Monday, August 29, 2016

Rapids Flatline In Sandy

A rivalry game usually results in the players playing with more drive, passion, and desire than normal.  After the first 5 minutes on Friday night we saw the opposite.  The Rapids, with one notable exception, were flat for the remaining 85 minutes and lost 2-1, which was a generous socreline to Colorado.

General Impressions:
  • The game started well, with Gashi getting on a rebound of a Badji shot to give us an early 1-0 lead.  Most Rapids fans had to feel pretty good about a draw (and retention of the Rocky Mountain Cup) at worst at that point.
  • After that, we ceded all possession to FSL.  We asked our defense to hold a 1-0 lead for 85 minutes.  No surprise it didn't work.
  • In the first 65 minutes of the game the Rapids out-possessed FSL for only one 5 minute period, from 30-35'.  In that time we didn't get a single shot off.
  • Not that our defense looked like it could have defended a lead for 15, much less 85 minutes.  The ball-watching was criminal.
  • Yura Movsisyan was unmarked all night.  I don't know if the team was just falling down on their assignments or this was a strategic decision but whatever it was it was bad.  Not surprisingly he got both FSL goals.
  • I'll say this about the PK calls.  Ball don't lie.
  • The first call was a complete ghost call.  No foul there at all.  The second did have some contact from Miller but not any more that goes uncalled every week in this league.
  • Miller had a particularly bad game BTW.
  • How about that PK save from Tim?  High point of the game and I was hoping we'd ride that emotional boost to a tying goal.  Or not.
  • The ref was letting a lot of gamesmanship from FSL go.  hope Solo would approve.
  • Pablo takes blame for some of this.  Powers should not be starting over Azira.  The midfield struggles to control possession with a Powers - Cronin back 2.
  • His like for like subs and stubborn dedication to the 4-2-3-1 is also on him.  Doyle is wasted up top with no help or a top flight midfield passer (like Jones) to feed him.  We need a second striker.
  • That said, the players have to take a large chink of responsibility for this game.  I expect more, not less, from them in a rivalry match.  Nobody outside of Howard acted like they wanted to be there.
  • An example of how casual they were playing.  In stoppage tie down a goal an attacking throw-in ended up being played all the way back to Howard.  That's pitiful.
  • That's a bit unfair to Gashi I guess.  He was showing effort but you can't beat Rimando from distance without a lucky bounce like the first goal.
  • Somehow we still had more shots on goal than them.
  • This season was fun while it lasted but I'm pretty sure the bottom is about to drop out. If you asked me to make a prediction right now I'd say a 3rd place finish, win the home wild-card, lose to LA/FSL in the next round. The Front Office will call it a successful season since they achieved their goal of a home playoff game.
Man of the Match: Tim Howard.  The one guy who seemed to care about winning this game.  Sorry your teammates let you down.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Poor Optics From Jones

(We'll get to reviewing the debacle on Friday night tomorrow)

I want to start this by pointing out that I am an unapologetic Jones fanboy (as seen in my post announcing his signing).  That said, the optics of his weekend have been poor to say the least.

A couple of hours before kickoff on Friday Jones posted this photo to social media:
We already knew he was out for the Rocky Mountain Cup match so the only surprise was that he was headed to Jacksonville, which is coincidentally where the U.S. Nats are having camp for their World Cup Qualifiers next week.

Sure enough, earlier today Jurgen Klinsmann announced the 26 man roster for camp and Jones was included.

Tonight the Jacksoville Jaguars tweeted out this photo of their honorary captains for their preseason game:

The image here is not good.  It appears that after almost 2 months of being injured and just as he's on the cusp of returning JJ has prioritized getting to Jacksonville to play for the Nats over his club team.  Even if he couldn't play Friday night he could have been a team leader by being there and supporting the team, then he could have caught the same flight Tim Howard did to Jacksonville.  Instead he's spent the weekend in Jacksonville appearing at a NFL game instead of at a RMC game in Sandy.

In reality, it probably doesn't matter.  The way we played Friday night Jones' presence likely wouldn't have made a difference and I doubt he'd play next weekend coming back from injury due to the turf in New England.  Still its one thing to be in the situation where your healthy just in time to miss club games for your country, its another to throw it in the faces of your fans while doing it.

I don't want to think of the frustration from Rapids fans if JJ starts for the Nats on Friday or if he gets re-injured while with the Nats.  There's a report that he's really only in Jacksonville to get looked at by the National Team doctors but I don't think a player gets "called up" if he's at a point where he needs to be examined by more doctors.  We'll see if he makes the final 18 man game day roster for either game and how much he plays, if any.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Time To Retain The Rocky Mountain Cup

Need I say more?

The Rapids have gone west to face FaKe SaLt LaKe over in Sandy with the Rocky Mountain Cup and their standing in the Supporters Shield race on the line.  A win or a draw and the supporters will be bringing the RMC right back to Colorado again, a loss and not only do we lose the RMC but we have to really start looking over our shoulders at LA and FSL creeping up on us.  Game time tomorrow is an earlier 6pm and the game is on Univision Deportes and UniMas for national television.  No English broadcast that I'm aware of.  This is the kickoff of the second Heineken Rivalry Weekend of the season and Heineken and MLS are sponsoring a watch party at Stoney's.  There's also a C38 watch party for those of us who didn't make the road trip at the Celtic, which is where I'll be.

Player Availability:
OUT: M Dillon Serna (season ending ACL tear)
QUESTIONABLE: D Sean St. Ledger (knee); M Jermaine Jones (quad)

FSL has 3 players out, one questionable, and one suspended (Beltran) so they're in worse shape than we are.  Jones is not available tomorrow and I doubt we see St. Ledger.

Starting XI Prediction:

I'd prefer to see Azira over Powers but I bet Pablo sticks with the same lineup from the last couple of days.  This assumes that the rumored knock that Doyle had last week doesn't stop him from playing.  If it does I hope we see Gashi up front with Pappa behind him.

Prediction: 1-1 draw, goal by Hairston.  This feels a bit pessimistic to me as I think FSL and their shaky defense can be beaten but strange things happen in the RMC.  Given our lack of offense and our long-time frustration at Rio Tinto I'm going to think a draw is more likely, and something I'd be happy with.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

What Should Our Expectations Be?

Before we get into the topic of the post a quick news note.  Tim Howard confirmed to the Denver Post that he'll be joining the National Team for their qualifiers next weekend and he'll leave after the Rocky Mountain Cup match on Friday.  Jermaine Jones is still day-to-day and his availability to the National Team is unknown.

Now the main topic.  With 10 games to go I thought that it would be time for another midseason review, since we're at the 2/3rds point (approx).  Then I realized we all know where the team stands.  Great, almost historic, defense, bad offense, questionable coaching.  So instead I decided this was a good time to set our expectations for the rest of the regular season and into the playoffs.  We could, theoretically, still finish anywhere from first to tenth in the West and the Shield is still a possibility.  So what's reasonable to expect?

I'm going to break this down by finishing spot and go one by one.

10th-7th in the West, AKA missing the playoffs - Obviously this would be a complete failure and heads should roll.  Honestly with the number of head-to-head matchups left int he West I'm not sure this is actually possible.

6th place - We'd make the playoff but on a really bad streak to end the season and without a home game.  I'd call this a failure.

5th place - See 6th place but with an easier wild-card game.  Failure.

4th place - We'd stumble to the end and get passed by LA and FSL (presumably).  We'd get a home game that we'd be favored to win but then face Dallas most likely and be eliminated.  Not a failure but certainly not good enough.

3rd place - Now we're getting into a situation where I could see us ending up.  Anything lower than 3rd is pretty unlikely at this point as I don't see LA and FSL getting hot enough to pass us unless the wheels completely come off.  If we end up in 3rd it means that a pretty hot LA caught us late int he season.  We'd host the 6th placed team in the wild card game and then play that LA team as an underdog but it wouldn't be that big of a surprise for us to beat them.  I'd call this result a bit disappointing and typical of the Rapids but certainly not a failure and overall a good season.

2nd place - Essentially this means we wasted our two games in hand and were unable to catch Dallas.  I think this is the most likely result right now given our lack of offense.  We'd get a bye into the first round and then have rest and home field advantage favoring us in the 2nd round before a probable match up with Dallas for MLS Cup.  That would be a very good season but it would really need a MLS Cup run (at least to the final if not winning it) to feel like we took full advantage of our success this season.

1st place, no Shield - The math to end up in this scenario is unlikely but possible.  A run that puts us over Dallas would probably keep us ahead of Toronto but stranger things have happened.  Obviously this would be a successful season and set us up nicely for a MLS Cup run which we would likely host against anyone but Toronto.  A first placed finish that didn't end up with a MLS Cup appearance would be a bit bittersweet however.

1st place, with Shield - Obviously the top of the mountain, ultimate success, whatever you want to call it.  We've led the league, at least in pts/game, almost all season and you would hope this would be the result.  The Shield winners have won 5 of 20 MLS Cups, better than any other rank in the final table so we would be favorites to host and win it.

I think anything under 3rd at this point would have to be considered a failure with 10 games to go.  A reasonable expectation is a 2nd place finish with some optimism that we can win the West and likely the Shield.  As far as a playoff run goes we should be expecting the conference finals.  Even from the 3rd spot we shouldn't fear the 2nd placed team and if we're one of the top 2 we would be a favorite to make the final.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Rapids Get Forgettable Draw

Colorado had a chance to really take control at the top of the table this week.  Dallas lost to FSL and LA drew.  Instead a boring match that ended 0-0 leaves Colorado in a slightly better position but without the separation they should have at this point.

General Impressions:
  • In all seriousness there's only two plays in the whole game that stood out to me.  The first was a foul on Doyle in the 65th minute that was a clear Denial of an Obvious Goal Scoring Opportunity (DOGSO) and should have been a red card for Orlando and a man advantage for the last 25 minutes for Colorado.  Instead the ref only went yellow.
  • The second was a sliding block at the top of the box by Burch in the 85th minute.  It was probably the most dangerous look Orlando had all night and Burch timed his slide perfectly.
  • Other than that this was a game of meaningless possession and poor midfield passing, on both sides.
  • For about 20 minutes or so early in the second half Colorado had Orlando back on its heels but couldn't finish them off.  For most of the rest of the half Orlando was probably the better team.
  • That's mainly because Kreis made subs to neutralize what the Rapids were doing while Pablo's subs were...questionable.
  • Le Toux came out for Pappa, which made some sense since Le Toux probably isn't 90 minutes fit yet.  Then Cronin came out for Azira which was pointless from what I could see.  The final sub in the 90th minute was Doyle for Badji which...why?  There was one report that Doyle picked up a knock and that's the only reason I can see to make that sub.
  • My thought was essentially "Welcome back 2015 Pablo, nobody missed you".
  • This game called for Badji to be put in for Powers and a switch to a 4-4-2.  Pablo is stubborn about the 4-2-3-1 but an additional attacking resource,, even Badji, would have made the difference I think.
  • 2 points left on the field Saturday night.  2 points left on the field against Dallas.  2 against Portland on the 4th of July.  If (or what I think is more likely now, when) we fail to win the Shield we'll look back at those 6 points as why.
  • The Bodmer Line is down to .4 pts/game.
  • On to FSL and the Rocky Mountain Cup.  A win on Friday would be huge for our Shield chances and we'd keep the Cup.
Man of the Match: Marc Burch.  Pretty much because of that sliding block.