My Worst Nightmare Has Come True
Mehdi has been traded for Mac Kandji, Preki gets fired, Dogs and Cats, living together. TOTAL ANARCHY
Benjamin Kowalsky
Sep 15th 2010

The Soccer Gods are sometimes cruel. They rain on the just and unjust alike. My personal favorite Rapid, Mehdi Ballouchy, has been traded to Red Bull New York. For Macoumba Kandji.

Oh, and Preki got sacked from Toronto.

Im not so upset about Preki getting the boot. Less upset still by Mo Johnson getting chucked out with him (a move that was long overdue, according to Toronto supporters). But I AM upset by the Ballouchy move. Part for personal reasons: I liked Mehdi. I thought he was a great guy and a real positive presence in a room. Great sense of humor. Sad to see him go. But also, kind of sad because of the promise that Mehdi had, and the realization that he may never have reached his promise with the Rapids. Or ever.

Mehdi Ballouchy is one day older than me. Fun fact. Hes 27 years old. He should be in the prime of his footballing career. From the promise he showed as a youth at Santa Clara, it seemed like he was going to make a big impact at some point. Real Salt Lake got him from the Boulder Rapids Reserve, thinking maybe he could make an immediate impact. He didnt. They traded him for Kyle Beckerman.

Whoever made that trade must have thought that the potential of Ballouchy was even better than the reality of Beckerman. Maybe it was tactical. For whatever reason, this kid from our rival team shows up to replace one of the most beloved Rapids of all time. And walks into a dressing room that missed Kyle as a friend and player. Talk about a Jason Newstead.

In spite of that, Mehdi quickly became the Managers favorite Midfield option next to Pablo Mastroeni. However many minutes Mehdi was played, he seemed to be impervious to serious injury. Mehdi was a hard player for fans to figure out: was he our creative option in the middle? A speed option on the side? Was he in any way as good as Kyle was?

To me, Mehdi was a guy who wore a lot of hats on the Rapids, and a guy we expected to someday step up and lead the attack. But for some reason, he had the swagger, but not the true substance of a leader on the pitch.

He was often the first guy to run over and congratulate someone on a goal. He was also one of the first guys to jump in the middle of potentially heated situation to break players up. Thats the Mehdi that I saw. Other people saw different, but I saw a young guy who was eager (but not able) to be the next Pablo Mastroeni. The next talismanic player of the Rapids.

And in some ways, he was even more promising to become a Rapids talisman than Pablo. Where Pablo was content to play the backbone and let others take the spotlight, Mehdi (maybe owing to his youth) relished in that spotlight. Not shy around fans, he was one of the first to run straight to the new Supporters Terrace for a glorious fan embrace after a goal (the goal was called back, but the thought was there).

He wanted it. But his play was far to inconsistent to get it. He couldnt play nearly at the level that we all wanted him to play at, or even that HE thought he could play at. And that will be the disappointment, I think, that stings the most for me as a Mehdi fan: that his potential, if it is ever reached, will not be with the Rapids. Whenever those flashes of brilliance from Mehdi and that desire to become a real super-star come together no longer tempered by the deluge of timid back-passes, dribbling mistakes, and thoughtless passes: Mehdi will not be wearing a Rapids badge.

I dont even want to talk about how this is a "good trade" or a "bad trade". Honestly, if I were to assess this from a tactical perspective, it was a good trade from both sides. We needed to pump up our forward role, and Red Bull was looking for a young attack midfielder. Mehdi is 27, and if this is truly his peak with the Rapids, then its time for him to go. Statistically, once he hits 29, well have seen his best days.

Kandji is still a young guy, only about 25, but injury-prone. Unlike Mehdi, who has rarely been out for a long period of time, Kandji could potentially become our next Colin Clark: a guy with a heck of a lot of pace and talent, but whose constant injuries sideline what could otherwise be a stellar career.

Im hopeful that this trade is going to be fantastic for the Rapids as we approach the playoffs. My only question marks from a tactical point of view is on the now open midfield spot. Who gets it?

We will discuss that in another post. But for now, I just wanted to pay some kind of tribute to my favorite Rapid player. I know that Im in a minority, but that changes nothing.

I like Mehdi Ballouchy. Until he scores a goal for NYRB against the Rapids to eliminate us from the Playoffs. Then I am going to choke on my bitterness while you all choke on your words!

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