Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Cory Gibbs Called Into Nats Camp

One last bit of Rapids news for 2008. The Rapids have just announced that Cory Gibbs has been called up for the U.S. National Team camp starting on Saturday at the HDC in Carson, CA. The camp is for preparation for the Nats first game of 2009, Jan 24th against Sweden on Fox Soccer Channel. The camp just includes players from MLS, European leagues on winter break, and out of contract players. I expect that we'll see a few European players who aren't on break added to the roster for the gamer, which means some of the players in camp won't make the game-day lineup.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Weekend Roundup 12/27 - 12/28

Queen of the South - A very poor match for QoS saw them lose 1-0 to Dundee at home. After the match the manager had the following to say.

"I thought we were absolutely terrible in the first half - I was embarrassed. We just didn't show any commitment, any willingness to work and they out-passed us. Second half we showed a bit more spirit but the quality was shocking! I know confidence is a big thing in football but I wouldn't make that an excuse today."

"There's no doubt [that some of the players aren't good enough]. Four or five boys out and I'll change it next week - it's just not acceptable. I'll try my damnedest to get boys in who will work and show better quality."

As you can see, things are a bit tense at Palmerston Park these days. With only 1 point int he last 8 league matches the Doonhamers have fallen to 8th in the table, just avoiding the relegation playoff spot on goal differential. Things are going to have to turn around quickly if Queens wants to return to its early season dreams of promotion.

Blackburn Rovers - The Rovers played two relegation rivals in just over 48 hours after Christmas, and gave away a point to each of them, costing themselves 4 points int he process. On Friday Blackburn traveled to Sunderland in a quiet affair where neither team really threatened. In the last minute of stoppage time Jason Roberts rounded the keeper and had an open goal to score the match winner, and he somehow missed. The game ended as a scoreless draw.

As painful as that was, Blackburn did worse on Sunday when they hosted Manchester City and former Rovers manager Mark Hughes. The Rovers defense kept City in check most of the game, and Benni McCarthy scored just before half to give Blackburn the lead. The lead was doubled in the 83rd minute on a Jason Roberts goal and it seemed that Rovers had claimed 7 points from Allardyce's first 3 matches in charge. Disaster struck though, with City scoring in the 88th minute, then after an unexpected 4 minutes of stoppage time Robinho scored with almost the last kick of the game to steal a draw from a game Rovers should have won. The two draws leave Blackburn in 19th place, 2 points from safety. Hat they claimed the additional 4 points that they should have gotten they would climb up to 15th place, 2 points above the relegation zone and past both Sunderland and Man City.

CD Tenerife - Off for winter break this week

Monday, December 22, 2008

Happy Holidays!

Last post of the week as I have family obligations. Happy Holidays everyone!

Weekend Roundup 12/20 - 12/21

Queen of the South - Over the last two weeks QoS has hosted second-placed Dunfermline and travelled to third-paced Livingston. Unfortunately for Queens they had similar results in each game, losing 2-1 at home and 2-0 on the road. This has left the Doonhamers gaining 1 point in their last 6 league games after having earned 21 points in their first 12 games. Now at the midpoint of the season QoS is in 7th place, just 1 point from the relegation playoff spot and 11 points behind the leaders.

This is quite a change from the quarter point where Queens was leading the division and everyone was talking about promotion. Maybe some of the bad Colorado Rapids mojo has rubbed off on Queen of the South. It was about the time that the group of Rapids fans started organizing to buy shares in QoS that the results went south.

Blackburn Rovers - Rovers played a pitiful game on the road at Wigan two weeks ago, falling 3-0 to a side that really didn't display anything special. This was the last straw for the Blackburn board as they fired manager Paul Ince and brought in Sam Alardyce to try to save the team from relegation. Hosting Stoke City on Saturday the move seemed to have worked, as Rovers stormed out to a 3-0 lead int he first 30 minutes. The team looked as good as it had all year, and while there were some questionable moments in the back the squad was composed and finished the job. One game short of the midway point Blackburn is 19th in the table, 3 points from safety.

CD Tenerife - Last week CDT hosted promotion rivals Hercules and managed a last second goal to claim the 3 points to close in on a promotion spot. This week it was relegation-fodder Alaves on the road and it was more of the same. This time though Tenerife scored eraly with two goals in the first 30 minutes, and held on after conceding a goal in the 87th minute to win 2-1. The win was CDT's 4th win on the road this season, which leads the league, after only managing 1 road win all of last season. CDT is now in 5th place, only 2 points from a promotion spot.

Kildare County - County is still in the offseason, but they announced that their youth/reserve team manager would be taking control of the first-team next season. That next season still looks to be in the "A" Championship as Meruve United has decided that they will take Kildare's spot in the first division. County's only hope at this point is that one of the other first division teams decides that they won't be able to handle another season int he first division and drops out, otherwise its relegation for Kildare.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Petke and Smith Interviews

In recent weeks we've seen interviews on From the Pitch with former Rapids defender Mike Petke and on WeWantRapidman with new Head Coach Gary Smith. Lots of interesting talk, so lets get to it!

I think the Petke interview was the first time a former player really opened up about the way the Rapids organization is run. We've heard some talk from other former player like Mark Chung, Robin Fraser, and kyle Beckerman about how Clavijo handled the team, but this was really the first time a player was talking about the rest of the organization.

You can tell that Petke is not impressed with how the Rapids do things. His comparisons between the win or die attitude in DC and an organization of people without soccer experience here in Colorado makes it clear that he thinks there are severe problems in the Front Office. Petke went out of his way to make it clear that he wasn't talking about Gary Smith and the other players, who he says are "what's right with this organization", but that the rest of the Rapids hierarchy needs to be improved.

A large part of his interview discussed how his injury was handled this past year. He was obviously not pleased with the way things went and said it "Left a disgusting taste in his mouth" and that "If he didn't have a contract he would have walked away". These are some pretty powerful statements from a guy who's been a team player for his whole career. Since we only have his side of the story its hard to make a true judgement on the Rapids, but assuming that Petke isn't just making things up the fact that he needed to get union lawyers involved and a memo from the league Front Office in order to get the Rapids to approve the surgery he needed does not reflect well on the Rapids.

Petke also had a number of things to say about the differences between Clavijo and Smith, statements that back up what we've heard from some of those other former players I mentioned. He mentioned that there was no accountability under Clavijo, that lineups were based on his whim and not who had played well or poorly. He also said that there was never a game plan or team identity under Clavijo, that there was never any idea of what they were trying to accomplish other than just winning the game. Under Gary Smith, according to Petke, this has all changed. Smith has very strong plans for each game, a sense of forming an identity for the team, and extreme accountability. According to Petke that was a "refreshing wake-up call" for him and other players.

The Mike Petke interview discussed the past, while the Gary Smith interview was more about the future. Given that its just as easy for you to read the original post on WeWantRapidman as it would be for me to recap it here (and Nick deserves the hits) I'll just give you my reactions to some of the information Nick got out of Smith.

Its interesting that Steve Guppy apparently jumped the gun on the job. I wonder if this were more "settled" until the early news was leaked and that has caused the Rapids to have Smith to look elsewhere, or if there was miscommunication between Smith, Guppy, and the Rapids.

I'm very happy to hear the Rapids are close to a deal with Bouna Coundoul and I hope they get him signed soon. Anyone who's been reading this blog for a while knows I'm a huge Bouna Time! fan and I really hope he comes back next season. (I'd love to be able to buy a Bouna jersey, but apparently MLS/Adidas doesn't see a market for replica GK jerseys so I might resort to a regular home jersey with 1 Coundoul on the back). It seems like Preston Burpo might be the odd man out on the back line, unless he takes a coaching position. Burpo's a decent backup, but better to go young with Hughes anyway.

I agree with Smith that we need another full-back to push Kimura and Harvey for another season. Jose Burciaga isn't the answer and the news he won't be re-signed is good to hear. I think Harvey and Kimura (particularly the latter) can get the job done, but giving them some pressure should help their game. I'm less pleased with the idea that Ihemelu and Erpen will be fighting for the open center-back spot now that Petke has left. I don't think either one of them has the mentality to play well at that position and I'd rather go shopping for a new center back. If I had to choose I think Ihemelu has a better upside.

Smith also talked about adding a 4th striker to the mix. I agree that we need somebody to partner with Casey, and neither Cummings or McManus locked down that position last season. it will be interesting to see what Gary Smith's scouting contacts find. GS talked about looking at players form Holland, South America, and Italy, which is already a wider net than the Rapids have thrown in the past.

As of today there are 91 days until the Rapids start the 2009 season in LA against Chivas. There seems to be lots of work for Smith to do on the field and some work for Plush to do off the field if the Rapids are going to end the 2009 season at MLS Cup.

Friday, December 19, 2008


Sorry things have been so quiet this week. I've put in a long week at work and combined with the holidays and a dentist appointment it hasn't left me much time for writing. I'm going to try to get a recap of some of the Rapids news (the Petke and Gary Smith interviews) up this weekend and a Weekend Roundup on Monday. Next week will be pretty quiet with the holiday as well. After that though you should see a more "normal" posting schedule.

Less than 100 days until kickoff of the 2009 season!

Friday, December 12, 2008

WeWantRapidman has Gary Smith

I was planning to put up an entry about Petke's interview on From the Pitch last week, and I will get to that later this weekend or next week. Right now though I want to highlight an interview that Nick Thomas of WeWantRapidman had with Gary Smith this week. Some good info in there and a good idea of what we can expect next season.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Queen of the South

The group who invested in Queen of the South under the name Colorado Rapids Supporters go our stock certificate recently. I thought some readers might be interested in the scan I took of it.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Weekend Roundup 12/6 - 12/7

Queen of the South - QoS travelled to St. Johnstone for this week's game hoping to turn around their recent run of bad form.

A historical aside. Queen of the South is located in Dumfries, the nearest significant town to Caerlaverock Castle, the former seat of the Maxwell family. The Maxwell family had a long standing feud with the Johnstone family, which erupted into a full scale war in the 1590's and 1600's. More information on the feud can be found here.

Queens had the better of the play through most of the game, but could not find the back of the net. St. Johnstone started taking control of the match late though, and a questionable call in Queens favor is the only thing that kept them from taking the lead. In the end the Doonhamers had to be satisfied with a scoreless draw. Less than they were hoping for, but a solid result in a place where they've had problems in the past. It stopped a run of 4 straight defeats and left QoS 5th in the table, 7 points off the lead as we near the midway point of the season.

Blackburn Rovers - Blackburn hosted the Reds this week, hoping to stop their free fall down the table. The first half ended scoreless, with neither team having really threatened. The best chance was a Roque Santa Cruz shot that was tipped into the crossbar. As the second half started Rovers controlled the play early, but got nothing for the effort. Liverpool took control for the last 30 minutes and made Blackburn regret missing their early opportunities. The Reds scored twice in ten minutes to put Blackburn under pressure. The Rovers scored in the 86th minute to give the home fans a glimmer of hope, but Liverpool snuffed that out with a 3rd goal before the final whistle. Its now 11 straight league games without a win, leaving Blackburn 19th, 3 points from safety.

CD Tenerife - CDT continued to try to improve on its road record from last season. This week they travelled to Murcia only to go down 2 goals by the 60th minute. At that point the offense had decided it had handicapped itself enough and came storming back with 2 goals in the next 15 minutes to tie the game. Neither side could find the elusive winning goal, and Tenerife had to be pretty satisfied with the point on the road after such a poor game early, even if it was against a bottom of the table team. The draw caused CDT to slip down to 10th in the table, 7 points behind the leaders as they enter the middle third of the season.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Weekend Roundup 11/29-11/30

Sorry, a dentist appointment and work kept me from getting to this until now

Kildare County drops out of the listings for now, we'll see if they return.

Queen of the South - Off while early round FA Cup games were played.

Blackburn Rovers - The Rovers started the week by losing by one goal at Portsmouth in league action, then lost by tow goals on the road at ManU in the Carling Cup Quarterfinals. The Portsmouth game saved all its action for the second half. Portsmouth grabbed two quick goals, but Rovers came straight back to tie it up. Then Portsmouth got the winning goal late. It was much the same in the Carling Cup match except that the two early goals from the opposition came in the first half. Rovers got back to within 1 before falling to a two goal defeat. With the losses Blackburn is out of the Carling Cup and in 19th place, 3 points from safety.

CD Tenerife - Tenerife hosted promotion rivals Zaragoza on Sunday. A win would put CDT on the right track towards promotion, but a loss would undo much of the benefit for the previous week's win over rival Las Palmas. Unfortunately CDT gave up a late penalty kick in the 88th minute to fall 2-1 at home. While Tenerife has improved their road record it has come at the cost of their strong play at home. With the loss CDT falls to 9th, 7 points behind the leaders.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Rapids sign GK Chris Sharpe - UPDATE

I've just been informed by the Rapids PR department that Chris Sharpe was re-signed as a MLS pool keeper. He will train with the Rapids if not needed by another team, but he will be available to all 15 MLS teams if they need an emergency keeper.

Opening Games Announced

MLS just announced the opening games for every team.
  • March 21st, 8:30pm Mountain, Colorado @ Chivas USA - Fox Soccer Channel
  • March 28th, 7:30pm Mountain, Kansas City @ Colorado

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Rapids sign GK Chris Sharpe

According to Chris Sharpe's blog on Tribal Football he's signed a 1-year contract with the Colorado Rapids. Sharpe trained with the Rapids during the 2008 season while serving as a MLS pool keeper.
  • MLS Pool keepers are goalkeepers that are signed by the league but don't belong to any team. Because of the roster limits and the requirement that teams play a keeper MLS keeps 2-3 extra keepers on contract to fill in in case of emergency due to injuries or suspensions.

Supposedly the Rapids have owned Sharpe's rights since he joined MLS, but he was never signed specifically for the Rapids. Sharpe's blog doesn't make it clear if his new contract is only with the Rapids or if he'll continue being a pool keeper. I've sent him a comment asking for clarification and I'll post an update if I get a response.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Waiver Draft Results - UPDATE

Soccer by Ives is reporting that Mike Petke was taken by RBNY in the waiver draft and that he was the only player picked in the draft. Still waiting on the full list of players that the Colorado Rapids waived, but Petke becomes the team's first departure of the offseason.

The Rocky Mountain News reports on the Petke move and also than Tim Ward has been waived. I'm assuming since nobody else was reported by the RMN then that's the extent of the list.

Expansion Draft Result

An inside source just informed me that no Rapids were taken in the expansion draft.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Weekend Roundup 11/22 - 11/23

Queen of the South - The Doonhamers hosted Clyde at Palmerston Park on Saturday. QoS was on a run of 1 win int he last 5, since the last free weekend, and really needed to turn it around. There was plenty of action but little scoring in the first half. Both teams had their chances, but the post denied Queens and a handball waved off a Clyde goal just before halftime. In the second half Clyde took control of the game while a motionless QoS defense allowed them to score twice, with no answer from the Doohamers offense. That's now 5 losses in 6 games, apparently the Rapids supporters have brought the Rapids luck with them. The only good news is that the teams ahead of them are struggling as well, so even though QoS is in 5th place they are only 6 points off the lead after 15 games.

Blackburn Rovers - The now relegation-battling Rovers travelled to London to face Tottenham. It didn't take long for Spurs to grab the lead, scoring after only 9 minutes. Things didn't get much better when Martin Olsson was sent off in the 38th minute for a 2nd yellow. Spurs would control the game from that point on and while Blackburn would show some flashes, playing a man and a goal down on the road it was never really in the cards for them. Rovers are now 19th in the table, 3 points from safety after 14 games.

CD Tenerife - It was derby weekend in the Canary Islands as Tenerife made the short ferry ride to Las Palmas to take on their rivals. Two to three thousand CDT fans made the trip along with the team, hoping yo see the first road win in Las Palams in a few years. Luck was with them this time as Tenerife struck in the 30th minute to take a 1-0 lead, and then used a great show of goalkeeping to protect the advantage for an hour. CDT returned home with a derby win and a move up to 7th in the table, just 4 points off the lead.

Kildare County FC - As I posted on Friday, Kildare County lost their relegation playoff 5-2 and will be heading to the "A" Championship next season. My coverage of them will probably be spotty at best (For example the "A" Championship doesn't even have a website and County's site hasn't been updated since shortly after Friday's game) so we'll see if I even continue to follow them. That's the end of the season for Kildare, we'll see what happens next.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Expansion Draft - Official List

Here's the list of players the Rapids did not protect for Wednesday's expansion draft. The Rapids can lose 1 player in the draft.:

Burciaga, Jose
Burpo, Preston
Cooke, Terry
Dalby, Greg
DiRaimondo, John
Erpen, Facundo
Grazier, Brian
Harvey, Jordan
Hughes, Justin
Keel, Stephen
Kimura, Kosuke
McManus, Tom
Petke, Mike
Sarkodie, Kwame
Ward, Tim
Zambrano, Cesar

No surprise on Burciaga, Burpo, Dalby, DiRaimondo, Erpen, Grazier, Hughes, Petke, Sarkodie, Ward, or Zambrano.

Harvey and Keel were probably tough choices but a limited number of spots leads to some good players being unprotected.

Tom McManus surprises me, but at the same time I can kind of see the logic. Given that they protected Ballouchy though it seems like they could have swapped those two around.

I would have protected Kimura over Ihemelu without a second thought. Apparently Gary Smith sees more in Ihemelu than I do. I would not be shocked at all to see Seattle take Kimura. They need defense and there's a large Asian population in the Seattle area. Seems like a cheap move for a good PR payoff.

The big one is Terry Cooke. How the h@!! do you leave Terry Cooke unprotected? This only works if the Rapids have already talked to the Sounders and made a deal that means Cooke is somewhat safe. Something like leaving Kimura out there to be taken. Otherwise I see no reason you leave the 3rd best assist man in MLS unprotected while protecting Ballouchy and Peterson. If we lose Cooke it was a dumb, dumb move. Even if we don't lose him I have to wonder how motivated Terry is going to be next season.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Expansion Draft

MLS is holding the expansion draft for the Sounders on Wednesday. The rules are:
  • Each team can protect 11 players
  • Above those 11 players all Generation Adidas players are protected
  • Each team must protect at least 3 internationals, assuming they have 3 on the roster
  • Seattle gets 10 picks and can take no more than 1 player per team

Prior to Toronto's expansion draft the general rule was that you could leave unprotected any position the expansion team had already filled, as they wouldn't want to waste their picks on redundant players. TFC turned that conventional wisdom on its head though, taking whatever players had value and trading them right away for whatever they actually wanted (In one case, Jason Kreis, they traded him back to the team they had drafted him from). Given that the only players who are probably safe to not protect are players with little or no value that are in a position the Sounders have already filled. Here's the list of Rapids I would protect and why:

GA Players - Automatically Protected:

  • Nico Colaluca
  • Ciaran O'Brien
  • Tim Ward

Required 3 International Players:

  • Terry Cooke - He may only have one trick, but he does it better than anyone in MLS
  • Omar Cummings - Good young striker that deserves another year to mature
  • Christian Gomez - He's got too much value to let go for free

8 Other Players:

  • Conor Casey - Our best striker
  • Colin Clark - Young up and comer
  • Bouna Coundoul - If you think you can re-sign him, he's the best keeper we have
  • Cory Gibbs - Solid value, even though he'll probably jump to Europe eventually
  • Kosuke Kimura - Good young defender
  • Nick LaBrocca - A solid utility midfielder
  • Pablo Mastoreni - Duh
  • Tom McManus - I think with a full offseason of rest he could take another step

So there are a couple of players that didn't quite make the cut:

  • Mehdi Ballouchy - Not impressive after a full season
  • John DiRaimondo - Tough call, but there are only limited spots
  • Jordan Harvey - A solid player, but not hard to replace
  • Justin Hughes - No value coming off injury and Seattle has already signed two GK's
  • Ugo Ihemelu - Too many mistakes
  • Stephen Keel - See Jordan Harvey
  • Jacob Peterson - Not worth burning a slot on
  • Mike Petke - Rumored to be retiring, but even if he comes back he's not worth using a slot on

Given this list I expect we'd lose one of Harvey, Ihemelu, Keel, or Petke, as Seattle needs to work on its defense. These four all have potential to be or already are solid MLS players, but you can't protect every decent player.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

2009 Competition Changes

Last night Major League Soccer announced the 2009 competition changes. Here's a quick summary and what I think of the changes.

The Reserve Division will be eliminated due to a lack of return on investment

Should have seen this one coming since they reduced the schedule this past season to only be intra-conference. This will hurt the rapids given how many players they've brought up through the reserve team in the last couple of years.

Rosters will be 20 senior players and 4 developmental players

With no reserve division there's no need for reserve players. Two reserve slots get upgraded to senior spots and 4 development slots are eliminated. While the two extra senior spots will help, the loss of 4 reserve players is really going to hurt depth for MLS teams. You have to figure the likes of Brian Graizer, Kwame Sarkodie, and Cesar Zambrano won't make the Rapids next season. Not only that but Generation Adidas players like Tim Ward, Nico Colaluca, and Ciaran O'Brien have to wonder about their futures with the Rapids given how many other developmental players have seen first team time ahead of them.

The season will start early on March 21st to allow MLS to take two FIFA weekends off or to play a limited schedule for 4 FIFA weekends

With the Gold Cup, Confederations Cup, and World Cup Qualifying next year this was a necessity. Plus the shorter the offseason the better!

30 game season. Home-and-home against each of the other 14 teams and 2 intra-conference rivalry games

That means a 3 game Rocky Mountain Cup again next season. I'm guessing the extra game will be in SLC this season since the extra one was at the Dick this year. I bet the other rivalry game will be against Dallas or Seattle (Who, as expected, is being added to the Western Conference).

Playoffs are top 2 from each conference and best 4 remaining teams as wild-cards

Same as 2007. No real change from top 3 each + 2 wildcards, but the games against the eastern teams mean just a bit more with this system.

Top 4 teams to the CONCACAF Champion's League, next 4 teams to the Superliga

The Top 4 teams are both MLS Cup finalists, the Supporter's Shield winner, and the USOC winner. In a case where one team fills two slots then the next highest regular season point total qualifies. This year that's Columbus, RBNY, DC, and Houston (filling Columbus's MLS Cup spot). The next 4 teams for Superliga are New England, Chivas, KC, and Chicago. This is a good move, Houston and New England got beat down with all the games they played this year. Plus FSL got hosed being a playoff team but not in an added competition since DC won the USOC. That's always good to see. ;)

All U.S. based teams will participate in the U.S. Open Cup

Good. The stupid qualification system MLS used the last couple of years made no sense.

Friday, November 21, 2008


The second leg of Kildare County's promotion/relegation playoff against Mervue just ended, and not in the Thoroughbred's favor. On Tuesday they played to a 2-2 draw at Mervue and the expectation was that Kildare would have the advantage playing the second leg at home needing only a win to survive. Well things didn't turn out that way as County crashed to a 3-0 defeat and a home in the 'A' Championship next season. I'm not sure if I will continue to follow Kildare next season. Finding news on them was difficult enough when they were in the first division, and given the lack of information out their about the "A" Championship I'm not sure if I'll even be able to continue to track them. We'll have to see what next season brings.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Rapids Shopping Gomez

Completely unsurprising news out of Steven Goff.

No surprise: Colorado is trying to move Christian Gomez and dump his 2009 guaranteed contract of around $400,000. Gomez barely played the final few months of the season under then-interim coach Gary Smith, who clearly doesn't think much of the 2006 MVP. My hunch is that, if they find a suitor, the Rapids will have to continue paying a portion of his salary next year. Colorado already re-signed Pablo Mastroeni to a new deal that approaches designated player range.

So the Rapids are trying to unload a player they traded their DP slot and a first round pick for less than a year after the trade. From the looks of it even if they pull off a trade they'll still have to eat part of the salary. I hate to say I told you so but, I told you so.

The second part of the news, that Pablo is making close to DP money, is more surprising. Pablo made a base salary of 300K last year, and DP money is above 400K. This means that we probably gave a 32 year old defensive midfielder a raise and a 4 year contract. I think Pablo re-signing was a great move, but at that money for that length I wonder if its going to become an albatross around our neck by 2011 and 2012. One possible silver lining is that MLS contracts are usually 2 years guaranteed with a team-held 2-year option. If that's the case then the contract looks much better.

Supporter's Meeting with Plush

For clarification's sake, the opions I express in this post (or any post for that metter) are mine and do not represent Class VI or any of the other supporter's groups.

I don't talk a whole lot about the supporter's groups here at View From the Couch. It's mainly because I like to talk about what happens "between the lines" and the supporter's groups don't fit into that. Along with that they have great websites of their own (see the links on the right) and there's no reason for me to repeat what they're already doing. That said I do see the relationship between the groups and the FO as a important component to a successful franchise, so I took the opportunity to attend last night's meeting between the Colorado Rapids supporters and GM Jeff Plush before the USA - Guatemala game.

The focus of the meeting was on Centennial Firm and N.C.C.'s request to relocate to the North Stands for 2009. This has been a long-term goal of both groups, and the Rapids are trying to work with the groups to see if a move like that meets the Rapids' needs as well. The Rapids are supportive of the idea, but they need to see enough numbers to make it economically viable for them. Right now they average about 670 tickets a game in the North end. If they were to give one side of the North end to the supporters groups they would be giving up 335 tickets. Jeff Plush does not expect the supporters groups to immediately be able to compensate for that, but there needs to be a realistic plan for the future so the Rapids feel like they're making a worthwhile investment. As Jeff Plush put it, he can't "go backwards in this economy".

Of course, the flip side to this is the supporter's group's belief that they can't get their numbers up until they make the move to a more visible location like the North end. So its a bit of a chicken and the egg situation. Either the Rapids will have to take a leap of faith and move the groups with the belief that doing so will eventually pay off, or the supporter's groups will have to commit to ticket sales at a significantly higher level than they are now with the understanding that if they don't sell, the Rapids are not going to be pleased. Determining where that break point is and who will take responsibility for it is the key to moving forward in my opinion.

Outside of that topic there was some general talk about how the team was feeling about 2009. Everyone in the organization seems to be excited about the Gary Smith decision and what he wants to do with the team. There were even comments that the detractors of the decision (of which I am one, at least of how the decision was made) really don't have a good feel for what's happening. There was understanding of the long years of frustration, but also of the fact that most of those years weren't under control of the current leadership. There was even some talk about the difficulties between what the team wants to do in the stadium and what the stadium wants to have happen. Since the stadium is run by a separate KSE entity from the Rapids there's ongoing discussions and debate about what the Rapids want vs. what the stadium operators want.

In general I thought the meeting was more informative for what it was than what was said. It was the first time I had a chance to see Jeff Plush interacting with the supporters and the first supporters meeting I've seen. There were a few things that I thought could improve the effectiveness of the meeting. First of all there was no real agenda. The general topic was set but nobody had a real list of points to cover or what needed to be accomplished in the meeting. It was a good chance to pass information back and forth, but no real decisions were made.

The second was that there were too many voices in the meeting. There were 6 representatives from the Rapids and 11 fan representatives. While not everyone talked there were still too many people working at cross-purposes. Even though I was there somewhat representing Class VI, along with another Class VI rep, there really wasn't anything involving Class VI. We were there for moral support only. What would probably work better would be a meeting with 2-3 Rapids FO personnel and no more than 2 reps from each supporters group, if even every group needs to be there. This would allow for focused discussion without a lot of sidetracking as more voices were added to the mix. It would also force everyone involved to figure out their points ahead of time as each group determine what their representatives need to cover.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Weekend Roundup 11/15 - 11/16

Queen of the South - My team travelled to Dundee on Saturday hoping for a change of pace after two straight defeats. The first half saw plenty of action, with both sides having chances they should have converted and Dundee even hitting the crossbar at one point. Despite the aggressive play the teams went into the locker rooms scoreless. The deadlock about midway through the second half when Dundee scored on a free kick from just outside the box. QoS attacked for 15 minutes to find the equalizer, but it was Dundee who would score again on a counter-attack. After that the game was for all purposes over, and Queens headed back to Dundee with 4 losses in the last 5 games. The side has dropped them to 4th in the table, 6 points behind leaders St. Johnstone.

Blackburn Rovers - After defeating Sunderland at the Stadium of Light in midweek Cup action Rovers hosted them at Ewood Park for a league match. The teams still had some pent up hostility from the midweek match and 4 yellow cards (3 for Sunderland) were shown in the first 40 minutes. Then just on the end of the first half Rovers went up and carried the lead to the locker room. The second half continued the hostility, with another 3 cards (2 for Rovers). Unfortunately Blackburn couldn't hold their lead and gave up a goal less than 5 minutes into the half. Sunderland would score again in the 71st minute and, in a reversal of the midweek scoreline, go home with a 2-1 victory. Blackburn is now in serious trouble, sitting in the last relegation spot, due to goal differential, after 13 games.

CD Tenerife - Both teams decided to take most of this match off. Real Sociedad is one of the best road teams in the Segunda, but neither team could find the back of the net. In the 86th minute Bertran scored what appeared to be the game winner for CDT, only for the team to concede a goal from a corner immediately afterwards. Tenerife let 2 points get away this week, and because of it they fall to 8th in the table, 7 points behind the leaders.

Kildare County FC - Kildare faced Dundalk in their final match of the season. Kildare was already facing a playoff to stay in the first division, while Dundalk needed a win to clinch the championship. The difference in the two teams showed as Dundalk outclassed County in every way, walking away with a 6-1 victory and the Irish First Division championship. Kildare County has just kicked off against Mervue in the first leg of the 2-leg playoff with the second leg on Friday. I will update the scorelines on the right side as results become available.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Plush To Hold Open Supporters Meeting on Wed.

Before USA-Guatemala on Wednesday General Manager Jeff Plush will have an open meeting with Supporters at 5pm. It will be 30 minutes in length and the primary focus is on the idea that the Section 100 Supporters Groups (Centennial Firm and NCC) move to the North Grandstands. RSVP with Marcus Myrick at mmyrick@dsgpark.com if you wish to attend.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

National Team Roster

Bob Bradley announced the roster for Wednesday's game against Guatemala at The Dick.

Three Colorado Rapids make the final roster. As expected Pablo Mastroeni is the experienced veteran in the midfield. Cory Gibbs gets another look at the National Team after a long injury-forced absence. The surprise is probably Conor Casey, who gets rewarded for his double-digit scoring in MLS this season with a callup.

GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Troy Perkins (Valerenga IF), Matt Pickens (out of contract)
DEFENDERS (6): Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA), Sean Franklin (Los Angeles Galaxy), Cory Gibbs (Colorado Rapids), Clarence Goodson (IK Start), Drew Moor (FC Dallas), Michael Parkhurst (New England Revolution)
MIDFIELDERS (5): Freddy Adu (AS Monaco), Ricardo Clark (Houston Dynamo), Sacha Kljestan (Chivas USA), Pablo Mastroeni (Colorado Rapids), John Thorrington (Chicago Fire)
FORWARDS (6): Jozy Altidore (Villarreal), Davy Arnaud (Kansas City Wizards), Conor Casey (Colorado Rapids), Brian Ching (Houston Dynamo), Kenny Cooper (FC Dallas), Chris Rolfe (Chicago Fire)

Kickoff is at 6pm on Wednesday, tailgating starts at 3pm.

Friday, November 14, 2008

My team is now MY team

A while back I talked about having bought a membership in MyFC and how I was not impressed with how it worked out. I decided not to renew my membership but I was still interested in being an "owner" of a European side. I remembered that Queen of the South, before its website update, listed information about purchasing shares in the club. After many emails back and forth I found out that they sold them in groups of 10.

Not having 150 pounds (About $221 at today's exchange rate) to spend on a block of shares I talked to other Colorado rapids fans about investing. There were others who had invested in MyFC and were similarly disillusioned. Eventually we got a group of 7 people who were interested in a total of 10 shares, or 1 block. This morning I called the club in Dumfries and purchased one block of shares under the name Colorado Rapids Supporters. Queen of the South is now really MY team, as much as 2 shares makes it my team at least.

So don't be surprised if you start seeing more talk about Queen of the South here at View From the Couch. The Rapids will always be the main topic, but this gives me something to talk about during the offseason.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Weekend Roundup 11/8 - 11/9

Queen of the South - Queens hosted Morton and former Queens favorite Peter Weatherson at Palmerston this weekend. It appears that Weatherson liked his return as he scored the first goal after 20 minutes. Morton would double the lead before heading to the locker rooms at half. The Doonhamers came out in the second half on fire, quickly getting a goal and controlling the play but Morton put the final nail in the coffin on a counter-attack, then added insult to injury with a fourth before the end. QoS fell for the first time at home this season and with the loss dropped to 4th int he table, 5 points behind leaders St. Johnstone.

Blackburn Rovers - League challengers Chelsea came to Ewood Park on Sunday and walked away with the league lead. Chelsea clearly controlled the play and Anelka scored in each half to claim an easy win for the London based squad. Midweek Blackburn took on Sunderland in the Carling Cup Round of 16 and battled their way to a 2-1 victory, putting them into the quarter-finals. All 3 goals were scored within about 7 minutes of the second half. Roque Santa Cruz scored on 63 minutes with his first touch of the game. 5 minutes later a Matt Derbyshire cross was directed into the back of the net for a Sunderland own goal. Right off the ensuing kickoff Sunderland got their goal, leaving a tense final 20 minutes as Rovers hung on. Blackburn is now down to 15th in the table, just 1 point from the relegation zone after 12 games.

CD Tenerife - Tenerife travelled to recently-relegated Levante on Saturday. With a chance to move up into the promotion spots CDT allowed tow defensive lapses to determine the outcome of a game they controlled. They lost 2-1, continuing a tradition of less-than-stellar road performances. With the loss CDT dropped to 7th in the table, 7 points behind the leaders after 11 games.

Kildare County FC - County travelled to Limerick in what was a meaningless game for them, having already been assured of facing a playoff to avoid relegation. Limerick and Dundalk (who Kildare finishes the season with next week) are fighting for the title and promotion to the Premier Division. A surprise then that the Thoroughbreds got the win on the road. After controlling the run of play Kildare allowed Limerick to score late int he first half and went into the locker rooms down 1-0. In the second half County again controlled the play and made Limerick pay with two goals in two minutes. A positive result for a team facing must-win games. Their opponents in the playoffs have been determined, they will face Mervue United in a two-leg playoff, away on Nov. 18th and home on Nov. 21st. The winner will take the last spot in the First Division, while the loser will be in the third-tier 'A' Championship.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

No coaching "search" done

The Denver Post reports that the Rapids signed Smith to a 3-year deal and Pablo to a 4-year deal. Guppy's contract is still being finalized. They also say that Jeff Plush told them that he didn't interview any other candidates for the coaching position.

Same old Rapids, taking the quick and easy way out. Gary Smith may be the guy, I have hope he will be. If the Rapids had done a full coaching search though, talking to the likes of John Spencer, Robin Fraser, and Paul Mariner (for example), and then settled on Gary Smith I'd feel better about it. They put all their eggs in one basket and they're either going to look like geniuses or fools. Given their track record I'm afraid its going to be fools.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Smith and Pablo

OK, first the news, then the commentary.

As expected the Colorado Rapids named Gary Smith the new head coach today. Terms were not released but the rumor is that it was a 3 year deal. I didn't see the press release until later, but there's some talk that the Steve Guppy hiring was also announced in the press release, then pulled.

Unexpectedly the Rapids also announced the re-signing of team captain Pablo Mastroeni. Pablo was expected to try to move to Europe this offseason, but apparently "Wanting to go to Europe" was just code for "Not wanting to play for Clavijo anymore". Again, terms of the contract were not revealed.

First thing's first. Re-signing Pablo was a great move by the team, and barring a huge surprise I'm betting it will be the best move of the offseason. It locks down the center of the field, gives us veteran leadership and continuity, and allows the Rapids to focus on what to do with Gomez and the central defense.

I think Smith is a safe choice for coach. He's in the system, Plush knows him, he's worked with the players, etc. Given the speed of the signing though I wonder how much time the Rapids spent looking at other candidates. Some of the top names, Mariner, Spencer, and Fraser, are all working for teams that are either still in the playoffs or were eliminated this past weekend. That doesn't rule out the possibility that they talked with the Rapids, but there isn't a while lot of time to do a long interview process with those coaches are involved preparing their teams for the playoffs. It just makes me wonder if the Rapids took the easy way out or if they really took a serious look at somebody other than Smith.

Lastly the Rapids once again botched a major announcement. Steve Guppy spilled the beans last week about the Gary Smith signing, helped on by the Rhinos and "other sources" according to the Post and Soccer America. While I expect that the likes of Steven Goff and Ives Galarcep will break the news a day or two early, its different when a random article from the Rochester Rhinos breaks the news 6 days early. That was then followed by fans talking about the Smith-Guppy pairing as the Rapids coaching staff, and anonymous sources saying that we were "assuming too much" or that those deals hadn't happened yet. Then today they announce Smith (and possibly Guppy) as the coaching staff.

So how exactly were the fans assuming too much about deals that hadn't happened yet? OK, maybe pen hadn't been put to paper, but its pretty obvious that a verbal deal had been worked out. Stuff like this just makes it look like either the Rapids are incompetent at handling the press, or they just don't care. Really, you can't tell your new assistant coach to shut up for a week and not go on a NY radio show?

National Team Training Camp List

Busy day for View From the Couch. Steven Goff just posted the training camp list for the Nats camp in Denver next week. Now the roster for the qualifier next Wednesday will be a modified version of this, so there will be other players added, but it gives us a good idea of what we're likely to see.

Young, young, young. Not a surprise since the U.S. has nothing to play for having already qualified for the hex, while Guatemala has to win and get help. A good environment to expose some new faces to. The Colorado Rapids will have five players in camp; Pablo Mastroeni, Colin Clark, Nick LaBrocca, Cory Gibbs, and Conor Casey. Its not a surprise for the local team to be well represented in camp, its a convenient source of players for training. The interesting thing will be to see how many players make the game roster. My prediction is 3, Pablo, Gibbs, and either Casey. Maybe Clark. I'm sure LaBrocca is just there for training.

Soccer America confirms Smith as coach

Still no official word from the Rapids about the press conference or the next coach but Soccer America is running with the story. They confirm the Smith-Guppy coaching pair and mention that Plush has talked to at least two current MLS assistant coaches about the Technical Director/General Manager position.

UPDATE: After an email query to the Rapids press office I got official confirmation of today's press conference at 1pm.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Coaching Announcement - 1pm Tuesday

News is circulating that the Colorado Rapids have called a press conference to announce the new head coach at 1pm tomorrow at DSG Park. I'll update with a link to the announcement if/when I find one.

Of course at 1pm tomorrow I'll be heading to the bus to go to the dentist, so reaction here will be delayed until I get the dentist's fingers out of my mouth...

Coaching Update

The Denver Post is reporting that Gary Smith has been signed to a 3 year deal with Steve Guppy as his assistant. This is based on comments that Guppy made on a NY radio show this weekend and an interview with the current Rochester Rhinos coach. The Rapids only comment is from Jeff Plush, who states that the rapids have 0 coaches under contract at the current time.

Along with the coaching comments Steve Guppy says he wants to bring Irish winger Danny Earls with him form Rochester to Colorado. Earls can play left back or left mid, so some competition for Harvey and Clark. At 19-years old he may not be ready to start right away, but building up our youth never hurt. Earls played for the Aston Villa Reserves before moving to Rochester, and on July 29th was named USL-1 Player of the Week.

UPDATE: An anonymous source has told me the coaching situation should be official by the end of the week.

Friday, November 7, 2008

If somebody comments on the Rapids and the FO doesn't respond, did it really happen?

On Wednesday the Rhinos released a statement saying that Steve Guppy was leaving the team to join the Rapids as assistant coach and help Gary Smith. As this was obviously significant Rapids news I wrote a post about it, as did Bonji at Class VI. We both believed that the press release and the information contained in it meant that it was likely the Rapids had chosen Smith as the next head coach.

Since then we have both received comments in private from the Rapids Front Office saying that we're assuming things or that the we don't know the full story, etc. While that might be the case, the problem is that the Rhinos and Guppy are the only ones talking in public. The press release stated that Guppy will be joining Smith with the Rapids. Given that its not assumptions on our part, its going with the facts that we know.

This is hardly the first time that a rumor about the Rapids has been circulating, and instead of making a formal statement about it all we see is comments from well-connected fans saying they've heard the rumor is wrong. Very often these comments come from people in the Front Office that, at least from their job titles, aren't involved with the rumor. The comments are always somewhat cloudy, with things only half said.

It appears the the Rapids and/or KSE do not want people talking about the Rapids or their off-season news. They prefer that everyone go follow the Avalanche and Nuggets and ignore whatever the Rapids must be doing. This is misguided at best, and stupid at worst. You want your fans following the team in the off-season, you want to keep the team in the news, you want people thinking about buying tickets and merchandise. The two most followed leagues in this country, NFL and MLB, have figured this out and welcomed it. MLB has the whole Hot Stove League that's been built up around its offseason. The NFL has made an event out of the Draft, not to mention unending minicamps and workouts.

The cynic in me says the reason that KSE doesn't want anyone following the Rapids offseason news is that they don't want the lack of news to be noticed. Last offseason they refused to even discuss the terms of the Gomez trade, even to the point that they've still never officially stated what they traded for Gomez though everyone can see that suddenly DC has two DP slots. The die-hard fans know the Rapids have a great deal to do this offseason. They need to get the coaching situation settled, deal with out of contract players like Pablo and Bouna, and figure out what they're going to do about Christian Gomez. If KSE doesn't have a plan then the less attention paid to the Rapids the better for KSE.

Fan relations have never been a strong suit for the Rapids either under AEG or KSE. While there are individuals in the Front Office who go out of their way to try to work with the supporters there's never been a coherent strategy for fan-team relations. The ongoing silence out of the Front Office about any news story of interest is just one more indication that KSE is not focused on, and quite possibly not interested in, making the Rapids a top-notch MLS organization.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Assistant Coach Steve Guppy = Head Coach Gary Smith

The Rochester Rhinos have announced that player/assistant coach Steve Guppy is leaving the team and joining the Rapids as an assistant coach in January.

Guppy has a long history of 17 years playing in England and Scotland, spending time with Southampton, Wycombe, Newcastle, Port Vale, Leicester City, Celtic, Leeds, and Stoke City. He then played with DC before a brief stop back in England before joining Rochester. One of the first EPL tams I followed was Leicester City when Kasey Keller was there, which coincided with Guppy's time at left wing with the club. Guppy followed Martin O'Neil to Celtic in 2001.

The big part of this news is that it almost assuredly means that Gary Smith has been given the Head Coach position. If the Rapids are already signing Assistant Coaches they probably have figured out who the head coach is going to be. Given that to the best of our knowledge the Rapids haven't talked to anyone, and Steve Guppy is a long time friend of Smith and a fellow Englishman, the logical conclusion is that Smith has been given the job. I bet the Rhinos jumped the gun on the announcement and the Rapids are planning an official announcement between now and MLS Cup.

Weekend Roundup 11/1 - 11/2

Sorry for the delay, too busy following the election

We drop the Rapids from the Roundup this week, we'll pick them up again come March.

Queen of the South - QoS had their second straight road game, this time at Partick Thistle. Things did not go as well as they did in Dingwall last week. The Doonhamers were fairly disorganized at times in the first half, and it eventually cost them as on the stroke of halftime Thistle scored to take a 1-0 lead. After the break Queen's captain Jim Thomson picked up yellow cards in the 50th and 80th minute, leaving QoS shorthanded. Partick took advantage, getting a penalty called late and taking the game 2-0. With the loss QoS drops to 2nd in the table, 2 points behind St. Johnstone at the 1/3rd mark of the season.

Blackburn Rovers - An up and down game for Rovers this week as they travelled to WBA. Benni McCarthy staked Blackburn to an early lead from the spot, only to be sent off for a weak handball call and second yellow in the 36th minute. In the 10 minutes after half time WBA scored twice to take the lead. Blackburn never gave up though, and in the 89th minute Keith Andrews scored his first goal for Rovers to rescue a point. Its now been 5 games without a win, dropping Blackburn to 13th in the table after 11 games.

CD Tenerife - CDT hosted Rayo Vallecano, former home of USMNT star Kasey Keller, and fellow promotion challenger. Tenerife became third one of my teams this week to lose a player due to questionable double yellows, but they didn't let it stop them. A convincing 2-0 win at home for CDT puts them right back into the promotion race. This was also the 50th appearance of Juan Francisco Martínez Modesto, better known as Nino, for Tenerife. With the win CDT jump up to 6th in the table, 4 points behind leaders Hercules after 10 games.

Kildare County FC - Things just keep getting worse for County. They were forced to play 2 games in 3 days in order to make up for one of the postponed games from earlier in the season. A 2-1 loss and a 3-3 draw wasn't what they needed to salvage the season. In the 3-3 draw County had a player, you guessed it, sent off for a second yellow, though this one seems to be more deserved than the ones for the other teams. With the single point in the two games they are not assured of facing a playoff to stay in the lowest league of professional football in Ireland. They have 2 games left to figure out what they need to do, then the 2-leg playoff to try to survive and come back next year.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Thanks to the Rapids Ticket Office

As part of my ongoing goal to not paint the whole Rapids FO with the same brush when I get frustrated at a soccer-related decision I wanted to give my thanks to the Rapids Ticket Office, specifically Marcus Myrick and Abbey Gettler.

Marcus has been my long-time contact in the ticket office. He's always set me up with tickets and gone out of his way to make sure I got what I needed. It wasn't the easiest year for me, being laid off right after I got to Colorado, so I didn't buy the season ticket I was thinking about and I had a lot of last minute decisions to attend games based on $$$ until I got my new job at PaySimple figured out. Marcus was always responsive to last minute requests for Class VI tickets, and I probably took more of his time than I really should have in asking him questions about sell-outs and such.

Marcus and Abbey worked together on my season ticket renewal for 2009. I'm not in a position to buy a ticket right now, but expect to be after the holidays. I was willing just to let my seat go (Its not like we're real picky about sitting in our seats in Class VI) and buy a ticket to the USMNT game on my own. Instead Marcus decided to trust that I would buy a ticket and Abbey applied my unused playoff ticket (Damn you FaKe SaLt LaKe!) as my deposit and provided me with a USMNT ticket. It would have been easy for them to have let me go knowing I'd be back next season anyway and made some more money off of me by selling me a USMNT ticket, but instead they found a way to make it work for both the Rapids and me.

I come down on the Rapids FO a lot, and justifiably most of the time. From a soccer perspective there's a lot of work to be done to get the Rapids into a team that can challenge for the title. That doesn't mean that other parts of the organization aren't getting the job done though, and sometimes we as fans need to recognize that there are people in the FO getting the job done to make the game-day experience the best it can be for what they control.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Season Review

So now that the season is over, where do we stand? Earlier this week I took a look at the roster and the coaching search, but what worked and didn't work team-wide this season?

I've gone back and looked at the the last 3 seasons. I chose 2005 as a starting point because it was the first year of the Clavijo era and because the only player remaining with the team from prior to that is Pablo Mastroeni. Since in 2005 and 2006 MLS played a 32 game season I've added columns for points, goals, and goals against per game.

The Rapids finished right in the middle of the pack in the Clavijo era in points. They had a better offense than ever before, but the second worst defense. Overall the Rapids had their 5th worst season, ahead of 1997, 2007, 1996, and 2001 at .88 points/game being the worst. Out of those 5 years only in 1997 did the Rapids make the playoffs.

Looking at the team position by position:

Goalkeepers: Bouna finished the season as the #1 keeper, a position he never should have lost. Burpo was a serviceable backup for a mid-season pickup that was forced on us when Justin Hughes went down with a season ending injury right before Bouna left for Senegal. He should have never been named the starter though, and our defense suffered in the last third of the season because of it.

If Hughes can come back from injury we should cut Burpo loose. Bouna is out of contract and is rumored to be heading to Europe. The Rapids should do everything they can to re-sign him, and if they are unsuccessful they'll need to find a new keeper either to start or to back up Hughes if the coaches have enough faith in him.

Defenders: The back line was constantly shuffled under Clavijo, but came together under Smith. The back 4 of Kimura, Petke, Gibbs, and Harvey did fairly well with the exception of a run of 3 games where 10 goals were conceded. I think Kimura and Harvey are locks to start out wide next season, but the Rapids need to look for help int he center of defense. Petke implied to fans after the last game that this was it for him as a player, plus he's out of contract. Gibbs was inconsistent at times, and will head for Europe if any team gives him a chance. Ihemelu and Erpen are good for at least one mistake a game each, and while that might be OK if you have strong veteran presence in your back line, counting on them to be the veterans will just lead to disaster.

In a best case scenario the Rapids keep Gibbs and pick of a solid central defender with Ugo as a back up. If Gibbs leaves we'll have to do some serious scouting for defenders or consider switching to a 3-man backline.

Midfield: The big question mark in midfield is Christian Gomez. The Rapids can't afford to not play their highest priced player that cost them a DP slot, but Smith didn't seem particularly interested in using him. Gomez has expressed his displeasure in interviews as well, so there's some work to be done there if Gomez is going to play for the Rapids again. Pablo is also expected to leave for Europe after possibly his best season as a Rapid. Losing him will be a blow to the team. A good season from Nick LaBrocca softens the blow somewhat, but LaBrocca is at best a decent MLS player, he's not a top level National Team player like Pablo is. Cooke and Clark seem locked in on the wings, Clark will need to work on being more consistent next season, at times he seemed to disappear from games this season.

If Gomez works out his issues with Smith and/or a new coach and Pablo doesn't move to Europe our midfield is set. If we lose both of them LaBrocca will slide in to Pablo's spot and we'll have to go looking for another playmaker. The Rapids currently have nobody on the roster that can run the offense from the center other than Gomez. The Rapids did so well in the late half of the season by using the wings but with no real threat in the center that won't sustain the Rapids for a whole season.

Forwards: Conor Casey exploded over the last 5 games of the season, notching 6 goals. He's clearly become the best forward on the team, but I think he's actually over-rated after his late season run. That's not to say he couldn't be the centerpoint of our offense in 2009, but I think the Rapids should try to strike while the iron is hot and see if we can get a steal in a trade. If we can't though, the offense in 2009 should be geared towards Casey. McManus and Cummings spend the season trying to claim the starting spot next to Casey. They both bring different skills to the table. McManus brings the grit and passion, along with being a threat from anywhere within 35 yards. Cummings brings speed and determination, but needs to work on his finishing.

I think that either Cummings or McManus could start next season, with the other being a super sub off the bench. It just depends on what kind of style the coach wants to play. Casey would be the other starter if not traded. The Rapids need to look for depth at striker, the only other forward on the roster is Jacob Peterson. They would do best by finding somebody that has a good chance of being a MLS starter to put pressure on McManus and Cummings to step up to the next level. If Casey is traded they'll need another guaranteed starting striker as well.

Bench/Reserves: The Rapids have a very experienced set of bench players and reserves to draw from. Jacob Peterson, Ugo Ihemelu, Facundo Erpen, Stephen Keel, John DiRaimondo, Mehdi Ballouchy, and Jose Burciaga all got significant playing time this season. While I think some of those players are best to let go, it still gives the Rapids some maneuvering room.

Ihemelu, Keel, and DiRaimondo all look like they are ready to take the next step and become starters/regular subs either for the Rapids or another MLS team through a trade. The Rapids need to look for depth at keeper and forward in the offseason. Midfield and defensive depth appears to be covered.

Coaching: Well, Clavijo is gone and the team played better under Smith. Then again I'm pretty sure a pet rock could have gotten the team to play better than they did under Clavijo. Most of the decisions the Rapids have to make that I've discussed already hinge on who the coach will be and what kind of soccer he wants the team to play. If its Smith then the Rapids should probably plan on not having Bouna or Gomez and focus on playing a defensive game to rack up 1 goal wins. If its John Spencer the Rapids will probably open up more and try to dominate other teams (Based on Spencer's attitude and Houston's style of play). Until a decision is made though, the rest of the offseason is just a big mystery.

Overall the Rapids had another mediocre year where they finished no better than 3rd, just like every other season in their history. When the Rapids replaced Mooch Myrick with Tim Hankinson after the 1999 season the reason given was that AEG didn't think Mooch could take the team to the next level and win a championship. As history as shown, only Mooch Myrick has been able to get the Rapids to a championship game, and nobody has been able to finish in the top 2 in the conference. Picking the right coach is the biggest decision the Rapids organization has had to make since KSE took over. They failed the first time with Clavijo, if they fail again they may not recover for years.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Who's In Charge Here?!?!

Obviously the biggest decision the Rapids have in this offseason is who's going to run the team. Clavijo left the cupboard pretty bare and while the team picked up under Smith there's still a lot of work to be done to turn the Rapids into contenders. No new names have surfaced since the last time we reviewed the candidates, so its still the same group of 4 that are likely to get the job.

1. Gary Smith - Interim Head Coach

Smith was given the reins for the last third of the season and led the team to a 4-2-4 record(5-2-4 if you count the last game of the Clavijo era that he managed). The team showed more skill under his control, but his tactical decisions were somewhat lacking. There were also questions about his decision to change goalkeepers, and his complete non-use of Christian Gomez.

The team looked better under Smith, but to be honest just about anyone could have gotten the team looking better once Clavijo left. There's a number of the players who have said that they think he's the right choice, but again, how much of that is just "He's not Clavijo"? His decisions to bench Gomez and to go with Burpo over Bouna are inexcusable in my opinion. He also seems to favor defending 1 goal leads instead of trying to break the back of the opponents by scoring more. I think those tactics cost us the playoffs as in our last 3 home games we only got 2 points, and they were both on 1 goal leads we allowed to end in 1-1 draws. When you only miss the playoffs by 1 point those results hurt.

I think Smith is by far the most likely person to get the job. He's been with the team a year, he's Plush's hire originally, and he's be cheap compared to the other options. I don't think he's the man for the job though. He may be able to get better results just by being "not Clavijo" but I don;t think you'll see a Rapids organization that's any better run under his care.

3. John Spencer - Assistant Coach, Houston Dynamo

In my opinion Spencer is the only other realistic choice for the Rapids. Her has once again helped coach the Dynamo to another top finish in the West and probably another MLS Cup appearance. He's gotten 3 years of study under one of the best MLS coaches in league history, Dominic Kinnear, and is reported to be ready to take control of a team of his own. Reportedly one of the reasons he turned down the Fire job was because he was interested in the Rapids job.

The problems with Spencer are going to be money and control. Another factor in passing on the Fire job was reported to be the money they offered. We know that KSE isn't willing to spend big money on a coach, so getting Spencer to fit into the budget. The flip-side is that a name like Spencer would probably sell a few more season tickets than Smith, so there may be some wiggle room. The otehr problem is how much control the FO likes to exert on player decisions. Under Clavijo we heard rumors of Plush making the calls on trades, Plush hired Smith without Clavijo's input, etc. Is Spencer going to want to step into that kind of role? Another drawback is that with Houston in the playoffs he won't be free to talk to the Rapids until after they're eliminated. With Plush wanting to put a coach in place before the expansion draft the week after MLS Cup the rapids may not be able to wait.

4. John Murphy - Director of Player Development

Muphy's a long shot at this point. While he knows the organization and the league, he was brought in by Clavijo, not by Plush. He seems to be happy in his role as Director of Player Development, which allows him more freedom to continue his progress towards his UEFA Coaching Badge. I think its more likely that Murphy moves up into the Technical Director role that Plush wants to hire than the head coaching role. Still if Smith doesn't want the job and they pass on Spencer, Murphy is the next logical choice.

6. Paul Mariner - Assistant Head Coach, New England Revolution

Mariner is really only on this list because, along with Spencer, he's the next assistant expected to step up to a head coaching job somewhere in the league. Coming out of a successful organization like the Revs, where the coaching staff is allowed free reign within the budget to make decisions there's not a lot of incentive to move into the mess in the Rapids FO. Maybe if the Rapids get desperate and Mariner isn't approached about any other job this offseason he might end up here, but I highly doubt it.

At this point I figure the odds are 75% on Smith, 22.5% on Spencer, and 2.5% on anyone else. Plush wants to make a decision soon, which really makes me thing its likely to be Smith. While not a horrible choice, I think the Rapids can do better.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Weekend Roundup 10/25 - 10/26

OK I lied, it was 2 days

Colorado Rapids - No recap after the Epic Fail on Saturday night. With the draw the Rapids finished in 4th place in the West, missing the playoffs by 1 point. The Rapids tied Chicago for the 4th best offense and they had the 11th best defense.

Queen of the South - QoS travelled to Dingwall to face Ross County in a windstorm. Each team had plenty of chances as the keepers had to adjust for the wind. It was the Doonhamers who found the back of the net though, on a Stephen Dobbie free kick from 25 yards out midway through the first half. Things went back and forth for the rest of the game until stoppage time when Qos scored another 25 yard goal to seal the 3 points. With the win they move into sole possession of first place with a 1 point lead over St. Johnstone.

Blackburn Rovers - Blackburn hosted Middlesbrough in a wet match at Ewood Park. The game was pretty dull with only a handful of shots on target. 'Brough took the lead in the 74th minute on a long counter-attack ball out of the back that was put past Paul Robinson from the edge of the box. Rovers looked to be headed to a disappointing defeat when Benni McCarthy scored on the last possession of the game. Rovers should have gotten more than a draw from this match, but based on their play it was all they deserved. They are now 11th, 9 points behind leaders Liverpool.

CD Tenerife - CDT dominated their road trip in Cordoba but came away empty handed as Cordoba took advantage of their few opportunities to win 2-0. After two road wins Tenerife returned to their form of last season. With the loss CDT drops to 8th in the table after 9 games, 7 points behind the leaders Salamanca.

Kildare County FC - Kildare's woes continued against Sporting Fingal, suffering yet another loss on the season. The big news is that after the match both the manager and his assistant resigned, in order to allow their replacements enough time to familiarize themselves with the teams before the probable playoff matches. With only 4 games left County is 6 points from safety and is all but assured of facing a playoff to stay in the lowest division of league football.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Roster Decisions

Weekend Roundup is coming tonight/tomorrow but I wanted to get my annual roster review up first.

As I've done each of the last few years, here's my rundown of what I think the Rapids should do with their roster in the offseason. This year I've added the salary numbers for those players that are listed on the MLSPU guide. I believe that the Rapids are no longer on the hook for any salary outside the team (Kirovski's contract should be up) and they don't have anyone picking up any salaries of Rapids players. This does not take into account any guaranteed contracts or anything, just if I had the freedom to cut or re-sign players as I wished.

Out of Contract:
Jose Burciaga,80K - Enjoy Seattle Jose! There's no reason to re-sign him.
Bouna Coundoul,33K - I expect that unless the new coach makes a guarantee that he's the #1 next season he'll head to France. If the Rapids can convince him to re-sign they should, with a salary increase of about 50K.
Pablo Mastroeni,300K - Almost certainly going to Europe. If possible the team should re-sign him, maybe with a slight reduction in salary to account for his age by the end of the contract
Mike Petke,133K - If what he said to the fans Saturday night is true he's retiring. If not I'd re-sign him at about 100-120K

Keep for the first team:
Colin Clark,33K - He needs consistency in his play to make it past next season, but I'm hopeful
Terry Cooke,167.5K - 3rd in the league in assists despite only starting 60% of the games
Omar Cummings,33K - He's earned another year to try to show he can claim a starting spot
John DiRaimondo,17.7K - Looked good early this season, and we'll need the help filling in our defensive holes
Cory Gibbs,96K - If he doesn't make the jump to Europe
Jordan Harvey,17.7K - Our best option at left back
Kosuke Kimura,17,7K - Solidifying his hold on the right back spot
Nick LaBrocca,12.9K - Pablos replacement at d-mid
Tom McManus,134.4K - Got to see what he could do after some rest and a full preseason of training with the team

WTF do we do about this mess:
Christian Gomez,385K - By all rights he should be in the group above, but after being benched for the last third of the season, does he even want to be here, and if so, does the new coach want him? There's no way we get value for him as everyone will know we want to unload him, but having him sit on the bench for a long spell again isn't going to help the team.

Keep as backups/possible first teamers if an upgrade for a better price can't be found:
Preston Burpo,55.1K - No better than a backup keeper
Greg Dalby,33K - Europeboy hasn't impressed yet
Ugo Ihemelu,60.5K - If he could stay mentally in the game for 90 minutes he might have the skills to make it in MLS. Until then...
Stephen Keel,33K - Hasn't shown he's ready for full time yet, but another year might get him there

Cut/Hope Seattle takes them in the expansion draft:
Facundo Erpen,125K - Awful

Attempt to trdae, keep otherwise:
Mehdi Ballouchy,75K - Has no ability to actually lead the attack
Conor Casey,190K - He's only in this list because after his late season run he may be perceived as more valuable than he really is. That makes it a good time to try to trade him. If there are no takers that benefit us, he moves up to the first category.
Jacob Peterson,75K - His time is up, time to try elsewhere.

Reserve players I have not seen enough to evaluate:
Nico Colaluca,70K
Brian Grazier,12.9K
Justin Hughes,12.9K
Ciaran O'Brien,45K
Kwame Sardokie
Chris Sharpe
Tim Ward,44.6K
Cesar Zambrano,12.9k

As you can see from my list, we'll be thin up the middle. We need a starting GK, strong central defenders, an attacking mid if we can't get Gomez back in that slot, and probably another solid forward. Our flanks are solid and we have some decent depth.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Epic Fail

No game review this week. Not being able to get a win against FSL means there's nothing to review. Complete failure from top to bottom.

Later this week I'll have a season review and some thoughts on where we go from here, both in coaching and players.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Win Or Stay Home

The whole season comes down to 90 minutes at The Dick tomorrow night. Win and the Rapids host Chivas USA in the first round of the playoffs next weekend and lift the Rocky Mountain Cup. Lose or draw and watch FSL celebrate their first ever playoff berth on our field and they take the Cup back home with them.

Here's the injury report:

OUT: GK Justin Hughes (R shoulder); MF Christian Gomez (R ankle); DOUBTFUL: MF Pablo Mastroeni (L knee)

Suspended after 1 more yellow card: Pablo Mastroeni, Colin Clark,
Suspended after 2 more yellow cards: Conor Casey, Cory Gibbs, Nick LaBrocca

My lineup prediction:

Bouna Time!
Kimura - Ihemelu - Petke - Harvey
Cooke - Pablo - LaBrocca - Clark
McManus - Casey

Wewantrapidman reports that Gibbs and Gomez are unlikely to be fit for the game, and McManus is still fighting injury. I think Ihemelu slots in to Gibbs' spot on the back line and McManus lines up next to Casey if healthy, otherwise we'll see Cummings. That's probably our best 11 given our injury status.

Critical Matchup: Casey and McManus/Cummings vs. Borchers & Joy

FSL only needs a draw out of this game. They are one of the worst road teams in the league and they lost 2-0 in their first trip to the Dick this season. They aren't going to be real aggressive given that they get everything they need from a 0-0 draw. The Rapids forwards need to break down the FSL defense and stake Colorado to an early lead. Force FSL to have to attack and that will open up the back for speedy players like Clark and Cummings.

Keys To Look For:

  • Does every player leave it all on the field? This is the best circumstance for a final-must win game. Your rival at home. There's no excuse for any Rapids player not to run themselves into the ground tomorrow night.

  • How much does Ihemelu's mental breakdown cost us? Ugo makes one boneheaded move a game, sometimes the rest of the back line covers for him and sometimes they can't.

  • Can the Rapids use the emotion without losing control? Everyone who's seen the Rocky Mountain Cup before knows that the games get heated. We can't afford to pick up stupid cards because somebody loses their head.

  • It needs to be clear that if the Rapids get another PK, Casey takes it. Cooke has missed and McManus was saved in recent weeks. Go with the guy who has gotten the job done.

  • No excuses. Its not the officiating, its not injuries, its not bad luck. We win this game or we lose this game.

Prediction: 2-1 win. The Rapids remember what happened last season, watching their playoff hopes slip away at home at the hands of FSL. Clavijo's gone, Smith has the team believing, and the Rapids won't accept anything but a win. TOGETHER WE RISE!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Weekend Roundup 10/18-10/19

Colorado Rapids - My game review is here. With the win the Rapids move up to 4th place in the West, out of a playoff spot. They can finish at best 3rd, and they are 2 points out of that spot. The Rapids are tied with DC and Dallas for the 4th best offense and they have the 12th best defense.

Queen of the South - QoS travelled to Airdrie for this matchup but came home empty handed. In a first half that was fairly even in play United scored early and late to take a 2-0 lead before the half. Queens couldn't figure out how to break down the Airdrie defense and left empty-handed. The good news is that their rivals for the top spot also lost, so they still stay at the top of the table over Dunfermline and Livingston on goal differential.

Blackburn Rovers - Rovers travelled to the Reebok Stadium to take on Bolton. Neither side really could find their game though, mounting a combined total of 5 shots on target (only 1 by Blackburn) and coming away with a bore 0-0 draw. Blackburn still stay in the top half in 9th place, 9 points behind Liverpool and Chelsea on top.

CD Tenerife - CDT hosted Salamanca, the league leaders, in Santa Cruz. El Tete allowed an early goal but struck back quickly to take a 2-1 lead. Right before half Salamanca tied it up at 2. The second half was fairly even until Hector was called for a hand ball in the box and shown a red card. The penalty kick was slotted home and Salamanca became the first visiting team to win in Santa Cruz this season. The loss pushed Tenerife down to 5th in the table, 4 points off the lead after 8 games.

Kildare County FC - County started off ht, forcing the Longford Town keeper to make 3 big saves in the first 3 minutes. That was the highlight for the Thoroughbreds though and it was all downhill from there. 2 goals later Kildare is still on the bottom of the table and its increasingly looking like they'll be forced into a playoff against a lower league team to keep their spot int he 1st Division. They are 6 points from safety with only 5 games remaining.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The 4 C's; Cooke, Cummings, Clark, and Casey

Image Credt: Scott Varley

The 4 C's combined for 2 goals and a win that kept the Rapids playoff hopes alive yesterday. The first half was a snooze fest with only 3 shots on goal (2 by Colorado) and nothing that was really threatening. The second half started off almost as slow, but the Rapids slowly took control of the game. This control culminated in a penalty kick that should never have been given. In the 57th minute Jordan Harvey went down in the box because a Chivas player looked at him wrong but got the call. McManus stepped up and decided he was taking the kick even after Casey wanted it. He should have passed as hick kick was weak and right down the middle, easily stopped by Dan Kennedy. That was Tom's last touch as he was subbed out right after that for Omar Cummings. He retreated to the bench with a towel over his face hoping that he hadn't just cost the Rapids the playoffs.

Tom didn't have to worry for long. Terry Cooke entered the game int he 65th minute and two minutes later, on his first touch of the game, he sprung Cummings down the right side. Omar took the ball, crossed it back, and hit a perfect cross to a completely unmarked Colin Clark in the box. Clark took his time, timed his jump, and headed a laser past the keeper for the 1-0 lead. After his flying drop-kick of the corner flag (see above) the first person their to congratulate him was Tom McManus.

The lead would only hold up for 5 minutes though. 4 minutes after the goal Gary Smith put Facundo Erpen in for Mike Petke, and it didn't take long for Erpen's every game mental mistake to cost us. In the 72 minute Bornstein was left unmarked by Erpen while Ihemelu had been taken to the ground in the box. Bornstein's shot deflected off of Ihemelu and Bouna was going the wrong way after the deflection. Things were looking bad until the 85th minute. Omar Cummings nutmegged a Goat in the box, and rather than trying to play the ball he stepped into Cummings path as he was rounding him and Cummings took the chance to go down. A second PK, this one soft but absolutely a foul. Casey decided to take this one and hit the post, but it rebounded into the goal for the 2-1 lead. After that the Rapids ran out the clock and set up a winner take all match with FSL next Saturday at The Dick.

Keys to the Game review:

  • There's only one this week. In a must-win game do the Rapids show up? It doesn't matter who wins what battle, all that matters is the score at the end of the game.
    We got the win, but the Rapids never looked like they were really trying hard. I expected more from a team in a must-win situation.

Critical Matchup: The Rapids vs. the pressure - The Rapids did not crumble under the pressure. With the exception of another Erpen mental mistake they played solid, if uninspired, soccer.

Fact of the Match: The Rapids currently have the most road goals in the league.

Random Observations:

  • Welcome back Bouna! Not much for him to do this game, and no chance on the goal, but a good game to knock the rust off.

  • Erpen seems to cost us one goal a game.

  • Cooke proves that he needs to start and play 90. He's had 5 assists in the last 7 games. You have to go back a ways to find a Rapids player with that kind of record.

  • Ballouchy had no impact on this game, again.

  • Its all on the line next week against FSL. Win and we're in the playoffs. Win and we reclaim the Rocky Mountain Cup. Anything less and FSL keeps the RMC and goes to the playoffs for their first time ever.

  • Man of the Match: Omar Cummings - Had the assist on the first goal and drew the foul for the PK that got the second goal.

    Saturday, October 18, 2008

    Just Win Baby

    The Rapids are out in LA-LA land for their second leg of a 2-game stand against the LA teams. Sunday they play Chivas USA at 1pm MDT, and the fans will be at the British Bulldog like normal.

    Here's the injury report:

    OUT: GK Justin Hughes (R shoulder); MF Christian Gomez (R ankle); DOUBTFUL: MF Pablo Mastroeni (L knee)

    Suspended after 1 more yellow card: Pablo Mastroeni, Colin Clark, Nick LaBrocca
    Suspended after 2 more yellow cards: Conor Casey

    My lineup prediction:

    Bouna Time!
    Kimura - Ihemelu - Petke - Harvey
    Ballouchy - DiRaimondo - LaBrocca - Clark
    Casey - Cummings

    In yesterday's Post Smith was quoted saying that Bouna will start for Burpo and Ballouchy will start for Cooke. The GK switch is a much needed change, but benching Cooke in a must-win game is Clavijo-esque. I realize our defense has been awful over the last 3 games, but pulling our assist leader isn't, to steal a political phrase, change we can believe in. With Pablo out I'm guessing DiRaimondo slips into the defensive midfield. Now that Casey and Cummings are available again I think they'll start on top.

    Critical Matchup: The Rapids vs. the pressure

    After tonight's results this is now a must win game. Can the Rapids handle the pressure of having to win on the road against a better team, or do they collapse?

    Keys To Look For:

    • There's only one this week. In a must-win game do the Rapids show up? It doesn't matter who wins what battle, all that matters is the score at the end of the game.

    Prediction: 2-1 win. The Rapids always manage to hang on until the end of the season. I think they find a way to win tomorrow and force a final showdown vs. FSL next week.

    Playoff Update

    OK our playoff chances just got significantly simplified with tonight's results. There are now 8 teams at 39 points or more. That means that nothing short of 2 wins in our 2 final games will get us into the playoffs.

    The good news is that 2 wins is all we need. We control our own destiny again. If we beat Chivas and FSL we'll pass Dallas and FSL for the third automatic playoff spot in the West. If we lose or draw either game we'll be eliminated.

    Win 2 and we're in.

    Thursday, October 16, 2008

    Playoffs? Playoffs?!?!

    So here's the rundown of what we need to have happen to make the playoffs, based on all of our possible remaining results. This is not a comprehensive list, this just shows the most likely option at each point value. The list is up to date as of the result of tonight's game.

    2 losses - We're out

    1 draw, 1 loss - We're out

    2 draws - FSL beats Dallas, SJ beats KC and draws TFC, LA beats Dallas and loses to Houston, NY, and KC lose all their games, TFC draws SJ and loses their other game

    1 win - We beat Chivas, FSL beats us, Dallas wins both games, SJ beats KC and TFC, LA beats Houston, KC, DC, and NY lose all of their games.

    1 win, 1 draw - We beat Chivas, FSL beats Dallas, we draw FSL, Dallas beats LA, LA draws Houston, SJ beats KC, draws Toronto, DC loses, KC doesn't beat NE, NY doesn't win either game

    2 wins - Dallas wins both games, KC and NY don't win more than 1 game, DC doesn't beat Columbus OR FSL doesn't lose to Dallas

    Even though there are three scenarios where we can make the playoffs with a draw or loss this week, we can also be eliminated with just a draw or loss this week. We can't be eliminated if we win this week.