What Padraig Smith said upon his signing in January, 2017:
“Bringing Nana to the club was a key part of our off-season strategy and we’re delighted to welcome such a promising young talent to our club. He’s a powerful player with the drive and energy to be effective box to box. He possesses great technique and vision and influences the game on both sides of the ball. We’re confident Bismark will make a smooth transition to MLS as he heads into the prime of his career.”
2017 Counting Stats:
18 GP, 10 GS, 0 G, 1 A, 806 min, 3 YC
Sam Cronin in 2017: 1551 minutes; 79 CBI (Clearances, Blocks, and Interceptions), or 4.89 per 96 minutes; 35 tackles, or 2.17 per 96 min.
Nana Boateng in 2017: 806 minutes; 28 CBI, or 3.33 CBIp96; 18 tackles, or 2.14 Tp96.
In the 29th minute of his 3rd-ever MLS match, Boateng struck this ludicrous through-ball to Marlon Hairston, who then hit a perfect cross to Kevin Doyle for a flying head-first golazo, in what might be the best goal of the season for Colorado. In the ‘season lowlight’, I’ll add a detail that makes this pass even more insane.
This isn’t really pertinent to Nana’s season review, but Hairston on the left is really good and we should do that more often.
. @nanaboateng21 to @MARLYG94 to @KevinDoyle1983 . #Rapids96 pic.twitter.com/YF7uPlkhve— Rapids Rabbi (@rapidsrabbi) April 17, 2017
Nana’s injury is certainly the lowlight of his year.
It can’t be that frequent an occurrence that a player experiences their best moment and their worst moment of the season in the same game. But that happened for Boateng. Nana got hurt in the 27th minute of this game; as he lept for a ball on April 15th against RSL, Luke Mulholland undercut him and dumped him right on his upper back. He stayed down for a while, and then walked it off and kept playing. Two minutes later, he hit that awesome pass for an assist. Two minutes after that, he was subbed off with what turned out to be three broken vertebrae.
Dude hit his best pass of the season with his back broken in three places. That’s crazy.
Boateng had other games where he wasn’t particularly effective or should have had more tackles or interceptions, but I didn’t see many instances where he was posterized to give up a goal, so the injury is the lowlight.
When you happen to be the only foreign player a team brings in during the off-season, you create a significant amount of expectation. When your playing career is under control by Manchester United, you also create a significant amount of expectation. When the Interim Sporting Director trades a successful and beloved veteran that plays in your position in order to make space for you on the field, you create a significant amount of expectation.
When you don’t really live up to those expectations, it’s a bit deflating.
Bismark Adjei-Boateng, or ‘Nana’ if you will, came with big expectations. But an early season injury really derailed his year significantly. Nana played in three matches before being upended by Luke Mulholland in a match against Real Salt Lake on April 15th. He missed two months, and returned to the lineup on June 26th.
Fans spent the remainder of the season looking to see what exactly we had in Boateng, but the answer never really came. Playing sometimes as a defensive midfielder, and sometimes as a central midfielder in a 4-4-2, Boateng was mostly enigmatic. Nana made a defensive contribution, averaging around 2.9 defensive actions (Clearances, Blocks, Interceptions, or Tackles) per game. That’s well below the numbers that other midfielders produced. Even if you took out the matches in which he came on as a sub, Nana didn’t create interceptions or tackles at a rate that would impress anybody.
Offensively, he also wasn’t noteworthy. He had one assist - an ‘MLS assist’, anyways - which you can see gif’ed above. His 5 Key Passes on the season, even if we eliminated his sub appearances and just gave him credit for his 10 starts, work out to a 0.5 KP pg rate. That’d rank him around 33rd amongst MLS center midfielders and defensive midfielders.
Even though the team changed formations and there were other variables that had an impact, Nana was more-or-less handed Sam Cronin’s spot on the field and expected to maintain a modicum of the defensive contribution he made, while making a greater contribution to the offense. As you can see from the key stats above, Nana was a defensive downgrade on Sam, while providing an imperceptible offensive upgrade over him. Cronin’s KP pg rate of 0.33 was lousy - 40th among central midfielders - but Boateng wasn’t a notable improvement.
Even more damning was his inability, even after getting healthy, to lock down a regular spot in the starting lineup. Boateng’s only stretch with three straight starts for the Rapids was in the team’s last three matches of the year, when the club was well out of the playoffs, and starting spots were given in order to let players audition for their jobs. Nana was decent in all three matches. He had 7 defensive actions in a 1-1 draw with FC Dallas in the penultimate match of the year, and 3 blocks in the season finale in Seattle, which the Rapids lost, 3-0. He also was dribbled by his opponents 5 times in those games, and had just 1 key pass.
So, you can view Nana’s season one of two ways. You could say that Nana’s injury, coupled with the expected MLS ‘period of adjustment’ that challenges every player, rendered him relatively disappointing and ineffective, but we should retain hope that he can have a rebound in 2018 . Or, you could say that the Rapids overestimated Nana supremely in assuming that a good player from a mid-table team in the Norwegian Tippeligaen would be a game-changing addition in MLS. As a fan, I’m sincerely hoping that Nana just had an off-year in 2017 and he’s going to come back and blow everyone away in 2018. But my eyes and my pessimism tell me that he’s another Juan Ramirez/Lucas Pittinari-level bust, just from a vastly different climate and timezone than those guys.