Center Forward Dominique Badji: What The Colorado Rapids Need

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COMMERCE CITY, CO - August 06: Colorado Rapids midfielder Dominique Badji celebrates his goal with defender Marlon Hairston during the second half of the game against the Vancouver Whitecaps on August 6, 2016 at Dick's Sporting Good Park. (Photo by Michael Reaves/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

(October 23, 2016) – Since the middle of September, Dominique Badji has played at center forward for the Colorado Rapids. With Kevin Doyle now just coming back from injury, Badji has had to fill in for him. He’s been the channel running center forward the Rapids have needed to help spark their offense. An argument can be made that this has forced Doyle into the No. 10 role, which has helped both players and the team. Let’s break it all down.

Center Forward Dominique Badji: What The Colorado Rapids Need

Doyle was hurt late in a 1-0 win at FC Dallas last month. He made his comeback two games ago. With the Rapids primary center forward out, head coach Pablo Mastroeni had to make a choice with Luis Solignac no longer with the team. Start an inexperienced No. 9 like Caleb Calvert, or start someone out of position.

Enter center forward Dominique Badji. He hasn’t been perfect this past month, but he has been extremely effective. As a wide player, he’s been making deep runs into the box in 2016. His early success came from that. “He’s very good holding the ball and going to the space,” said teammate Sebastian Le Toux. Look at his goals against Dallas, at Vancouver Whitecaps, or his brace against the Houston Dynamo.

Badji might not be the aerial threat that Doyle is, but like Doyle, he runs all game long. He finds space, and when he gets service, he’ll get high quality open shots. He has four goals on 19 shots since that 1-0 win at Dallas in September. His team might not get a lot of chances, but he makes them count. That is so 2016 Colorado Rapids.

The last two games, Mastroeni has continued to play Badji up top, inserting Doyle into the No. 10 role. There was actually some nuance to this decision, not just #PabloTactics.

Doyle is one of the best passers of the ball on the team, along with Shkelzen Gashi. With Doyle further away from goal, he gets involved in the attack sooner. Earlier in the year, he’d receieve the ball from up top, then distribute to the wings. This would sometimes slow the attack as Doyle would be distributing from up top rather than on the receiving end of the build up play.

“It was great to be on the ball a bit more and to get more touches in the game,” Doyle said after his first match in the position. Coach Mastroeni added “one of the reasons why I wanted to look at him at the No. 10 is when the ball goes out wide, he does a great job ghosting into the box. Badji occupies two guys. That tandem is something that might cause problems for our opponents.”

Badji’s natural inclination is to run towards goal. With his speed, he occupies a defender. That leaves space for Doyle to get on the ball and distribute, or run himself to get a shot with only one other center back.

What’s more encouraging is Badji’s response to his new role: “Anywhere I’m needed, I’ll play. I’m very comfortable on the wing, I’m comfortable up top. That’s a position I’ve played my whole life. It’s nothing new.”

Kevin Doyle is scoring goals with Badji making it easier for him. Badji will continue to run at goal and get in the end of plays while on the run. A few weeks ago, I said the Rapids needed someone to step up offensively. Now they might have two guys firing on all cylinders for the first time all year. Perfect with the playoffs starting next week.

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