Friday, April 20, 2018

Bring On The Rocky Mountain Cup!

The first of three matches (with the first two in Sandy this year) in the 2018 Rocky Mountain Cup is upon us.  The trip out to 3.2 beer land is a highlight(?) of the season, and this might be the year we have a chance to get a win, something we haven't done since 2006.  Kickoff tomorrow is 7pm and for those of us who haven't made the trip 'Celo and Fleming have the call on Altitude.  C38 will be gathering in a few places on the Front Range but the major watch party will be at the Celtic.

Player Availability: 
OUT: D Kortne Ford (L MCL sprain); D Marlon Hairston (right knee surgery)
QUESTIONABLE: D Danny Wilson (undisclosed)

Also Nikki Jackson has been loaned to the Switchbacks so he'll be staying in Colorado for their game tomorrow night.  FSL has 3 players out and 4 questionable.

Hudson hasn't shown much desire to tinker with what's worked so I think it might take a while before Boli, Aigner, and Gashi get into the starting XI.  I'm hopeful that the Colvey/Serna swap in the first half last week showed that Serna needs to start in Hairston's absence.  The rest is the same as we've seen for a few games.

Prediction: 2-1 win, goals by Badji and Gashi.  Honestly, as long as we don't drop the points in stoppage time, I won't be too upset with a draw as it guarantees that the Cup will be up for grabs at the home game in August.  That said, if we're going to get a win at Rio Tinto, this might be our best chance so far.  FSL is giving up 2 goals a game while barely scoring over 1, while the Rapids are averaging just under 2 a game while giving up 1.  Even with being the road team those stats are solidly in our favor.

And a reminder of what we're playing for:

Monday, April 16, 2018

B Team Rapids Handle B Team TFC

The Rapids did what they were supposed to do and beat a weakened TFC side on Saturday.  A number of people are discrediting the win because we were facing TFC's B team while they rested for the CCL.  Its true, they didn't have many regular starters (other than Drew Moor!) but many of these analysts are ignoring what the Rapids were missing, upwards of 7 starters weren't in the starting XI.  Ford, Wilson, Hairston. Gashi, Aigner, and one of Boli/Mason (and arguably both of them) were expected to be pat of our best eleven but didn't start the game.  Really it was our B+ team against the B- team of the "best team in MLS history" and the Rapids got the job done.

Other Observations:

  • Gotta love starting with a goal before half the fans have sat down.  Great shot from Price and its the only goal this season not from a striker.
  • Colvey started again, which seemed a poor choice early as TFC relentlessly attacked his side of the defense.  Kudos to Hudson for seeing the problem and making a first half tactical sub to bring in Serna.  That shut down TFC's hope of going up that side.
  • The Rapids could have, and probably should have, had a multi-goal lead at half as only some great defense and a big save kept them off the board.
  • Meanwhile TFC only had 2 good looks at goal until late in the game and things were pretty much wrapped up.
  • Badji's PK call is one I'm happy to see called.  If he went down on first contact its a no-brainer PK but he tried to fight through it and didn't fully go down for a couple of steps, making it look more like a dive.  By rewarding him for trying to fight through it, even though he failed, it sets a good standard to avoid diving on easy contact instead of staying alive to take the shot.
  • We had a Gashi sighting!  Great PK, good goal celebration, and wicked shot that looked like a certain 3rd goal late until Irwin came out of nowhere to save it.  Reminded everyone of what we've been missing.
  • Also Boli made his debut!  Up 2-0 and just trying to kill the game off he didn't have to do much but good to see him get minutes.
  • Sjoberg looked good again as a starter.  There's no reason he shouldn't be starting in Ford's place over Wynne.
  • Castillo is having a very-quiet very-high quality start to this season.  Probably the most consistent player we have.
  • McBean made a good run on the first goal.  Other than that he was largely quiet.  He's at best 4th in the pecking order now and I'd rather see Jackson and make McBean 5th.
  • Price's yellow late was dumb.  There's no reason to go into that tackle up 2-0.  As good of a game as he had that was a blemish and I'm guessing, with the high intensity FSL game this weekend, he'll pick up a 5th and miss the next home game.
  • This was probably the most complete game the Rapids have played this season.  They've been better in spurts but not for the full 90.
  • Despite that we still lost the possession battle.  I think we just have to get used to that.  
  • Great to see Irwin and Moor back at DSG.  Moor is one of the all-time greats and we'll see his name in the Gallery of Honor once he retires.
  • The Rapids have 9 goals in their first 5 games.  The last time we did that was 2006!
  • Next up, Rocky Mountain Cup Part 1.  All I ask is that we get a least a point (though I think FSL is beatable) to make sure the final game in Colorado is meaningful.
Man of the Match: Dominque Badji.  He didn't show up on the score sheet in this one but he had a hell of a game.  He's turned into a complete player over the last few months and this game really showed how dangerous he can be.  He was causing trouble for the TFC defense all day and was heavily involved the whole game.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Deja Vu At The Dick

Stop me if you've seen this before...

For the 3rd time in 7 games the Rapids face Toronto FC tomorrow out in Commerce City.  It will be warmer (but not much) than the 3 degree kickoff we had in February at least.  Toronto has been preoccupied with their success in the CCL (which started on that cold night by beating us 2-0) and faces Chivas in the first leg of the final next week.  Because of that TFC coach Greg Vanney said this about the Rapids game:
It’s very simple: We’re not prioritizing the Colorado game, there’s no sense even saying we are. Anyone who is healthy and hasn’t been playing a ton will find their way onto the field. I don’t know what my lineup will be. I don’t know what my shape will be.
 So, we have that going for us at least.  Because of Canadian TV kickoff is an odd 1pm tomorrow so the tailgate starts at 10am.  Come join us for brunch!  Those who can't make it can catch 'Celo and Fleming on Altitude as usual.

Player Availability:
OUT: D Kortne Ford (L MCL sprain); D Marlon Hairston (right knee surgery)
QUESTIONABLE: D Eric Miller (calf); D Danny Wilson (undisclosed); M Shkelzen Gashi (calf injury); M Enzo Martinez (undisclosed)

So, yeah, that's not great.  Essentially we're as limited as we were last week in Dallas.  I'd look at TFC's availability but from Vanney's comments it sounds like he's just going to run the second team out there anyway (they even made 3 signings from their USL team this week to fill out the roster for this match).

That selection of Serna is largely wishful thinking from me.  Colvey did not look good last week so I really hope we see Serna getting a chance.  Otherwise I don't think there's going to be any changes from what we saw last week unless Gashi, Martinez, or Wilson are a lot closer to being healthy than it appears.  I do think we see Boli as a sub this week though.

Prediction: 1-1 draw, goal by Mason.  Despite the talk of "the greatest team of all time" (which, to be fair, they appear to be backing up in their CCL play) TFC hasn't beaten us in a game we wanted to win since 2015.  They haven't beaten us in Colorado in almost 10 years (Aug of '08).  I don't see those streaks ending tomorrow with a makeshift Toronto lineup.  Toledo is the ref, which means something crazy is likely to happen, and we haven't played 90 minutes of soccer yet this season so I doubt either side gets a clean sheet.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Rapids Drop Points At The End...Again

For the third game (out of four) this season the Rapids dropped points by conceding a goal in the 89th minute or later.  Colorado has now dropped as many points this way as they've gained this season, 5.  Its an unacceptable pattern.  Seeing it happen 3 times during a season would be border line unacceptable, to see it in 75% of a team's games is atrocious.  Until Hudson and the players can solve this problem this team is going nowhere.  Last year 5 points was the difference between 8th place (missing the playoffs) and 4th place (hosting the wild-card game).  There's a very good chance that this year we'll see a similar difference and we really don't want to be on the wrong side of that.

Other observations:

  • The second big takeaway from this match is that our big offensive signings can't get on the field.  Of the 21 competitive matches the team has played since Aigner was signed, he's started 5 and came off the bench in 5 others.  I understand the club is trying to let him feel physically comfortable with playing but at some point he either needs to start earning his salary or get out.
  • For Gashi its not much better, 41 starts and 6 sub appearances in 74 possible matches.  So combined for those two that's 46 starts and 11 sub appearances out of 95 matches.  That's a horrible rate for a DP and a TAM attacker.
  • Similarly I think it might be time to call the Boateng signing a bust.  He looked ineffectual in this one as a starter and he hasn't looked good in any match since his injury.
  • Price is a card magnet, with 3 straight yellow cards now.  I like what he brings but we have to expect he's going to miss 2-3 matches this season due to discipline.
  • Gotta love Badji and Mason running towards goal like they did on the score.  That's going to make some defenses play back this season.
  • Its also going to make it hard for Boli to get on the field, a nice problem to have.
  • Our midfield is non-existent this season.  We have yet to break 46% possession in a game and our midfield's inability to hold the ball is largely why.
  • Wynne was beat on the goal, again.  He's just not MLS starter quality.  I understand we were limited in choices for this one due to injury but Miller would be a better choice.  And once Wilson is healthy Sjoberg should take Ford's spot.
  • Colvey was,,,not good.  The kid got a chance but he's not ready.  Serna should play the next couple of weeks while Hairston heals.
  • Howard did not look good on the goal.  Could he have saved it?  Probably not.  Should he have at least made an attempt?  Yeah.  His habit of standing there watching goals go bye this season is not exactly confidence-building.
  • But hey, he got us some national media coverage after the game!
  • Odd subs in this one, bringing Azira in after the tying goal had been scored.  Glad to see him finally but we needed him before the goal.
  • I love the fact that we've scored every game but the stats don't back up us being that dangerous.  We rarely get corner kicks and as mentioned, we aren't controlling the ball.  I'm afraid a reversion to the mean is coming.
Man of the Match: Joe Mason.  Yeah, I went the easy route and chose the goal scorer.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Rapids Head To Their Favorite Playoff Stadium

In case you missed it :D

We're off to see our old friends in Dallas tomorrow.  Sadly its a regular season game where we're hit and miss in Texas, unlike our general success in the playoffs.  Of course Oscar 'traitor' Pareja is still in charge of F*C* Dallas though most of the former Rapids have moved on from the roster (Figueroa is still there).  Game time tomorrow is 6pm and the game is on Altitude 2 (channel 900 on Denver Comcast systems).  C38 will be at Celtic, which has been announced as the permanent home for C38 this season, with the exception of some special occasions.

Player Availability:
OUT: D Kortne Ford (L MCL sprain); M Shkelzen Gashi (calf injury)
QUESTIONABLE: D Marlon Hairston; D Danny Wilson

Dallas has 4 players out and another two questionable, so both teams are hurting.  Losing two key components of our defense hurts.  I feel confident with our backups for Wilson, less so with Hairston.

We could also see Wynne pushed out to Hairston's position and Miller playing in the middle but I'm guessing Hudson will want to minimize changes on the back line.  The forwards are a toss up but I expect Boli to come off the bench before he gets a start.

Prediction: 2-1 loss, goal by Mason.  The Rapids have not been a good road team for a while (one win in the last 19 road games, with never more than a single goal scored) and the Dallas is finishing a 4 game homestand to start the season.  Odds are not good for Colorado to break its road woes tomorrow.  I think we continue to improve and we don't look outmatched, but Dallas gets the result.