Well hi there, gang. It’s been a while since one of my favorite old Burgundy Wave staples made an appearance. But following the Michael Azira trade, the uzworm signal was put out on Twitter and I am certainly not one to ignore the call of duty.
Rapids trade Azira today. Meanwhile, Dany Wilson is still under contract as a professional soccer player. It's clearly time to resurrect the #PalgutaDepthMeter.— @CapTied96 (@CapTied96) August 8, 2018
Welcome back to the Scott Palguta Memorial Depth Meter.
For the uninitiated, the Palguta depth meter measures just how close we are to seeing below replacement-level players like Scott Palguta hit the field as a starter. One Palguta head is ideal, as it means there’s plenty of depth to spare. Four heads means that we have hit peak Palguta, so watch out!
God, it’s 2018 and Palguta’s been off the team for like six years now. I feel like Grandpa Internet talking about the guy. Renaming it the Zat Knight or Danny Mwanga Memorial Depth Meter or something feels wrong, though. Regardless, we steam forward.
This edition of the Depth Meter is going to be tougher than any of the ones before it, largely because Anthony Hudson seems to decide who is playing what position with a blindfold and dartboard. Gary Smith telegraphed his players’ positions about as much as a manager can possibly do. (It wasn’t fun to watch a lot of the time, but it was easy to parse for writers!) Oscar Pareja was a bit wonky at times, but in general, once he put a player into a position he stuck with it.
It’s a bit more difficult here. Is Danny Wilson a midfielder or defender? Is Dillon Serna a wing/fullback or an attacker? How about Marlon Hairston? I couldn’t tell you, so we’re going to stick with my best guesses here as to what Hudson’s favored positions are. When I don’t know, I’m changing the grades as needed.
This defense is probably the biggest strength of the roster when you look at the top layer of it. There is at least one top-level starter at each position. I would argue that a Castillo - Smith - Sjoberg - Hairston defense (Adding Ford in there if we’re doing Hudson’s 5-3-2) would be a pretty good look for most MLS teams.
This series isn’t about the top level players, though. It’s about the depth behind them, and oh lordy does it fall apart quickly. Other than Edgar Castillo, there actually aren’t any players specifically identified as fullbacks. Deklan Wynne, who I would argue is a below replacement-level player, has stayed in the top 5 for minutes played on the team because they keep putting him in the fullback position; the guy was advertised upon signing as a CB. If you replaced Danny Wilson with a scarecrow, you’d probably struggle to tell the difference.
For fullback spots, it’s really just a spin of the wheel of mystery for Hudson with a bunch of attacking players being out of position. Could Kellyn Acosta play fullback? He probably could, but that would be at the detriment of both the defense, who would have someone playing out of position and to the attack, who would lose one of their best creators.
The Rapids cobbled together a defense with a very sturdy top, but it’s being held together with sawdust and pipe cleaners. The move to a 4-4-2 instead of a 5-3-2, which keeps all three of the team’s best CBs on the field at the same time, keeps this at a three.
PALGUTA LEVEL: 3
The Azira trade didn’t exactly demolish the Rapids midfield, but it was still infuriating to see because he is absolutely better than several of the other options the Rapids still have available. As an aside, I’ll note that most of those options are the guys Hudson signed. His over-reliance on his own signings, regardless of their form, is one of the worst traits I think we’ve seen from the guy since he was named manager.
Jack Price and Kellyn Acosta are both fantastic players and I’d argue that the Kellyn Acosta signing is the single best roster move that the current front office regime has yet made. A young player with USMNT caps oozing with potential who could become the face of the Rapids for years to come—if he sticks around—isn’t something we often see.
The problem is that once you go past those two, it goes downhill quickly. I’d argue that Azira was the best of the bunch in terms of central midfielders. Enzo Martinez has not lived up to the hype and looks about how you’d expect from a guy who tore up the lower leagues and came up to MLS. If you replaced Danny Wilson with a scarecrow, you’d probably struggle to tell the difference. Sam Nicholson has scored a couple but is pretty invisible when he’s not in front of goal. (And Jaime “El Fantasma” Castrillon he is not!)
Is Kip Colvey even still here?
If the wingers were counted on paper, the midfield meter would probably only be a two. Dillon Serna, Marlon Hairston, Sheklzen Gashi and Johan Blomberg are a formidable crew. Sadly, the wingers are often being stuck back as fullbacks and I will absolutely not count Sheklzen Gashi among them until he successfully plays a few matches in a row without being injured or benched. In the 5-3-2 we often see, there really aren’t even wingers at all. Cut that depth down to a three.
PALGUTA LEVEL: 3
Dominique Badji is the team’s leading scorer. He was traded.
Joe Mason is the team’s second-leading scorer. He was sent back to England.
This is a train wreck. Yannick Boli was the big-name forward signing that was supposed to anchor the shaky Rapids offense. He’s got one goal and can’t seem to find his way onto the field.
Jack McBean is the Scott Palguta of forwards in terms of being a classic replacement player who shouldn’t be seeing minutes unless completely necessary. Absolutely no Rapids fans expected to see much of Jack McBean going into 2018. He’s currently tied for first in goals by current Rapids players (with TWO!) and he’s leading the team in minutes for forwards too.
Giles Barnes has barely seen the field because of injury, but in the minutes he’s played he has looked like vintage Giles Barnes: flashy and fun to watch, but with no end product. He’s pretty much a less-fun Deshorn Brown.
Hudson will not play Niki Jackson, even though he has more goals than basically anyone else.
Is there anyone else? Does Caleb Calvert still exist? Can someone go to Lowes and snag a rogue bag of sand we can put in front of the other team’s goal?
This is Peak Palguta. Run for your lives.
PALGUTA LEVEL: 4
Nowhere to go from here but up!