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Rapids regroup after trade

September 14, 2010 | 6:55 pm No comments
By Shaun Schafer

Colorado’s starters will have to wait until Thursday to find out what the team will look like after Tuesday’s trade of midfielder Mehdi Ballouchy for forward Macoumba Kandji.

The starters are scheduled to take the day off from practice on Wednesday, which gives the team a couple of days to figure out where Kandji fits and who will be called on to create from the midfield in front of Saturday’s 7 p.m. home clash with the New England Revolution.

The trade with the New York Red Bulls is being characterized by Rapids management as an insurance policy in case forward Omar Cummings leaves. Kandji has been compared favorably with the speedy Jamaican who is tied for the team lead with nine goals this season.

If Cummings is staying, and with Ballouchy leaving, the shakeup on the field will be immediate.

Whither Goest Lopez: Ballouchy has started 19 games and played in two others for the Rapids. He has produced three goals and five assists, and has often been called on to create in the run of play. With his departure, the question becomes one of who will get the ball to the forwards.

Claudio Lopez, he of the laser-passing left foot and impeccable ball skills, seems like the most obvious choice. The Argentinian veteran has been a relatively low-cost substitute and has played sparingly. He’s not a 90-minute solution, but he could easily provide a spark, if he is protected on defense. Getting him 30 minutes a game is probably not enough. At least 60 minutes would probably work better for the flow of the game and attacke. And it’s possible to play him for an hour and then bring on Wells Thompson for energy late.

Future Formation: Coach Gary Smith said he might move to a 4-3-3 if Cummings stays, with Kandji and Conor Casey joining the Jamaican up top.

The coach tried to make this happen in the 4-5-1 experiment this summer. He wanted it to look more like three forwards in the attack. Instead, it looked like Casey was consistently fighting in the air for balls that he could either knock back to Ballouchy or Cummings. The offense stagnated.

Anthony Wallace’s sudden emergence at left back and Kosuke Kimura at right back make the 4-3-3 a possibility. With Jeff Larentowicz and Pablo Mastroeni doing the dirty work in the midfield, the creative playmaker role becomes critical. Again, Lopez looks like a logical choice.

Future Forward: If Kandji is insurance for Cummings, then what is Quincy Amarikwa doing? Kandji is fast, young and tough to defend. The same is true of Amarikwa. While neither have the finishing touch of Cummings, the addition muddles Amarikwa’s future with the team. He appeared the heir apparent to Cummings at the start of the season.

Bringing in Kandji after drafting Andre Akpan, another forward, makes Amarikwa expendable.

Winners: Ballouchy and Kandji each benefited from the trade. Ballouchy is now going to have world class forwards in Thierry Henry and Juan Pablo Angel to work with on a New York team that has gotten immensely better through spending this summer. Ballouchy will be playing alongside another worldbeater in Rafa Marquez.

If Ballouchy can’t make it in New York now, he never will.

Plus, he leaves a place where he will always be known as the guy in the trade for fan favorite Kyle Beckerman. That move is still questioned at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, almost every game day.

Finally, Kandji could be playing significant minutes to finish the season. If Cummings goes, the Senegalese forward will be pushed to produce immediately. If Cummings stays, there is still a good chance to get minutes on a team with two raw forwards (Amarikwa and Akpan) and an aged one (Lopez is listed at forward, even if most of his minutes are in the midfield).

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