Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Rapids Town Hall

Last night the Rapids held a Town Hall at the Dick for season ticket holders. I was planning on going until an unexpected problem at work had me working late. They provided a live stream on their website though and I was able to watch from my computer.

honestly it was mainly Jeff Plush' end-of-season letter in a live format. A good deal of talk about how KSE is committed to building a winner, how last season was not the result they were looking for, etc. Other than seeing some friends who I haven't seen since the last home game I don't really think I missed anything by not being there.

I did try to get the following question asked by emailing to the address they provided for questions, but it wasn't read:

After the 2007 season Jeff wrote a letter saying that the results that season were unacceptable. 2008 and 2009 looked much like 2007 with our season ending in the last game at the hands of our rivals. After the 2009 season Jeff wrote another letter saying the results were unacceptable. Why should we expect anything different in 2010, and what are you going to do different this offseason than you have done the last couple offseasons?


Other than that the only real news was that they were a bit surprised that Harvey was taken int he expansion draft and that they left him exposed as a "calculated risk". They also said that they see Gibbs being a valued member of the team going forward, which is why they chose to protect him. I disagree on their decisions on both players but what's done is done.

Plush talked about the Dick maybe not being the answer for big international friendlies and that they may consider laying those games at Invesco int he future. Its better for the visiting teams because of the location. To me that just sounds like an excuse. He also said that they didn't bring teams in like Milan because it would have required raising ticket prices to pay for them.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Goodbye Jordan Harvey

Jordan Harvey was just selected in the expansion draft by the Philadelphia Union. The Rapids leader in games, starts, and minutes in 2009 (He played all but 87 minutes of the season) was an obvious choice for the Union considering that left back is a tough position to fill in MLS. The Rapids will have to hope that their decision to protect Gibbs instead pays off and that Palguta can fill the new hole at left back.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Season Review

Yeah, I know I said I'd post this last week. I'll live up to my promises once I get paid for them. ;)

We're a month past the end of the Rapids season, 2 days past the end of the MLS season. Seems like a good time to review how we did.

Goalkeeping: Matt Pickens was a solid yet unspectacular starter in goal for Colorado. He didn't lose us any games but he didn't really win us any games. Preston Burpo was a decent backup, maybe better than average, but the decision to stick with him over a healthy Pickens is puzzling. Going into next season I think we can stand pat with Pickens as the starter, but I think its time to give a younger player like Ceus a shot at the backup role.
Grade: B-

Defense: The best word to describe the defense this season was inconsistent. Most games the defense was good for a blunder a game, but at the same time we saw some good play from young players like Harvey and Palguta. The addition of Baudet at midseason seemed to give the group the veteran leadership it was missing up to that point. Gibbs failed in that role, but we can expect him back next year base don his protected status in the expansion draft. The swap of Ihemelu for Moor was a upgrade IMO, but possibly losing Harvey or Palguta in the expansion draft would be a downgrade. Going into next season we could have 5-6 MLS-level starters on the roster, not counting Gibbs, so our depth is decent. More time working as a unit and more stability is what's needed here, we don't really need to look for new players.
Grade: C

Midfield:
For the first 75% of the season we had a solid midfield with an emerging star in Colin Clark. Then every one's knees gave out and our midfield became a black hole. Clark, Peterson, and Smith were all lost for the season and Peterson and Clark, with ACL injuries, probably won't be back at 100% until the middle of next season at the earliest. The injuries exposed our criminal lack of depth at the wing, and nobody on the roster was able to step up and fill the holes. Pablo played his typical solid defensive midfield all year, though his head-hunting against Houston shows that he still has his impulsive side. He needs to lock that away and become more of a "lead by example" leader to help this team. Smith spent all season swapping Ballouchy, LaBrocca, and Noonan in the central midfield position in front of Pablo without ever finding somebody who worked. LaBrocca came the closest but as we saw when the wingers went down none of them were able to spark the offense on their own. We need to be looking for somebody who can do that this off-season, as well as MLS-level wingers that can provide competition for those spots. The grade for this position is a B+ for most of the season and a D for the last quarter.
Grade: C+

Attack:
Casey and Cummings had career years, Casey was second in the league in goals and set a team record while Cummings led the league in assists. What we saw when the wingers went down though was an inability for them to generate goals on their own without support from the midfield. Its hard to fault them too much for that though, given what else they brought to the team. After those two though our forwards fell off a cliff. Diz, Schunk, and the waived Richardson combined for 1 shot in 118 minutes played. Noonan, the only other forward on the roster, played a majority of his 843 minutes in midfield and generated 2 goals and 0 assists. Obviously our starters up top are already set for next season, but the Rapids should look for a quality forward that can push them for minutes, especially one that can generate his own chances if the midfield isn't providing them.
Grade: A-

Bench:
With the exception of the defense, when our bench was called on to perform they didn't deliver. Noonan, Diz, Dalby, Smoth, etc. really didn't have much (positive) effect on the outcomes of games this year. There is a good deal of house cleaning that can be done here. We do have some young players like Ceus and Holody that may turn into solid MLS players. We'll have to see what the draft brings us for bench players next year.
Grade: C-

Coaching:
Clearly the crash and burn of the end of the season is not what the coaching staff was looking for. Somehow they turned an almost sure playoff spot into an early end of the season. Obviously losing 3 wingers in a short time frame is hard to overcome, but thee was still time after Smith and Clark went down to sign somebody. The bigger problem was the idea that we could play all season without a backup for Colin Clark and the fact that once the 4-4-2 with wingers wasn't working the coaching staff couldn't get the team to play any other way. Throw in some of the off-season tension we've heard about and Gary smith's first full season has come to a crashing end. If he can get the team re-focused, find some wingers to give us some depth, and move past these difficulties by starting hot next season we could be in good shape. If we start off inconsistent again though I'm not sure Smith should last the year.
Grade: D-

Intangibles
: I'd say that Paul Bravo and Jeff Plush did an average job this year helping Smith on the field. For every good move like Ihemelu for Moor or signing Baudet there were bad moves like trading for Noonan or cutting Cooke. This will be the first full offseason with Smith as the official head coach and Bravo as the Technical Director, and they will need to come up with some solid moves to fill the holes on this team. Reportedly Burpo is the only player out of contract so getting players re-signed won't be a large part of their work. The expansion draft protected list is pretty solid IMO, with only the decison of Gibbs over Harvey standing out as a poor one, unless Gibbs has a no-trade clause.
Grade: C

Overall:
In 2007 the Rapids lost their last game against FSL and missed the playoffs after having a 10 game winless streak that season. In 2008 the Rapids drew their last game against FSL and FSL took the final playoff spot from them after the Rapids had a 4 game losing streak that season. In 2009 the Rapids lost their last game against FSL and FSL took the final playoff spot from them (and went on to win MLS Cup) after the Rapids had a 7 game winless streak this season. I'm not seeing much improvement there, we're essentially just treading water. Things only get harder every year with more teams in the league, so treading water isn't good enough.
Grade: C-

Monday, November 23, 2009

Expansion Draft - Official List

They have just released the official expansion draft list:

Protected:
Baudet, Julien
Casey, Conor
Clark, Colin
Cummings, Omar
Gibbs, Cory
Kimura, Kosuke
LaBrocca, Nick
Mastroeni, Pablo
Moor, Drew
Pickens, Matt
Smith, Jamie

GA Protected:
O'Brien, Ciaran
Valentino, Rob

Available:
Ballouchy, Mehdi
Burpo, Preston
Ceus, Steward
Dalby, Greg
Diz, Facundo
Harden, Ty
Harvey, Jordan
Holody, Michael
Noonan, Pat
Palguta, Scott
Peterson, Jacob
Schunk, Ross

* = Both players graduated from Generation Adidas status this year, so they are not automatically protected.

I had 10 of the 11 correct, I had Harvey protected instead of Gibbs. I expect the Rapids to lose a player this year given who's still available. One of Ballouchy, Burpo, Harvey, or Palguta will probably be going to Philly.

UPDATE: MLS has updated the list of graduated GA players, neither O'Brien or Valentino graduated

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

2010 Expansion Draft - UPDATED

MLS has released the rules for the draft and they're slightly different from what I listed in my last post. There appears to be no automatic protection for players on the season-ending injury list. Only 3 of our internationals need to be protected however. Given that, here is my revised list:

*GA Players (Automatically protected)
O'Brien
Valentino


*Required 3 Internationals
Baudet
Cummings
Kimura


*Roster (8 spots left)
Casey
Clark
Harvey
LaBrocca
Mastroeni
Moor
Pickens
Smith,
if he's expected to make a full recovery, otherwise Palguta

Monday, November 16, 2009

2010 Expansion Draft

OK, time to get back to a more regular posting schedule. This week I'll hopefully have a season review, a recap of where the European teams I'm following are, and maybe a new team to talk about. First lets start with next week's Expansion Draft for next year's Philadelphia Union.

The draft will be a week from Wednesday. No official rules have been released yet, but MLS has been pretty consistent with the rules in recent years:

* Teams can protect 11 players, plus any Generation Adidas players
* Any DP or player with a no-trade clause must be protected
* 3 International Players can be left unprotected
* No team can lose more than one player in the draft

There are also a couple of rules that have not been confirmed:

* Paul Bravo told me he expected to be required to protect 4 of the 6 internationals the Rapids have
* There may be a rule that any player that was on season-ending IR is automatically protected

That said, here's the lists I would work with if I were making the choices for the Rapids:

Automatically protected - GA Status:
Ciaran O'Brien
Rob Valentino

Possibly protected - Season-ending IR:
Colin Clark
Jacob Peterson
Jamie Smith - Int

Required internationals protected:
Julian Baudet - I feel like he's the best leader for the defense we have
Omar Cummings - One of the Rapids top 5 players
Kosuke Kimura - Becoming a flexible option at right back or right mid

That leaves 8 slots for the rest of the roster:
Conor Casey - Our biggest offensive threat
Pablo Mastroeni - Team leader, solid defender, and I wouldn't be surprised if he has a no-trade clause
Matt Pickens - Our best GK option
Nick LaBrocca - Solid MLS midfielder
Drew Moor - I like how well he seemed to mesh with the Rapids defense
Jordan Harvey - Solid left backs are hard to come by
Scott Palguta* - Good depth across the back line
Best young player* - The coach's opinion on the best young player that didn't get much first-team time this year

* = Players that would be dropped if the season-ending IR protection is not in place for Jamie Smith or Colin Clark.

This leaves the team with a protected starting lineup of:

Pickens
Kimura - Moor - Baudet - Harvey
Pablo
Smith - LaBrocca - Clark
Cummings - Casey

With a bench of Valentino, and O'Brien plus possibly Peterson, Palguta, and a young player. That's a pretty decent MLS side to keep protected. With this protected list the players I think are most likely to be looked at by Philly are Cory Gibbs or Mehdi Ballouchy but I wouldn't be shocked if no Rapids are taken. If Palguta or Peterson are left unprotected they would move to the top of the list in my opinion.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Chaos in Commerce City?

Yesterday there were reports from the Denver Post and that the players and coaches got into a shouting math after practice last Thursday, with Conor Casey stomping off the practice field challenging Gary Smith to trade him and Pat Noonan leading the players in refusing extra "punishment" laps. Obviously this isn't what you want to see from a team that collapsed in the final quarter of the season. We've already seen Gary Smith throw the players under the bus after the final match, but now he's trying to claim that that's an outside viewpoint and doesn't come from any actual feelings at the club.

This is the biggest challenge that Gary Smith has faced as Rapids coach. As Bonji put it on BigSoccer, the way he handles it will probably define his time as Rapids coach. If he can get the team back together, regain the support of the players, and move forward the team can improve from their disastrous finishes the last two years and look towards the playoffs next year. If he can't regain the respect of the locker room he'll be lucky to make it through the season next year, and we can expect no better from the Rapids than we've see the last few years until a new coach rebuilds this team yet again.

Its time to see what Gary Smith (and to some extent Paul Bravo) can do when facing a schism in the locker room.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Kildare County Folds

While I've been moving, things have been falling apart in south-central Ireland. In the middle of last week the directors of the team resigned, followed by the manager on Friday. This was leading up to the team's final game of the season on Saturday at home to Shelbourne. Earlier int he week te fixture was called off, but the fans got together with the remnants of the team and figured out how to make it work. The team took the field wearing another team's kits as the Kildare kits were int he possession of the assistant manager, who had also resigned earlier in the week, and the stadium and concessions were staffed by fans. The Thoroughbreds lost 5-1 and finished last in the First Division, facing a relegation playoff.

Today the remaining management of the team announced that the club was going into liquidation and had played its last game after 7 seasons. They were immediately relegated as the relegation playoff was forfeited. Apparently there was an effort to rescue the club at the last minute but the debacle that management put Shelbourne through before the fans stepped in and the fact that the plan would only work if the new leadership wasn't penalized by the FA for the prior management's mistakes made it a non-starter.

I had really only followed the club the last two seasons so I can't say I'm really attached to them like I am with my other clubs. Still its sad to see a club slide into oblivion. Hopefully somebody in the area will give it another go in the near future.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Moving

The blog's been quiet the last couple of weeks because I'm moving again. No, not out of Colorado, but we bought our first place in Arvada. So don't expect that many posts for the next week or so as we get settled. After that I'll be back with my list for the Expansion draft, a look at the player moves I think we should make in the offseason, and the weekend Roundups.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Rapids = Fail!


The Rapids choked away a chance at their best season ever with a 7 game winless streak culminating in the embarrassing 3-0 loss to FaKe SaLt Lake Saturday night. They finish in a tie for the last playoff spot but lose the tibreakers, missing the playoffs for a 3rd straight year. 2 years in a row they've missed the playoffs by a point.

I don't want to talk much about the game, its not worth dwelling on. Instead consider these facts. 8 games ago they were at 33 points with games against Toronto (x2), San Jose (x2), Kansas City, New England, Dallas, and FSL remaining. They won that first game against Toronto to go to 36 points with 7 games left. They then went winless in those 7 games, 5 of them against non-playoff teams and 1 against a team that won a 3-way tiebreaker to make the playoffs. They got a total of 4 points in those 7 games, wile scoring only 3 goals from the run of play, all while behind in losses where the goals didn't even tie the game, and 3 PK's to earn 3 of their 4 draws (the other was a 0-0 draw).

You have to work at it to choke as bad as the Rapids did this year. We'll have plenty to talk about in the next couple of weeks. Expansion Draft, player strategies, etc. but the key is this, this team won't change until somebody at KSE decides that winning is a priority. Until then the best we'll see is barely making or missing the playoffs.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Failure Is Not An Option!

When the schedule came out it was obvious that this was going to be the biggest game of the season regardless of thee standings. There was a pretty good chance that at least one team would be fighting for the playoffs, plus you add in the rivalry and the Rocky Mountain Cup and its was always going to be an important game. With both teams still int he playoff hunt and both needing a win it doesn't get any bigger. The Rapids have everything on the line tomorrow night. With a win they can
  • Clinch a playoff berth for the first time in 3 seasons
  • Clinch the Rocky Mountain Cup for the first time in 3 seasons
  • Clinch an international tournament spot (CCL or Superliga) for the first time since 1998
They can do all three of these with a draw or a 1-goal loss, and everything but the Cup with a 2-goal or more loss, but it requires a lot of help from the games involving Dallas, DC, NE, and Toronto. Best not to leave it up to somebody else and get it done ourselves. For the final regular season game (hopefully not the final game of the year) those supporters that didn't make the trip to Utah will be at the British Bulldog. Kickoff on Fox Soccer Channel is at 7pm MDT.

Official Injury Report:
OUT: MF Colin Clark (L ACL tear); MF Jacob Peterson (R ACL tear); MF Jamie Smith (L knee strain)

Official Discipline Report:
ONE CAUTION FROM SUSPENSION: Conor Casey, Cory Gibbs

(If either player gets a yellow card they will sit out the first match of 2010, not the first playoff match if we qualify. If anyone gets a red card they will be suspended for the first playoff game or the first game of 2010 if we don't qualify)

FSL only has Espindola and former Rapid Chris Wingert listed as Probable, everyone else is available. The Rapids are in as good of shape as they can hope for given the 3 players they lost to season-ending injuries. My guess at the lineup:

Pickens
Moor - Palguta - Baudet - Harvey
Pablo
Kimura - LaBrocca - Ballouchy
Cummings - Casey

At this point its safe to say the 3-5-2 hasn't done the job, so its time to go back to the familiar 4-4-2. The only real question mark is who gets the left mid spot, Noonan or Ballouchy. I gave the nod to Ballouchy on the thinking that if there's any team he's going to stand out against it would be his former side.

Key To Look For:
The whole damn game is a key. If the Rapids can't show up for this one then there was no point in even showing up for the season.

Prediction: 2-1 win, goals by Conor Casey. The Rapids remember what FSL did to them the last two seasons and its finally time to get some payback. Casey will put the team on his back and carry them to the playoffs while also issuing a challenge to Jeff Cunningham that he needs to score in Seattle if he wants the Golden Boot. The Rapids come home with the Rocky Mountain Cup and a playoff spot.

Playoff Scenarios For The Final Weekend


Colorado is in with:
  • a win
  • a draw and only one of DC, FCD, NE, and TFC winning
  • a loss by 1, FCD draws or loses, and 2 of DC, NE, and TFC losing
  • a loss by 2, FCD draws or loses, and DC, NE, and TFC losing

They also get in by finishing top 2 in the following tiebreakers (with the teams from the FCD/DC/NE/TFC group not involved losing)
  • Colorado-DC-FSL
  • Colorado-NE-FSL
  • Colorado-DC-FSL-NE
  • Colorado-Dallas-DC-FSL
  • Colorado-Dallas-DC-FSL-TFC

Or losing to FSL by only 1 goal gets them in through this tiebreaker:
  • Colorado-FSL-TFC

Monday, October 19, 2009

KSE Melts Down In Dallas Heat

I'm going to dispense with my normal game recap. Needless to say that if you've seen our last 4 games you've seen this one, with the exception of Noonan finding a way to get a ball across the line. The Rapids gave up two goals off of two free kicks and never looked like they were in a game where a win would have clinched a playoff spot.

Instead I want to talk about how apparent it was in this game that nobody at KSE really gives a #$#! about this team. The game was scheduled to be televised on Altitude 2. At game time I turned to Altitude 2 only to find the Avalanche game, turning to Altitude 1 I once again find the Altitude game. 10 minutes later, and 3 minutes past kickoff somebody finally wakes up and switches the feed on Altitude 2 from KSE's Avs to KSE's Rapids. I've been informed that this only happened to people watching on Comcast, fans watching on a dish got the whole game, but Comcast is the biggest TV provider in the area, so most Rapids fans were affected. This wasn't the first time the Rapids have pulled this, having similar problems earlier this season. KSE owns the team and the network, but can't be bothered to make sure everyone is on the same page.

Of course once the game was on the fans were treated to the "wonderful" commentary team of Cory Lopez and Marcelo Balboa. Lopez has been doing games off and on for the last two seasons and apparently still hasn't learned enough to be a competent soccer announcer. Apparently he's been focusing on his high-school football instead. I love Balboa and I think he knows what he wants to say, but he seems to have problems getting it out in a way that's helpful to the listener. I think that Lopez's lack of knowledge doesn't give Balboa much to play off of, so he's hurt by that as well. Its painful to listen to these guys and I can't believe this is the best KSE can find.

Of course, their hands are tied when they aren't even allowed to be at the game. KSE's cost-saving measures of having the commentary team in a studio in Denver for away games is killing the broadcast. Even Lopez and Balboa were commenting on their inability to see what was going on or to pull up their own replays. Its very difficult to get anything out of a broadcast where the commentators are guessing as much as you are. Beyond that there were basic mistakes like the on-screen graphic having he wrong day and time for the 'From the Pitch' promo in the first half (fixed int he second half), Balboa not having the up to date info on the playoff standings, and Lopez calling Cunningham Cummings (Here's a hint, one plays for the team that employs you, one plays for the other side).

Needless to say it was very frustrating to watch a professional sports team handled so poorly by its parent company. If it was a one-off I might be able to chalk it up to a bad day, but all of these issues have happened throughout the season. If KSE wants to know why they can't get a better fan base, they do everything they can to drive people away from their broadcasts. Maybe spending some money next season will result in better numbers.

My key to the game was offense. We did get a goal from somewhere other than the spot but we only managed one other shot on target in 90 minutes. That's just not good enough.

Other Observations:
  • I hope the last minute switch of starting Burpo instead of Pickens was due to Pickens picking up a knock because otherwise it was a poor choice
  • Burpo was flat-footed on the first goal and didn't even make a real attempt at it. The second goal was bad luck, having his save deflect back off of Ihemelu
  • Of course his defense in front of him didn't help him much. Gibbs went in very late on the foul that set up the first goal, which Harvey left John unmarked. Moor and Palguta let their guys get inside of them on the second goal
  • Taking Casey out was a good move IMO. Sitting one yellow card from suspension and with the refs giving cards out like it was Christmas a tired Casey (Having played 2 National Team games in the prior week) was more likely to get the card that would suspend him than a goal
  • Casey's lack of scoring means that Cunningham is probably got a 90% chance of winning the Golden Boot. Casey would have to score 2 more goals against FSL than Cunning scores against Seattle
  • Well for the third year in a row it all comes down to the final game against FSL. Win and we're in. Tie and hope 3 of 4 other teams fail to win. Lose by 1 and hope 3 of 4 other teams lose. Lose by 2 or more and hope all 4 other teams lose.
Player of the Game: The fans, for putting up with the crap KSE served up on Saturday, both on and off the field

Friday, October 16, 2009

Rapids Hoping for Ghosts of Playoffs Past in Dallas

In 2002, 2005, and 2006 Colorado traveled to Dallas and knocked them out of the playoffs (In 1997 we knocked Dallas out in Colorado). In 2009 Dallas faces a must win game at home to Colorado to keep their playoff hopes alive, while Colorado has a chance to clinch a playoff berth with a win. While not an actual playoff game, its essentially a do or die game. Hopefully history from prior playoff games in Dallas repeats itself.

Game time tomorrow is at 6:30 MDT. Special note on the broadcast, this game is on Altitude 2, not Altitude. The supporters groups will be gathering at the British Bulldog as usual.

The Rapids are rooting for Toronto, Chicago, and Columbus tomorrow to win and improve their playoff chances.

Official Injury Report:
OUT: MF Colin Clark (L ACL tear); MF Jacob Peterson (R ACL tear); MF Jamie Smith (L knee strain)

Official Discipline Report:
SUSPENDED: Mehdi Ballouchy, Julian Baudet
ONE CAUTION FROM SUSPENSION: Conor Casey
TWO CAUTIONS FROM SUSPENSION: Omar Cummings, Cory Gibbs, Kosuke Kimura, Scott Palguta

Dallas is missing Anthony Wallace due to injury, otherwise they have a full line-up. The suspensions of Ballouchy and Baudet is going to cause the rapids to do some shuffling in their lineup. Its nice to have Pickens and Gibbs back to fill some holes though. My guess at the lineup:

Pickens
Moor - Gibbs - Palguta
Pablo - LaBrocca
Kimura - Noonan - Harvey
Cummings - Casey

I think the 3-5-2 is still the bet way to get our top XI available players on the field. Obviously we still have serious deficiencies on offense, but we're out of players. Casey's 180 minutes this week with the National team will probably mean he'll be subbed midway through the second half, but we need to get everything out of him we can until that point.

Key To Look For:
Offense, offense, offense. We haven't scored from anywhere but the spot in 4 games. I realize we're missing all of our wingers, but somebody has to lead this team to the goal otherwise the only soccer we're going to be watching in November is the Denver Dynamite.

Yellow Card Alert: Conor Casey is sitting one game from suspension and is tired. He has to keep his mouth in check and get through this game without getting a card. The last thing we want to do is to go into the last game against FSL needing a result without our top scorer.

Prediction: 1-1 draw, goal by Conor Casey. Casey is going to be challenged by going head-to-head against the other competitor for this year's Golden Boot and will respond with a goal. Unfortunately Cunningham is on such a run that the Rapids defense won't be able to keep him off he board and Dallas will also get a goal.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Playoff Scenarios

It's that time of year again, when we run the numbers and figure out what result can clinch us a playoff spot when. The Rapids can clinch as early as this weekend if they win, depending on two other results.

If the Rapids beat Dallas:

FSL must not beat Toronto

OR

New England must not beat Chicago

If the Rapids draw or lose to Dallas they can not clinch this weekend. They can clinch no worse than a tie for the final playoff spot with a draw though, if DC doesn't beat Columbus, Chicago beats New England, and Toronto and FSL draw. In that case, even with a loss the next week against FSL, the worst case scenario is that FSL, New England, and Colorado would tie for the last playoff spot. If Seattle were to lose thee last two games it would be a four-way tie for the last two playoff spots.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Weekend Roundup 10/3 - 10/11

Colorado Rapids - The Rapids 4 draws in 4 games has put them 5th in the West and 7th overall in MLS. They are officially out of running for the Supporters Shield, but can still finish anywhere from 2nd to 12th. Colorado is tied with Columbus for the second best offense and have the 6th best defense.

Queen of the South - Two weeks ago QoS hosted Morton and apparently decided to take the first 60 minutes of the game off. The visitors were up 2-0 at the half and 3-0 after 60 minutes. Queens stopped the bleeding but wasn't able to do anything themselves until the end of the game. Wilson finally scored in the 86 minute followed by Dean in the 90th minute. Their hole was too big though and they couldn't get the 3rd goal they needed.

On Saturday the Doonhamers took some lessons from their guests the week before as they traveled to Inverness. Queen of the South's Holmes scored inside of the first minute on the road. They gave the goal back after 19 minutes and the rest of the game was a close fought affair. In the 83rd minute Holmes got his second of the game to edge QoS in front, and he completed his hat-trick 7 minutes later. With the 3-1 Queens moved to the top of the First Division at the quarter-mark by 1 point, though there are 4 teams right behind them and 3 of them have a game in hand.

Blackburn Rovers - Two weeks ago the Rovers traveled to London to face the Rapids' partner club Arsenal. Blackburn took the early lead after 4 minutes, only to give it back 13 minutes later. In the 30th minute Rovers once again took the lead at what turned out to be the high point of the match for them. 60 minutes and 5 unanswered goals later they were on the wrong end of a 6-2 loss. Always a tough match, but the team looked particularly bad in the second half. Blackburn are in a 5 way tie for 14th, but have a game in hand over 60% of the league. Their next match is the renewal of the derby with Burnley at home.

CD Tenerife - Last week CDT hosted Deportivo La Coruña at the Estadio Heliodoro Rodriguez Lopez in Santa Cruz de Tenerife. The Blue and White were undefeated at home going into the game, another one I got to watch on ESPN360.com! Unfortunately, much like the last game I watched, Tenerife had good control but couldn't convert and Coruña was patient and waited for their chance, which they got right after the break. The 1 goal was enough and for the first time the home fans went home disappointed. The loss dropped them to 15th, just 2 points above the relegation zone.

Kildare County - Two weeks ago County hosted 11th placed Meruve United in possibly their final chance to avoid the relegation playoff. Unfortunately like much of this season they couldn't convert on the opportunity and lost 1-0, all but sealing their fate. The team has 2 draws in 12 games at home. Last week they traveled to Limerick, and like the rest of the season they were better on the road, winning 3-2. County has 13 points in 15 road games, almost playing to the "draw on the road" part of the "win at home, draw on the road" rule of thumb. I have no idea why the team is so bad at home, but maybe the manager should take the team on a bus ride before every home game! The Thoroughbreds are still last, and have to make up 8 points in 4 games. They could "clinch" the relegation playoff with the right (wrong) results this weekend.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Yanks Are Coming!

Conor Casey led the Nats to a 3-2 win in Honduras last night. With the win the U.S. clinches World Cup Qualification and can book trips to South Africa next summer.

After going down 1-0 Casey battled for a Davies header and beat the Honduran keeper to it. off his shoulder the ball looped up and over the onrushing keeper and rolled across the line. 11 minutes later Casey received a pass from Donovan inside the box and beat the keeper to the far post to give the U.S. a 2-1 lead. Those were Casey's first two National Team goals in 15 appearances. 5 minutes later Casey drew a foul just outside the box and Donovan converted the free kick for a 3-1 lead. Honduras would get one back late which led to some nail-biting in the last few minutes but the Americans were victorious. Casey was unanimous MOTM and increased his chances of joining the team in South Africa next year.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Season Ticket Holder Gift Photos

These were taken quickly with my cell phone, but you should get the idea.

Front Cover

Inside

Back

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Impressive Season Ticket Holder Gift

When I got home from work tonight I had a package from the Colorado Rapids. Inside was my 2009 season ticket holder's gift, a notebook cover with the Rapids logo on it. included was a note and a insert that explained that the notebook cover was made from the Rapids old banners and billboards as part of their Go Green and Play Clean initiatives. The notebook covers were made by a local company called Ecologic Designs in Boulder as part of their Green Guru Gear line. Along with the old Rapids billboards and banners the company uses recycled #1 plastic from bottles and containers and re-purposed bicycle inner tubes in the making of the notepad cover. The included Rapids notepad was signed, in my case, by defender Rob Valentino but fans have reported other signatures including Facundo Diz and Drew Moor.

I have to say I've very pleased with this gift. It s unique and functional, something that you can't really say about last year's picture frame. Not only that but its environmentally conscious and supports a local business. This was well planned by the Rapids Front Office, kudos to them!

Pictured is the generic notebook cover from the Green Guru line. If I have a chance in the next few days I'll take some pictures of the Rapids-themed one I received and post them.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Rapids Drawn, Playoff Chances Quartered

OK, quartered is an overstatement, but we didn't do our chances much good with only 1 point in our final home game. The Rapids once again went down early only to get bailed out by a PK to get a 1-1 draw.

The first half was pretty quiet. The first of two notable events happened very early as Ballouchy was lining up for a free kick. The referee told him to wait for the whistle, set the wall, and put the whistle in his mouth. Ballouchy took the kick and right after the referee blew the whistle. Since Ballouchy went early he killed the play, brought it back for a restart, and carded Ballouchy in the 9th minute! Complete over-reaction to what happened but it was an indicator of what was to come from the referee. The other event was the New England goal. Kimura committed an unnecessary foul out on the wing. The free kick was perfectly floated in and Dube got above Cummings to head it home.

The second half was much more eventful. In the 57th minute Cummings was moving through the box. He felt pressure on his shoulder and collapsed. The referee decided there was enough contact and called the PK. It was a weak call, the only thing is that we couldn't see the right hand of the defender being Cummings so there may have been more of a tug, but I doubt it. Casey converted for his 16th goal of the season. A minute later Baudet got into a pushing match with Dube. As he shoved him away with his arm his hand caught Dube in the face. Dube went down like a ton of bricks and the referee bought it, showing Baudet the straight red. This call was even weaker than the PK call. Oddly enough the Rapids played better after that, controlling the game and generating a couple of good chances including a cannon shot from Cummings off the crossbar. There was no beating Reis though.

My key to the game was Pablo Mastroeni vs. Shalrie Joseph. Joseph did almost nothing in this game, so Pablo, with help from LaBrocca, won that battle. The Revs really didn't have many chances other than the goal. Unfortunately that's the only chance they needed.

Other Observations:
  • The Rapids really need a win in the final two games to make the playoffs. 2 draws might be enough but it would probably require winning a tiebreaker
  • Harvey struggled at left mid this game, probably due to the wider field. I'm not sure the 3-5-2 works on the wide fields we're going to be playing on the rest of the season
  • Not sure who was supposed to be covering Dube on the goal. I find it hard to believe we put Cummings on their only true forward. Moor seemed to be in the middle covering nobody so I'm guessing it was supposed to be him and Cummings (and at the end, Harvey) we're trying to fill in the gap
  • Ballouchy was a waste, I'm not sure how many balls he gave up on
  • Ballouchy's yellow card was a joke though, and it will leave him suspended for he game in Dallas (along with Baudet)
  • 4 games, 4 draws, and our only goals have come from 3 PK's. We need to find our offense quickly
  • Casey's goal ties him with Cunningham for the golden Boot, but Cunningham has one more game to play than Casey
  • Cummings, Gibbs, Kimura, and Palguta are now safe from yellow card suspension for this season
Player of the Game: Pablo Mastroeni. Keeping Joseph that quiet was a job well done, even if Pablo risked a yellow card late in the box. Honorable mention to Baudet who didn't deserve the red card and had a couple of our best shots of the night off of corner kicks.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Oct 3rd, 1777 - Americans March To Germantown

On October 3rd 1777 the American revolutionary army under George Washington began its march to Germantown to face the British. On October 3rd 2009 the Revolution under Steve Nicol will march into Commerce City to face the British-led Rapids. The battle of Germantown was a victory for the British, let's hope history repeats itself tomorrow night. Its the final home regular season game for the Rapids and kickoff is at 7pm at the Dick. The supporter's tailgate starts at 5pm.

A special congrats go out to Class VI members Josh and Greta who will be missing this game for a more important event, their wedding. May you have many happy years together.

Official Injury Report:
OUT: MF Colin Clark (L ACL tear); MF Jacob Peterson (R ACL tear); MF Jamie Smith (L knee strain); DOUBTFUL: GK Matt Pickens (R knee sprain); QUESTIONABLE: DF Cory Gibbs (R thigh strain)

Official Discipline Report:
ONE CAUTION FROM SUSPENSION: Mehdi Ballouchy, Conor Casey
TWO CAUTIONS FROM SUSPENSION: Omar Cummings, Cory Gibbs, Kosuke Kimura, Scott Palguta

The Revs have 6 players who are questionable or worse on the injury report and Wells Thompson is suspended from a red card he got in their midweek game against Dallas. Both teams are going to be playing patchwork lineups for this one. My guess at our lineup:

Burpo
Moor - Baudet - Palguta
Pablo - LaBrocca
Kimura - Ballouchy -Harvey
Cummings - Casey

This is the same lineup we used in Kansas City last week. It did well on the defensive end but didn't generate many chances on the offensive end. Still these are our best eleven players on our roster that are healthy and the most logical way to get them on the field.

Key To Look For:
Pablo Mastroeni vs. Shalrie Joseph. Despite what others may say I think these are the best two defensive midfielders in the league. Joseph is also the best healthy forward the Revs have right now, and they'll be looking to him to run the offense. He's reportedly a little banged up and if Pablo can take him out of the game New England will have a hard time doing anything tomorrow night.

Prediction: 1-0 win, goal by Conor Casey. I think the home field advantage is enough of an edge for the Rapids to get a win. It won't be pretty soccer, what with the Rapids midfield injury issues and the Revs playing a second game in 4 days, but 3 points is 3 points.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Rapids Salary Info - 2009 - October 1st Update

The MLS Players Union has updated its list of 2009 salaries. Its current as of the roster freeze date on September 15th.
There are 8 Rapids added and 5 removed since the last release on March 15th. We finally get the number for Palguta and Holody, it moves Moor, Noonan, and Valentino from their former teams to Colorado, and it adds the salaries for Baudet, Diz, and Jamie Smith.

Here's the list of the current Colorado salaries. The first number is their base salary, the second number is their guaranteed salary for 2009. For comparison, the 2008 numbers are here.

Ballouchy Mehdi M $100,000.00 $118,000.00
Baudet Julien D $ 156,000.00 $169,750.00
Burpo Preston GK $57,871.99 $57,871.99
Casey Conor F $200,000.00 $200,000.00
Ceus Steward GK $20,100.00 $20,100.00
Clark Colin M $85,000.00 $90,000.00
Cummings Omar F $65,000.00 $73,750.00
Dalby Greg M $34,650.00 $34,650.00
Diz Facundo F $42,000.00 $42,000.00
Gibbs Cory D $110,000.00 $117,142.86
Harden Ty D $34,008.00 $34,008.00
Harvey Jordan D $50,000.00 $51,250.00
Holody Michael D $20,100.00 $20,100.00
Kimura Kosuke D $52,500.00 $52,500.00
LaBrocca Nick M $70,000.00 $72,500.00
Mastroeni Pablo M $255,000.00 $300,500.00
Moor Drew D $132,000.00 $149,188.89
Noonan Pat F $175,008.00 $175,008.00
O'Brien Ciaran M $ 7 0,000.00 $ 103,750.00*
Palguta Scott D $54,999.96 $54,999.96
Peterson Jacob F $100,000.00 $118,750.00
Pickens Matt GK $125,000.00 $127,500.00
Schunk Ross F $34,008.00 $34,008.00
Smith Jamie M $159,600.00 $169,600.00
Valentino Rob D $39,600.00 $57,100.00*

* = Generation Adidas players that do not count against the salary cap, only the roster limit

The Rapids have 25 of 24 roster spots filled because Ceus and O'Brien went on season-long loans to the USL which means they don't count against the roster limit (But Ceus still counts against the salary cap).

At 170K Baudet is getting about what I expected, as are Holody at 20K and Palguta at 55K. There were no surprises with Moor, Noonan, and Valentino as their salaries were included on the original 2009 list with their teams. Jaime Smith's 170K is a big hit on the salary cap for how quickly he got injured, but its hard to fault anyone. You can't really see a blood clot coming. The biggest surprise to me is Diz, who's only making 40K. I realize that the Argentine economy isn't great but I expected it would take more than just over development salary level to get him to leave home and come to MLS.

Conor Casey Called Up For World Cup Qualifiers

Casey was on the 22-man roster announced today for the final two World Cup Qualifiers on 10/10 and 1014. Oct. 10th is our bye week, we don't have a game after Saturday's match until Oct. 17th. Casey will probably travel with the team to Honduras for the match on the 10th and to DC for the final game of the hex on the 14th. The U.S. needs one win to qualify or a draw against Costa Rica in DC.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Weekend Roundup 9/26 - 9/27

Colorado Rapids - With the Rapids two draws last week they are now 3rd int he West and 5th overall in MLS. New England and Chivas are lurking right behind them with games in hand though, and Colorado no longer has games in hand over the teams in front of them. The Rapids are tied for 2nd in goals scored with DC and Columbus and are 6th in goals allowed.

Queen of the South - On Wednesday the Doonhamers had a huge game at Palmerston Park against Rangers in the 3rd round of the League Cup. This was a rematch of the 2007-2008 FA Cup final that Rangers won 3-2. Today would see a similar result as again Rangers won by a goal, 2-1. The visitors scored early but much like the FA Cup final had to defend in numbers as QoS refused to go quietly. It took until the 77th minute before the Glasgow side could get the second goal, and even then Queens wasn't done, scoring in stoppage time to make Rangers sweat until the end.

QoS wasn't happy with the result and took their frustrations out in Dunfermline Athletic over the weekend. The teams combined for 5 goals in the last 15 minutes of the first half! The good news for the visitors from Dumfries is that they scored 4 of them to take a 4-1 lead to the locker rooms. The second half was decidedly less eventful and the Doonhamers were happy to get the 3 points on the road. 7 games in Queens is on top of the table by a point.

Blackburn Rovers - Rovers started the week by playing Robin Hood to Nottingham Forest's Sheriff. They traveled to forest for their 3rd Round League Cup match. Benni McCarthy got his first goal of the season in the 37th minute but it was Nottingham who controlled much of the match. Rovers were up to the challenge though, and keeper Jason Brown saved a PK to preserve the shutout as Blackburn stole a win and advanced to the final 16.

The team returned to Ewood Park to face Rovers legend Big Bad Brad Friedel and the rest of his Aston Villa side. It only took 3 minutes for the visitors to take the lead on their first attack of the game. The rest of the half was end-to-end action with Blackburn having the better chances. Midway through the half Chris Samba leveled the game, though that would be the only other score in a busy half. The second half was a little more controlled but Rovers continued to push the action. Vince Grella was shown a second yellow card with 20 minutes remaining, but that didn't stop Blackburn. The pressure paid off in stoppage time David Dunn stepped up to beak Friedel from the spot and Rovers claimed a big 3 points. Blackburn is 15th in the table, 3 points clear of the relegation zone.

CD Tenerife - The Blue and White hosted Athletic Bilbao in Santa Cruz on Wednesday. Despite the lofty heights of the visitors (3rd in La Liga at the time) CDT showed little concern and played liek the favorites the whole game. Their only problem was a lack of accuracy in shooting which kept the game scoreless until late. Mikel Alonso got onto an Alfaro cross and nodded home for a 1-0 win.

El Tete faced the biggest test of the season on Saturday as they were in Madrid to face Real. The game was on ESPN360.com, so I was able to see Tenerife for the first timee since I was in the Canary Islands almost 2 and a third years ago. You can see that there is no fear in this side. They don't care who they're playing, they will take the attack to them and they believe they belong on the same field as the likes of Ronaldo, Raul, and Kaka. While CDT controlled long stretches of the game and created a number of good chances. the result shows the difference in the teams. Madrid made their chances count and Tenerife didn't, losing 3-0. The chicharerros are now undefeated at home and win less (without a goal) on the road. Not a bad start for their return to La Liga, they are in 13th place in the table, 3 points clear of relegation.

Kildare County - County faced Longford Town, just ahead of them in the table, in midweek. The Thoroughbreds scored just before the break, only to allow the home side to level the score right after halftime. Kildare would get the winner with 4 minutes to play. The 3 points got them to within 7 points of Longford and MEruve united, giving them hope of getting out ot he relegation playoff.

The hope was short lived though as over the weekend County hosted leaders U.C.D. and the visitors showed them the difference between a top side and a bottom side. A 5-0 drubbing at home soured the midweek result. The Thoroughbreds need to make up 8 points in the final 6 matches or face the relegation playoff for the second straight year.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Scoreless in KC

Colorado finished its stretch of 3 games in 8 days with a quiet draw in Kansas City. Honestly there isn't much to say about this game. The Rapids were obviously hoping to steal 3 points by scoring on a counter-attack and sneaking out of town with a 1-0 win, but otherwise were happy with a scoreless draw. While I would have preferred 3 points I can't blame the Rapids for this strategy given their short time between games and the injury situation.

The Rapids had 3 shots on target total, the best from Cummings after 27 minutes that forced Hartman to make a diving save. The Wizards only had 4 shots on target themselves, and only one was really dangerous. KC had back to back corner kicks late in the the 2nd half. The first went to an unmarked Conrad behind the back post who put it off the post and it was then cleared for another corner kick. The second one fell to Zoltan on the front post. He tried to squeeze it between Burpo and the post but Kimura had it covered. He took the shot off his groin but kept it out and after a few minutes in pain he tenderly reentered and finished the game. The only other notable events were late in the game when Ballouchy picked up a yellow for a bad tackle and Casey got a soft yellow for a tackle right at the end of stoppage time. This puts them both one game away from suspension with no chance of having one knocked off for good behavior.

My key to the game was showing up if we wanted to go to the playoffs. We weren't stunningly good, but we improved over the two games against San Jose. Obviously the game plan was to be conservative and be happy with the point. The team executed that plan well and got the job done.

Other Observations:
  • With the other results the Rapids playoff picture significantly improved. Two wins gets us all but mathematically in, a win and a draw will probably be enough
  • Kimura and Harvey did well in their new winger roles. I'm not sure they have enough defensive cover to play that formation on a wide field, but the narrow field of KC worked well for it
  • KC fans are complaining about time-wasting, but I can't blame the Rapids for their game plan. And Hersig seemed to be happy to waste time when Wolff was off the field getting treatment for an injury.
  • After a couple of unsettled games in the back line the Rapids did a good job of containing the Wizards attack. Kimura's save off the line was the closest they got
Player of the Game: Preston Burpo. He marshaled the defense well, kept anything from getting dangerous, and posted a shutout. Just what you want from a keeper.

Friday, September 25, 2009

We're Off To See The Wizards, The Wonderful Wizards Of KC

A short turnaround from Wednesday's night disappointment to our next game tomorrow night, a short road trip to Kansas City. The Rapids will have a depleted lineup after learning today that Jacob Peterson tore his ACL in Wednesday night's game. Game time is at 6:30pm and the game will be televised on Altitude. The supporters groups will be at the British Bulldog like usual and all are welcome.

Official Injury Report:
OUT: MF Colin Clark (L ACL tear); MF Jacob Peterson (R ACL tear); GK Matt Pickens (R knee sprain); MF Jamie Smith (L knee strain); DOUBTFUL: DF Cory Gibbs (R thigh strain)

Official Discipline Report:
TWO CAUTIONS FROM SUSPENSION: Mehdi Ballouchy, Conor Casey, Omar Cummings, Cory Gibbs, Scott Palguta

The Wizards are down 3 players due to injury, but otherwise they'll have their full roster. The Rapids are really in a tough spot with no natural wing players left on the roster that are healthy. I have no good idea what Smith is going to do, but my best guess is:

Burpo
Moor - Baudet - Palguta - Harvey
Pablo
Kimura - Ballouchy - LaBrocca
Cummings - Casey

We could also see Kimura back on the back line, most likely in place of Palguta with Moor moving inside, and Noonan on the wing. Kimura has played well when called on to step up to right mid though, and I think we need to give him the job for the last 4 games to bring some stability to the midfield.

Key To Look For:
Show up if we want to go to the playoffs. For 3 straight games we've played like we're already out of the running. We've dropped from a chance at the Supporter's Shield, to a solid playoff spot, to a battle just to make the playoffs. We can't afford to keep playing this way if we think we have a chance to win these games.

Prediction: 1-1 draw, goal by Conor Casey. This team hasn't shown that they can win on the road in a long time, and a surging KC side doesn't lead me to believe that will change. I think we're good enough to still get a point, but not a win unless the team really turns around from the last 3 games.

Peterson, Smith Done for Season

The Rapids have just announced that Jacob Peterson and Jamie Smith will join Colin Clark on the season-ending injury list. Peterson tore his ACL in a collision in Wednesday's San Jose game. Smith injured his knee against Houston on August 30th, and after having surgery to repair it has reportedly developed a blood clot. Originally he was hoping to be back by the playoffs but I'm guessing the blood clot has made that impossible. With Clark, Peterson, and Smith injured and O'Brien on season-long loan to the USL that leaves the Rapids with no natural outside mids on the roster.

Terry Cooke is still available, too bad its past the Sept. 15th roster freeze date.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

One More Time

With 3 points for the taking, a chance to move into the elite level of teams, and a shot at the Supporters Shield the Rapids showed up and laid an egg. For the 3rd game in a row they played like they didn't care about winning, the playoffs, or anything else. For the second game in a row a stupid San Jose defender and an alert referee bailed them out and got them a point from a Conor Casey PK at the end of stoppage time. We continue like this and we won't need to worry about our playoff positioning, because we won't qualify.

That's about as much of a write-up as this game deserves. If the team isn't going to put in the effort, why should I bother. Tip of the hat to Casey for setting the Rapids single-season scoring record, maybe Saturday he can make an effort to get one before the 93rd minute.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Need a favor from somebody with Setanta

If anyone has the ability to get a copy of a game later this week from Setanta, drop me a line.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Lightning Strikes (Not Once But Twice)

After the draw last Friday against San Jose the Rapids get right back at it tomorrow night...against San Jose. The Earthquakes are in town for the second half of the home-and-home series. This is the 'game in hand' the Rapids have been holding for most of the season, so a win here would be huge, while a loss would leave us in right in the middle of the playoff battle we've been trying to avoid. Kickoff tomorrow night is at 7:30 out at the dick and the supporters tailgate will start at 5:30.

Official Injury Report:
OUT: MF Colin Clark (L ACL tear); GK Matt Pickens (R knee sprain); MF Jamie Smith (L knee strain); DOUBTFUL: DF Cory Gibbs (R thigh strain)

Official Discipline Report:
TWO CAUTIONS FROM SUSPENSION: Mehdi Ballouchy, Julian Baudet, Conor Casey, Omar Cummings, Cory Gibbs, Scott Palguta

San Jose has 4 players listed as questionable or worse, while the Rapids get Pablo back from suspension. That gives the Rapids a strong advantage in the return leg. My best guess at the lineup:

Burpo
Moor - Baudet - Palguta - Harvey
Pablo
Kimura - Ballouchy - LaBrocca
Cummings - Casey

The real question is will Kimura be moved to the backline to push Palguta to the bench for Peterson? I think Kimura showed enough last week to deserve to start n the midfield again though, so I expect Peterson to start on the bench.

Key To Look For:
Do we appear to care? The last two games we've played like we aren't concerned about making the playoffs, and the results have suffered for it. We need to go out and play this game like our playoff lives depended on it, because they almost do. Getting 3 points tomorrow night will put us in position to focus on playoff seeding, not just making the playoffs.

Prediction: 2-0 win, goals by Conor Casey and Omar Cummings. The Earthquakes are out of playoff contention and are facing a midweek game on the road, at altitude, in 40 degree weather with a 50/50 chance of rain. They aren't going to be real motivated for this one. On the big field at home the Rapids should be able to run them ragged and control the game, leading to a solid win.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Weekend Roundup 9/19 - 9/20

Colorado Rapids - Colorado's draw with San Jose kept them in a tie with Chivas for 4th in the West and 6th overall. Colorado still has a game in hand over most of the teams in front of them, but Chivas and New England are lurking right behind them with a game in hand over the Rapids. Colorado is tied with DC for the 2nd best offense (2 behind Dallas) and tied with FSL and Chicago for the 6th best defense with 5 games to play.

Queen of the South - The Doonhamers hosted Dundee at Palmerston Park on Saturday. It onyl took 5 minutes for Queens to gain a huge advantage. Peter Weatherston was chopped down in the box by the Dundee keeper which resulted in a PK that Tosh converted for a 1-0 lead and a red card. That was a big hole for Dundee to dig itself early in the game but you couldn't tell for their play. While QoS had the better chances in the first half Dundee got its shots in and the teams would go to the locker room divided by the one goal. it only took 5 minutes after the break for Dundee to almost level the score as a shot came off the inside of the post and back out. The home side had seen enough and finally doubled the lead on a Derek Holmes goal. Dundee would continue to try to push but they would have no luck and the Doonhamers would get 3 points. They now look forward to their home tie on Wednesday night against Rangers in the League Cup. The win keeps QoS in 3rd place, 2 points behind leaders Ross County.

Blackburn Rovers - Blackburn traveled to Everton for this match, unfortunately they forgot to tell the back line. Rovers-killer Louis Saha, who had 6 out of his 13 career goals against Blackburn, added 2 more to his total as the back-line kept leaving him unmarked. El Hadji Diouf had a chance to beat American Tim Howard and level the score after the first Saha strike, but his header pinged off the crossbar. That was the closest Rovers would come as Saha would score his second shortly into the second half and Everton would add a third to take complete control of the game. The loss leaves Blackburn in a 4 way tie for 16th place in the table.

CD Tenerife -CDT went to the other Spanish holiday spot of Mallorca and got a rude awakening to life in La Liga. Attacks came from left, right, and center and Tenerife was just happy to defend them. That worked until the 17th minute when Mallorca got their first. Los Blanquiazules managed to stave off the attacks until the break but they didn't mount much of a campaign of their own. The game ended shortly after the break when the home side scored two quick goals to take a 3-0 lead. Things got worse for CDT as they picked up two red cards, the second leading to a PK and a final score of 4-0 for the bad guys. The loss drops Tenerife to 16th, foretelling a long season of avoiding relegation.

Kildare County - A desperate Kildare hosted Sporting Fingal at Station Road. The Thoroughbreds controlled play int he first half and were paid off with a 1-0 lead after 30 minutes. They doubled the lead right after the break and things were looking good, but as we've seen far too often this season, it all went wrong after that. Finegal came back with 3 goals in the last 39 minutes to steal 3 points on the road. County now needs 11 points more than Longford Town or Mervue United in the last 8 games in order to avoid the relegation playoff.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Equaliser

The Rapids made their only appearance on ESPN this year on Friday night, and it will be quickly forgotten by most neutral observers. A pretty lousy game that is pretty forgettable even for fans. The game didn't start well, with San Jose getting an open look at Burpo's goal, only to put the shot off the far post. It only took another 5 minutes to beat Burpo though as Ryan Johnson was left unmarked on a long-throw in and headed the ball past Burpo, who couldn't decide if he should stay on his line or come out. That was the only interesting thing of note in a bad first half.

The second half went a bit better for the Rapids as they tried to take control of the game. They had 2-3 good chances on goal but former Rapids keeper Joe Cannon was up to the challenge, coming up with 2 big saves to deny Colorado. The Rapids had one last chance off a Ballouchy corner kick at the end of regulation that Pat Noonan corralled at the top of the box and lobbed back in. Baudet went up and deflected the ball for Moor to run onto. San Jose's defense hauled Moore down int he box with 7 seconds left in stoppage time and the referee pointed to the spot. Conor Casey stepped up and sent it right down the middle. Joe Cannon got a hand on it but couldn't stop it and the Rapids escaped from the Bay Area with a vital point.

My key to the game was midfield control and we didn't have it. Peterson and Ballouchy contributed almost nothing to the game. LaBrocca filled in well for Pablo at d-mid. Kosuke Kimura, pressed into service at right midfield instead of right back, had a very good game but it wasn't enough to give Casey and Cummings the chances they needed. Luckily Mastroeni is back next game so we'll be able to get a more normal midfield setup for the stretch run.

Other Observations:
  • The field was in lousy shape, and we had no ability to adjust to it. It became long ball over the top because we couldn't figure out how to play it on the ground
  • The ref was erratic, another thing we couldn't adjust to. That said, the ref didn't get enough wrong to effect the outcome of the game
  • The San Jose fans will disagree with that last statement. There's been lots of discussion about how a Rapid player was offside on the last corner kick or how the foul wasn't "severe" enough to justify a PK call in the last minute. They're wrong. There's no angle on the ESPN broadcast that you can conclusively tell that anyone is offside, and if its a foul its a PK. It doesn't matter when in the game it is.
  • Our defense has been unsettled the last couple of games. I expect that's because we've used 5-6 different players int he back line and everyone is still figuring out how to adjust. Still, any more unmarked goals are going to kill our playoff hopes. Baudet needs to get things straightened out instead of trying to cover when people miss their assignments
  • Poor decision making, or lack thereof, on the goal by Burpo. He needs to commit to coming out or stay on his line, His halfway decision left him with no chance to stop the shot
  • Ballouchy has the decision-making ability of Congress. He takes to long to make a decision and when he makes it, its the wrong one
  • Casey got through the game without a card, which means he gets one taken off for good behavior. That leaves him 2 away from suspension instead of 1
  • Can we have somebody other than Casey take the PK's? This one was almost saved and he was unsuccessful at 2 of his prior 3 attempts this year. I prefer my PK's to be a little more of a sure thing
  • Palguta was apparently fighting the flu all week and could only make it 60 minutes or so. I realize we were short handed, but I would almost have rather seen Kimura moved to the backline and Noonan start then start a less than 100% player
Record-Tying Performance: With the successful PK Conor Casey ties John Spencer's team record for most goals in a season with 14. He has 5 games to get one more goal to set a new record. I'm betting he gets it.

Player of the Game: Kosuke Kimura. I had a hard time choosing between him and LaBrocca, but Kimura had a good game playing out of position so I gave him the nod.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Weekend Roundup 9/12 - 9/13

Colorado Rapids - The Rapids loss in Toronto has dropped them to a tie with Chivas for 4th in the West and with DC for 6th overall. Colorado still has a game in hand over most of the teams in front of them, but Chivas and New England are lurking right behind them with a game in hand over the Rapids. Colorado has the 3rd best offense (1 behind DC and Dallas) and the 8th best defense with 6 games to play.

Queen of the South - Queens traveled to face Ross County last Saturday, having just been eliminated from the ALBA Cup by the same side. The Doonhamers got off to a good start, with Derek Holmes scoring off the first free kick. Despite some pressure from County QoS took the lead into the locker room at halftime. After the break Ross County pushed another player forward and it paid off quickly. In a two minute player Ross scored twice, first from the spot on a PK then from just outside the box. Queens wasn't going away quietly though and levelled the score a few minutes later as Stewart Kean converted a PK. 15 minutes from full time County retook the lead, this time for good, on another long shot. The loss moved the Doonhamers down to 5th int he table, 2 points behind their opponents who took the top spot with the win.

Blackburn Rovers
- Blackburn hosted newly promoted Wolverhampton Wolves at Ewood Park. Rovers took control early as El Hadji Diouf scored his first goal of the season (and first home goal for Blackburn) do give the Rovers the lead after 19 minutes The home side would control the rest of the first half but could not convert that control into goals, and ongoing problem for the side. Blackburn's lead would grow to 3 after goals from Jason Roberts in the 57th minute, off a David Dunn corner, and Dunn in the 64th minute off a Roberts rebound. Wolves would get one back late but it was a comfortable first win of the season for Blackburn that took them up to 14th place and out of the relegation zone.

CD Tenerife - CDT hosted its first La Liga game in many years in Santa Cruz de Tenerife as Osasuna came to play. After a back and forth first half Osasuna went down a man shortly into the second half. This gave Los Blanquiazules the opening they needed and they took quick advantage. Nino took a lob from Ricardo and put it under the keeper for a 1-0 lead. Tenerife were apparently feeling pretty good about themselves and got caught on an Osasuna corner, giving up the equalizer. CDT would not be denied their first win in their home opener though and Ricardo put them back on top with a strike from outside the box. Osasuma quickly picked up another red card and that was that.

Kildare County - County had the week off due to domestic Cup action.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Play to Win

A very unusual Friday night game this week as the Rapids find out if they know the way to San Jose. This is the first matchup between the teams this week, with a second coming up in less than a week as both teams will head back to Denver after the match. The Earthquakes are pretty much out of the playoff race already and are looking ahead to 2010 so these are 3 points the Rapids could pick up on the road. Game time is at 9pm tomorrow night and the supporters are meeting at the British Bulldog in downtown Denver.

Official Injury Report:
OUT: MF Colin Clark (L ACL tear); GK Matt Pickens (R knee sprain); MF Jamie Smith (L knee strain); DOUBTFUL: DF Cory Gibbs (R thigh strain); PROBABLE: DF Scott Palguta (R calf strain)

Official Discipline Report:
SUSPENDED: Pablo Mastroeni (3rd of 3 games)
ONE CAUTION FROM SUSPENSION: Conor Casey
TWO CAUTIONS FROM SUSPENSION: Mehdi Ballouchy, Omar Cummings, Cory Gibbs, Scott Palguta

San Jose will be missing Huckerby, who's current injury has put him on the verge of retirement. Alvarez and Convey are also questionable for the game. Corrales and Pitchkolan will be looking to avoid picking up a yellow card that will lead to them being suspended for the return fixture in Denver. My best guess at the Rapids lineup:

Burpo
Kimura - Baudet - Moor - Harvey
LaBrocca
Peterson - Ballouchy - Noonan
Cummings - Casey

Things aren't quite as bad as they were last week. We get Ballouchy back from his travel issues and if necessary, Palguta is probably ready to start. Our midfield is still stretched thin due to Pablo's suspension but luckily this is the last game on the bench for him. Smith has talked about wanting to stick with mostly the same lineup so I'm going to guess that Dalby sits, allowing LaBrocca to move back to d-mid for Ballouchy's return.

Key To Look For:
Midfield control. We saw last week that relying on Casey and Cummings to generate the chances without midfield support didn't work well. San Jose is a weaker team than Toronto and, as surprised as I am to say it, the return of Ballouchy strengthens the center of the pitch for us. We need that group to step up and feed Casey and Cummings. This will force the San Jose defense to step up earlier and free up space behind them for Omar to run into and Conor to to hold the ball in.

Prediction: 2-1 win, Conor Casey with a brace of goals. The Earthquakes are beatable even at home and the Rapids are due for a solid road performance. I think the speed of Kimura, Peterson, and Cummings will keep the San Jose defense off balance enough for Casey to build on his lead in the Golden Boot standings.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Reds Turn Tables On Rapids Reserves

An undermanned Rapids squad traveled North of the border for the back end of the home-and-home series with Toronto. The Rapids were hurt by a ton of injuries, suspensions, and players unable to travel, taking only the minimum 18 players with them to Canada. The changes in the team showed as Toronto dominated much of the play.

The first half was some ugly soccer topped off by an goal by Toronto's Dwayne DeRosario in the 19th minute. Too many men in the box while Dalby was AWOL and Baudet did his best. The shot took a deflection and an odd bounce to beat Burpo. As the Rapids have done all year they came out of the locker rooms firing and 4 miuntes into the second half Kimura found Casey on a long high cross that Conor put away for his league leading 13th goal. It started to look like the Rapids might steal a draw but in the 74th minute Toronto's DeRosario and White combined for one of the better goals I've seen this year. DeRo one touched the ball up over Baudet, the ball spun back on the bounce to whit's foot and he chipped up over the onrushing Burpo and dropped it just under the crossbar. 9 times out of 10 either the assist or the shot is off just enough that the ball doesn't go in, it was just unlucky that this was the 1 out of 10 times it worked.

The goal seemed to put the Rapids back on their heels. 3 minutes later off a corner kick two Toronto players beat the Rapids defense to the ball and Attakora headed it home for a 3-1 lead. The Rapids wouldn't lay down though and rookie Michael Holody got a piece of the ball in the box, spun, and slotted it home to make it 3-2 in the 88th minute. Despite pressing for the equalizer the Rapids ended the game empty handed.

My key to the game was how well Casey and Cummings generated chances. I didn't expect much from the midfield and other than Peterson we didn't get much. Outside the 2 goals the Rapids only got 3 other shots on target, and they were all weak shots hat were easy to save. It was going to be a tough game for the offense but I thought 2 goals would have been enough. I didn't expect the defense to give up 3.

Other Observations:
  • Pablo's an idiot. His head-hunting in the Houston game directly contributed to this loss IMO. Dalby was awful (more on that later) and the first teo goals were the type of goals Pablo would have broken up.
  • That said, all 3 goals were well taken and well-deserved. Only on the 3rd goal was the defense really at fault, the first one was Baudet covering the more dangerous player while the other one got a lucky bounce and the second was just class by the Toronto offense.
  • Noonan, Dalby, you were crap. Noonan had to be subbed at half because he was bringing nothing to the game and I'm sure if we had another option on our stretched team Dalby would have come out as well. I thought the Noonan trade was a good one, but I was wrong.
  • I've hammered Peterson more than once so he deserves the credit for having a good game on Saturday. He was dangerous and forced the Toronto defense to deal with him.
  • Burpo did a decent job in unexpected relief of Pickens. Nothing special but nothing he could have done to stop the goals either
  • Nice job by Holody to get a goal in his second pro appearance
  • Credit to the team for continuing to fight. In the past we've seen Rapids teams that would have just rolled over and taken the loss when they went down 3-1, but the team kept battling, got back to 3-2, and then tried to push for the draw
  • Not that a loss is ever good, but this is about as "good" a loss as we could have. We only lost by 1, keeping our goal differential high, and there were no cards or injuries
  • In the long run the key to this game was the fact that with everyone healthy we could have a starting XI that only included 4 players from this game (Our forwards and wingbacks). This really was a second team that went on the road and almost pulled out a draw against Toronto.
Player of the Game: Omar Cummings. Nobody really stood out in this game but Omar was his normal busy self setting up everyone else. He got his 12th assist of the year on Casey's goal.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Second Verse, Same As The First

Last week the Rapids faced Toronto. This week the Rapids face Toronto. Next week the Rapids will face San Jose, the week after the Rapids will face San Jose. If this seems familiar its because the USOC games earlier in the season had us play LA back-to-back, then Seattle back-to-back. This time the Rapids are in the Great White North to try to keep their roll going. Game time is at 2pm MDT tomorrow and the game is on Universal Sports, not Altitude.

I have to admit to not watching this one live as my Washington Huskies are heavily favored to get their first win in 16 games over Idaho at the same time. So I'm going to watch that one live and watch the Rapids right after. ;)

Official Injury Report:
OUT: MF Colin Clark (L ACL tear); MF Jamie Smith (L knee strain); DOUBTFUL: DF Cory Gibbs (R thigh strain); PROBABLE: DF Scott Palguta (R calf strain)

Official Discipline Report:
SUSPENDED: Pablo Mastroeni (2nd of 3 games)
ONE CAUTION FROM SUSPENSION: Conor Casey
TWO CAUTIONS FROM SUSPENSION: Mehdi Ballouchy, Omar Cummings, Cory Gibbs, Scott Palguta

There's some other news circulating besides the official reports. There's one report that says Jamie Smith has been put on the season-ending injury list. That Terry Cooke move is looking better all the time! No Fan Alone is reporting that Ballouchy isn't allowed to travel internationally, I'm guessing because he's working on getting his green card. An article on MLSnet today says that Pickens has tweaked his knee and will miss 2-3 weeks. The only good news is that the two red cards Toronto got last week will leave them a bit short handed as well. Here's the best lineup the Rapids can cobble together IMO:
Burpo
Moor - Baudet - Palguta - Harvey
LaBrocca
Kimura - Noonan - Peterson
Cummings - Casey

Bench: Sharpe (or other MLS pool keeper), Harden, Dalby, Diz, Schunk, Holody, Valentino

That's every player on the roster that isn't injured, on-loan, or unable to travel and we barely reach the 18-man game day roster. Let's hope nobody got injured carrying their bags into the airport! I figured Kimura starting in midfield, which he's done once or twice, was more likely than Dalby starting at defensive mid but I could see that happening as well.

Key To Look For:

Casey and Cummings generating chances. We'll be lucky to get any kind of offensive push out of that midfield, Conor and Omar are going to have to do most of the heavy lifting on their own. We've got a pretty solid defense in front of an OK keeper, so we should give up too many goals. I'm not sure how much offense we'll be able to generate though.

Prediction: 1-0 loss. On the road with a makeshift lineup against a team playing for their playoff lives and on FieldTurf. I just don't see us winning this one. The key here is to try to minimize the damage in goals, cards, and injuries. I'll be somewhat impressed if the team gets a draw and I'll be stunned (and very hopeful about our chances in the playoffs) if we manage a win.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Weekend Roundup 8/29 - 9/6

Yeah, I missed last week. Since most teams were off over the weekend for the World Cup Qualifiers I'm not that far behind though.

Colorado Rapids - With their back to back home 1-0 wins the Rapids have given themselves a bit of breathing room. They are third in the West and tired for 5th overall with DC. They have a game or two in hand over 4 of the 5 teams in front of them though and everyone chasing them for a playoff spot has also played an extra game or two except Chivas and New England. The Rapids are 4 points behind Houston for top spot in the West and the league, but have played 2 less games. They have the second best offense and are tied with FSL for the 6th best defense in the league.

Queen of the South - Two weeks ago QoS hosted Ayr United at Palmerston. After 30 minutes of even play the Doonhamers took over the game. Queens laid siege to the Ayr goal and after a determined effort from the United keeper QoS broke through on a Willie McLaren goal to take a 1-0 lead into the locker rooms. The second half was more of the same and Quinn gave the Doonhamers a 2 goal lead in the 65th minute. After that it just a matter of good defense for Queens to take the 3 points. With the win QoS moved into a dead tie with Raith for the top spot after 4 games.

A week later Queens traveled to OoS County for the ALBA Cup quarter-final. The 30 lower-league teams had been whittled down to 8 and would be down to 4 by the end of the weekend. The first half was an end-to-end affair but Ross County would capitalize in the 26th minute with a well taken shot to put them up 1-0 at half. The second half saw the Doonhamers push for the equalizer but Ross County was up to the challenge. QoS got a free kick late and everyone pushed forward for it. It was successfully defended and turned into a counter-attack that allowed County to put the game away with a second goal. Queens' first loss of the season eliminated them from the ALBA Cup.

Blackburn Rovers
- Two weeks ago Rovers hosted West Ham United (former home of former Rapids keeper Ian Feuer) at Ewood Park. Not surprisingly from a couple of teams that look like they'll be in the relegation battle this season there wasn't much of note to talk about. While each team had a couple of good chances neither one really threatened to take the 3 points, so the scoreless draw as probably a fair result. It was Blackburn's first point of the season though, and it appears we're going to need every one we can get. 3 games in and we're already 2 points into the relegation zone.

CD Tenerife - CDT celebrated their return to the Primera Division with a trip to fellow promoted side Zaragosa. Its always tough to win on the road to start the year, but Tenerife gave a good effort and looked to get a point. Unfortunately a poor clearance 17 minutes from time was all the second division champions needed to get 3 points at home. CDT will return home for their first La Liga game in the islands to face Osasuna, hoping to get their first points.

Kildare County - Two weeks ago County hosted Finn Harps and the defenses reigned supreme early and it looked like a 0-0 draw was likely. In the 54th minute the Thoroughbreds gave up a PK though. After that Kildare was forced to push forward to find an equalizer, which allowed Harps to score a second to put the game away. Last week County traveled to Athalone Town. Despite a red card they managed to hold on for a 2-2 draw to steal a much needed point. Unfortunately with 9 games remaining the Thoroughbreds are 9 points behind. They do not own the tiebreaker so they would have to be 10 points better than Longford Town over the last run of games. Kildare only has 9 points total this season! They are almost certainly going to have to go through the relegation playoff again this season.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Rapids Leave Reds Seeing Red

The wounded Rapids, missing 4 starters, got a boost by the unexpected availability of Conor Casey last night. They took advantage of his league-leading 12th goal to get a 1-0 win over the visitors from Canada (eh!) and move up the ladder in their pursuit of a playoff spot.

The first half was made up of a good deal of bad soccer, but mainly controlled by the Rapids. The two incidents of note were a yellow card and a PK. In the 21st minute Toronto's defensive midfielder Amadou Sanyang clattered into Mehdi Ballouchy and picked up a yellow card for it. The card was a bit soft, but I think there was a bit of persistent infringement that influenced the card. A few minutes later Ballouchy sent a corner kick into the box that Baudet headed to goal. The shot deflected off of Gomez's upraised arm and referee Terry vaughn pointed to the spot. Solid call as Gomez's arm was raised away from his body and blocked a legitimate shot on goal, but there was no intent so TFC got a bit unlucky. Casey stepped up...and missed his second of three PK's this season. This one he shot too high and pined it off the crossbar. Perhaps somebody else should take PK's at this point (Ballouchy is 1-1 while Cummings is 0-1 hitting the post)?

The second half was a bit more eventful than the first, but it was still plenty of bad soccer. Neither team could really get into rhythm and it was choppy midfield play that stopped attacks from each side. 6 minutes in Cummings fed Peterson at the top of the box. Peterson swung a cross in and Casey found himself wide open between two Toronto defenders and rose up to head the ball into the back of the net for his league-leading 12th goal of the season. Toronto made some offensive substitutions and they were able to control the game in fits and spurts but never enough to challenge Matt Pickens. In the 76th minute Sanyang fouled Ballouchy again and it was one foul too man. Vaughn showed him his second yellow and suddenly Toronto was down a goal and a man.

The last major incident of the game occurred in the 85th minute when Cummings was running onto a long ball from the back. He only had to beat Toronto defender Adrian Serioux to be 1v1 with the keeper. Serioux saw Cummings coming after the high ball and rather than play the ball he sized Cummings up and took him out with an elbow and shoulder charge. Both serious foul play and denial of an obvious goal scoring opportunity. Vaughn wasted no time in showing the red card and the game was essentially over. There are some fans trying to justify Serious play as just a shoulder charge while going for the ball but if you watch the replay on a viewer that's big enough to see the details you can tell that Serioux never even looked at the ball and was gunning for Cummings the whole time.

My key to the game was how well the 5 new starters integrated with the rest of the team. With Casey's unexpected apperance it was only 4 new starters, Ballouchy, Moor, Baudet, and Noonan. Baudet and Moor were rock solid at center back, Toronto never had a decent attempt at goal. Moor will be fighting with Palguta for the starting spot while Baudet appears to be supplanting Gibbs as the starter. Ballouchy was his normal self, 1-2 good balls, 3-4 bad balls, and the rest just eh. Noonan was pretty invisible for a center mid, and that trade is looking worse by the game.

Other Observations:
  • I predicted ugly soccer with a 1-0 win off a goal by Cummings. That was before I knew Casey was going to play though so I'd say that was a fairly accurate prediction
  • Real solid play by the back line. Kimura - Moor - Baudet - Harvey might be our best 4
  • If Gary Smith thinks Palguta deserves to start we might want to look at shifting Kimura to right mid and pushing Moor to right back. Kimura's speed and tenacity would serve us well in midfield
  • Casey needs 3 goals to set the team record for goals and Cummings need 3 goals or assists to set the team record for combined goals & assists
  • We need a center/attacking mid. LaBrocca, Noonan, and Ballouchy can all manage the position without being a disaster but none of them can change a game from there
  • At least we got through this game without any additional injuries. Bravo and Gary Smith were saying pregame that Gibbs is 2-3 weeks out and Jamie Smith is probably done until the playoffs. Palguta should be available next week at least
  • Toronto will be down Serioux and Sanyang next week which should improve our chances in the return fixture
Player of the Game: Nick LaBrocca. There are a couple of candidates for the award this time but LaBrocca really stepped up and filled Pablo's shoes. He broke up every attack that came through the midfield and started a number of good chances for the Rapids. We still need to figure out who can sit in front of him while Pablo is suspended, but we seem to be OK at d-mid.