Johan Kappelhof, DC/DR
5-ft-10, 165 lbs, 26 years old from Amsterdam, Netherlands
MLSPU 2016 salary: $520,000
Acquired Feb. 2, 2016 from FC Gronigen "as a Discovery Signing using Targeted Allocation Money," whatever the hell that means
G: 33 Minutes: 2789
[Defensive stats inexplicably hidden behind an absolutely shatteringly terrible statistical reporting scheme; expect this to be updated as the Young Guns finish digging it all up.]
Whoever found Kappelhof did well ... very solid defender who keeps it simple ... positioning and vision are above-average in the middle, but struggled at times with a constantly-changing partnership ... can also be taken advantage of in the air by physical attackers ... connects possession well from both positions and isn't afraid to step into midfield, but final product doesn't always justify risk ... decent but not explosive lateral quickness, but adequate pace to play on the wing ... kept his head up during a difficult campaign
Kappelhof was signed early in the 2016 offseason, and was expected to bring quality and experience to the backline. A product of the famed Ajax academy, he was a regular starter for FC Groningen before the Fire picked him up to lead the line. While Kappelhof always seemed to play reasonably well at centerback, he couldn't settle in there, as the team's weakness at right back found him frequently tasked with holding down that flank. Kappelhof struggled to find his form and to find consistency but as the season went on, he became the kind of consistent performer every defense needs.
Although the first game was rough, Kappelhof still played great defense and remained an automatic starter in Velko Paunovic's backline. The Fire were known to defend and sit back, as they didn't have much of an attacking threat. Kappelhof was instrumental in long stretches of successful defending as he would often be the one to cut of a pass or clear it away. Even though he would lose aerial duels every now and then, his ability to read the play and cut out passes were extremely important to the Fire's strong defensive performances, especially during the Fire's early-season struggles to score goals.
Kappelhof showed his leadership and attention to detail after shifting to the right back position, stabilizing a flank that had become an autobahn with a lovely sense of calm. Kappelhof has shown that he will be around for a while and that he is a player Panuo can rely upon, no matter how bad the rest of the team are playing. He has been one of the Fire's few upsides in 2016.
Kappelhof has a guaranteed contract for 2017 as it seems like that he will remain to be a backline automatic starter for the Men in Red. Also keep in mind that Johan is only 26, so if Pauno's staff can develop the defense around him, he could be the next Gonzalo Segares: A player who brings experience, leadership, and consistency to the Fire XI.