early season addition from the now defunct Chivas USA and was brought in for his offensive abilities. Whereas there were some flashes of that, overall he did not do a whole lot during his time on the pitch.
Top Moment: Breath Of Fresh Air
When Alvarez was on the field he did his best to inject that breath of fresh air. He used his pace and field skills to move the ball forward and tried to offer something when he was out there.
Not So Top Moment: Defense Lacking
The offense side of things was OK with Alvarez, but the team really needed help on the defensive end. Alvarez was not a particularly good defender and that showed when he was on the field.
Davy Armstrong N/A
Armstrong played 57 minutes this season, but there was enough that I want to see more going into 2015. He primarily played defense and I have to think that will be his place in 2015.