Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Rapids Go Into Break On A Streak

A draw that felt like a loss.  Shows up how far we've come in a short time.  For the last couple of years most draws felt like wins.  Despite that Colorado goes into the Copa break on a 9 game undefeated streak, tying a team record.  They also sit on top of the league in both total points (though they could be passed by Dallas on Wednesday but we would have 2 games in hand) and points per game (it would take any team at least 3 straight wins to catch us in that stat).

General Impressions:
  • Interesting note on that team-tying undefeated streak.  Pablo now owns the longest winless streak in team history and the longest undefeated streak (tied).  The prior coaches to hold those records were/are Fernando Clavijo.
  • The style of play on Saturday was very reminiscent of 2015.  Lots of cycling the ball around, resetting it back to the defense, etc.  Also lots of chances created with nobody taking a shot. It lends some credence to the belief that our improvement this year is due to better talent over better coaching as only 3 new 2016 players played Saturday night (MacMath, Williams, Azira).
  •  Philly's goal was only the 2nd given up by MacMath this month, which is a huge improvement in his play from March/April.  Its made him a finalist for Player of the Month.
  • Solignac's goal was correctly called offside, though Solignac was not offside.  The call was on Kevin Doyle for making a close play on the ball from an offside position (even though he didn't make contact).  Even if the AR had let that slide I believe that Doyle could ahve  been called offside on the shot as he was standing right next to the keeper and could be seen as interfering with his chance to make a save.
  • Doyle was left in Colorado to get playing time with his team before the Euro roster decision.  Sadly it wasn't enough as he wasn't on the final roster released today and never left Colorado based on his tweet of the team hike out of Boulder today.
  • Cronin's goal might have been off the captain's shoulder.
  • 3 crossbars in one match is really lousy luck.
  • A couple of players showed why they haven't been getting playing time.  Hairston did not look real sharp off the bench but after he knocked the rust off he did have some nice passes.  Powers looked bad all game.  His miss of an almost open net was criminal.  At this point you ahve to wonder if he's on the trading block in the summer window.  There's a whole lot of salary tied up in somebody who doesn't look like he's going to be worth it here.
  • The swap of Burling for Watts was odd.  I can only assume that Burling picked up a knock because otherwise its a move that doesn't make much sense.
  • Hairston made a poor decision in stoppage time when he tried the through ball to an offside Doyle.  It immediately let Philly cycle the ball back to the other end of the field where they socred.  I'm not blaming Hairston for the goal but the smart move there would have been to pull back, keep possession, and kill the clock.
  • It was Williams (and to a lesser extent Azira) who lost his mark on the Philly goal.  Ball watching is the term for what Hairston was doing.  It was a really well placed shot though.
  • The Rapids have a home USOC game two weeks from tomorrow against the winner of tomorrow night's match between AZ United and Colorado Springs.  Then they have the Fire at home on the 19th before going to LA on the 22nd.  Then another break until the 4th of July match and the welcoming of Tim Howard.
  • Because of the break there probably won't be much to talk about.  I'll have some posts on the Copa (Jones and Howard) and the Euros (Gashi) but other than that expect this blog to be quiet unless some news breaks.
Man of the Match: Axel Sjoberg.  This year Sjoberg has shut down Joao Plata, Graham Zusi (twice), and Giovinco, among others.  This week it was CJ Sapong's turn to wear Sjoberg as a second jersey and much like the rest of them he largely disappeared from the match.  Sjoberg had good flashes lat season but this year he's turned into a quality MLS starter that some national media are already considering for the All-Star Game.  Performances like Saturday's will only help.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Battle At The Top

Spin To Win!

The top team in the East, Philadelphia, comes to Commerce City to face the top team in the West.  There's something nobody expected to write when the season started.  Philly is on short rest after playing in Orlando Wednesday while Colorado is missing Jones and Gashi for international play.  Should be a close mach.  Kickoff is at 7pm tomorrow so the tailgate starts at 4.  Altitude for those who can't make it.

Player Availability:
OUT: D Sean St. Ledger (knee)
QUESTIONABLE: M Marco Pappa (knee); F Dominique Badji (upper leg)
UNAVAILABLE: M Shkelzen Gashi (Albania National team); M Jermaine Jones (U.S. National team); D Joseph Greenspan (Navy duty)
YELLOW CARD CAUTION: D Marc Burch (3 games to good behavior reduction)

Badji is a new addition and explains why Calvert was recalled.  Philly isn't missing anyone for national team duty but Edu is Out and two other players are Questionable.

Starting XI Prediction:

This looks like a 2015 lineup with a little help.  Tomorrow's game will be interesting to watch.  Has our recent success only been because of the new talent or has there been improved coaching?

Prediction: 1-0 win, goal by Kevin Doyle.  Two of the toughest defenses in MLS, one team on short rest, the other without its midfield creativity.  This won't be the beautiful game we see on Saturday.  Home field and elevation will be just enough for the Rapids to scrape out a win over the tired Union.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Calvert Back, Pappa Still Out

Two piece of roster news:

Not ideal but this weekend's game is the big impact.  With no Jones, Gashi, or Pappa I wonder where the midfield creativity is going to come from.  After that we have a break until the USOC game on June 15th and the home game against the Fire on the 19th.  We probably don't need Pappa to win those games.  We'll want him back when we go to LA on the 22nd though.
Odd timing on this.  He would be cover for Doyle being gone but Doyle will be here Saturday.  After that we won't need him until the 19th.  He's already cup-tied to Charlotte so we can't use him in the USOC match on the 15th.  Given that, why not leave him in Charlotte at least through their USOC 3rd round match nest Wednesday?

Monday, May 23, 2016

Rapids Get Three The Hard Way

It wasn't pretty but it was effective.  Bunkering down and withstanding a Seattle onslaught while scoring the only shot on target they had all night isn't the usual path to victory but for this team it worked.  A 1-0 win continues an 8 game unbeaten streak.

General Impressions:
  • That was a fairly ugly match for the Rapids.  Not much flow without Gashi or Pappa and Jones having an off night.
  • Gashi being gone was a surprise.  Apparently the Rapids let him leave early to join the Albanian team for the Euros but kept that card close to his vest.
  • On the flip side we found out after the game that Doyle will not leave to join Ireland until next Sunday, which means we get him for an extra game.
  • I'm a bit surprised Jones managed to get through the match without a red card.
  • MacMath had a really solid game.  There weren't that many shots to deal with but he made the right decisions at the right time and came up big in a couple of places.  Stoning Dempsey early was huge.
  • Glad to see Sjoberg finally score from a corner.  Considering the Rapids have been feeding the big Swede the ball on corners for over a year it finally paid off.
  • Solignac should have put the game out of reach, no idea how with that much space he managed to hit the post.
  • Doyle put in a good game, lots of hustle and hard work.  He just couldn't get enough space to be dangerous.
  • 8 game unbeaten streak now, which is one game short of the team record.
  • For the first time ever since I've been tracking it the Bodmer Line is now under 1 pt/game the rest of the way (.95 pts/game).  Since it was asked we need to play at 1.75 pts/game ther est of the way to reach the average points the Supporters Shield winner have had in the 34 game seasons.  I think that's optimistic right now.
  • After being winless in 11 attempts in Seattle the Rapids have now won their last two games there and three in a row overall against the Sounders.
  • Colorado doesn't have another road game until they're in LA on June 22nd.  Of course they only have 2 home games plus a home USOC game between now and then due to the Copa break.
  • The Rapids have the highest point total and the best pts/game in the league.  Not only that but even if the teams behind themwere to win their games in hand they wouldn't catch the Rapids.  By every metric we are currently the best team in the league.
Man of the Match: Marc Burch.  I went back and forth between MacMath and Burch b
ut in the end Burch had an assist, a saved goal off the line, and a couple of other important defensive breakups so he got the nod.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Rapids In Seattle Just After Volcano Day

May 18th, 1980

The anniversary of the Mount St. Helens eruption isn't exactly celebrated in the Pacific NW but it is certainly remembered and has been adopted by some as Cascadia Day.  The Rapids head into a place where they've  only ever one one game in their history tomorrow, the good news is that it was the most recent game that they won.  Long time readers also know that this is a battle of my current town and my home town (and yes, I remember where 5 year old me was when the mountain blew its top).  Game time tomorrow is 8pm on Altitude.

Player Availability:
OUT: D Sean St. Ledger (knee); D Eric Miller (groin); M Marco Pappa (knee)
UNAVAILABLE: D Joseph Greenspan (Navy duty)

No changes for the Rapids.  Seattle has one out and two questionable.

Starting XI Prediction:

This seems to be our standard XI at this point, I really see no reason to expect a change.  With international callups this will be the last time we see this group together until July 4th, and then MacMath will (presumably) be replaced by Howard.

Prediction: 0-0 draw.  Turf and two good defenses make this look like a frustrating draw.  Both teams will likely come out thinking they could have won but Seattle's scoring woes will continue and the surface will screw with the Rapids enough that we won't be able to find the net.