Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Affiliations, Transfer Rumors, and Playoff Opponent

An eclectic list of news and rumors today:

The Rapids renewed their affiliation with the USL Charlotte Independence for another season today.  This is a little bit of a surprise as it seemed like Colorado was leaning towards a relationship with the Switchbacks.  Maybe they still have different viewpoints on how the relationship might work or maybe the Rapids are just happy staying with Charlotte given Hinchey's relationship with the Independence owners.

Two interesting transfer rumors surfaced from MLS Transfers today.  They're track record is a little hit or miss so I wouldn't put much weight into these:

Axel Sjoberg:
I'm hearing Axel Sjoberg has been gaining interest from Djurgardens (his youth club) and Ostersunds FK.
I'm not sure this would be a great move for a player like Sjoberg except for him it would be going home.  I don't think a mid-tier top league team (Djurgardens) or a recently promoted team (Ostersunds) in Sweden would be a step up but you can't downplay the appeal of playing in your home country,

Dillon Powers:
Source tells me Dillon Powers has interest from Blackburn. May trial in the offseason.
As a Blackburn fan I'm not sure how I feel about this one. :D  If Jones re-signs for the Rapids or hey plan to bring in another Jones-type player its certainly time for Powers to leave.  As we've seen he doesn't really have a starting spot with Jones or that type of player here.  He was probably going to move to a Championship side last season until Reading made a managerial change.  Its the right level for him and would probably be a good move for everyone involved on this side of the pond.

Now I don't see Powers saving Blackburn from relegation so this better not be the only big move they're considering in the winter transfer window. ;)

Finally, LA beat FSL tonight 3-1 so we're headed to the StubHub Center for our first playoff game on Sunday.  Time is still to be announced.  During the season we played 0-0 and 1-1 draws in LA while beating them here 1-0.  Those results would get us through to the conference finals if we repeat them.  Its a little concerning how LA has turned on its offense tonight but that could jusst be because FSL has been a bad team for two months.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Draw Clinches 2 Seed, Undefeated Home Season

Awarding Axel Sjoberg the C38 Defensive Player of the Year

Opening lineups announced with Jones not listed on the bench

Rapids play down to the Dynamo's level in the first half

Dynamo score from an uncovered far post run

Is it halftime yet?


Meanwhile in LA

Gashi scores his first home goal

Jones subs in:

Both teams push for another goal

Meanwhile, back in LA

Rapids get the draw, the undefeated home season, the #2 seed, and home field in MLS Cup

Obviously we wanted the Shield but I think we all knew that was a lost cause after last week's loss.  The undefeated home season is nothing to sneeze at though.  Only 4 other teams have ever done that.  We also set a new record for lowest goals allowed/game at home and tied the record for total goals allowed at home (7).  Looking at those stats arguably there hasn't even been a tougher place for a visiting team to play than at DSG Park this year.

Next stop, the playoffs.  If FSL upsets LA on Wednesday we'll travel to the winner of Thursday's Seattle-KC matchup.  Otherwise we'll travel out to LA to play the Galaxy.  Regardless the game will be next Sunday, time still to be announced, most likely 5 or 7:30pm MT.

Man of the Match: Shkelzen Gashi.  Mainly for finally getting a home goal.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Still A Lot To Play For Tomorrow

Will we finish 1st, 2nd, or 3rd overall?

Last game of the regular season tomorrow and the Rapids still have a few things to play for.  Breaking it down:

1 point or better gets us a top 2 finish and clinches MLS Cup at home if we make it
1 point or better makes us the 5th team to go undefeated at home for a season
3 points and a win by LA gets us the Supporters Shield
1 goal or less allowed sets a new league record for lowest goals per game allowed at home
0 goals allowed sets a new league record for lowest total goals allowed at home (6)

Kickoff tomorrow of all 10 games is at 2pm.  The tailgate starts at 11 for this one.  The game will be on Altitude for those who can't make it.  We'll all be keeping an eye on the LA-Dallas and RBNY-Philly scores (Rapids can also clinch a top 2 finish if NY doesn't win) while watching this one.

Player Availability:
OUT: M Dillon Serna (season ending ACL tear)
QUESTIONABLE: D Bobby Burling (toe); M Marlon Hairston (leg); M Jermaine Jones (quad)

(Any player who picks up his 5 yellow in this game will be suspended for the first regular season game next year.  Suspensions due to accumulations do not transfer to the playoffs.  Suspensions due to a red card do however.)

Rumor has it both Jones and Hairston will get time tomorrow and we saw Burling last game.  Houston has 2 players out with injury.

Starting XI Prediction:

Not going to make a prediction this week.  Its really hard to tell what Pablo is going to try to accomplish this game.  I'm sure he'll go for at least the draw, clinching the 2nd spot overall and the undefeated home season but will he really push guys to get a win?  I think he wants to get some guys like Jones and Burling playing time to get them ready for the playoffs more than he's worry about the unlikely chance of getting the Shield.

Prediction: 1-0 win, goal by Gashi.  Dallas and LA get a draw and the Rapids lose the Shield on the total wins tiebreaker 17-16 (we're also losing the next two tiebreakers).  The Rapids will do enough to win but they'll try to take it easy and rest up for the playoffs.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Playoff Analysis With A Bit Of Player News

Before we get into my planned analysis of possible playoff opponents here's a bit of player news from today.  Reports are linking the Rapids with Irish striker Daryl Horgan.  He's 24 years old and has been a pro in the League of Ireland since 2010.  Seems like the Irish pipeline between the Emerald Isle and the Mile High City is getting stronger.

Now, onto the playoff analysis.  I figured going into the weekend we should take a look at who we want to play and who we might avoid.  To do that I looked at all our games against the 6 other possible Western opponents, both home and away (since both Western Conference playoff rounds we could be in are 2-legged affairs).

As things stand right now, barring an upset either this weekend (giving us the Shield) or in the wild-card round (knocking off LA) we will play the Galaxy in the Western semifinal round.  This year we beat LA 1-0 at home and tied them 0-0 and 1-1 on the road.  That would be good enough to win the playoff series.

If its not LA then it could be any of the other 4 teams.  FSL, Seattle, KC, and Portland can all finish anywhere between 4th and 7th (out of the playoffs).  Our records this season:

FSL: 1-0 win at home, 0-1 and 2-1 losses on the road.  Those results would be good enough to get us through on the away goals tiebreaker, or at least get us into an overtime at home.

Seattle: 3-1 win at home, 1-0 win on the road.  A great set of results

KC: 1-0 wins at home, 2-1 win on the road.  Due to the away goals rule, this would be our best set of results

Portland: 0-0 draw and 1-0 win at home, 1-0 loss on the road.  This would be the only set of results that could eliminate us, or at best force us into an overtime.

So we really want to face Seattle or KC, LA would be ok, FSL and Portland we'd like to avoid.

Assuming we get past the semifinal round, the Western final would most likely be against Dallas.  Results this weekend would determine which order the home and away game would go in.  Overall this year we had a 1-1 draw at home and a 1-0 win on the road, which would get us through to MLS Cup.  Not that I'm confident in a scenario when we're playing Dallas but history does favor us. :D

Should we make it as far as MLS Cup we could face any of 6 teams from the East.  There's a slight chance (if RBNY wins and we lose this weekend) that we could go to Red Bull Arena for the game, otherwise we'd play it at home.  We only played half the Eastern playoff teams at home this year, including Red Bull.  Our results:

RBNY: 2-1 win

Toronto: 1-0 win

Philly: 1-1 draw

The other 3 we played on the road, but they would come here in the case of MLS Cup:

NYCFC: 5-1 loss

Montreal: 2-2 draw

DC: 1-1 draw

If you assume that the home advantage would help us and going on the road to RBNY would hurt us then we want to avoid going to New York and we want to avoid Philly and NYCFC coming here.  We should feel pretty good about RBNY and Toronto coming here and we should like our chances getting the home advantage against Montreal and DC.

So bottom line, we'd like to see FSL, Portland, and NYCFC eliminated quickly (of course we want that every year with FSL) to avoid our biggest challenges based on our regular season results.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Rapids Show They're More Interested In Cup Than Shield

The Rapids rolled out a lineup and a level of play yesterday that showed that they think the Shield is a "nice to have" achievement.  The reason for this (presumably) was to rest players for the Cup run.  Portland on the other hand was playing for their playoff lives, drew 2 PKs in the first half, converted 1, and that was enough to get the win.  Combined with Dallas' win the Rapids Shield hopes are slim at this point.

General Impressions:
  • If the Rapids don't want to focus on the Shield and rest players for the Cup run that's fine but there are two points:
    • It better work.
    • The Front Office really should have played down the Shield talk over the last couple of weeks, not played it up with things like the #ShieldHunting hashtag and such.
  • Both PK's were legit despite protests.  I assume nobody is complaining about the second.  Burling did get ball on the first but when you bring your trailing leg through the ankle of thee attacking player "getting ball" doesn't matter.
  • Nice job by Howard keeping us in the game with the PK save.
  • I'm guessing Pappa won't be back next year.  He's clearly not bought into Pablo's system.  That said, he should still have gotten more playing time this year than he did.
  • We figured out why Williams hasn't been starting, yuck.
  • Calvert looks good for his age.  He doesn't look good as a starter.
  • I understand why Le Toux and Burch were sat in this game (though given Williams level of play it might have been worth pushing Burch).  I don't understand why a 25 year old Sjoberg and 24 year old Badji were sat with the Shield on the line.
  • Next week we need to see a lineup about what we expect to see in the playoffs so everyone can get a game under their belts working together.  I don't expect Calvert and Williams to get much playoff time.
Man of the Match: Tim Howard.  Duh, he stopped a PK.