In what was a year pretty much to forget for the Colorado Rapids, there were still a few bright spots for the faithful to enjoy. Some were pure moments of brilliance. Some were individual performances. One was just a nice moment.
There are eight ‘best' moments of the year. I'll be writing them up in chronological order, from the beginning of the year to the end.
Best Rapids Moment #1: Axel Sjoberg debuts, contributes to two clean sheets
If you look at the list of MLS 1st round picks in 2015, only Cyle Larin of Orlando City FC and Matt Polster of the Chicago Fire had more impactful seasons. Sjoberg was the 14th pick of the draft for the ‘Pids and started in the season opener against Philadelphia, a 0-0 draw that including a late sending-off of fellow Center Back Bobby Burling. Only fervent defending and a crap-ton of clearances earned the Rapids a point in this one.
This here is ... tackles ... interceptions ... clearances (!) ... blocked shots ... fouls ... and rating, care of whoscored.com.
Sjoberg's stats against Philly were awesome. He had more clearances than the rest of the team, combined. His defensive action map made that even more apparent. Orange is recoveries, blue is interceptions, green is tackles, yellow is blocks, purple is clearances.
His follow-up at home against NYCFC was also excellent. He and the rest of the Rapids backline kept David Villa frustrated all afternoon. Stats below, again.
Sjoberg was on the bench for a few weeks as Pablo replaced him with Drew Moor. He returned on April 24 against Dallas, and played 7 of the next 8 games, once again aggressively heading away balls in the Rapids' half. Colorado recorded two clean sheets in those games, while Colorado only conceded six goals in those matches. A knee injury sidelined him in June and July, and the acquisition of Sean St Ledger in August kept him on the bench until the last three games of the year.
Coming out of a 2014 campaign in which the Rapids back line leaked like a pasta strainer, Sjoberg was an exciting addition to the squad. It's clear that if he can begin to understand and adapt to MLS attackers and improve his positioning, while beginning to develop better passing and awareness, he could be a huge asset in Commerce City for years to come.
Moment number two: coming soon...