Last season turned out to be long and unsuccessful one for the Colorado Rapids, but that doesn’t mean that every player was terrible all the time. A good number of guys were decent, and even a few were good. Before we close the book on the season, let’s spend a little time looking back. For the next couple of weeks, we will be going through how every Rapids player faired in 2018. We’ll start with the defenders.
I don’t think it is that bold of a statement to say that Castillo was the best player to put on the Burgundy jersey this year. He was brought in on loan to play as a left wingback in a back five, a spot that perfectly suited his skills. As the year went on and the Rapids switched to a back four, he was forced to play a little more defense than before, but he still managed to get forward plenty. Unfortunately, he finished the season by missing four of the final six games. All in all, he finished with 28 appearances, 3 goals, and 5 assists.
The most impressive thing about Castillo this year was his ability to create chances from the outside back position. He was the guy on the team that made you move a little closer to the edge of your seat if he had the ball in the final third—and he was a defender. Sure that looks a little bad for the Rapids, but it certainly looks good for him. He made some defensive mistakes from time to time, but he more than made up for that on the other side of the ball. Almost every team in the league would have loved to have him this year.
Season Grade: A
Colvey came over from San Jose this year to be a utility outside back, and the Kiwi really didn’t do much. He only saw the field three times and he only went the full 90 once.
Overall, we didn’t get to see much of Colvey. When we did, he didn’t do anything to show that we needed to see more of him. Ultimately, he is probably one of the guys that was brought in because he was familiar with Hudson’s system, but doesn’t really belong in MLS. Colvey didn’t manage to see the field enough to get a grade.
Season Grade: N/A
Ford had a fairly rough sophomore season, mainly due to a few different injuries. He missed the first 14 games of the season, and then a few more throughout the rest of the year. All in all, it left him with just 15 appearances (14 starts) on the year.
As far as how he played, it is kind of hard to judge. When he got to play in the CB role, he looked a lot like he did last year: a solid young defender that could grow into a great piece of the back line. Sadly, he was forced in the RB role for much of the year, and that just didn’t fit into his play style. He certainly did not do terrible, but in a diamond 4-4-2, the outside backs need to supply width. Watching him, I could tell Ford did not feel nearly as comfortable running the flank and getting forward as Castillo, Marlon Hairston, or even Deklan Wynne. Ultimately, he is a CB and will be throughout his career, so he still did an adequate job filling in because he had to.
Season Grade: B
Hairston is a player that seemed to go in and out of Anthony Hudson’s doghouse. He would play a few games in a row, and then we wouldn’t see him for a month. Factor in an injury, and Hairston was left with his least amount of games (15), starts (13), and minutes (1107) since 2015.
Hairston seemed the perfect fit to complement Castillo as the right wingback in a back five. Unfortunately, he suffered an injury as was never able to lock down the role. When the team went to a back four, Hudson did not seem to trust him because he is not as defensively solid as a traditional RB. When he would play, he seemed to be pretty hot and cold. One game he would be solid, but the next he would have bad giveaways and make silly mistakes. He did end up featuring in the last 7 games, however, and notched 2 assists, so he ended the season playing fairly well.
Season Grade: B-/C+
Sjoberg was yet another player plagued by injuries in 2018. At the beginning of the year, he did not seem to fit into Anthony Hudson’s system and there was talk of trading him. After time, he showed that he is still one of the best defenders on the Rapids roster. In the end, he made 17 appearances with 15 starts, and interestingly enough he managed to finish the season with no yellow cards.
With two years of injury-plagued seasons, Sjoberg has not been able to regain the dominance he had in 2016 when he was almost the defender of the year. This year, he played decently when he managed to see the field. At the beginning of the year, he was a good improvement over Danny Wilson, but when the team moved to a back four he seemed fairly average. Could this have been because the rest of the back line was not great? I’m sure that didn’t help. Either way, it was not Sjoberg’s best year, and he could really use an injury-free season.
Season Grade: B-
Smith was another New Zealand National Team player brought in by Anthony Hudson. He started all but one game on the season, which he missed due to a red card suspension. He was often talked about as one of the vocal leaders of the back line.
When on the field, Smith seemed like a very average MLS central defender. He got beat a lot, made some decent plays, and scored four goals. Sadly, he was brought in to be much more than that. He was brought in to be a leader, but I am not sure he was great at that. He seemed to yell and blame teammates a lot, and he got a silly red card against Minnesota. On top of that, he got caught ball watching more times that he should have. When it comes down to it, I wouldn’t consider him all that bad of a player, but he gets paid like he should be well above average.
Season Grade: C
Wilson was brought in to the be the ideal middle CB in the back five. Ultimately, he seemed to become a Hudson favorite throughout most the season as he got paired with Smith time after time in the back four. He ended up making 22 starts and 23 appearances in his first MLS season.
There is no way to sugar coat it, Wilson was not good this year. He was constantly out of position and ball watching. He was below average as the middle CB in the back five, and he was even worse as a CB in a back four. Even in the few games he started in the number 6 role, he was not that good. When you add in the price of his paycheck, he might just edge out our next player for the defender that struggled most this year.
Season Grade: D
Wynne was yet another NZNT’er brought in during the off-season by Anthony Hudson. He was acquired with $100,000 TAM from Vancouver, and he ended up playing a fair amount. With Ford hurt, he slotted into the right CB role in the back five and made a few spot starts at outside back when we switched to the back four. All in all, he made 25 appearances with 22 starts.
While he was with Vancouver, Wynne spent all of his time with Vancouver 2 in the USL. The Rapids gave him a shot at MLS, but I think his skills fit more in the USL. He was beat time and time again when he was asked to play CB in the back five, but maybe we should give him some slack since he is not a CB. When the time came for him to play outside back in the back four, he did do a pretty good job getting forward and providing width. Sadly, he did not do a good job on the defensive side of the ball. Since he is not as prolific as Castillo going forward, he cannot afford to get beat so many times on the defensive side of things. While I do not think he is terrible, I think Wynne needs to go back to the USL and develop more. Who knows, maybe the 23-year-old can still produce a solid career.
Season Grade: D+/C-
Vines only got to play one game in Burgundy, but he is a young homegrown player to be excited about. In his first professional season, he did well in the USL with Charlotte Independence and it looks like he might make the jump into MLS next year.
Vines only played one game, and it was the snoozefest against San Jose late in the season. With that in mind, it is hard to have any real opinion about him yet. He’s young. He’s exciting. He’s on the roster, so he makes the article.
Do you have any other thoughts on the defenders this year? Throw it in the comments section!