Monday, June 27, 2016

Summer Transfer Window Preview

He's here! (Image from Denver Post)

Next Monday the summer transfer window opens.  THe big news will of course be the official signing of Tim Howard but beyond that what are the Rapids likely to be looking for (if anything)?

Here's the makeup of our current roster:

28 of 28 roster spots full (not including Greenspan)
9 of 8 international spots filled
4 of 3 Designated Player spots filled

No, those numbers aren't a type.  We have one more international and DP than we're allowed.  Namely Juan Ramirez will be returning from his loan.  for the rest of this article I'm going to assume that there's already a plan to either loan him out again or transfer him permanently to Almeria.  Otherwise most of our summer transfer window will be getting us back under the roster requirements.

So moving forward without Ramirez means that we have 1 open roster spot.  Of course that's only half of what we need.  The other part is having salary cap room.  As we saw last month Colorado is pretty much up against the cap so if we're going to fill that open spot with anything other than a developmental player we're probably going to need to make a move to clear some space.

Given that, lets look at who's possibly on the trading/sale block.  I'm going to assume that the standard starting XI plus a couple of players won't be moved barring an offer we can't refuse.  To me that means the following: Howard, Williams, Burling, Sjoberg, Miller, Burch, Cronin, Azira, Gashi, Jones,, Pappa, Solignac, and K. Doyle.

I'll add St. Ledger onto that list because his injury (combined with the circumstances that got him cut for Orlando) means there will likely be no takers.

Serna will also be on the list due to his value as a homegrown player.

The next group is players who would not free up enough space to be worth moving them.  To me that's Badji, Berner, Calvert, Castillo, C. Doyle, and Watts.

That leaves us with a small group: Froschauer, Hairston, MacMath, Pfeffer, and Powers.

Froschauer is only on this list because I don't see the Rapids carrying 4 keepers.  If they don't decide to move MacMath I assume Froschauer will be cut to free up a roster spot.  He won't help our cap issue though.

Hairston and Pfeffer are unlikey to be moved but they would free up about $100K each so if the right offer came along I could see it.

MacMath is one of the two obvious choices.  With Howard arriving there isn't really room for another MLS quality keeper.  At $140K that would free up a bit of the cap to make a move.  I'm not sure there's a team looking for a keeper though.  I just think that the Rapids will keep him around until the offseason.

That, finally, brings us to Dillon Powers.  A $300K salary sitting on the bench.  When he has played he's looked like his confidence is gone.  Ever since that PK miss in Sandy last year he hasn't been the same player but its gotten worse this season.  His role on this team would be in the spot that Cronin and Azira have locked down for a lot cheaper.  Meanwhile Philly just had a hole open up in their midfield and they're hardly the only MLS team that would take a chance on a former Rookie of the Year that needs a change of scenery.

So my bet is that the Rapids move Powers this window to free up some salary cap.  Now, how iwll we use that room?

As mentioned earlier the Orozco rumor is bouncing around.  It makes a lot of sense for the Rapids as by far their weakest area right now is center back.  It seems odd to say that given our defensive record but I don't think anyone is real happy that we're down to Jared Watts as a starter due to injuries.  Orozco is currently with Club Tijuana but there's been some talk that the club wants to unload some salary and international players.  I don't think he would take a max (or higher) salary so the real question is what he would cost in transfer fee and could we get him for under DP level.

If not Orozco I think the Rapids still look at CB.  They have pretty good coverage elsewhere so that's the real weak spot in the team. 

So my prediction for this summer transfer window.  Powers out, new CB in.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Euro and Copa Wrap-Up

Now that all the relevant Rapids teams have been eliminated from the Copa and Euros lets see how it went.

We'll start with the easy one, the Euros.  Albania was 3 and out, being the worst third placed team with one win and two losses.  Still, not bad for their first ever major tournament and their win over Romania was a major victory for them.  The whole team has been given diplomatic passports in honor of their victory (if your wondering they just get the passports, not diplomatic immunity.  Essentially they can now speed through customs and the TSA.  Not a big deal for most of the players as they play in Europe where there's a lot of free movement but I'm sure Gashi appreciates it).

Gashi only got 8 minutes in the tournament, in the opening game against the Swiss, and I'm guessing he'd kind of like to forget them.  He had a great chance 1v1 with the Swiss keeper to level the score late in the game but his shot was nothing special and the keeper made the save.  After that he watched the last two games from the bench.  Based on his twitter Gashi returned to Albania with the team for the celebrations this weekend but I'm sure he'll be heading back to Commerce City in the next couple of days.  He may fly straight to Dallas and meet up with the team there for Wednesday night's USOC match.

The Doyle-less Ireland squad finished as the 2nd best third placed team after beating Italy and drawing Sweden.  This got them into the Round of 16 where they faced France earlier today.  Despite leaving the match for over 55 minutes they were eliminated 2-1.

Now over to the Copa which was much more interesting from a Rapids POV.  After a lackluster match by the whole team (including Jones) against Colombia Jones roared back with the Yanks against Costa Rica.  After a 4-0 win JJ was named Man of the Match as the U.S. rescued their Copa chances.  Another strong match against Paraguay with a surprise win by Costa Rica put the U.S. on top of the group and in a quarterfinal against Ecuador.  Jones went the full 90 against Paraguay playing well.

The quarterfinal against Ecuador was eventful.  Shortly into the second half, with the U.S. up a goal, a double red was handed out putting both teams at 10.  JJ was the recipient of the red card and while it might have been light it wasn't unfair.  He brought his hand up and (possibly unintentionally) made contact with the face of the Ecuadorian player which is a textbook red under the new rules.  Both sides traded goal and the U.S. moved on to the semis but with 3 suspended for the match.

Missing those 3 (including Jermaine) cost them as they never looked like they were in the game against Argentina, who blew them off the field 4-0.  This sent them to the 3rd place game which was a replay against Colombia.  As it was the last game of the tournament Klinsmann gave Tim Howard a chance in the nets and he didn't disappoint.  While the Americans lost 1-0 (and improvement from the 2-0 loss to Colombia ins the group stage) but Jones and Howard played well.  An argument could be made that Jones was one of the best 3 Americans at the tournament alongside Wood and Dempsey.

Total game time:
Gashi: 8 minutes on Jne 11th plus heavy international travel
Howard: 90 minutes yesterday
Jones: 388 minutes in 5 games over 22 days which is equivalent to a busy MLS schedule but not overwhelming.

Depending on when Gashi returns he could play on Wednesday just to knock some rust off.  Jones will probably get a break to have him at full strength for the home game on the 4th of July.  Howard won't be eligible until the 4th and I'm sure he'll play.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Battle Of The Keepers Ends Up Even

From my preview:
0-0 draw.  This seems optimistic with that back line but given the lack of offensive options on LA this could be an ugly game where neither team gets close to scoring.  Maybe Pappa, Doyle, and MacMath are enough to eek out a 1-0 win but I don't expect it.
That's how it played out.  Lots of back and forth in midfield but not a ton of good looks at goal on either end.  The few that did get through were cleaned up by the keepers.

General Impressions:
  • Quality point on the road.  Undermanned and short handed there's nothing to complain about this result.
  • Consider about 20 months ago we were in LA getting embarrassed at the wrong end of a 6-0 hammering.  This team has come a long way from there.
  • The backline stepped up in this one.  Missing 3 normal starters they managed to keep LA off the board and they really only got one or two good looks.
  • In particular Miller looked really good coming back from injury.  Though he should have handled that free kick cross on the other end better. ;)
  • Azira has been the unsung hero of this season so far.  Best overlooked pickup in the league this year?
  • We see why Hairston was being moved to defense.  God instincts, no shot.
  • Powers, ugh.  At this point he's dropped off a cliff and now has feet of stone near to Conor Casey's.  It might be time to move on (more on that in a couple of days).
  • Now we've set the team record at 11 in a row undefeated (I was off a game last week).
  • We made it through Pappa's injury and the callups of Jones and Gashi without losing.  Impressive.  Most impressive.
  • The Bodmer line is now at a laughably low .83 pts/game.
  • We're off of league play until the 4th of July game and Tim Howard's debut.  We do have a trip to Dallas for the Round of 16 USOC match next Wednesday though.
Man of the Match: Zac MacMath.  He came up big on what will probably be his last league game for a while.  Solid game by almost everyone but MacMath gets the nod for the 6th shutout of the season.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Backups Ahead

Are we sure there are 22 players available tomorrow night?

The last (league) match before the end of the summer tournaments and before the summer transfer window opens is here.  Well, for the half of  the teams actually going to be in LA tomorrow night.  Neither the Galaxy or Rapids will be at full strength for this one and it will probably show.  kickoff tomorrow is 8:30pm on Altitude.

Player Availability:
OUT: D Bobby Burling (knee surgery); D Sean St. Ledger (knee)
QUESTIONABLE: D Jared Watts (face)
UNAVAILABLE: M Shkelzen Gashi (Albania National team); M Jermaine Jones (U.S. National team); D Joseph Greenspan (Navy duty); D Mekeli Williams (personal issue)
SUSPENDED: D Marc Burch (yellow card suspension)

Um...yeah.  That's ugly.  Combined with the loaned out players the Rapids only have 15 players available tomorrow night.  LA has Rogers out and 3 questionable, including Gerrard and dos Santos.  They also have Keane and Zardes out with their national teams.

Starting XI Prediction:
Bench: Froschauer; Hairston; Serna; Powers; C. Doyle

That's it. Maybe Serna or Hairston goes over Miller or Badji but I doubt it.

Prediction: 0-0 draw.  This seems optimistic with that back line but given the lack of offensive options on LA this could be an ugly game where neither team gets close to scoring.  Maybe Pappa, Doyle, and MacMath are enough to eek out a 1-0 win but I don't expect it.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Who's Your Pappa?

An ugly game but 3 points.  I'll take it.  The Rapids really looked rusty out there Saturday night (or maybe it was the heat) but luckily the Fire is a bad team and looked worse.

General Impressions:
  • While we got lucky on the own goal we made that luck.  The aggressiveness after the Fire goal is what out us in position to benefit from the mistake.
  • Last year's Rapids would have just accepted the draw.
  • Interesting to see Hairston pushed up to right mid.  He was very aggressive in the first half.
  • Nice pressure from Powers to create the first goal.  It was really the first good look we got.
  • I'm pretty sure the Solignac/Badji sub was in the works before the Fire goal.  I don't think Pablo makes that switch if he knew what was going to happen.
  • His other two subs were perfect, just 10 minutes later than they should have been.
  • Ball watching has gotten us burned at the end of our last two home (league) games.  Maybe the loss of Burling's leadership is hurting our focus late?
  • I'm pretty sure MacMath was picked as MOTM before the game had even started.  This was, realistically, his last home game in the nest with Howard showing up and taking his spot.
  • The Rapids now have an 11 game undefeated streak, a new team record.
Man of the Match: Marco Pappa.  Easy choice with the winning goal.  We saw what he can do and its good to have him (almost) back.