Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Busy Day Of News

Lots of news so let's get to it.  At the bottom is an updated list of the roster and camp invitees as we know it.

  • First, the Denver Post's Daniel Boniface tweeted confirmation that LaBrocca signed a new contract:
I ran into Nick Labrocca...he's re-signed with the and will be back for 2015.
I'm not loving this move.  Sam Cronin and Nick LaBrocca are too similar to really need both on the roster.  If LaBrocca signed for sub $100K as a depth player then fine, but otherwise its redundant.

  • The Rapids have two right backs on trial in camp, Wes Knight and Ben Newnam.  Newnam is actually signed with our USL affiliate in Charlotte so that may already be paying off.  This is the downside of the Klute trade though as we have a lack of depth at outside back.  Harrington and Burch cover the left side but right back is a big question mark at the moment.
  • Argentine defensive midfielder Lucas Pittinari is in town in preparation for finalizing the loan deal.  If they had him come to Denver it should be just a formality at this point, assuming he passes the physical.  This is likely a loan for a season so we can decide if he rates the $1.5 million price-tag he's rumored to have, making him a DP in 2016 if we buy him.
  • Finally, two tweets from the Post's Mark Kiszla about that "big name" signing this week that fist came up on Friday
pursuit of big-name designated player not dead, but has hit snags. Might have new star by start of reg season, but not by Feb 1.
 Pursuit of marquee designated player can be roller-coaster ride for any MLS club, and have hit dip in the ride.
That second tweet was actually favorited by Tim Hinchey, so I'm guessing this report is fairly accurate.  I wish I could say I was surprised or disappointed by this news but I'm not.  As I wrote on Friday:
I'm hoping the Rapids have an actual target they're in final negotiations with and they've managed to keep it tightly under wraps, because the only real rumors we've heard so far this offseason are the two Argentinian players and they don't meet the standards of "big-time scorer".  By self-imposing a deadline and announcing it they've set themselves up to disappoint the fan base (again).  I would think they wouldn't let this information out unless they were very sure they've got a deal done, but we've seen stranger things.  Remember all the hassle when we thought we had both Martin Rivero and Gabriel Torres signed, only to not have the deals done?
This is just another incident in a long history of incidents where the Rapids failed to deliver on an earlier statement.  We'll see if we get that big signing before March. 7th or if we have to wait until the mid-season transfer window, but if I had to bet my money is on mid-season at best.

UPDATE: I reached out to the Rapids and got a couple of camp updates:
Carlos Alvarez (waived) - In camp
Zat Knight (out of contract) - Not in camp yet
Charles Eloundou (under contract) - Not in camp yet

Though on the last two they weren't sure if that was just "They haven't arrived in Denver for the season yet" or if there was something else going on.  They were going to check.

Updated roster:

(* = international):

Goalkeepers:
John Berner
Clint Irwin
Zac MacMath

Defenders:
Marc Burch
Bobby Burling
Michael Harrington
Drew Moor
John Neeskens
Shane O'Neill
Axel Sjoberg*

Midfielders:
Sam Cronin
Marlon Hairston
Nick LaBrocca
Dillon Powers
Marcelo Sarvas*
Dillon Serna
Jared Watts

Forwards:
Deshorn Brown*
Caleb Calvert
Charles Eloundou* (not yet in camp)
Vicente Sanchez*
Gabriel Torres*

Unsigned:
D Brandon Fricke (draftee)
D Joseph Greenspan (draftee, on Naval duty through 2017 probably)
D Matt Jeffrey (draftee)
D Zat Knight* (not yet in camp)
D Grant Van de Casteele (confirmed to be in camp)
M Carlos Alvarez (confirmed to be in camp)
M Wes Knight (trialist in camp)
M Ben Newnam (trialist in camp)
M Lucas Pittinari* (in town negotiating)
F Dominique Badji* (draftee)

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Quick News and Notes

A couple of quick pieces of news.
  • Dillon Serna and Shane O'Neill made the roster cut for the U.S. National Team's upcoming friendlies against Chile (in  Chile) and Panama (at the Stub Hub Center).  So while that will delay their joining of the Rapids in preseason its great experience for them.
  • Dillon Powers tweeted that Grant Van de Casteele was with him for their first practice yesterday, so as we expected.
  • I missed this before but Axel Sjoberg, our first round pick, tweeted before the draft that he had signed a MLS contract.
Updated roster:

(* = international):

Goalkeepers:
John Berner
Clint Irwin
Zac MacMath

Defenders:
Marc Burch
Bobby Burling
Michael Harrington
Drew Moor
John Neeskens
Shane O'Neill
Axel Sjoberg*

Midfielders:
Sam Cronin
Marlon Hairston
Dillon Powers
Marcelo Sarvas*
Dillon Serna
Jared Watts

Forwards:
Deshorn Brown*
Caleb Calvert
Charles Eloundou*
Vicente Sanchez*
Gabriel Torres*

Unsigned:
D Brandon Fricke (draftee)
D Joseph Greenspan (draftee, on Naval duty through 2017 probably)
D Matt Jeffrey (draftee)
D Zat Knight*
D Grant Van de Casteele (confirmed to be in camp)
M Carlos Alvarez
M Nick LaBrocca
F Dominique Badji* (draftee)

Friday, January 23, 2015

Rapids Want To Make Name Signing Next Week

There was an interesting article on the Denver Post's Rapids blog today.  Apparently the Rapids are still looking to make a big signing up front and have set a deadline of Feb. 1st (a week from Sunday) to do it.  Quoting from the article:

Colorado is itching to pull the trigger on the largest contract in club history for a big-time scorer, and ownership has approved the money to land him. But the clock is ticking. The Rapids have a self-imposed deadline of Feb. 1.
"We're looking at established names that have star power. We're also looking at goal scorers in Europe that maybe don't have the same name recognition but will also be a major investment to help," Hinchey said. "To be fair, I'd probably rather get the goal-scorer that's going to help us win and go get trophies."

The examples given by Kiszla in the article include Fulham's Hugo Rodallega (who's name has been floating around this offseason) and Guadalajara's Marco Fabian.  The article then goes on to say they're aiming higher than those names though.  It also mentions that the "swung and missed" on Cubo Torres, who ended up in Houston.  i find this interesting because it was wildly reported at the time Torres signed with Houston that he was made available to the whole league and only Houston was willing to meet his demands.  For example, from ESPN:
Torres, 21, starred for Chivas USA last season while on loan from the now-defunct MLS team's Mexican parent club, Chivas Guadalajara. After that loan expired this month, MLS signed Torres to a permanent deal and offered his contract to all 20 clubs.
The Dynamo were the only team to accept the terms of the Torres' contract, which includes a six-month loan back to Chivas Guadalajara for the upcoming Liga MX Clausura season.
So maybe we didn't take a real swing at him and didn't want to take his contract on, or maybe MLS really wanted him to be in Houston (4th largest Hispanic market with only the Galaxy, NYCFC, and RBNY being in larger markets) over Denver (17th largest Hispanic market), or maybe its a combination of the two.  Whatever it was I have a hard time believing we ever had a real shot at Cubo Torres.  The Rapids have a long history of dropping names that they "almost" signed in an offseason (the most infamous was the multiple offseasons we "almost" signed Jared Borghetti) and this feels like another edition of that story.

I'm hoping the Rapids have an actual target they're in final negotiations with and they've managed to keep it tightly under wraps, because the only real rumors we've heard so far this offseason are the two Argentinian players and they don't meet the standards of "big-time scorer".  By self-imposing a deadline and announcing it they've set themselves up to disappoint the fan base (again).  I would think they wouldn't let this information out unless they were very sure they've got a deal done, but we've seen stranger things.  Remember all the hassle when we thought we had both Martin Rivero and Gabriel Torres signed, only to not have the deals done?

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Camp opened today, where are those "difference-makers"?

Veterans reported to Commerce City for physicals and fitness tests today with true preseason starting tomorrow.  Its always good to get into preseason and get the new players integrated with the returning veterans in preparation for the opener on March 7th.  The question is, have we done enough this off-season to improve?

To recap what Tim Hinchey and Paul Bravo said they needed this offseason (bit long, stick with me):

Tim Hinchey: Aug 27th, 2014:
Should we expect to see a busy off-season, then?
According to Hinchey, yes. We're going to see a busy off season. I don't want to make too big a deal of this, but he said they are looking at bringing in a 2nd DP in the January window. I didn't want to pry into it much because it's a while away so I don't know how far along the talks are. It's not important at the moment. But it's interesting to hear that there are plans in the works for next season.
Paul Bravo, Oct. 3rd, 2014:
“The guiding principles that we have instilled include building from within (our academy), putting priority on the college draft, scouting the lower leagues, and using the international market to add players who can make a difference in our league,” he says.
So what about the difference makers? Where do you find them? “We are looking all over the world for these players, but the areas of focus continue to be South and Central America, and European countries like France, England, Spain and Germany. We look at hours and hours of video, consult with people we trust here and abroad. There’s also a little bit of luck involved, and of course, it also takes investment.”Other factors in the equation are adjustment periods for foreign players coming to the United States. Sometimes they fit right in and hit the ground running, while others might take a year or two to settle in.“Players have to get comfortable with the speed of play, style, travel, the hot summer weather – all of the elements packed into our great country and our great league,” Bravo says. “There are other important things, too, like bringing wives and families, new doctors, new schools and how that player deals with things off the field as well as on.” 

Tim Hinchey, Oct. 14th, 2014:
Well, without question, it hasn’t been a very good run. We’re not happy about it. No-one’s happy about it. I’m sure you ask the same question to Paul, Pablo, the coaches, the players, no-none’s happy about this and nor should we be. It’s not something any of us envisioned when we were sitting in third place with a fantastic victory on July 25th. Again, this trip was planned for some time. In fact, it’s an annual trip for me, but it was a trip that made sense for Paul to come on months ago based on our long term player acquisition goals. Clearly there’s even more of a heightened sense of awareness and we fully realize that we need to invest. We need to find more key ‘difference makers’, as Paul likes to say, and Pablo likes to say, and right now like José Mari who we found in Spain last year, there are a lot of players who see our league growing.  These players maybe have been in the bottom level of some of the elite leagues or they have been relegated into the second divisions of those leagues, and see Major League Soccer as a fantastic destination, (with) fantastic communities, facilities and fans. I think that Major League Soccer is certainly on the radar for a lot more players that are in between the top flights and what might be closer to what our level of play is here in the States.
If we’re going to be successful in this league, we've got to continue to invest and find better players. 
Clearly that’s going to lay with Paul and Pablo to decide, but I think all of us have a pretty good sense that - and I think both Paul and Pablo have discussed this quite a bit - we clearly need to invest defensively, and we will, but at the same time we also need to invest in all areas of our squad, so it’s not an easy answer because we need that help, so we need help at the back, we need help in the middle and we certainly want ‘difference makers’ up front.  
We will find the best players globally with our increased technical staff and we will work harder – we’ll have to work harder – than other clubs and if we can leverage our relationships and the resource of someone like Arsenal, to help us find those ‘difference-makers’, it means we'll not necessarily have to over spend but we will spend wisely. 
Tim Hinchey, Town Hall, Oct 15th, 2014 (paraphrased from my notes):
They'll be able to plan for the transfer window in advance and make some investments.
So those were the expectations set going into the offseason.  What have we actually done so far?

Acquisitions:
D Bobby Burling after Chivas was contracted
F Caleb Calvert in Chivas USA dispersal draft
M Sam Cronin from San Jose in trade
D Michael Harrington from Portland in trade
GK Zac MacMath from Philly on loan
M Marcelo Sarvas from LA in trade
D Axel Sjoberg in Superdraft
4 other draftees that will either not be available (Greenspan) or are unlikely to make the team

Notice something?  Every single acquisition so far has come from inside the league or the draft.  We have yet to use this increased scouting to find these "difference-makers" that Hinchey and Bravo talked about.  We've been linked to a 23 year old defensive mid and a 21 year old attacking mid from Argentina, but neither of their resumes scream "difference-maker" and again, they aren't actually signed yet.

I would agree that Sarvas has all the makings of a difference maker but the rest?  They fill the holes created when we let a number of players go after the season but none of them look like a significant improvement from what we already had.  Calvert is too young, MacMath isn't significant upgrade from Irwin, Burling and Harrington are solid MLS defenders but nothing more (though cheaper than Wynne so that's good), and Cronin is equivalent to LaBrocca IMO.

So far there's no hint of that second Designated Player they were promising.  There's no word on another "difference-maker" up front like Hinchey suggested.  Instead we appear to be putting together a team from the MLS scrap pile again, something that hasn't been successful in recent years.  In fact I think the league has advanced to the point where that can no longer be a successful strategy.  The last team to win using it was the 2010 Rapids.

There's still 6 weeks until the season opener, but as Bravo said, it takes time for international players to adjust to their new situation in MLS.  We need the players here now so that they are settled and adjusted when the league starts in 6 weeks.  We don't need a scenario where they show up in late February and take the first month of the season to settle in and start playing well.  We need quality players able to stand out at the MLS level this season and we need them ASAP.  Otherwise we're playing for 2016 already.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

All-Star Game Announced


As expected the big announcement at Union Station today was the All-Star Game coming to Colorado.  Here's what we know so far:

  • Date: Wed. July 29th
  • Time: 7pm
  • Location: DSG Park
  • TV: Fox Sports 1, UniMas, TSN, and RDS2
  • All-Star Coach: Pablo Mastroeni and his mustache
  • Chipotle MLS Homegrown Players Game also returns this year
What we don't yet know:
  • Opponent, other than an "elite international club" and almost confirmed that it won't be Arsenal (it was mentioned at the event that they're scheduled to be in China this summer)
  • Schedule of the Homegrown game
  • Ticket cost and availability, other than Rapids season-ticket holders will get first shot
A couple of interesting snippets from the press conference:
  • There was a bid process to get the game, which Colorado won.  That doesn't mean that KSE fronted the money for the bid, or all of the money (the fact that its the Chipotle homegrown game again this year and Chipotle is a Denver company is probably not a coincidence), but they must have pushed for this.
  • Don Garber called out the expected big support from Centennial 38 by name, which is kind of awesome.
  • Josh Kroenke talked about all the big names coming to MLS.  Of course that's not the best selling point when he's not bringing any of those big names into his team.
All in all O know some Rapids fans are grumbling that KSE is spending time/money on this and not improving the team but I think its a good thing to see us get to host this game.  I'm waiting to hear about the opponent and the ticket cost to decide if I'm going to go, but at the very least I'd like to see the homegrown game.