On Wednesday May 23rd the Rapids Reserves hosted the Houston Dynamo Reserves. If you’re looking for a recap of the game you can head over to coloradorapids.com and check it out, it ended 2-2 and we saw goals from an Edu header from a Jamie Smith corner, and another goal from trialist player Kevin Garcia from a Koehi Yamada free kick, very late in the match. A few highlights included Jamie Smith’s first game action since tearing his ACL last season, he went 60 minutes and looked solid. Also impressive was trialist Bobby Burling, a 6’5’’ center-back who last played with San Jose. Currently Montreal has his rights (through the expansion draft), he’s looking for a new club though, and he looked very good in burgundy.
My goal in writing about the Reserves for NoFanAlone.com is to analyze the games, rather than just recap them. Some of these players will hopefully play important roles with the senior team, some will have to step up and fill-in for injured players, and some of the Reserves are younger projects that are still a few years away from contributing. There are academy players there as well, kids that are still in high school that are getting a look and may be offered a contract after they graduate. My goal is analyze these players in the light of the senior team, so that hopefully we can all have a better idea about the depth of the Colorado Rapids and so that we can hopefully know who players are when they show up on the bench or even with the senior team.
So with that said, lets take a look at how the Reserves looked against Houston.
The Reserves started off in a 4-4-2 that looked like this (L-R) Steward Ceus; Luis Zapata, Bobby Burling (trialist), Scott Palguta, Davy Armstrong; Jamie Smith, Joseph Nane, Harrison Henao, Kamani Hill; Louis Edu, Andre Akpan. It was clear from the start though that even though there were two strikers up top, this lineup was more of a 4-5-1, a center-midfield inverted triangle of Henao in front of the center-backs and Hill / Nane supporting Akpan as the striker. Edu and Smith were out-wide. This is pretty similar to what the senior team has been running a lot this season, it has looked much better recently with the return of Conor Casey as the lone striker.
Starting with the good, there are only a few players on the Reserves that can really step into the senior team at the moment. Edu obviously has the quality already, and it’s just a matter of getting some games and time with the players before he can be a force. Andre Akpan has played sparingly with the First Team and while he never looks like he’s moving at full-speed, goals happen when he’s on the field. We already know what Zapata offers, he’s not really a “reserve” player at the moment. So who else was playing that we might see in the near future.
The first name is Harrison Henao, the CDM (center-defensive mid). Henao recently signed with the Rapids and is using Jamie Smith’s International Roster Spot, since he’s Colombian. He not very big but he has a very strong frame, he’s rarely pushed around. He reminded me of a little tank out there, he’s totally disruptive to the opponents game. He tackles hard, he slides often, and positions himself pretty well since he’s not all that fast. The few times he was beat off the dribble he wasn’t able to run down the player. Looking back on the game Henao was a steady presence, he didn’t make many mistakes and didn’t contribute too much going forward. I personally don’t think he’s ready to start for the senior team, but he would definitely be an option in the 2nd half if the Rapids are protecting a lead. He would slot in well next to Jeff Larentowicz.
Kamani Hill was probably the best player on the field for the game, he created chance after chance on offense, often linking up with Edu around the 18-yard box. He moves to the ball well and gives everyone an option to pass to, you can tell he wants the ball all the time (which is a good thing). He was also very vocal, yelling at players to run in the channels and pressing teammates to pass quicker and move. We’ve seen Kamani play with the first team and know he’s a good attacking option, Coach Wilmar played him in a central role similar to where Rivero / Castrillon play.
Jamie Smith looked great. He was running very hard, not holding back at all. He service into the box was pretty good, although once or twice he completely missed the target. Like Kamani, Jamie was very vocal, even at halftime he talked to at least 6-7 players individually, giving them encouragement and instructions. Coach Wilmar had to basically shut him up at one point. It looks like Jamie is close to a return, although the training staff might be less optimistic.
The other bright spots were Steward Ceus (GK) and Bobby Burling. Even though Ceus gave up 2 goals not much could be done. He’s such a big presence in the goal and gets his hands on a lot of shots. He did get beat near-post on the first goal with plenty of time to set-up. The second goal was a hard, low cross from Colin Clark that got through traffic and was knocked in. Otherwise Ceus came up huge on at least three occasions. The best part though was that he stayed put. We’ve seen him venture pretty far out of the box on occasion chasing balls down and being very aggressive. I thought his biggest need last season was discipline, to stay in good position and not be tempted to leave the goal unattended.
Unfortunately there were a few poor performances as well. Most notably Scott Palguta. Fans seem to love to harp on Palguta but he’s not a terrible center-back. He’s got a big frame and for the most part plays good defense. He never really offers much going forward or in link-up play, often just kicking the ball long. What seems to haunt Palguta is that he often has one big mental lapse a game, its usually costly. This game was no different, Houston cleared a ball towards Colorado’s goal and it was a pretty straight-forward clearance for Palguta, but he hesitated and instead of heading the ball clear he tried a half-volley. The volley traveled straight to the Houston striker who promptly drove the ball into the box and scored near-post.
Joseph Nane is another player who just doesn’t seem to have what it takes to be a consistent contributor on the senior level. He was holding the ball up very well and his passing was crisp and accurate. But Nane’s biggest problem is that he’s sluggish, slow in tackles and makes a ton of contact. He’s physical in a bad way, always with his hands on the other player and hacking at the ball. He got called for numerous fouls, needless fouls that gave Houston free-kicks in the Rapids half time and time again.
The other player worth noting was Japan’s Kohei Yamada. Notable because he hold an International Roster Spot, and if Jamie Smith is going to return soon he’ll need to use one of the INT’l spots. Unless the Rapids can get another Spot or Jamie gets his Green Card, one of the International players will have to be let go. So you can start with who won’t be let go: Martin Rivero, Jaime Castrillon, Luis Zapata, Louis Edu and Harrison Henao. That’s 5 of the 6 spots we have, which leaves Jamie Smith and Yamada.
Earlier in the season Yamada, an attacking midfielder, made the bench for the Rapids game against the Galaxy, but hasn’t been called upon since then. He played the whole Reserves match against Chicago Fire in April. Against Houston though he was left on the bench, not entering the game until around the 60th minute. Yamada is very good technically with the ball at his feet, he beat numerous players with the dribble throughout his stint. He’s very shifty and explosive, he rarely needs tricks to beat players but merely a change of direction. It looks like Yamada lacks confidence in the box though, on two occasions he created space for himself to shoot but reluctant to take a shot. He ended the game with no shots which is surprising considering how often he found himself in the box with the ball. He did provide the assist on the last goal, a free-kick near the corner that was struck well and found trialist Kevin Garcia in the box for the game-tying goal. Yamada’s best play came when he took the ball off Colin Clark near mid-field and Clark tried to grab and foul him, but couldn’t catch him. Clark gave hard pursuit for at least 15 yards and Yamada just ran away from him. He’s seriously fast and maintains control of the ball well.
The next Reserves match is Saturday, June 9th hosting Kansas City. Come on out and check these kids out, it’s free and you’ll get a good feel for who might be stepping in for injured players like Omar Cummings, Marvell Wynne, Conor Casey…