Our season review of every player that appeared for the Rapids begins with the defense. Abbie and I will be sharing the duties and collaborating on all the grades. We’re starting off with veteran CB, and extra-tall stunt double for Johnny Drama of HBO’s ‘Entourage’, Bobby Burling. Rapids Rabbi’s regular Tuesday column ‘Backpass’ will be on hiatus through the season reviews are all done.
What we said at the end of 2016:
Backup Bobby Burling is experienced and split the past two seasons with Watts at CB, providing quality at depth.
Lucky for the Rapids, they didn’t need much else. Eric Miller filled in in a pinch at CB once (twice?), but the Rapids got 31 starts from Sjoberg, 21 from Watts, and 16 from Burling.
2017 Counting Stats: 12 GP, 8 GS, 0 G, 0 A, 760 min, 4 YC
Key Stat: In Burling’s seven MLS starts, the Rapids were 2-0-5 (WTL), scoring 4 goals and conceding 9 goals.
Season Highlight: Burling, paired with Watts at CB, helped the Rapids get a shutout in a 3-0 win against San Jose at DSGP on May 13. Bobby recorded 4 Clearances, 3 Tackles, and 1 Interception, and was 6/10 on Accurate Longballs.
(This part below was added after original publication. I just couldn’t resist when I found this clip.)
Burling also cleared the ball off the line in the 28th minute on May 28th against Sporting Kansas City, which turned out to be the decisive play that preserved the win. Nice job Bobby!
Season Lowlight: Breaking his foot in the US Open Cup against OKC Energy. Also this:
"I was like 'Where'd he go? Hollywood was like 'WHERE'D WHO GO?'" pic.twitter.com/QCPfROaDGL— Rapids Rabbi (@rapidsrabbi) October 31, 2017
I’m a firm believer in the so-called ‘veteran locker room presence’. Somebody has got to teach these children how to prepare for games, how to brush off a bad loss, which MLS players to keep an eye on, and which MLS refs you can get one over on. It should be a guy you can plug into the lineup in a limited role to do the job.
To that end, Bobby Burling was just fine. In Padraig Smith and Paul Bravo’s conception, Bobby was your third string CB: there to spell Jared Watts and Axel Sjoberg, and to help train young pup Kortne Ford. He also deserved another bite at the apple after ending his 2016 season on the shelf with a knee injury.
But in reality, none of the timing of this season worked for Burling. We needed him earlier than we would have wanted, and then when we really needed him for depth midseason, he was hurt. To summarize his season, Bobby started cold, got hurt before he could get up to speed, and returned and had to re-acclimate all over again and by that time, things were already totally irrelevant for Colorado.
Burling was pressed into service earlier than expected after Sjoberg went down with a knee injury on March 14. He looked a step behind in his first two matches against Minnesota and Orlando, but found his sea legs in the month of May and played a part in the Rapids two wins that month.
He and the team came out flat and disjointed in the first match of the US Open Cup against USL club OKC Energy, and the Rapids conceded two first half goals. Then, at the end of the half, Burling leapt and landed on an OKC players foot and tumbled to the ground, screaming, and had to be helped off by a trainer. Burling wouldn’t return until later September, by which point the season was dead as a door nail.
Bobby’s height, physicality, and soccer acumen have always been his assets; his lack of speed and his reaction time have been his weaknesses. That lack of speed and quickness seems to have become more pronounced this season. As his odometer ticks past 33 years old and 13,000 career minutes, the question becomes whether there’s any tread left on the tire. Burling probably could be a ‘break in case of emergency’ CB for an MLS expansion team; perhaps he could return next year with LAFC, the resurrected Chivas USA. Bobby played there for six years, so that would would be a poetic conclusion of sorts. Or the Colorado native could hang up his boots in burgundy, which would also be cool. I don’t see the team bringing him back for next year, and so this is a great time to appreciate Bobby for his work in his 3 years with the Rapids and 11 years as a professional soccer player.