July 6, 2012
MAKING THE GRADE
Top grades for McCarty, Henry, lower ones for Marquez, Miller
Kristian R. Dyer and Michael Lewis
|Dax McCarty gets an A for his all-around player and leadership role on the Red Bulls.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
We are at the midpoint of the season, which provides BigAppleSoccer.com a chance to take a look at the Red Bulls after their 9-4-4 start to the season entering Sunday's encounter at the New England Revolution.
Below are the grades for the players on the roster who have seen significant minutes with the club. Remember, that a grade of “C” is average with a “F” failing and an “A” being top notch stuff.
Ryan Meara -- B+
He was supposed to be a stop-gap until a veteran keeper was found but the rookie has been nothing short of outstanding. He has been consistent and while his positioning can improve he makes challenges well, is a good shot-stopper and distributes like a veteran.
Brandon Barklage -- B
Having worked his way into the lineup due to an injury crisis, Barklage has shown to be strong in the tackle and solid in his challenges. He can get caught up field at times but the learning curve for the converted winger is smoother than imagined. He has good touch and distribution and that brace against old club D.C. United was a complete match. Will continue to improve with more matches and minutes.
Markus Holgersson -- C-
What to make of “Hulk,” who started the season with a string of poor performances but has settled in to an acceptable standard? That may not be good enough though from a player who is a $190,000 cap hit and takes up an international slot. Truth be told, several of the team’s depth players have shown better than Holgersson this season and for less of an impact on the cap. The jury is still out on this player.
Wilman Conde -- C
Not sure if Conde’s games played this year will be higher than his breathalyzer results as he’s played but four games this season with a laundry list of ailments and issues. Conde has shown well when he is on the field but like Holgersson, that may not be enough given his cap hit. If he was fit, he could be one of the league’s top center backs but right now, this move is looking like a gamble that didn’t pay off. The Red Bulls need more of a boost for the financial considerations he’s receiving (including allocation money used).
Roy Miller -- C-
Up and down stuff from Miller, who sometimes seems to be less involved in the offense and equally suspect in defense. Repeatedly he is targeted by other teams as the weak link of the back four and Miller is often caught racing towards his own goal to provide cover and make amends. It has been a rough season for Miller.
Heath Pearce -- A-
His vision and touch is a welcome addition to the backline and his defending his been among the best in the league since his arrival. Exactly the type of player that Red Bull has struggled to find and keep – and they must not let this fringe national team player go; MLS Cups are won with players like Pearce in the Starting XI.
Connor Lade -- B-
Like Meara, the St. John’s product wasn’t supposed to be more than depth but Lade took advantage of injuries to now find himself a regular in the lineup. He defends well and moves forward with confidence. His decision making must improve offensively and he must make better choices with his distribution but he brings a lot of grit and fight. A huge upside is there for what looks like the beginning of a solid MLS career.
Stephen Keel -- B-
Battling back injuries, Keel continues to be a solid player who contributes in spots and provides excellent depth. He knows who he is and continues to get better. Given the team’s injuries this year he should see more minutes this summer and fall.
Tyler Ruthven -- C+
Not much was expected of Ruthven when he signed this year but he’s been a solid defender and more than adequate cover. Given his work rate and what appears to be a steady head, should only get better and has the looks of a solid MLS defender for years to come.
Dax McCarty -- A
After failing to get in sync with the team last year following a mid-season trade, the argument could be made that McCarty is not only an all-star but also the team MVP. His numbers aren’t gaudy but there are few center midfielders in MLS who are as active and involved as this box-to-box player. Arguably the most consistent Red Bull on the pitch this season, McCarty is the unsung hero of the Starting XI.
Dane Richards -- C+
A career high in goals last season has seen some struggles this campaign with the speedy winger having a hard time getting in the flow of the offense. Richards is not getting as many touches in the final third as he has in year’s past yet his man marking has improved as has his defensive work rate. Don’t be surprised if he gets hot this summer.
Joel Lindpere -- B-
Gutsy, a gamer and tenacious, injuries have limited his effectiveness in what is now his third year with the Red Bulls. But he has been making important contributions in the midfield, whether centrally or on the left wing and defensively his marking is much more focused this year. Still waiting for him to click in the offensive end, however.
Teemu Tainio -- Incomplete
Have to feel for Tainio, beset again by injuries that have limited this season to just two starts. When he’s on the field, he has vision and composure that takes the Red Bulls to another level. Will he see that field again though?
Rafa Marquez -- C
A suspension to start the year put the Red Bulls in an early hole for what became an 0-2 opening to the season. Marquez, despite his pedigree, continues to be an enigma on and off the field and has lacked consistency in his play. Did show well against D.C. United playing in the back instead of the midfield but then, predictably, was injured the next game.
Mehdi Ballouchy -- B
After a season and a half of struggles in New York, the mercurial midfielder is finally playing his game. He is taking defenders on, playing simple and clean and has increased his work rate. A move to a more flank position seems to be his home and his outstanding form on the practice field is carrying over into matches.
Victor Palsson -- C
A year of transition for the Icelandic Under-21 player, who is clearly adjusting to MLS play. He’s physical and plays a simple game and needs to be a bit more decisive on the pitch. He will provide depth this year but could grow into a contributor as the season rolls along.
Kenny Cooper -- A-
The best acquisition of the offseason for New York as Cooper carried much of the scoring load during a spell of injuries to the attack. Even when he’s not scoring, he’s working hard defensively and making smart runs into space. The consummate teammate, Cooper should be an all-star. Scoring has tailed off this past month but still a stellar trade for the Red Bulls.
Thierry Henry -- A
This season, Henry seems like he can single-handedly take over games and carry the team. His scoring has been clinical and his vision is elevating the likes of Cooper and McCarty. Should be a legitimate MVP candidate despite battling nagging injuries.
Johnny Arteaga -- Incomplete
Hard working and industrious, Arteaga has shown hustle but his finishing needs work (as seen in the Lamar Hunt/U.S. Open Cup). Perhaps too soon to grade but at least in training he shows potential.
Jeremy Vuolo, Ryan Maduro, Jose Angulo, Jonathan Borrajo
These players have not played or have gotten so little playing time that they cannot be graded at the moment.
Hans Backe -- B+
He has done a very good job of moving players in and at the injury-plagued central defender position and finding the perfect role for McCarty, who has thrived at holding midfielder. Despite not having a playmaking midfielder, the Red Bulls have two lethal goal-scorers up front. He is making more substitutes a game this season over 2011, although we think some of them should have been earlier in the game. But nobody's perfect.