The magical season of the Colorado Rapids comes to a close (for the regular season at least) this afternoon as the Burgundy Boys take on Houston Dynamo at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. The Rapids have a legit shot at a trophy in this one (providing LA Galaxy acts like professionals in their game against FC Dallas), but for the Dynamo this match is all about pride and looking towards 2017.
I had a chance to exchange questions with Dynamo Theory, and here is what we talked about (sorry, no My Little Pony this time).
Burgundy Wave: As the Dynamo season is coming to a close who would you say is the biggest surprise and biggest disappointment this season?
Dynamo Theory: As the worst place club in the Western Conference, you could imagine that there are quite a few surprises (and quite a few more disappointments). The biggest surprises have come from players that stepped up when they were needed to. Alex Lima is one player who should get the club MVP nod, but before this season was largely praised for his versatility rather than his goal scoring and tackling. Collen Warner was a newcomer this season and became a huge part of a better defensive side by the Dynamo. And then Joe Willis has created a goalkeeping problem: who do we keep, the backup that's a highlight reel of saves or our homegrown product that's been injured most of the year?
The disappointments have been many, but I think it's best to start with our offseason acquisition Cristian Maidana. Maidana in particular was poised to be our number 10, our playmaker, and the person to unlock our forwards in an exciting attacking brand of soccer. That never panned out as Maidana's lack of effort on the defensive end coupled with a team mentality unwilling to attack hurt his production and effectiveness greatly. I think it's largely unfair to blame "Chaco" for the offensive lulls we've had this season, but his consistency issues certainly contributed to some of those doldrums. The other big disappointment is the entire forward corps. Will Bruin, Giles Barnes, Erick "Cubo" Torres, and even Mauro Manotas have looked out to lunch at times this season and have been ignored. It's not all on the players, as service and support has been completely lacking for most of the year, but there have been times each of these players could have stepped up more significantly. Even Manotas, who has been one of the great successes towards the end of the season, has looked lost at times and as a CF sometimes you'll be isolated and need to work your way back into games to be effective.
Burgundy Wave: In the Rapids' last match there was a controversial penalty kick that led to the Timbers goal. A talking point on that play was video replay and how that might have changed the call. Do you think that is something MLS should look at and how do you feel it should work?
Dynamo Theory: There are generally two sides to the video replay argument: 1) accuracy and 2) time. These two things impact the other as taking time to be more accurate can take more time out of the game (...ignore the fact that stoppage time is a thing). Seemingly the argument to "slow the game down" has come at the detriment to those on the side of getting calls correct.
As someone that's refereed youth soccer in the past, I can tell you it's not as easy as our current officials make it out to be and they do a fantastic job for the most part. It's that "for the most part' that most people get hung up on because there are big time calls or no-calls that change the outcomes of games. This is something that's haunted the Dynamo a lot this year as we've been unfairly given red cards, penalties against us, and laughable placement of the ball following fouls by opponents.
Is there a fair solution that balances both the time concerns of one party and the accuracy of another? I think it's fairly simple, but of course what do I know. The TV infrastructure that exists in stadiums can be used by another "replay official" to go through something in real time and can use a radio (something officials currently use to communicate) to tell the center official the accuracy of the call. They wouldn't need to stop play much longer than a usual conversation with the linesman and the center official can still have the final say (and could be held accountable for that as well).
This is a low-cost way to implement something that could help grow the game. Although refs might get most calls right, to some MLS refs are a joke. Adding something that already largely exists (just need a ref and another radio) that can support more than what goal-line tech does, specifically looking at severity of fouls, could improve decision making and make the game a bit more enjoyable. Of course removing the "blame the refs" part of the game could be devastating to fans looking for a scapegoat for their team's poor performance.
Burgundy Wave: With two more teams coming into the league—and an expansion draft on the horizon—who might the Dynamo protect and who would you hate to lose?
Dynamo Theory: As a bottom team, I'm not too worried about players getting picked by us, but that doesn't mean it couldn't happen and we do have some very talented players we could lose. To me, losing Will Bruin would be a travesty. Plenty can argue about his effectiveness, but given our limited options at the forward position (just Manotas and maybe Cubo depending whether or not Cruz Azul decides to buy his contract), we need him. An injury to Manotas would be devastating so we need a forward and Bruin is more than a serviceable option. I would hate to lose David Horst, Andrew Wenger, Ricardo Clark, Alex Lima, and Sheanon Williams. Manotas doesn't need protection as a DP. Who the Dynamo might protect? I think most of those players with some younger players like Yair Arboleda and Jose Escalante. Of course, it does depend on who might be coming into the coaching situation and what the front office decides is best.
Projected Lineup: 4-1-4-1: Joe Willis; Abdoulie Mansally, Jalil Anibaba, David Horst, Sheanon Williams; Collen Warner; Yair Arboleda, Cristian Maidana, Alex Lima, Andrew Wenger; Mauro Manotas
Projected Score: 2-1 Colorado
You can find my answers to Dynamo Theory's questions over at Dynamo Theory.