I am usually a very measured, calm, ‘let's wait and see' kind of guy. One game does not indicate trends. One game does not reveal the entire Colorado Rapids plan for 2015. One game does not reveal the true nature of ‘Pablo-Ball'. Patience, my young padwon.
I say this because throughout the 14 game end-of-2014-season-abomination, through the offseason, through the pre-season, and into the first game, Rapids fans and twitter denizens have thrown out so many (so, so many) solutions to our woes. Bench Serna! Torres should be a striker! Make Ramirez the 10! Badji vs. Deshorn! Play a 4-4-2! A 5-3-2! Fire Pablo! Sack KSE!
All of these were or are plausible, but each has it's merits and flaws. Most importantly, none is based on much evidence from this year. One game into the 2015 season, there is very little we can say about this team, what works, and what doesn't.
There is one; yes, only one; sure-fire, iron-clad, take-it-to-the-bank-and-cash-it fact that has emerged from late last season and in that first game. Clint Irwin is the truth. He is the GK. Starting anyone else is absolute and utter madness.
Two things make this true.
First, last year's meltdown was at no point the fault of Irwin. The defense during O'Neill and Moor's injuries was objectively, certifiably bad. No GK could have ‘organized' the island of misfit toys that was the Rapids backline last year. An attack-minded wingback played at CB like Marvell Wynne, a inexperienced converted midfielder in Jared Watts, an immobile waste-of-$300K that was Zat Knight. On the wings, Chris Klute was lost, and Burch and Piermayr were serviceable but surely not fast enough to hang with the best in MLS. It's a freaking miracle Irwin didn't surrender 6 goals a game.
In the Rapids disastrous end of season train wreck, there is only one game where Irwin looked less-than-stellar; that was against DC, when he gave up one soft goal, and one that could have been saved on a good night. Other than that, the Rapids failed him in myriad ways: generating no offense; surrendering possession and letting teams hang around in the final third; making him play 90+ minutes coming off the bench in the Joe Nasco Red Card game; Zat Knight basically waving players through to goal like an over-eager traffic cop. In games against FC Dallas and Vancouver, Irwin was the only thing keeping one-goal losses from being three goal losses.
Second, Clint Irwin proved in Philly that he is a fantastic goalkeeper. He came up big, time and time again. In an away game with a backline who had never played 90 minutes together. Observe.
Irwin's saves at 1:20 and 3:50 bailed out the team to preserve the draw. His punch at 0:35 is all the more amazing because he had to body up Bobby Burling to get it done.
The Rapids being the Rapids, they still went out in the offseason to get Zac McMath. It seemed unnecessary at the time, but after Saturday, it seems downright nuts; with so much flux on this team and so much underperformance at every position, the one place the Rapids could have stability is GK. I hope after Saturday, that is what the teams does. I feel bad for Zac McMath, being pushed to number two by Rais M'bolhi and deemed expendable in Philadelphia, only to come to Colorado, where he (hopefully) will be the number two to Clint Irwin. But that's how it needs to be.
So, we can't say anything about the Rapids only one game into 2015. Except for one thing, which is the same thing we've been saying for 6 damn months. Clint Irwin is the GK. All else is folly.