The Colorado Rapids were the number one defense in Major League Soccer this season. This was a defensive team and there was no doubt about that, giving up only 36 goals this season and with 14 shutouts. That is an average of 1.05 goals per game, not too bad - no other MLS team can claim that.
The defense was led by Axel Sjoberg, the defender from Stockholm Sweden. Sjoberg helped anchor the center of the back four. He was joined in the back by Marc Burch, Bobby Burling, Eric Miller, Jared Watts, and Mekeil Williams throughout the season.
This is a good group of players and defenders and they should be back stronger and smarter next season.
Here is how rated their play this season, along with your community ratings.
Marc Burch - 7 (6.64): Not much was expected of Burch this year after a rough ending to last season, but Burch came into 2016 ready to play. He locked down the left back position after several players were tried out there. Not only did he defend well, he frequently got up in attack and helped add a dimension to that.
Bobby Burling - 6 (6.65): Burling partnered with Sjoberg at center back for part of the season. A knee injury in late May and turf toe in September reduced his playing time. He was able to get a goal this year in Montreal that equalized the match for the second time and earn the Rapids a point.
Dennis Castillo - 6 (6.42): Castillo only made four appearances for the Rapids this year, but his MLS debut was one not to forget, getting an assist on Kevin Doyle’s first goal of the season. He did spend a couple spells on loan to the Charlotte Independence.
Eric Miller - 7 (6.19): Miller was acquired from Montreal at the start of the season and had playing time off-and-on, growing into the right back position. He finished the last three months of the season by starting every match. He really grew into that position and it should be a good future for him and the Rapids.
Axel Sjoberg - 8 (6.68): Sjoberg has grown into MLS’ top defender and was defender of the year in MLS (I don’t care what the final vote was). He gained a lot of experience in 2015 and it showed in 2016. His height helped the defense as it deterred the attacking teams from trying to cross balls in the air. If they did, more than likely he would get to them. There were mistakes, but those were limited as the season went along.
Sean St Ledger - N/A (N/A): He spent the early part of the season injured following surgery and I am not sure if he was with the team at the end of it. He won’t be back with the team.
Jared Watts - 7 (6.16): The surprise of the season. Watts, the Rapids player who seems to be picked on the most, had a really good year. He grew into the center back position after having been a defensive midfielder. I think the experience as a defensive midfielder really helped him as a center back as he was able to read the game well. He paired really well with Sjoberg.
Mekeil Williams - 5 (6.27): Williams was a disappointment for me this season. He came in with high expectations and showed some good things, but as the season went along he became more lackadaisical. The Trinidad & Tobago defender will need to refocus this off-season to try and get some playing time in 2017.
That is how I saw the defenders performance this season. What do you think? Leave a comment below.
Note: Marlon Hairston played some time as a right back early in the season, but played most of the season as a midfielder. He will be rated as a midfielder in the next ratings article.