The Halfway Point: Defense, goalkeeper positives highlight injury recovery, depth

USA TODAY Sports

As we've reached the halfway point of the season, it's time to turn attention toward the team and take a broad-level look at how individuals have fared. A swathe of our RSL Soapbox team — Jake Simons, Charles Barnard, and Chad Loveland and myself for this session — took a look at how our goalkeepers and defenders have looked during the first 17 matches of the season.

Goalkeepers

Nick Rimando

Matt: 8.5. Rimando has been in the best form of his life, and as one might expect, he's kept us in match after match. Who can complain? We'll miss him while he's gone with the Gold Cup squad.

Jake: 9. Nick does what he does, and he does it better than most. Without his goalkeeping prowess RSL could have found itself in a much more difficult position midway through the season than it does today. Never underestimate the powers of Super Nick.

Charles: A. Rimando has been great this year. He was the team MVP during the early part of the season while the offense was struggling. His distribution is once again wonderful and he might be the best shot stopper in the league.

Chad: A. Whatever system you use, Nick has been unbelievable.

Josh Saunders

Matt: 7. It's still a little weird seeing his name on our kit, but I'd say Saunders has fared well during his short time here.

Charles: B-. Saunders is a good keeper. I just don't think we have seen it yet this year. He has played well enough for us to win two US Open Cup matches but hasn't played super in any match he has been in this year.

Jake: 7. With one lone exception this season, Josh has been the back up keeper we all thought he could be. It's really nice knowing, especially with the recent Gold Cup roster announcements, that we have a number 2 like Josh waiting to help out with Nick gone.

Jeff Attinella

Matt: N/A. He's got some good potential and has reportedly done well on loan. There's a lot to be encouraged by.

Jake: 6. We haven't seen Jeff yet in any serious senior minutes, but on the reserve team I have been impressed with his play.

Lalo Fernandez

Matt: N/A. Lalo's done well for the reserves. Saying much more seems unnecessary — perhaps he can go on loan somewhere to get playing time?

Jake: 6. Lalo is young, and sometimes it shows. That being said, he's going to be fantastic.He is very young and with goalkeepers that isn't always the best thing. Age is a thing in sport that is generally looked down on, with keepers it is the opposite. Lalo needs experience and time to really become the goalkeeper we all hope he can be.

Defense

Central defense

Nat Borchers

Matt: 8. What can be said about our leader-from-the-back? He's done very well once he recovered from his injuries.

Jake: 8. Nat has been great all season. The rock that we have been able to lean on in many occasions. With as much youth as surrounds him on the back line his leadership and experience has been absolutely necessary this season.

Charles: A-. Borchers has been a force in the back line since coming back from injury and has also greatly helped our younger players on the back line. Only thing missing so far this year is a goal.

Chad: A. Nat has been a rock that has done a lot to keep us stable. We've looked pretty bad the times he didn't play. The biggest knock has been the absences.

Chris Schuler

Matt: 6.5. When he's been available, he's looked inconsistent at best. He is clearly better than he's shown, but his injury-prone nature is frustrating.

Jake: 7. Before his injury, Chris was good not great. He's learning and learning quickly. A good communicator and great at cutting off a pass, his skills will play well for RSL for years. Well, that's if he can stop getting hurt.

Charles: B. Schuler has had a hot and cold season. He has made some great plays but has also made some mistakes that have lead to goals being given up.

Kwame Watson-Siriboe

Matt: 6. Kwame showed fairly well when called upon, but now he's out for the season. A real blow for all involved.

Jake: 7. Kwame has stepped in and been another great asset for RSL. He makes some mistakes and you can tell he's young, but he is aggressive and passionate about his play. A character off the field he is a professional the second he steps over the line. Sadly we won't see him for the rest of the season, but we look forward to watching this young talent grow.

Charles: B-. When Watson-Siriboe played RSL was giving up a goal every 78.75 minutes which was the worst of our centerbacks. But he was playing much better in the games prior to his injury.

Carlos Salcedo

Matt: 7. I didn't expect Carlos Salcedo to be at the level he's currently showing — he's been surprisingly strong for a 19-year-old kid.

Jake: 7. 19. Carlos Salcedo is 19 years old. Let that sink in for a second. Over the past few weeks we've been able to see the talent that this kid has and a vision of what he could potentially become. He has played in some big matches already, and yes, there have been mistakes, but there have also been moments of brilliance. The thing for me is that he is getting better every single match. He is the future.

Charles: A-. Salcedo has been solid in his time on the field. He gets bonus points for exceeding expectations for a young player that many thought would get very little playing time.

Chad: B. I want to rank him higher because he has been very good when he has played but he doesn't have enough minutes to rate higher look for that to change by the end of the year and him be at the A spot.

Aaron Maund

Matt: 5. We've only seen Maund once, and he didn't look ready. He's done well in the reserves, but I doubt he's ready for the big-time.

Jake: 4. Aaron is great to have, but needs some work. He hasn't seen a ton of time in senior team matches, but what he has seen showed us just how raw he is. I will say that he got substantially better as his time in that match went on, and I can see the talent there, but he needs to develop. He's done well in the reserve matches and could be a solid contributor in the future.

Full backs

Tony Beltran

Matt: 8. He's improved year-over-year and he looks even better now. His ability to get forward — and to responsibly get back — has been game-changing for us many times. Beltran never lacks commitment.

Jake: 8. Tony has been great all year. Fast and agile he has been more attacking minded this year than in years past. Scoring against the RailHawks in US Open Cup play was a sign of what he can do. For his size, and my money, he's one of the best outside backs in the league.

Charles: A-. Statistically, Beltran has been our best defender this year. When he is in the match we only give up a goal every 122 minutes. When he is out, a goal every 36 minutes. He does need to improve on his service into the box.

Chad: A or 9.8. Tony has been extremely good this year and the stats show him as our best defender so far.

Chris Wingert

Matt: 7.5. Wingert is incredibly reliable. He's recovered from his injury concerns well after a rocky return.

Jake: 8. Ah, Chris. Thank you for getting healthy and making all of our lives better. I might be going out on a limb here, but RSL's recent run of good form sort of coincides with Chris getting back to playing 90 minutes.

Charles: B+. Wingert has been solid since his early season injury. Like Beltran he needs to improve on his service into the box.

Chad: A- or 8.6. Chris has been very good and a steadying influence to the rest of the team but the missed time hurts his ranking here.

Lovel Palmer

Matt: 6.5. Palmer has been effective when called upon, if unspectacular. I certainly expected worse, given the noise coming out of Portland, but he's been a fine squad option.

Jake: 6. Lovel is similar to Mansally in several aspects. He is serviceable and can do a great job on any given night. He has tendencies that can leave us hanging out to dry, and have on occasion.

Charles: B-. When Palmer has played the team has given up a goal every 59 minutes which is lowest for all defenders. Does get extra credit for helping to force a Montreal defender into an own goal.

Abdoulie Mansally

Matt: 6. Mansally may need a consistent run in the side to really hit his best, but it's hard to see him getting that. He's been fine, and he attacks well, but he needs a bit more understanding in his runs.

Jake: 5. Abdoulie (Kenny) Mansally was a good option to have for us while Chris recovered from his injury. But he was always a little too over anxious and tended to over rotate into the middle, leaving his wing exposed. We got beat on at least 2 occasions because of this tactical error. Mansally is fast, has good foot skills, and is a good attacker. Those are all skills RSL can use.

Charles: B+. RSL is only giving up a goal every 120 minutes that Mansally is on the field which is tied for second best among all RSL defenders.

Rich Balchan

Matt: N/A. Got injured too early. Unfortunate.

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