Thursday, October 30, 2014

Say Ciao To Jersey Sponsorship?

This Denver Post headline does not bode well for the future of the Ciao sponsorship:
Colorado Rapids sue Ciao Telecom over missed sponsorship payments
The article details how Ciao only paid $75K of the initial $80K to close the sponsorship deal and since then they've missed payments of $240K both at the end of Q2 and Q3, with a third payment of the same amount due at the end of next month.  The Rapids have now filed a lawsuit for the missing $725K.

The Post's reporting also details some of the risk involved for the Rapids, showing that the company hasn't made an SEC filing since March and in March the company had roughly $2 million in hand against $65 million in liabilities.  The other club the company sponsors, Reggina Calcio in Serie B has removed all Ciao marketing from their website.

Chris Bianchi, still reporting on the team despite being fired by, tweeted the following today:
Re missing shirt sponsor payments: club did not formalize shirt sponsorship with Ciao in Feb. over concerns this might happen.

Ciao stability was a concern stretching back to winter. Could take away arguably greatest club success of season in acquiring shirt sponsor.

Rapids had a rough deal in place in Feb for shirt sponsorship. Team - not Ciao, as I understand - then backed away to conduct more research.
None of this is good news for the Rapids.  They signed a 5 year deal worth 8.3 million in April and didn't get full payment then, followed by the first missed payment 3 months later.  The best case scenario from my POV at this point is that the Rapids manage to get the $725K their owed at this point out of Ciao and then terminate the relationship.  I don't see a scenario where the Ciao sponsorship actually continues into 2015, much less through 2018.

So that puts us back to almost square one on a jersey sponsorship.  Its also unknown what this does in terms of the planned investment this off-season we heard so much about in the last couple of weeks.  We know that the Front Office got approval from KSE to spend more money on scouting, coaching staff, and authorization for a second DP but I'm guessing that was at least partially due to the additional funds the sponsorship brought in.  Without that cash will the Front Office still be able to achieve their off-season plans?

The other question is how long will it take to find a new sponsor?  There have been numerous rumors that Fort Collins' OtterBox made an offer that was declined, are they still interested?  Tim Hinchey talked on more than one occasion that they were taking their time to find a company that shared the team's values and had a connection to Colorado, and they weren't going to just go with any national company that expressed interest to MLS.  That's one thing that made the Ciao announcement surprising to me as the company had no real connection to Colorado.  I've been told by multiple people today though that MLS had a hand in setting up the Ciao sponsorship.  Does that mean the league didn't vet Ciao?  Did the Rapids abandon their goal of a company with local connections that shared their values?  Will that make it easier to find another sponsor?

The Rapids and the league have not made any official comment on this story yet.  From what we know up to this point though, it appears the team felt pressured, either from the league, fans, or KSE to make a deal and get a sponsorship done and took an offer they knew they were wary of.  Unfortunately it blew up and left egg on their faces, again.  Sadly this is just another in a line of bad incidents this month for the Rapids.

Monday, October 27, 2014

That's All Folks!

The Rapids ended the season but not their winless streak with a 1-0 loss in Vancouver.  More of the same sadly, a lack of any offensive bite until too late and a free kick that beat them.  With that this long season is finally at an end.  For the playoffs I'm jumping on the Revolution bandwagon.  The Midnight Riders are good people and deserve a MLS Cup and Jermaine Jones is one of my favorite Nats right now.
  • The Rapids actually went with my advice and started 7 players 25 years old or younger (Torres turns 26 on Friday).  All 3 subs were also under 25.
  • Their tallest player marked Zat Knight on our attacking set pieces.  Our tallest player (Knight) did not mark their tallest player on defensive set pieces and that player scored the only goal.  Coincidence?
  • Generally in the time he's played I haven't been impressed with Zat Knight.  Not enough to give him another $140K contract next season.  If he wanted to take a discount on that to get it down towards $100K maybe.
  • The Rapids finish at 0.941 pts/game, the second worst in team history.  Had they finished with one less point it would have "beaten" 2001's 0.923 pts/game.
  • The 8th placed finish in the West is the worst finishing position in team history.  The team has finished last in the conference before, but that was before there were 8 (or 9) teams in the conference.
  • The 14 game winless streak is tied for 8th worse all time in league history.
  • The 2 points in 14 games is the worst single-season run in league history (FSL had 1 point in 15 games between the end of 2005 and the start of 2006).
  • Colorado gave up a league worst 62 goals this season.
  • Colorado scored 43 goals this season, 13th in the league.  This is right in line with our goal scoring since the league went to 34 games in 2011 (44, 44, and 45)
Later this week I'll have my opinion on the expansion draft and a season review.  News will probably be quiet until the expansion draft (and now dispersal draft with Chivas USA being officially contracted today) in early December.
Man of the Match: Charles Eloundou.  He created all the decent offensive chances before the Vancouver goal on his own.  I'm glad he's already under contract for 2015.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Once More Unto The Breach Dear Friends

A baker's dozen without a win now

For one last time in 2014 the Rapids take the field trying to break their winless streak.  If they succeed in Vancouver they will go 5-0-0 against Canada this year, which is about all we could take out of this season,  Otherwise its 14 in a row and 1 win in 18 to end the season.  Kickoff for this last one is 8pm tomorrow on Altitude.

Injury Report:
OUT: DF Drew Moor (L ACL tear); MF Brian Mullan (L knee injury); DF Thomas Piermayr (L MCl sprain)
QUESTIONABLE: DF Marc Burch (hamstring tightness);  MF Kamani Hill (rib contusion)

Disciplinary Report:

Vancouver is just missing two players out injured, otherwise their at full strength.  I dare not predict a lineup at this point but if it were me I'd start every healthy player 25 years old or younger, then fill in the gaps with experienced players.  We've got nothing to lose so why not see young guys like VDC, Boss, and Eloundou?

Strategic Consideration: I remember when I had something of note to write here.  It seems so long ago.

Prediction: 2-1 loss, goal by Brown.  Vancouver needs to match what Portland does in Dallas tomorrow to clinch the last playoff spot.  Dallas kicks off 90 minutes before the Rapids so Vancouver will have to put out a full-strength lineup.  Even if they find out before kickoff that the Timbers are getting blasted by Pareja & Co. just having their best players at home on turf will be enough to beat Colorado at this point.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Front Office Q&A Wrap-Up

Last week the Rapids Front Office held a Town Hall for C38 at the Celtic.  Apologies for the late update but an illness and a busy release week schedule prevented me from getting to it until now.  Here are some of the highlights from the notes I took.

Present: Richard Fleming (RF), Paul Bravo (PB), Tim Hinchey (TH), Pablo Mastroeni (PM), Drew Moor (DM)
Format: Written questions from the audience asked to the panel by Fleming, followed by one-on-one time with the panel

Also present in the audience but not participating was Zat Knight (and wow, he's a big guy!).

The first question asked was about who sets the goals for the team and what happens if they aren't met.  TH said they set goals collectively and their goals this year, as they have been every year, were to be a consistent winner, make the playoffs, and win trophies.  Specifically in regards to this year TH said that there will be more investment in the technical staff this offseason and there will be no staff changes in the Front Office or technical staff.

PM was asked about the constant shuffling of lineups and if it hurts results.  PM said continuity was good but early in the season when the lineups were shuffling they were still getting good results, and more recently injuries and suspensions have forced many lineup changes.

PB was asked about Claudio Lopez's role in the organization and responded that while he isn't officially part of the organization right now he is scouting for the team in South America.

TH had the next question about the money available from KSE backing up the team's stated ambition.  TH said that he has no criticism for the money KSE is spending on the team since they bought the team, built the stadium, fully funded the youth academies, etc.  They have now authorized more spending on FO and technical staff, more spending on technology, and they have authorized the addition of a second Designated Player this offseason.

The next question was to PM asking about the team's style of play.  The response was that the team was taking the space that other teams we're giving them.

After a couple of less important questions (PB all but confirmed that Chivas USA is going away) TH was asked to address the communication strategy from the FO.  He said that they're working on it and there will be more investment in that.

DM got a chance at his first question when he addressed the motivation of the players right now.  He says the players are well motivated and are frustrated with the current run.

PB was asked if the goal each year is just to do good enough to make a playoff run or is it more than that.  PB responded that they want to win every trophy they have a shot at (MLS Cup, Shield, U.S. Open Cup, Rocky Mountain Cup).  TH then jumped in and said that they feel continuity is critical to success and they haven't done a very good job of that in recent seasons, citing specifically the coaching staff and player turnover.  He then laid out the specific goal of the team (quoted as accurately as I could on the fly):
 We aim to be a well run club that competes in every competition and has the success we want
Following that was a suggestion of a Caribous of Colorado inspired 3rd kit which got a lot of laughs and wasn't entirely ruled out by anyone.

Then it was time to get serious again as the first of my two questions was asked.  Roughly:
With 2 of the last 3 seasons being among the worst in team history, what will you do differently in 2015 to get a better result?
TH's answer was that they were going to use 2013, which was one of the 3 most successful in team history, as a model (and that is accurate based on the same metric, pts/game, I was using to measure the two poor seasons).  They plan to get Pablo prefoession opportunites in the offseason, specifically he's already been invited to spend time with Arsenal and Arsene Wenger.  They'll be able to plan for the transfer window in advance and make some investments.  They're investing in scouting, including the trip the week before PB took to Arsenal, PSG, and Spain.

PB was encouraged to get ex-Rapids in the area involved, which he says he's working on.

TH then got my second question:
How do you respond to Arsenal making their first trip to the States since the 80's and not even mentioning the Rapids, their partner club?
TH said it was a fair question and that they contacted the Rapdis before they made the announcement.   Arsenal's original plan wasn't to trael this offseason and TH felt that the travel roster reflected that, but the team was offered a million-dollar payday for a single game against RBNY and decided to take it (left unsaid was the Thierry Henry connection.  TH said they're working on the relationship to build up trust and a good example of it was last week's trip.  A result of that trip was that the Rapids will get access to Arsenal's scouting network now.  TH believes Arsenal will eventually make the trip to Colorado.

Pm was asked if there were any positives at all that came out of this winless streak.  There was a lot of spin in his answer but said that he will never again make the same mistakes he's made this year, which is something I guess.

TH was asked about the balance between revenue and getting new fans and which comes first.  He said that its a balance but that in July they put together an 18-month plan on how to do both.  The big news (and to me, the most interesting piece of info the whole night) is that Josh Kroenke is now taking an active interest in the club and league.  He attended the MLS Board meeting two weeks ago, one of the first that either Josh or Stan have attended and will be serving on the MLS Governance Committee.  He's also already been out to the Dick for a couple of games.

The final question asked was how we catch FSL's youth movement.  TH pointed out that the most recent U.S. U-23 team had 3 Rapids on it, two of which came through the Academy (Serna and O'Neill, plus Hairston as a draftee) while no other team had more than 1 player on the squad, and FSL had none.  Success for the Rapids is putting players on the Rapids first team and beyond, not how big the Academy is or how many college stars it has.

After that the panel members broke up to answer questions one on one with the fans present.  I had to get going so I didn't stay any longer.  Most of the evening was about what I expected.  A lot of looking forward talk, invest was the word of the evening.  The most interesting part to me was the Josh Kroenke news, maybe that's a positive sign.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014