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2018 Rapids Player Reviews: Forwards

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Part three of the player review series features the Rapids offense.

John A. Babiak - @Photog_JohnB

Over the last few weeks, we have been looking at how the Colorado Rapids players faired in the 2018 season. (Check out the defense here and midfielders here.) This week, we dive into the forwards.

Giles Barnes

Barnes was a mid-season signing the Rapids brought in to reinforce the offense after Dominique Badji and Joe Mason both left. He ended up costing a pretty penny and played in 12 games (6 starts). In his 500+ minutes of game time he didn’t account for a single goal or assist.

Barnes was one player that never ever impressed me on the field. He never seemed to make dangerous runs, and when he had the ball at his feet I rarely found myself any closer to the edge of my seat. Plus, when it comes down to it, a forward is graded on what they produce. Honestly, this never felt like a good use of money.

Season Grade: D

Yannick Boli

The Rapids “big” signing of the offseason appeared in 17 games and started 9 of those. He ended up bagging 2 goals (no assists). Two other things worth pointing out was that he made no appearances in August or September when he was presumed to be in Hudson’s doghouse, and he only went the full 90 minutes twice the whole season.

Boli is a tough one to give a grade. He struggled to get onto the field after being brought in for a lot of money (by Rapids standards), but Hudson initially said that it was because he needed to get fitness. Once he started to really get some playing time, he got a dumb red card and stopped really seeing the field. Eventually, Hudson was forced to give him another chance thanks to terrible play by the rest of the team and some injuries.

In his three games at the end of the season, I thought he actually did pretty well and provided the Rapids with a real striker. It makes me wish he saw the field a bit more considering the money he made. I mean, it’s not like 2018 could have been worse right?

Season Grade: C-

Shkelzen Gashi

Gashi had another year limited by fitness and injuries, but he still managed 21 appearances and 9 starts. Of those starts, only one went for the full 90 minutes, however. He also picked up 2 goals and 2 assists on the season.

It was another disappointing year for the Rapids DP who has never been able to replicate his 2016 season. Unfortunately, a lot of that is due to his body seemingly not being able to hold up anymore. He couldn’t play a ton of minutes and seemed a step slower on the field.

Gashi also never really got to play his preferred position this year either. He liked being a winger that can cut inside, but we never played a formation that has true wingers this year. As a result, he was forced to play as a central number 10 or second forward, and who knows how much that hindered him. There does not seem to be a question that he was still one of the most technically talented players on the Rapids, but 2 goals and 2 assists are not good enough from our only DP field player.

Season Grade: C-

Niki Jackson

In his rookie year, Jackson managed 15 appearances and one (short-lived) start. He earned 3 goals and also spent some time in Charlotte at the beginning of the summer.

Even though he was a rookie and not really expected to do a lot, Jackson found himself making headlines this year. In the very first game, he scored a game-tying goal and then gave away a silly foul that allowed the other team to win. Later, he scored a big goal against the Galaxy and quickly followed that up with a bad red card against RSL. Somehow he managed to stay out of Hudson’s doghouse for all that and saw the field in six straight games after serving his suspension.

Ultimately, Jackson brought a lot of good energy and speed off the bench throughout the year. Every time he came into a game, he seemed to stretch the defense, and it always felt like something might actually happen unlike some of the other guys. Overall, he had a rookie year that he can build on.

Season Grade: B

Jack McBean

McBean logged a career-high 22 games and 13 starts in his first season with the Rapids, both of which would have been higher had he not missed the last seven games for injury. In all his time, he only managed to get 2 goals and 1 assist.

It was clear early on that McBean was one of Hudson’s favorites because Hudson liked the effort that he put in whenever he played. Unfortunately, his effort never really turned into any results. For a striker to have more than 1,000 minutes and only play a part in three goals is not good.

Even when it comes to the eye test, it never looked like McBean was going to cut it. He just wasn’t quite good enough at most of the things strikers need. He was decent at holdup play, but he wasn’t great in the air, didn’t have a lethal shot, and his movement wasn’t great. The list goes on. All in all, I think he is more of a USL starter or MLS depth player as opposed to an MLS starter.

Season Grade: D+

Sam Nicholson

Nicholson came to the Rapids through a trade at the start of May and started all 19 of the games he appeared in. Unfortunately, he was hindered by a back injury that made him miss 8 of the last 9 games of the season. He finished the season with 2 goals and 2 assists.

Nicholson is listed as a midfielder on the Rapids website, but I decided to include him with the forwards since that is where he usually slots in the 4-4-2 diamond. When he initially came over, the Rapids were still playing three CBs, so he moved in on the ride side of the field. During that time, I thought he was pretty good. He eventually had to play out of position as the second forward in the 4-4-2, and Nicholson did the best he could. He brought a lot of hustle and ran around a ton, but he did not have the skills of a forward.

Sadly, he was still typically the better of the two forwards since he was often partnered with McBean. He may not get the best grade for this season, but he could be a guy to watch for next year if he is allowed to play out wide, or even as the number 10 next year.

Season Grade: C+/B-

Dominique Badji

Even if he was traded, Badji was still the Rapids leading scorer on the year with 7 goals. In his 16 games (15 starts) with the Rapids, he also picked up 2 assists.

Badji was probably the best forward on the Rapids this year. His speed made him dangerous. He stretched back lines. He had decent hold-up play. He scored goals. All these things were missed when we traded him away. I think Acosta was a good pickup, but it was no secret that Badji was really all we had up front.

In his time on the field, he played like he typically does. He brought energy and hustle, and he got himself into dangerous positions. Badji didn’t always score when given the opportunity, but her at least got them. In his fourth year, Badji seemed primed to surpass his goal tally from the previous year again, and that is all you can ask for in a growing young forward, right?

(Half) Season Grade: B+

Joe Mason

Mason had a short-lived loan stint with the Rapids toward the beginning/middle of the season. He ended up appearing in 14 games (9 starts) and scored 3 goals before being sent back to Wolverhampton.

Joe Mason was another signing that people were supposed to get excited about. He came in, scored a few goals, and then left without much of an explanation. While he was with the Rapids, however, I felt that he was pretty good. He seemed to be creative and got himself into some good positions. He also seemed to work well as a second forward with Badji. This would have been pretty useful when we went to the 4-4-2 and Nicholson was forced into that role.

Overall, I wish we would have kept Mason because he and Badji were definitely our two best attacking players, and we lost them both. It is also worth noting that his 0.36 goals/90min were second best on the team behind Badji. No wonder we couldn’t score goals when they left.

Season Grade: B-

Caleb Calvert

Calvert spent most the year on loan in Charlotte, but he was called back when the Rapids got a little thin at forward. Ultimately, he turned out to be just another body in training because he only made one appearance for 35 minutes.

He makes the article because he was on the team and played, but that’s about all we get for him.

Season Grade: N/A

How do you feel the forwards did this year? Let us know in the comments section!