Midseason Grades: Defenders

USA TODAY Sports

As we build out of the back with our midseason grades, we move on to the defense.

This past weekend, the Red Bulls officially hit the halfway point of their 2013 campaign. As sports bloggers often do, we'll take this occasion to hand out some mid-season grades. We started with the goalkeepers and now we're on to the defenders and we'll eventually make our way to the midfielders, forwards and front office, too.

Roy Miller

Appearances (Sub): 12 (1)

Minutes: 967

Goals: 0

Assists: 1

Grade: B

We'll rehash the Roy Miller story one more time, if only for effect: Consistently error prone, Miller turned from left back to human train wreck in San Jose against the Earthquakes, single-handedly dropping three points. After some time away from the team and some international duty with Costa Rica, Miller came back better than he'd ever been in a Red Bulls kit. Its hard to forgive him for the pure stupidity he showed off in California, but since then, he's done well for himself.

Connor Lade

Appearances (Sub): 2 (2)

Minutes: 22

Goals: 0

Assists: 0

Grade: Incomplete

Everyone expected Lade to build off his 2012 season, where he, despite a lot of hand-wringing over his size and position, made a name for himself. That, for whatever reason, hasn't happened. There's two schools of thought on this one. The first, is the character issues theory that crops up from time to time about players (especially young ones). The second is that Head Coach Mike Petke and his backroom staff are trying to give Lade time to develop his defensive game, which really needs work if he's going to be an effective player in MLS. Either way, he hasn't played too much, so it's hard to assess his performance.

Markus Holgersson

Appearances (Sub): 15 (0)

Minutes: 1350

Goals: 0

Assists: 1

Grade: B

It'd be easy -- and a cop out -- to give him an A when he's playing next to Jamison Olave and an F when he's playing next to Heath Pearce, but that's how he's played. In reality, I think a B is a fair grade here. Holgersson started the season on the bench and wasn't happy about it, if preseason interviews are any indication. But he came back and works spectacularly well next to Olave and leads all outfield players in minutes. He's a good passer out of the back, he's worn the captain's armband a few times, so his teammates must respect him and, likely to Petke's delight, he's played with a little more fire than last year.

Heath Pearce

Appearances (Sub): 14 (3)

Minutes: 1083

Goals: 0

Assists: 2

Grade: F

When Erik Soler swapped Juan Agudelo for Heath Pearce, we were sold on his versatility. And he played well last year, filling in as a centerback and a left back when needed. But this year he's coming off the bench and, reportedly, he's not happy about it. But it's not as if a guy with 35 caps for the national team should have to be fighting for a spot. His omission from the starting XI is all on him. If you gave someone the Red Bulls roster on paper, Pearce would probably get the start at left back. But he's a second string centerback and that's not anyone's fault but his own, it was his job to lose and he hasn't been doing great in that role, either.

Digao

Appearances (Sub): 0 (0)

Minutes: 0

Goals: 0

Assists: 0

Grade: F

Normally when there are a whole lot of zeros on the stat line I give an incomplete. But I can't here. Digao gets paid $200,000 to ride the bench. He's played precisely one minute in his Red Bulls career. That's $12,000,000 per hour, for those of you counting at home. I was never on the "Digao is here to lure Kaka to New York" conspiracy theory bandwagon, but if Pearce is getting minutes over Digao -- and we've all see how bad Pearce has been this season -- then there is nothing to suggest Digao is anything more than a nepotistic ploy to get his more famous and exponentially better brother in red and white.

Kosuke Kimura

Appearances (Sub): 12 (8)

Minutes: 790

Goals: 0

Assists: 2

Grade: C

Growing up, getting a C was absolutely unacceptable. But when I looked at my report cards, a C was average. And, really, that's what Kimura has been. He's got his issues and the brain fart that got the Columbus Crew a penalty, but he's not awful either. I think he's got it in him to do better, but that's the case with a number of players. So far, he's been average. Thus the C grade.

Jamison Olave

Appearances (Sub): 14 (1)

Minutes: 1108

Goals: 4

Assists: 0

Grade: A

You can argue Olave has been the Red Bulls best player. He is the Red Bulls defense -- take him out, and the entirety of the back line is a train wreck -- and he's scored some big goals. As a plus, he's shown none of the injury prone-ness some fans fretted about when he was acquired. The Red Bulls are a much, much better team when Olave is on the field and for that, he gets an A.

Matt Miazga

Appearances (Sub): 0 (0)

Minutes: 0

Goals: 0

Assists: 0

Grade: Incomplete

When Miazga signed, it was his intention to join the team after he graduated high school. With him presumably waiting on actual, meaningful grades, Miazga gets an incomplete on his meaningless, arbitrary SB Nation-issued report card.

Brandon Barklage

Appearances (Sub): 13 (3)

Minutes: 858

Goals: 0

Assists: 3

Grade: C

Much like Kimura, Barklage has been average this season. Seemingly, it's a toss up each week to see who will start, so it make sense to go with a C for Barklage. I can't think of any glaring mistakes he's made this season, but he hasn't been great, either. Yes, we'll always love him for last year against D.C. United, but he hasn't quite lived up to his 2012 campaign. He hasn't been terrible either, but many of us had higher expectations for the right back.

Next up, the midfield. In the meantime, let me know what you think about my grades. Am I too tough? Too easy? Do I have favorites?

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