Friday, March 6, 2015

Season Kickoff!!!! Rapids At Union

PPL Park yesterday

The 2015 season is here!  Well not here, its not here for another two weeks but its in Philly tomorrow.  The season starts at 2pm MST and the weather won't be as bad as above, though still cold.  'Celo and Fleming will have the call on Altitude.  C38 will be having their season kickoff party at the Celtic starting at noon.

Ugly facts for this game:
  • The last time the Rapids won a game was July 25th.
  • The last time the Rapids won a game over an existing MLS team was June 28th.
  • The last time the Rapids won a road game was April 12th.
  • The last time the Rapids won a road game on this side of the 49th parallel was September 7th 2013. No that's not a typo.

Injury Report:
OUT: D Drew Moor (ACL); M Charles Eloundou (fitness)
UNAVAILABLE: GK Zac MacMath (loanees can't play against owning team)

Philly is missing goalkeeper Andre Blake but are otherwise healthy.  Reports are that Shane O'Neill is still fighting a stomach bug and may not be fit enough to start.  Also Clint Irwin spent a lot of time this week working on the CBA as one of the team's player reps and may not have had enough practice time to start.  Brown and Powers are also struggling with fitness.  My guess on our first starting XI of the 2015 season: 


I'm assuming that with a bye week next week we'll give all the questionable players the full two weeks to get to full fitness.  That leaves us with somewhat of a mess of a lineup and only 4 players from the 2014 team starting.

Strategic Consideration: You see that lineup?  That's a lot of new blood to integrate.  Are these guys ready to play together as a team?

Prediction: 1-1 draw, goal by Torres.  The patchwork back line with Berner between the sticks won't be able to get a shutout but our dangerous midfield will be able to set up our DPs to combine for the first goal of the season.  The winless streak stretches to 15 but a point on the road is nothing to sneeze at.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Colorado Adds Yellow To Its History Of Jersey Colors


To Green/White, Green/Black, Green, White, Blue/Black, Burgundy, Light Blue, and Blue you can now add Yellow.  The Rapids new alternate/secondary/road kit was unveiled tonight and its quite...bright.  The blue accents and the pairing with the blue shorts prevents it from looking like a FSL kit, which makes it much better than the flag kit from the last two years, but it just doesn't scream Rapids to me.  It screams Sweden actually.  Any chance it helps us land Zlatan?  :D  It would look better with the regular badge and not the red/blue badge that has looked awful for 3 seasons now.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

2015 Season Preview

Well the big news in the last couple hours is that the owners and the players have agreed to a new Collective Bargaining Agreement and the season will start as planned.  For the Rapdis that means 2pm MST in Philly on Saturday.

Also today the Rapids announced they had signed their final draft pick, striker Dominque Badji, to a contract.  No surprise with the amount of play he's gotten this preseason.  That leaves Colorado with 26 signed players and 7 of 8 international spots filled.  We'll have to see what the roster rules are with the new CBA to know if the Rapids have room to make any more moves.

Along those lines the Post's Daniel Boniface was at training and had a few updates.  Charles Eloundou is now in camp so his visa issues have apparently been settled.  Trialists James Riley and Ben Newnam while trialists Benji Joya, Oscar Montoya, and Francisco Flores have not been seen in a couple of days.  Wes Knight was officially released Saturday and VDC and Neeskens were not present (Neeskens is under contract, VDC isn't).

So with all that I've updated my camp roster, it will be at the bottom of the preview.

The Rapids certainly attempted to improve this offseason, though I don't think they've done enough yet.

Goalkeeper: Clint Irwin is back and should be the #1.  Sounds like that he's missed some time this week as a player rep in the CBA talks and MacMath is ineligible to play against his home team so Berner could get the start on Saturday.  Based on preseason I think Irwin will be the nominal #1 but I expect he and MacMath to both get starts.  That's bad, but it seems to be Pablo's way.  If the two of them can settle into friendly competition as a way of staying at the top of their game that might work.  If one or the other feels like they're being disrespected we could see a repeat of the second half of 2014.  The silver lining is that I would think Irwin would see MacMath as more worthy of taking starts from him than Nasco and Berner were last season.

Defense: This seems like a mismash of talent that if we can find the right combo with we'll be in good shape, but it might take a while still to figure that out.  I think O'Neill and Harrington will start almost every game they're available for, but the other two positions are murky.  The big question mark is will Moor return to his old level after the injury?  If so that gives us 3 solid positions.  If he doesn't he'll still start for a while but I'm not sure how confident I am in any of the other CBs to play in his place.  Burling has experience, Sjober has the physical stature, and Watts is Watts.

As far as right back this is what I wrote last year:
Right back seems particularly questionable.  O'Neill might be good.  Wynne might be able to move back there.  Bursch might be able to fill in.  There doesn't seem to be a great fit on the roster though.  We can duct-tape our way through another season but we should really look at finding a true right back.
Substitute Riley (if signed) for Wynne and I could use the same statement about this year's team.  One of the areas we failed to address this offseason.

Midfield: The Rapids made their biggest strides this offseason in the middle of the aprk.  Sarvas, Pittinari, and Ramirez all look like solid starters already.  Mix in Powers, Sanchez, Serna and Torres and we've got a MLS-quality midfield with at least a couple of backups.  This should be the strength of the team this season and the key will be figuring out the best 5 (assuming we use the 4-2-3-1 formation we've been seeing in preseason) on a given night.

Forward: Um, yeah, nothing much happened here.  We signed Badji!  Otherwise we're apparently hoping that what we have can get us enough goals until a move can be made.  At this point I think the assumption is that Kevin Doyle will be joining the team but the question is when.  If we have to wait for the July transfer window then Brown, Torres, and Badji are going to have to figure out how to score without a holding forward.  If somehow we can get Doyle before the end of Wolves season then we can probably muddle through for a few games until he gets here.  If we don't make any move at all we're in trouble.

Bench: The quality depth is paper thin in defense and forward.  We saw that in Arizona when anyone but the expected starting group got on the field.  Its not pretty.  Even after the top 7 midfielders things take a nose dive.  The only place where we're absolutely set is goalkeeper.  Lets hope players stay healthy and out of trouble.

Coaching:  I don't see much improvement here.  As far as I can tell Pablo's planned trip to Arsenal to work with Wenger never happened.  Instead he went to 'Boro for a week and spent time with former Rapid and current Boro manager Aitor Karnaka.  No knock on Aitor but that's not exactly the same thing.  No experienced assistant coaches were brought in to help, instead two more of the 2010 midfield were added as rookie coaches, Claudio Lopez and Brian Mullan.  I think its great that so many ex-players are now involved in the club (Jamie Smith from that midfield is working with the Academy) but it was clear last season that Pablo needed some experienced advice to level out some rookie mistakes.  Hopefully he got enough experience on his own I guess.

Overall I think we improved, but the rest of the West improved more on average.

So here are my predictions for the season, last year I got just over half of my predictions correct:

  • We're not really a playoff threat this season but we improve from last year's disaster.
  • The winless streak reaches 17 games before being broken on Jameson Night
  • Pablo makes it through 2015 as coach and is not immediately fired after the season
  • We do win back the Rocky Mountain Cup in an upset, its a large part of why Pablo keeps his job
  • We host a USOC game but we still go losing a game we were favored in
  • Doyle joins in July and proves to be a great, but too late, signing
  • Torres wins the team Golden Boot
  • Irwin or MacMath leaves at the end of the year if not before
  • Ramirez turns out to be worth the young DP slot, but Pittinari returns to Argentina after his loan
  • We go most of the season without a jersey sponsor, again

Updated camp 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:
Carlos Alvarez
Sam Cronin
Marlon Hairston
Nick LaBrocca
Lucas Pittinari*
Dillon Powers
Juan Ramirez*
Marcelo Sarvas
Dillon Serna
Jared Watts

Forwards:
Dominique Badji*
Deshorn Brown*
Caleb Calvert
Charles Eloundou* (not yet in camp, visa issues)
Vicente Sanchez
Gabriel Torres*

Unsigned but still around:
D Joseph Greenspan (draftee, on Naval duty through 2017 probably, was in Vegas)
D Ben Newnam (trialist)
D James Riley
D Grant Van de Casteele
F Kevin Doyle* (negotiating)

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Rapids Lose Finale To FSL Despite Man Advantage

The Rapids starting XI for last night's Desert Diamond Cup finale:

Irwin
Riley - Burling - Sjoberg - Harrington
Sarvas - Pittinari
Sanchez - Torres - Serna
Badji

Interesting that Badji and Riley got one more shot with a mostly first team in support around them.  The Rapids would only make one change, replacing Serna with Alvarez in the 78th minute.  It only took 8 minutes for FSL to find the hole in defense and put themselves in the lead.  Garcia was left unmarked on the far post (Riley seemed to be the closest Rapid) and Gil found him on the cross for the early lead.

Then the game intensity was turned up a few notches as a couple of long-time FSL players (Saborio, Beckerman) decided to remind everyone that these two teams plain don't like each other (TM Keith Jackson).  A couple of quick yellows from both of them.  Credit to the Rapids ass they fought their way back in the 28th minute.  Rimando spilled a Sanchez shot and Serna was there to clean up the rebound.  Saborio was lucky not to see a second yellow after taking out Irwin just before half and we hit the break 1-1.

It didn't take long after the half for FSL to regain the lead.  An unnecessary free kick was given up in the 50th minute.  In the aftermath of the foul Saborio got tangled up with Harrington and picked up that second yellow, leaving FSL a man down.  However Morales finished directly from the free kick to give FSL the 2-1 lead before the Rapids could touch the ball with a man advantage.

Sadly, after that point, Colorado seemed to have no plan and no answers to break down the FSL defense.  It felt very similar to 2014.  Its a good indicator that we didn't do enough to help our strikers which isn't a surprise since at this point we've done exactly nothing to bolster our strike corps.  Badji looks like he's going to get a contract, either in Colorado or Charlotte, and Doyle sounds like he'll be coming eventually, but until then its probably going to be Brown or Torres up top and that doesn't look like its going to be good enough.  The game ended 2-1 with FSL standing on the ball as much as possible.

And with that the preseason is over.  Next stop is Philly for the season opener at 2pm on Saturday.  That assumes that the players union and the owners agree to a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) this week or come to some understanding to start the season while negotiations continue.  I expect that to happen though, which seems to put me in the minority of fans.

Between now and next Saturday I'll have a season preview and some season predictions.  Also on Thursday night we'll have the reveal of the new road/alternate jersey.  My real job has a release on Thursday so that may prevent me from going in person but I'm sure we'll have images and press releases to discuss by later that evening.  Then my first game preview on Friday night.

For those that don't know Centennial 38 will be hosting its season kickoff party at the Celtic Tavern in LoDo on Saturday.  Party starts at noon and there will be drink specials, a silent auction of Rapids merchandise. door prizes, and a FIFA tournament.  In prior years we've also had special guests (last year it was Pablo signing his contract) but with the team actually playing in Philly I doubt anyone will be available. ;)  That will all wrap up by 2 for the season kickoff.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Rapids Sign LaBrocca, Alvarez, Give Burch New Contract

Today the Rapids made the LaBrocca re-signing official and also announced the re-signing of Carlos Alvarez.  I like the Alvarez re-signing, though with how crowded our midfield is getting I wonder if he's going to get any time.  Marc Burch, who was under contract, also got a new contract.  With those moves that puts us at a total of 25 signed players for 2015, with 6 of 8 international spots filled.  We're still waiting on the new CBA to find out what the new roster rules will be and how the usL affiliation will play into it.

Updated camp 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:
Carlos Alvarez
Sam Cronin
Marlon Hairston
Nick LaBrocca
Lucas Pittinari*
Dillon Powers
Juan Ramirez*
Marcelo Sarvas
Dillon Serna
Jared Watts

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

Unsigned but in AZ or negotiating:
D Francisco Flores* (trialist)
D Joseph Greenspan (draftee, on Naval duty through 2017 probably, was in Vegas)
D Wes Knight (trialist)
D Ben Newnam (trialist)
D James Riley
D Grant Van de Casteele
M Benji Joya
M Oscar Montoya (trialist)
F Dominique Badji* (draftee)
F Kevin Doyle* (negotiating)

Unsigned and not in AZ:
GK Quentin Westberg
D Matt Jeffrey (draftee, not in camp)
D Patrick Slogic (Charlotte player)
M Andrew Ribiero (Charlotte player)
F Billy Schuler