Friday, April 18, 2014

Spanish Bombs

The Rapids wouldn't mind some long shots from Jose Mari

Colorado is finally back home tomorrow, facing the San Jose Earthquakes at the Dick.  After missing the last home game its been far too long since I've seen them in person.  San Jose is still looking for their first win this year, while the Rapids have a chance to put up their best ever point total after their first 6 games with at least a draw.  Game time tomorrow is 4pm, with the tailgate starting at 1pm.  If you can't make it, Fleming and Crookham will be calling the game on Altitude.

Injury Report:
OUT: M Brian Mullan (L knee surgery)
QUESTIONABLE: D Chris Klute (R hamstring strain)

Vicente Sanchez and his wife Paula welcomed Mia Valentina into the world on Wednesday so he will be available tomorrow.  Congrats to the whole family!  Meanwhile San Jose has 5 players out, including the annoying Steven Lenhart, and another 3 questionable.  Pablo has almost a full squad to choose from, so it will be interesting to see who starts.  Here's my guess:

In defense, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.  The midfield and attack positions are more of a question mark, but after Sanchez got some rest the last couple of weeks I think we see him back in, and Sturgis seems to fit a bit better on the left than LaBrocca.  If Pablo wants more attack we could see Serna in Sturgis' place.  We may see Chavez if Pablo wants to give him a shot to show his old team what he can do.  Brown worked coming off the bench last week so I think we see the Torres/Buddle pairing again.

Strategic Consideration: Don't get sucked into playing San Jose's physical game.  It feels odd to say that about a Rapids team, but this isn't the same Rapids of a few years ago.  San Jose will try to make the game physical but that works in their favor.

Prediction: 2-0 win, goals by Torres and Buddle.  San Jose is not good and this is a great chance for the Rapids to show they don't play down to their opponent.  Buddle gets #100 at home and Torres finally gets on the score sheet.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Rapids Make It Two For Two In Canada

3 points makes even this ugly game look beautiful.  A lousy pitch and both teams missing their most creative midfielders (Sanchez and Bradley) led to a lot of over the top balls and aimless passing.  The Rapids did a good job of adapting and finding a way to win, but neither team is going to look at this game as a particularly good showing.  Credit to Colorado for getting the job done even in less than ideal circumstances.

My strategic consideration was dealing with Michael Bradley.  Turns out we didn't have to as he didn't play but I think Pablo's lineup assumed he would.  4 ball-holding central midfielders was clearly designed to clog the middle and prevent Bradley (had he been there) from doing anything.

Other Observations:
  • Great team play led up to the goal.  Piermayr found Serna with a great cross-field pass, Serna and Buddle both got two touches during the passing, and Powers followed his first heavy touch all the way to the end line to keep the play alive.
  • Serna's assist was the first assist (or goal) in team history by a homegrown player.
  • Brown starting on the bench, but he seemed to find some space when he came on with fresh legs.
  • Though Serna's entry is really what turned the game.  He was dangerous from his first touch.
  • Torres, on the other hand, was quiet.  He also appears to be carrying a few extra pounds, much like Buddle early last year.  Hopefully that's not the cause of his slow start.
  • You would think that the number of poor fields we'er seeing in the league early this season (NY and Toronto for the Rapids, other league games) would cause the talk of a schedule switch to stop, but it won't.
  • Powers had another good game.  Clearly the best player in either team's midfield.
  • Its starting to look like we may have found our back line.  Klute (or Burch until he's healthy) - Moor - O'Neill - Piermayr have worked well together the last two games.
  • 10 points in 5 games ties the Rapids best total after 5 games (2010).  A result this weekend would set a new record through 6 games.
  • Of course in 2010 we lost our 6th game at San Jose, our opponents at home next Saturday...
Man of the Match: Edson Buddle.  In an ugly game where nobody really stood out, the scorer of the game winning goal deserves to be the MOTM.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Colorado Attempts To Do Something They've Never Done

Rapids @BMO, 0 points, 1 trophy

A second trip to the Great White North in a row as the Rapids are in Toronto tomorrow.  Colorado has never even drawn TFC in Toronto, must less beat them, but despite that it is the scene of our greatest triumph as it was there we won MLS Cup 2010.  Tomorrow's game is at 2pm on Altitude, with the main C38 watch party being at The Armoury.

Injury Report:
OUT: M Brian Mullan (L knee surgery)
QUESTIONABLE: D Chris Klute (R hamstring strain); D Dillon Serna (L ankle sprain)

M Vicente Sanchez (Wife overdue and could go into labor at any point so he did not travel)

Toronto is hurting, already ruing out DP Jermain Defoe along with 3 others and 4 more players are questionable including DP Michael Bradley who is expected to be a game-time decision.  Tomorrow's lineup is hard to predict as Pablo could do any number of things given the availability of players, but here's my guess:

I think Pablo will go back to the main 4-2-3-1 he's been using this season, with perhaps Sturgis in for LaBrocca.  Piermayr traveled to Austria this week to finalize some of his work visa paperwork, he's supposed to be back for the game but I doubt he starts.  We could see Torres back up front with Hill or Eloundou in midfield as well.

Strategic Consideration: Michael Bradley.  My bet is that he plays, and Jose Mari is going to have his work cut out for him if he does.  So far he appears to be the best player in MLS this year.

Prediction: 1-1 draw, goal by Torres.  If Bradley doesn't play we could have a shot at a win, but I feel like a draw is more likely either way.  Torres finally gets on the scoreboard for the season and the Rapids get their first point in Toronto.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

2014 Salaries And A Trade

The union released the player salaries today, here are the Rapids.  The first number is the base salary, the second is the guaranteed 2014 salary.  The cap hit number is generally between the two.

Berner John               $36,500.00 $36,500.00
Brown Deshorn         $75,000.00 $123,000.00
Buddle Edson            $325,000.00 $325,000.00
Burch Marc               $85,000.00 $85,000.00
Chavez Marvin           $200,000.00 $200,000.00
Eloundou Charles       $48,825.00 $53,825.00
Griffiths Brenton         $36,500.00 $36,500.00
Hairston Marlon         $70,000.00 $93,000.00
Hill Kamani                $48,825.00 $48,825.00
Irwin Clint                   $75,000.00 $87,000.00
Klute Chris                  $75,000.00 $80,144.10
LaBrocca Nick           $135,000.00 $153,333.33
Mari Jose                    $230,000.00 $261,000.00
Moor Drew                 $235,000.00 $247,000.00
Mullan Brian                $48,500.00 $48,500.00
Mwanga Danny           $130,000.00 $171,250.00
Nasco Joe                   $50,000.00 $52,693.83
O'Neill Shane              $56,250.00 $67,750.00
Piermayr Thomas         $70,008.00 $74,429.56
Powers Dillon               $95,150.00 $127,650.00
Sanchez Vincente         $210,000.00 $286,666.67
Serna Dillon                  $52,500.00 $65,500.00
Sturgis Nathan              $114,000.00 $120,333.33
Torres Gabriel              $250,000.00 $262,500.00
Van de Casteele Grant $48,500.00 $60,000.00
Watts Jared                  $36,500.00 $36,500.00
Wynne Marvell             $200,000.00 $285,000.00

  • Only 3 guys making the league-minimum $36.5K, Berner, Griffiths, and Watts.  No surprise given that they're 2 second round picks and a mid-season depth pickup.
  • Mullan is only at 50K.  Apparently the Rapids have set aside a roster spot if needed each year for a player who's made a big contribution to the club and is transitioning to his post-playing career.  Last year it was Smith, this year its Mullan.  A loud round of applause for the FO for doing this.  #OneClub
  • Buddle + Chavez + Mwanga = 700K who didn't play in last week's win in Vancouver.  I have hopes for Chavez and his 200K but Buddle and Mwanga continue to look like too much salary for not enough production.
  • I'm surprised to see both Sturgis and LaBrocca making over $125K as they both tend to slot into the same spot next to Jose Mari and it will be odd to see them both on the field at the same time.
  • Both Moor and Wynne we re-signed using the league's retention fund so their cap hits aren't as large as these numbers make it look.
  • Last year's RapKids (Brown, Irwin, Klute, Powers) all got deserved raises.
  • Our salary cap hit is somewhere between 2.5 and 3 million dollars, depending on how much of Moor and Wynne aren't counted against our cap.  That gives us some room to play with since the MLS cap is about 3.1 million this year.
  • Because it was of interest, Hendry Thomas is making $180K in Dallas this year.  It appears that he wanted to leave Colorado to be with Pareja and it wasn't really about the money.
Along those lines we have another Pareja acquisition moving to join up with an ex-coach.  Wilmer Cabrera's Chivas USA has traded for the rights to Martin Rivero, giving us a 4th round pick next year in return.  With Powers' Rookie of the Year campaign and Sanchez's addition the pressure to sign him dropped so getting anything for his rights is a good move.  Maybe he'll turn into the DP we all hoped he'd be at Chivas, but it wasn't worth the Rapids investing the time in him when he was passed by Powers.

Monday, April 7, 2014

El Matador Spears The Whitecaps For Three Points

Last week I realized that readers of this blog probably don't need a full recap of the game.  By Monday you've probably watched it or seen enough of the highlights to make my recap redundant. Instead I'll just give my general observations of the game as a whole as well and revisiting my strategic consideration from my preview.  Let me know if you like the new model or want the recap back.

So my general observation of this game is that Vancouver was generally the better team but didn't dominate us.  They generally had the better chances and the stats back that up, with 7 shots on target to Colorado's 3 (and 2 of those were the goals).  Surprisingly to me Colorado actually had more possession but it felt like the Whitecaps did more with the ball when they had it, at least when it was 11 on 11.

My strategic consideration was how well the remixed back 4 did.  It wasn't as mixed as I expected, with Burch able to start, but Vancouver still got far too many good looks at the goal with only some great defensing form Irwin saving the game.

Other Observations:
  • Great to see Irwin back in net, and he showed why he's the starter with a couple of big saves, including one huge one when Moor was starting down a 3 on 1 right after we gave up the goal.  Without Clint we don't win.
  • There wasn't a whole lot of off the ball movement from either team in the first half.  That led to a bit of a disjointed mess.
  • The Vancouver goal was a bit of poor play from the Rapids but a lot of good play from Vancouver.  Its not often that both Drew Moor and Shane O'Neill will be beat on headers on the same play, but Kenny Miller certainly took advantage of some poor positioning from O'Neill and Mattocks is just faster than Moor (and most other defenders in the league).
  • Jose Mari's first goal should clearly win Goal of the Week and is a candidate for Goal of the Year.  ESPNFC picked it as the goal of the weekend from all the leagues they cover.  His 2nd goal was picked 10th on the weekend.
  • We now have goals that didn't start as PKs!
  • His bullfighting goal celebration has already gotten him the nickname El Matador from the fans, though El Torero is probably a more accurate name.
  • Of course the elephant (or perhaps bull) in the room is the red card to Laba.  I agree with some Vancouver fans who are complaining that a foul wasn't called on LaBrocca, many refs would have called it.  It wasn't so obvious that a play on was wrong though.  That doesn't excuse Laba's decision to grab a live ball while already on a yellow though.  If he had grabbed it as he went down as we see quite often I think he would have gotten away with it.  instead he waited  a beat until he knew he wasn't getting a call and LaBrocca was already approaching the ball to go on the counter.  That makes it a yellow as he broke up a Rapids attack.  If the ref had it to do over with 20/20 hindsight I bet he calls LaBrocca for the foul to avoid that situation, but once Laba put him in that spot he had to pull the yellow.
  • Oh, and there was a yellow on Laba in the 54th minute and then a second yellow for the hand ball in the 77th minute.  It was not two yellows for the same incident in the 77th minute as Fleming and Balboa kept repeating all the way through the post game.  Somebody off camera/mic really should have gotten them that info at some point in the final 20+ minutes of coverage.
  • Of course their inability to tell that Jose Mari's second goal actually went in is another indicator that KSE really needs to give the Rapids enough money to send Richard and Marcelo to away games.  When they don't have any better view than we do at home it makes them hard to really enhance the broadcast. 
  • Piermayr was quiet and solid in his first start for the Rapids, which is the kind of result you want from a new defender.
  • Torres had a great overhead kick that put Brown in for a shot that he missed by that much (tm Maxwell Smart).  Had Brown finished it Torres' assit might have made it a Goal of the Year candidate.
  • It feels like both Torres and Brown are this close to putting it all-together and going on a tear, hopefully they get over that hump soon.
  • Charles Eloundou!  I liked his energy and effort off the bench.  I'd start him before I started Hill again, who was largely invisible.
  • 4 points in our first 2 road games is almost a quarter of the points we got in 17 road games last year.  Nothing to complain about there.
Man of the Match: Jose Mari.  This really should be split between Irwin and Jose Mari, but you can't not give it to somebody who scores two goals of the quality he did.  That's a quick way to becoming a fan favorite.  Ole!