17 Games into the season and we are half way home. Perfect time to do the half season grades don't you think? Kind of a no-brainer really. Well, just like my quarter season grades, I have given each player a grade and how I think they have played so far. Included is their up to date statistics. Have a read and let me know if you would change any of the grades. Remember this is only my opinion and all are open to discussion. I left the quarter season grade in parenthesis to compare to the half season grade. And away we go...
- Sean Johnson: A- (C), 1260 minutes played, 1.21 GAA, 3SO, 2 yellow cards, and a 5-6-3 record. Like I said in my quarter season grades, Johnson did get better with time. He was one of the main reasons why the Fire went on the 9 game unbeaten run from the end of May through June. Making unbelievable saves and keeping the score within reach for our offense, he is going to be missed for most of July but should return ready to man the net after the Gold Cup.
- Paolo Tornaghi: C- (D+), 270 minutes played, 2.67 GAA, and a 1-2-0 record. 3 games played so far and has made the saves he is supposed to make. Not really impressing yet but will have the month of July to showcase his talents. This could be a make or break month for him. Most of the goals that he has given up in the last 2 games mostly falls on the shoulders of the defense. You could make the argument that he was out of position for the Zusi goal this past Sunday but the defense applied no pressure on Zusi and to be fair I don't think there is a goalie out there that could've stopped that because of the way that it was coming into the box.
- Austin Berry: C+ (C+), 1530 minutes played, 1 goal, 2 assists and 1 yellow card. Seems to be going through a sophomore slump. He seems a little bit more comfortable with Bakary Soumare lined up next to him. The problem is that he has been making silly mistakes. Berry has been having those mental lapses from time to time and unfortunately it has cost the team.
- Jalil Anibaba: B- (C+), 1530 minutes played, 2 assists and 2 yellow cards. Since moving to right back he has played well. His name has not come up that often as standing out or making many mistakes. This is pretty good for a player as sometimes you don't want to be singled out.
- Gonzalo Segares: B (C+), 1440 minutes played, 1 assist and 4 yellow cards. Same as Anibaba, just doing his job and trying to add to the offense as much as possible. He did look a little spent the past couple of games. After receiving his 4th yellow card of the season this past Sunday, it means that he can have a chance to relax and get some rest with a weekend off this coming looming. It may be good for him to get a breather.
- Wells Thompson: D+ (D+), 520 minutes played, 2 yellow cards, and a 1 red card with another suspension after a game had been played. With Anibaba sliding over to right back he has not seen the field since the middle of May.
- Steven Kinney: D+ (D+), 180 minutes played. Still listed on the injury report and doesn't look like he'll be back any time soon.
- Hunter Jumper: C+ (C+), 90 minutes played with one assist. Has not seen the field since his one game back in April. With the potential addition of Shaun Francis, Hunter Jumper may end up moving to into the center to provide depth there or may even end up in the situation that Corben Bone is in.
- Michael Videira: C+ (C+), 84 minutes played. Has not seen the field since his one game versus SKC.
- Bakary Soumare: C+ (N/A), 630 minutes played and 2 yellow cards. Like Austin Berry, he has played okay. A little inconsistent as he has also had the problem of mental lapses, which has hurt the team. His marking on set pieces from time to time, as well as his distribution out of the back has been hit or miss. He definitely has helped the defense but has to play much better as the Fire look to make a push in the 2nd half of the season.
- Jeff Larentowicz: B- (C), 1367 minutes played, 1 goal, 3 assists, 4 yellow cards, and 1 red card. Has definitely played better since the beginning of the season. He has filled in well for the injured Logan Pause. He still can look lost out there from time to time but overall has improved and should only get better as the season progresses.
- Patrick Nyarko: B (C), 1259 minutes played, 2 goals, 1 assist, and a yellow card. He still tries to provide that offensive spark from the right side. The only problem with his play is not because of him- it is the other team's play. The Fire have become predictable in trying to target the wingers. This has led teams to stop him the only way they can- by hitting him and hitting him hard. I don't know how much of a beating he can take but Patrick just gets up and keeps going. He is that type of player that will give it his all before he has to leave the field.
- Joel Lindpere: C- (D), 940 minutes played, 2 assists, and 1 yellow card. I think using him as a 2nd half substitute is working out. I don't know if he can go a full 90 minutes in this league anymore but he can definitely try to contribute off the bench. Played his best game of the season in Columbus a few weeks ago when he was able to provide both assists for the goals that were scored by Duka and Magee.
- Daniel Paladini: B+ (B), 676 minutes played, 2 goals, 3 assists, 4 yellow cards, and 1 red card. Still mainly coming off the bench but he provides the energy that is needed in the 2nd half. Had a fantastic strike off a dead ball situation to tie up Portland in June. The only complaint that I may have is that he does tend to drift back and play like a 2nd defensive midfielder.
- Logan Pause: B- (C+), 647 minutes played. The captain suffered yet another injury and has not seen the field much over the past month and a half. He started playing well coming off injury and showed that he needed to be out on the field. Unfortunately the injury bug has come again and I think that whenever he gets back on the field he will do nothing but improve the team.
- Dilly Duka: B (D), 843 minutes played, 2 goals, 1 assist, and 2 yellow cards. The 2nd quarter of the season has been his turnaround time. After struggling in the 1st quarter of the season, Dilly has really done a 180. During the month of June he has arguably been the Fire's best player aside from Mike Magee. Providing an offensive spark from the left side that we haven't seen since Marco Pappa, Duka has definitely cemented himself in the starting XI week after week. He will definitely be needed over the next 17 games and hopefully in the form that he is in now.
- Alex: B- (C-), 616 minutes played. Has started a string of games at the center attacking midfield position. Besides this past Sunday versus SKC, he has played well by providing an extra burst of speed out of the defensive half. He has connected well with the wings and the wingbacks. I guess Ryan Sealock may be right when he told me that Alex may be here for the long run and get better as the season progresses as he is given more opportunities.
- Yazid Atouba: Incomplete still. No change since he hasn't seen the field except for reserve league games.
- Corben Bone: Incomplete still. Like Atouba, he hasn't seen the field except for reserve league games.
- Chris Rolfe: C+ (C-), 1326 minutes played, 2 goals, and 1 yellow card. He has played significantly better with Magee in the lineup but has not lived up to his potential. I don't know what he has to do to show up and be a solid contributor game in and game out, but if this team does not go after a striker this transfer window then we will need him to step it up. For the rest of the season the Fire will be counting on him to provide some more offense than he is giving right now.
- Sherjill Macdonald: F (F), 579 minutes played with 1 assist. I don't think anything has changed. The lone DP on the roster has been showing the Fire nation that he is not worth the money. I honestly think that Santos should come in ahead of him.
- Maicon Santos: B- (C+/B-): 355 minutes played, 2 goals, 2 assists, and 1 yellow card. Not much has changed since the quarter mark except he has had less playing time. Only 99 minutes in the last 9 games is not enough for him. He should be coming in off the bench ahead of Mac and he has shown that he will work hard for his opportunities.
- Quincy Amarikwa: (Incomplete), 53 minutes played with 1 goal. He did have a goal at RSL, but only 53 minutes played the entire season. Would like to see him also given more playing time.
- Mike Magee: A (N/A): 522 minutes played, 5 goals, 2 assists, and 1 yellow card. Best player on the team right now. He has brought the right mentality and passion to this team. Not afraid to speak his mind after poor performances and also is not afraid to show emotion on the field as well. The one thing that I noticed with him is that he is always actively talking on the field. I say we did get the better of the trade with the Crew. In my opinion, while Pause is out, Magee should be given the armband because he is a proven leader and even though it's been a little over a month since we acquired him he wears that badge like he has been here since 1997.
As you can tell I think that the team has improved over the second quarter of the season. The additions of Bakary Soumare and Mike Magee have definitely helped turn around the team's fortunes. The thing that I'm sure that you notice game in and game out is that Frank Klopas tends to use the same line up and only switches out maybe one or two players week to week. So far through 17 games there has been a total of 15,300 minutes to split between the 10 field players. The minutes have been split between 22 players with 12 players with over 600 minutes each this season. I have not included Magee as he has more minutes from the Galaxy. Mike Magee played 892 minutes with the Galaxy before coming to the Fire and if you add in the extra 522 minutes since coming to the Fire that is 1414 minutes. So out of those 15,300 minutes those 13 players with over 600 minutes (14 players if you include Magee), have played 84% of the possible minutes in league play.
That is a stat worries me if the Fire are going to make a push to climb up the standings and make a serious push for the MLS Cup. It worries me because we could possibly see a repeat of last year, where the team went on a tear from July through September and then sputtered into the playoffs and eventually lost in the play-in game to Houston.
There are defensive reinforcements on the way, as Shaun Francis was just signed. But what about some depth for the forwards? Has it gotten to the point that Frank only trusts Rolfe and Magee so much that he is only willing to give spot minutes for the rest of the forward corps?
Yes the team did go on a 9 game unbeaten run across all competitions but they looked flat and out of gas versus Sporting KC this past Sunday. Will we see reinforcements that can help this team get refreshed and ready for a 2nd half run to the season? We will have to wait and see what Javier, Guillermo, Rafael, and Frank are lining up during this summer transfer window.