By Harrison Crow (@Harrison_Crow)
With the Colorado Rapids surrendering a late lead last night against the LA Galaxy, and contributing to the storybook farewell tour that is the now intrinsically tied to Landon Donovan, Colorado will surely be expected to drop further down the ranks of our playoff prediction calculator. It will also make the five teams ahead of them near stone-cold (or should I say adamantium cold?) locks to make the playoffs.
That's sad to me for a few reasons. First, Marc Burch's hair deserves the playoffs or a medal or something that proclaims it's awesomeness through time. Second, Colorado has been a very strong club this season. If they were in the East they would currently be in 4th place in the conference. It is a bit disappointing they'll likely miss out on a playoff game to show off what they are about.
Last season, and prior to the drama laden departure of Óscar Pareja to Dallas, the focus of the club surrounded it's trademark 4-2-3-1/4-3-3 and transition attacks featuring the stunning pace of Deshorn Brown. This season, with new coach Pablo Mastroeni, a new philosophy has emerged that has shown a more complete and versatile attack than the run-and-gun days of Pareja.
Taking the youth uncovered last year with Dillion Powers, Chris Klute, Shane O'Neil, Dillon Serna and the aforementioned Brown, Mastroeni has built upon it them and in reality taken them further than what their points or table placement may indicated.
While their goals conceded is up (1.56 this year to 1.15 last), their total shots allowed are down and based upon shot analysis it implies that the defense has probably more likely carried the club rather than hurt it. This is even more impressive when you consider the host of injuries that have hurt the team in 2014.
While they have had a marked increase in goals conceded inside the 18 yard box, that's not necessarily indicative of their performance. Our data suggests it may have more to do with luck than their backline talent. According to our xGoals table, they're ranked third in the league in expected goals allowed with 1.10.
Drew Moor, the team captain and leader of the backline, has a sort of Chad Marshall disease associated with him. A consistently good player in his time in MLS split between Dallas and Colorado, he's been ranked average among his peers while making a pretty average salary. Losing him for the season with a torn ACL may have been the last nail in the coffin for the Rapid's playoff chances.
Moor's perception as a good but not great defender is due partially because his performances come with the asterisk that ties his cap percentage hit with his on the field value. This is rather a tough way to evaluate a player, especially on defense. His spectacular play this season has gone relatively unnoticed in lieu of the career resurgence of other aging centerbacks such as Bobby Boswell and Chad Marshall. While it is hard to fit all the names into a nice little feature that recaps the season, it would be a crime to leave Moor off an "top" defensive lists at seasons end.
Though they have lost Moor for the season and are unlikely to make the playoffs, this season has not been a wash.
The development of both O'Neil and Serna have been huge. Their rash of injuries has shown a surprisingly deep and talented club that has quietly floated among the top tier in expected goal differential for most of the season. It's a shame we probably won't see their exciting play fighting for MLS Cup in November, but it's clear Colorado will be back next year and further challenging RSL, LA and Seattle for a piece of the Western Conference pie.