Monday, August 31, 2009

Wounded Rapids Short Circut Dynamo

The Rapids bounced back from the Chicago debacle with a strong performance against Houston yesterday. The only downside was the amount of damage done to the team in the process..

The Rapids came out hot and took the game to the Dynamo. While we controlled play we had a hard time turning that into dangerous chances. Things got bad when in the 13th minute Cory Gibbs appeared to pull his groin and ahd to be replaced with Julian Baudet. In the 34th minute Jamie Smith injured himself and was replaced by Mehdi Ballouchy. The Rapids did managed to get two shots on goal in the half, but not much else. That was still more that Houston achieved, they went the half without a shot on goal or a corner kick.

In the second half things were a bit more balanced but Colorado still had the upper hand. 10 minutes in the Rapids had another corner kick (1 of 9 total). Ballouchy dropped a great corner into the box where Baudet beat Kai Kamara and put it past the ageless Pat Onstad for a 1-0 lead. Unfortunately the Rapids dropped back defensively for the next 10 minutes or so and it looked like we might have a repeat of last week's Chicago debacle but the team got their act together and started regaining control. In the 65th minute Mastroeni was lucky to avoid a red card after a collision with Dynamo defender Hainault, instead seeing yellow. In the 73rd minute the Rapids made a 3rd substitution for injury, bringing off a limping Omar Cummings (who was fighting a hip pointer earlier in the week) for Pat Noonan. The game was basically over in the 86th minute when Brad Davis decided to get some revenge for the earlier foul on Hainault by taking out Ballouchy with a combination kick, knee, and elbow that resulted in Ballouchy on the ground and Davis getting a red card.

My key to the game was how well we recovered from last week's meltdown. While our play wasn't outstanding we did come back strong. The team did seem to get too defensive immediately after taking the lead and that could have cost us, so that's something I'd like to see the team avoid in the future.

Other Observations:
  • Pablo will be suspended this week for at least 1 more game (beyond the 1 game he got for yellow card accumulation. I wouldn't be surprised if it was 2 more games. He went head-hunting on Hainault and deliberately put his elbow into his face. No surprise that Davis decided to try to get some vengeance but I expect him to get another game for his foul on Ballouchy as well.
  • Another stupid yellow card by Casey, for kicking the ball away after the whistle. That puts him one card away from his second suspension for yellow card accumulation. Not smart and not helping the team
  • I think Baudet won a starting spot with his play. With Ihemelu being traded today I expect we'll see a back line of Kimura - Baudet - Gibbs(if healthy) - Harvey next week, with Moor and Palguta pushing hard to break into that group
  • In what turned out to be his last game as a Rapid, Ihemelu had a pretty good game
  • I love watching Kimura play. He goes 100% 100% of the time. Maybe he's not technically the best player on the field but you can never doubt his drive and passion
  • If Smith or Gibb's injuries are serious I'm not sure what kind of lineup we'll field next week. Pablo is suspended and Casey will be with the National Team. We could see the likes of Diz and Dalby starting.
  • This win goes a long way in helping our playoff chances. At 33 points with games in hand all we need to do is win our home games and pickup a point or two on the road and we should make the playoffs
Special Note: The halftime ceremony inducting John Spencer into the Gallery of Honor was well done by the Rapids Front Office. A nice career recap on the big screen and it was good to see the former Rapids players back to join Spencer on the field. According to Paul Bravo this is just the first step in trying to tie the team back into its history. As a former Rapids player going back to 1997 he's a good person to lead that push.

Player of the Game: Julian Baudet. 5 weeks removed from compound fractures to both bones in his forearm he comes in off the bench in the 13th minute, helps the defense shut down the best team in the league, and scores the game winning goal. Not bad for only his 3rd appearance with the Rapids. Honorable mention goes to Kosuke Kimura who was all over the place on defense.

Ihemelu traded to Dallas for Drew Moor

FC Dallas has just sent out a press release with the following news:

FC Dallas General Manager Michael Hitchcock announced today that team has acquired defender Ugo Ihemelu from the Colorado Rapids in exchange for defender Drew Moor, the team’s natural second round pick in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft and allocation money.

This is a significant surprise to me, I didn't think the Rapids were going to make any more moves this year. Its no secret that I've been unhappy with Ihemelu's play this year, so I see this as a very good move for the Rapids. Getting allocation money, a draft pick, and a new young defender for a player that I think shouldn't even be starting is a steal. I don't know much about Drew Moor but he's been an ironman on Dallas' back line, starting 111 out of a possible 141 games since he was drafted. He's had a couple of looks from the National Team, much like Ihemelu, including being on the 2007 Copa America team.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Colorado Looks To Power Down Houston

The Rapids host the Dynamo in their only home Sunday match tomorrow. At halftime former Colorado striker and current Houston assistant coach will be inducted into the Gallery of Honor where he'll join Rapids legends Marcelo Balboa, Paul Bravo, and Chris Henderson. A well-deserved honor for one of the all-time fan favorites. Game time is at 1pm on Sunday, and the supporters groups will have a tailgate breakfast starting at 10am.

Official Injury Report:
OUT: MF Colin Clark (L ACL tear); PROBABLE: DF Julien Baudet (L forearm fracture); DF Scott Palguta (R calf strain)

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

Houston is missing 3 players due to injury so they're slightly worse off than the Rapids. They also played a CONCACAF Champions League game in Panama on Wednesday so they might be a bit tired. My guess on how Gary Smith will lineup the Rapids:

Kimura - Gibbs - Ihemelu - Harvey
Peterson - LaBrocca - Smith
Cummings - Casey

I'm guessing that Palguta and Baudet's injuries will keep them on the bench but if either of them are ready they could replace Gibbs or Ihemelu (which I would like to see happen). Ballouchy seems to be out of favor at the moment so I expect we'll see the same starting midfield as we did last week against Chicago.

Key To Look For:

How do we recover from last week's meltdown? Giving up 3 goals in 20 minutes to lose 3 points on the road could be a real turning point this season. We can either bounce back and play like we know we have 3 points to make up somewhere or we can turn into the same old Rapids and walk along the edge of the playoffs for the next 9 games. If we do the former we could really push Houston while if we do the latter Houston will walk all over us.

Prediction: 2-2 draw, goals by Conor Casey and Omar Cummings. While I think our offense can keep scoring at home I have no faith that our defense can stop the best team in MLS, especially with the likely center back pairing of Ihemelu and Gibbs. Right now I'll be happy to get a point out of this game.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Weekend Roundup 8/22 - 8/26

Colorado Rapids - With their defensive self-destruction on Saturday the Rapids have fallen to 5th in the West and in a 3 way tie with Toronto and New England for 7th in the league. If the playoffs started today they would claim the final playoff spot ahead of Toronto. They are tied with Columbus and DC for the best offense in the league but tied with FSL and Chicago for the 7th worst defense.

Queen of the South - Saturday Queens hosted Partick Thistle still looking for their first league win of the season. Thistle pushed QoS through most of the first half but the defense held strong and the teams went to the locker rooms scoreless. The second half was more evenly split but as the game entered its final minutes the score was still deadlocked. In the 79th minute David Weatherston was subbed into the game and had an immediate impact. in the 83rd minute Weatherston picked up a through ball from Holmes and rove in on goal and beat the Partick keeper from close range to give the Doonhamers a 1-0 win. That moved Queens up to 5th in the table, 1 point behind leaders Dunfermline.

On Tuesday the Doonhamers traveled to Partick Thistle to face them in the 2nd Round of the Co-operative Insurance Cup, the current name of the League Cup. Early on Queens controlled play but in the 30th minute Thistle was given a fre kick outside the box and made it count with a goal directly from the kick. They turned that into continuing control for the rest of the first half and into the second half. Manager Gordon Chisholm had seen enough and subbed Saturday hero David Weatherston into the game in the 60th minute and once again it paid immediate dividends. 3 minutes later he got onto the end of a Paul Burns cross to level the score. The game was an end-to-end affair for the last 25 minutes and it looked destined for extra time until somebody punched the rewind button and queued up Saturday's match. In stoppage time Weatherston got onto another through ball and pushed it under the Partick keeper to give QoS the win! With the victory Queens moves on tot he Round of 16 where the big guns of the SPL join the competition.

Blackburn Rovers
- Rovers traveled to Sunderland on Saturday for their first game of a 3 game road trip. Blackburn had control early and turned it into a 1-0 lead off a Gael Givet goal in the 21st minute. Unfortunately as we've seen far too often the Rovers couldn't turn their domination on the field into domination on the scoreboard. 1 minutes later Sunderland leveled the score with their only significant chance of the half. 9 minutes after half Sunderland would take the lead and while Rovers would push for the equalizer it was not to be. After 2 games Blackburn is still looking for its first points of the campaign. West Ham comes into Ewood Park on Saturday, which should be a winnable game.

On Wednesday Blackburn traveled to Gillingham for the second round of the League Cup. 6 minutes in David Dunn put Rovers up 1-0. Gillingham pushed for a goal most of the first half but the defense held up and Blackburn took the advantage into the locker room. Seconds after Rovers kicked off to start the second half they had doubled their lead on a Junior Hoilett header. Gillingham got one back from the spot but Pederson sealed the deal with a goal in the 75th minute. With the win Blackburn moves into the 3rd Round.

Kildare County - County had a touch task ahead of them as they played at the home of First Division leaders Shelbourne. Unfortunately while they controlled much of the game they couldn't convert their chances. Shelbourne scored twice in the last 15 minutes to take the 3 points. Kildare is 9 points from safety with 11 games to play, more than double their current total. They are pretty much looking at a playoff to avoid relegation at this point.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Rapids Defense Burned By Fire

Two weeks ago the Rapids went up 2 in the first 5 minutes and never let Chivas back into the game. This week we went up two between the 48th and 58th minute, then collapsed and let Chicago win the game.

The first half was completely forgettable by both teams (o cards, 0 corners, 0 subs, 0 shots on goal) so we'll jump straight to the second half. At halftime Palguta was pulled due to tightness in his calf and replaced by Ihemelu. 3 minutes later Jamie Smith took a long shot on goal from outside the box that Fire keeper Jon Busch was able to punch away, right to the feet of Oar Cummings. With Busch on his knees and a wide open net Cummings made no mistake and put the Rapids up 1-0. 10 minutes later Jamie Smith got an official assist as he brought the ball down the field, found Omar open at the top of the box and gave him the ball, Cummings took a couple of touches and lashed a shot with his weaker left foot into the upper 90 for a 2-0 lead.

And that's when it started to go wrong. After 14 minutes No-Neck Blanco brought the ball into the box where he was stood up by Gibbs while Kimura slid in to take the ball. one of them (I think it was Gibbs) got too much of Blanco's ankle and down he went, getting the PK call and then asking for, and getting, a card on Kimura. Blanco converted the penalty to cut the lead in half. Gary Smith immediately subbed Jamie Smith for Mehdi Ballouchy and 8 minutes later subbed Jacob Peterson for Greg Dalby. This made us more defensive at the cost of our width and ability to go forward. The Fire were ready to take advantage of the Rapids going into a shell.

In the 8th minute the Fire took advantage of a turnover up field with Harvey pushed forward to get in behind him. After forcing a bad pass away from goal Greg Dalby raced in to clear the ball and pushed it right to an unmarked Banner at the top of the box. Banner had plenty of time to set up the shot and level the score at 2. Not done yet the Rapids defense allowed the Fire not1, not 2, but 3 unmarked shots in stoppage time. The first two beat Pickens but were cleared off the line, but the third time was the charm letting the Fire steal 3 points from the jaws of defeat.

My key to the game was the midfield, especially the wing, play. Jamie Smith had a hand in both goals while Peterson was somewhat quiet and LaBrocca didn't do much of anything. Still the Rapids controlled the game for the first 15-20 minutes of the second half and it wasn't until the subs that we really lost control. Of course as soon as that happened we lost the game.

Other Observations:
  • With the two goals Cummings continues to lead the league in goals+assists by 2 over Seattle's Montero. Those are the only two players in the top 10 in both goals and assists
  • The Rapids are tied with DC and Columbus for the league lead in goals scored. When was the last time you could say that in the final third of a season, if ever?
  • Which means that the reason the Rapids are barely hanging on to a playoff spot is the defense. I'm sick and tired of watching stupid mistakes from Gibbs and Ihemelu cost us points. When healthy I want to see a back line of Kimura - Palguta - Baudet - Harvey, at least they won't be giving up goals because they lose focus
  • For a National Team defender Cory Gibbs can't organize a defense to save his life
  • Matt Pickens couldn't do much about any of the goals, he was left stranded by his defense
  • Poor subs by Gary Smith. He was too quick to defend a lead against a team that leads the league in late-game goals. Smith essentially stranded Casey and Cummings up top with no good way to get the ball
  • This loss really hurts our hopes of securing a playoff spot early. We still have a favorable schedule but now were solidly in a playoff race with Toronto, new England, and Seattle that will probably go down to the final couple of games
Player of the Game: Omar Cummings, duh

Friday, August 21, 2009

Rapids Blow Into Windy City

Colorado heads into Chicago on Sunday hoping to avenge only their second ever Independence Day loss last month. The Rapids have a chance to move up to 3rd with a win and be only a point out of second with a game in hand while the Fire are chasing the Crew in the Eastern Conference race so its a big game for both sides. Kickoff is at 4pm MDT with the game televised on Altitude. The supporters groups will be downtown at the British Bulldog like always.

Official Injury Report:
OUT: MF Colin Clark (L ACL tear); DOUBTFUL: DF Julien Baudet (L forearm fracture); PROBABLE: FW Conor Casey (L thigh sprain)

Official Discipline Report:
TWO CAUTIONS FROM SUSPENSION: Mehdi Ballouchy, Ugo Ihemelu, Scott Palguta

Chicago is missing 4 players due to injury and John Thorrington is suspended. Being the first game since the injury to Colin Clark its hard to know what Gary Smith will do in midfield. My best guess on the Rapids lineup:

Kimura - Gibbs - Palguta - Harvey
Smith - Ballouchy - LaBrocca
Cummings - Casey

Obviously the right back swap is always up in the air, it could just as easily be Ihemelu. In the midfield we could see any combination of Peterson, Smith, Ballouchy, and LaBrocca in front of Mastroeni. None of them are great fits for the holes on the wings but needs must.

Key To Look For:

Midfield, especially wing play. The Rapids entered the season with solid wing options in Terry Cooke and Colin Clark. Neither are available for the rest of the season. Its time for players like Peterson, Smith, and Ballouchy to step up and prove they deserve the roster spots they have on this team. This team will need more than Cummings and Casey to run the offense if they're going to get anything out of this season. This is the game where we start to find out if we have anyone that can step up in those midfield roles.

Prediction: 1-1 draw, goal by Conor Casey. I think the Rapids can actually win this game but for some reason I'm feeling the fates are against us. Chicago is coming off a tough mid-week game and is depleted due to injury. The Rapids are well rested coming off a bye. I just think that the chaos in midfield due to the loss of Clark will cause enough issues that we'll only pull out a draw.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Rapids PR Problem

I've had this post in mind for a while now and it doesn't cast certain parts of the Rapids organization in the best light. This isn't to say that the Rapids Front Office isn't doing a good job most of the time, and I've had great interactions when I've dealt with them. I do want to point out where the organization needs to improve though, and I ask that you read it all and keep that point in mind.

Long-time Rapids fans know that the team, either under AEG or KSE, has never been the most forthcoming with information. We almost always find out about personnel moves from outside sources before the first rumors even come out of the Front Office. Just this year we've seen reports about Steve Guppy, Scott Palguta, and Julian Baudet's moves to Colorado from sources outside of Colorado. There's a difference between being quiet about things and publishing incorrect or incomplete information though. The Rapids have long been guilty on both counts and I really expect more at this point.

This really came to a head for me this summer when I've seen numerous mistakes being made in information distributed by the Rapids. I'm a Software Quality Assurance Engineer so I spend all day looking for mistakes in my company's software, which probably makes this stuff stand out to me more than the average person. The kind of errors I'm finding though are ones that leap off the page if you follow the Rapids and I would expect more from a professional sports organization. In the last month alone I've seen:
  • The Dallas head coach listed as the Fire head coach in a post-game quote sheet distributed by the Rapids Media Department posted on
  • The Match-Up page on the Rapids website has listed the probable starters for the last few games with only 10 starters and no goalkeeper
  • The Rapids tweeted last week that Omar Cummings was joining Jamaica for a World Cup Qualifier, even though Jamaica was eliminated from Qualifying last year (Jamaica played a friendly against Ecuador at Giants Stadium)
  • The in-stadium and on-air graphic for Marcelo Balboa's radio wasn't updated with the new day and time until a couple weeks after the show shifted time slots, even though Balboa' was doing an audio promo over the top of it discussing the new time
When I found these I made some comments on BigSoccer about how the Rapids media department was doing a lousy job. I got a couple of emails from the Media Relations Department correcting me on who's responsibility it was and also questioning why I had it out for the Media Department. First of all I want to apologize for blaming the Media Relations Department for any errors that weren't their fault. I was told that the mistake in the quote sheet was due to the webmasters at MLSnet and the Twitter feed isn't under the control of the Media Department. I am sincerely sorry if I blamed them for something that wasn't their fault. I know I hate it when I get blamed at my job for something that wasn't my fault and its not fair for me to do the same to them.

This is the first major problem I see with the Rapids Front Office. Why isn't all of that under control of the Media Relations Department? I'm looking at the list of staff on the Rapids website and the Media Relations Department is the logical group to handle all of the above issues, with the possible exception of the From the Pitch ad. I suppose Marketing or Community Relations could be responsible for some of them but to me if you're announcing a player's International status or a probable lineup, that's Media. As we've seen from my experience, and backed up by other people's comments on BigSoccer, people are assuming that's the Media Relations Department. If they're going to take the blame for it, let them run it so they can make the mistakes or avoid them on their own and not take the blame for another department.

The second problem is a little more personal. I don't have it out for the Rapids Media Department, or anyone at the Rapids. What I'm seeing though is a long history of questionable material being distributed by the Rapids, and the logical department to handle that is the Media Relations Department. My one-on-one interactions with that group have been great since I started this blog. They've answered questions for me that didn't have to, put me on the Press Release mailing list, and tried to work with me. However since I made the first comment on BigSoccer (about the Quote Sheet screwup) I got a email questioning that relationship and suddenly I stopped getting emailed the Press Releases. I did make a follow-up post saying that it wasn't the Rapids Media Relations Department's fault (as was only fair since I screwed that up). Then when I pointed out the error in the Twitter feed I got another email questioning the relationship and asking if I had it out for the Media Relations Department. They also pointed out that the Twitter feed wasn't their responsibility.

I'm sure some readers are thinking I'm being a bit hard on the Rapids, and to be fair I probably am. In some ways the Rapids brought this on themselves though with years of questionable media choices. The fans have nicknamed the Match-Up page the Ministry Of Truth for its long history of not being anywhere near accurate, in the past its listed players in the starting lineup that were suspended, injured, or on international duty. For a long time a couple of years ago the webpage link in the Rapidfire email linked to and not, two different websites. The less said about the re-naming debacle before the '07 season the better. With a track record like that is it any wonder that fans are fed up with the way the Rapids release information? Now the personnel has changed and the Media Relations Department isn't responsible for all of these mistakes but they are saddled with the existing reputation. Because of that, to quote Top Gun, they "need to be doing it better and cleaner than the other guy".

I realize that I've been hammering the Media Relations Department on BigSoccer this summer. Maybe that's a bit unfair, but at the same time its a message board. There are plenty of things said on BigSoccer that aren't serious but just fans blowing off steam about a player, coach, or organization. That why I try, not always successfully, to keep the posts here at a higher level. I see BigSoccer as an extension of the pre and post-game tailgates where we're all standing around jawing about the Rapids. I don't expect the Rapids organization to listen to all our conversations at the tailgate and possibly be offended by them and I see BigSoccer the same way. I appreciate the Rapids taking the time to see what fans are talking about, but they have to have a thicker skin when dealing with what's said there.

In the end what I'd like to see is a Rapids organization that releases information that's complete and correct 99% of the time. Everyone makes mistakes, god knows I make enough of them, but the Rapids have dug themselves a hole over the last 13+ years and until they can get out of it their going to be judged more harshly by the fans. They will have to show they can get the facts right before the fans are going to cut them the same amount of slack they allow other organizations. That's probably unfair to the Rapids, but its the way things are.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Weekend Roundup 8/15 - 8/18

Colorado Rapids - The Rapids had the 3rd of their 4 bye weeks this season.

Queen of the South - On Saturday Queens traveled to Airdrie United for their first road league game of the season. This was somewhat of a surprise because as of 2 weeks ago this fixture was scheduled to be a trip to Livingston to face John Murphy's side. However to to their financial problems Livingston was relegated to the 3rd division on August 5th and Morton and Airdrie were both bounced up a division to compensate. The match had a few good chances for each side, but it wasn't until the last 20 minutes that things started to really heat up. In the 70th minute Queens scored from a Bob Harris free kick that was redirected by Stewart Kean. Airdrie answered back 11 minutes later and while both teams pushed for the winner, QoS had to settle for their second 1-1 draw of the season.

On Tuesday the Doonhammers traveled to fellow first-division side Dunfermline for the round of 16 of the ALBA Challenge Cup. QoS didn't waste any time and in the 12th minute Stewart Kean headed in his second goal in as many games. While Queens controlled the game, Dunfermline was able to equalize in the 54th minute. Things looked to be going to extra time when Stevie Tosh scored for Queens in the 92nd minute. The win puts QoS into the quarterfinals of the ALBA Cup along with 4 other First Division sides, a Second Division side, and 2 Third Division sides.

Blackburn Rovers
- The Rovers faced old manager Mark Hughes and Man. City at home to start the season. The season did not start well as it took Adebayor only 3 minutes to put City on top. Blackburn controlled the rest of the half, having 4 clear-cut chances and were unlucky to go into the locker rooms down 1-0. The second half was more even but City couldn't relax until Ireland scored in stoppage time to clinch the win for the visitors. Not the start to the season that Blackburn was hoping for. They now face a 3 game road trip to Fulham, Sunderland, and Gillingham.

Kildare County - County was off this week while the later rounds of Cup action took place.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Weekend Roundup 8/8 - 8/9

Colorado Rapids - With the demolishing of Chivas USA the Rapids moved up to 3rd int he West, just a point from the automatic playoff spot in 2nd and 8 points behind leading Houston (who has played two more games). They are 5th overall in the league, which would clinch a Superliga spot at minimum (assuming the competition runs next year). The Rapids are tied with Columbus for the 2nd best offense and are tied with FSL for 8th on defense.

Queen of the South - In the first league game of the year QoS hosted Raith Rovers at Palmerston Park. Apparently nobody told the officials that the season had started as they appeared to still be in preseason form. The Doonhamers were hurt by a bizarre yellow on Tosh in the middle of the first half followed immediately by a second, and thus a red, for dissent. Right before half Raith took advantage to take a 1-0 lead into the locker rooms. That looked like it was going to be enough to steal the first 3 points of the season but with 2 minutes to play Holmes levelled the score to claim a point for Queens.

Kildare County - The Thoroughbreds hosted title-chasing Waterford and regressed to their early season play. A 2-0 loss has probably put an end to County's hopes of at least not finishing the season with the worst goal differential, and puts them one game closer to the relegation playoff. With 12 games to play Kildare is still 7 points behind, and without the tiebreaker its actually 8.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Rapids Sacrifice Goats For 3 Points

Lets see how many people get the picture reference

The Rapids took 4 minutes to win this game, 41 minutes to make sure Chivas realized the game was over, and 45 minutes getting some exercise in. 26 seconds into the game Pablo got a great feed from Cummings who had the ball int he box, took a shot from about 25 yards out, and scored his first goal in over 4 years. Not to be outdone, Casey took a feed from Cummings' head 3 minutes later, chipped the ball over the keeper and off the underside of the ball, and put the Rapids up 2-0 in less than 4 minutes. After that it was just a matter of beating the Under-a-Chivas into submission which the Rapids did. First in the 23rd minute, with a carbon copy of 3-4 other goals this season, Cummings took the ball on the right wing, put a gross in along the ground for Casey to run onto and score for a 3-0 lead. Finally in stoppage time of the first half Cummings got free for his own chance on goal only to be pulled down from behind in the box. Red card, PK, and Casey converts for a first half hat trick and a 4-0 lead.

Chivas ran up the white flag by pulling Kljestan, Victorine, and Lillingston at half and just going through the motions for the remaining 45 minutes. Cummings had another couple of good chances to get a goal he very well deserved, but either couldn't get the shot on target or put it in a place that Lance Parker could save. The only other incident of note was Pablo getting all but knocked out by a free kick to the face in the 69th minute. The Rapids got an easy 3 points going into their bye week.

My key to the game was winning the games we're supposed to win. It took less than 4 minutes to prove that the Rapids were out for blood on Saturday, which is what needed to happen. Now we need to start winning some of the tougher games.

Other Observations:
  • With the hat trick Casey retakes the league lead in scoring, having 11 goals in 14 games.
  • With the hat trick of assists Cummings takes the league lead in assists, having 10 assists in 18 games
  • Yeah, read those last two again. When has that ever happened for the Rapids?
  • I'm pretty sure everyone had to look twice when Pablo scored. That's his first since 2005, the only other time he's scored as a Rapid. In fact his 3 assists this year are as many as his last 6 years combined, and ties for his record as a Rapid, he had 3 in his first year here in 2002.
  • I'd say good things abut the defense but honestly, they didn't have much to do Saturday night
  • A couple of times Pickens had to come up with big saves to preserve the shutout. For as bored as he was the rest of the game he did good to wake up for those
  • The 11 players we started are probably the best 11 players on the team, with the exception of Baudet's injury. This is the baseline Smith should work from for the rest of the season
Player of the Game: Omar Cummings. 3 assists and set up the PK. He's got a combined 16 goals and assists, and is clearly the team MVP to this point.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Rapids Take on Baby Goats

Colorado tries to get back to its winning ways with the Under-a-Chivas in town tomorrow night. The game is at 7:30 at the Dick. The supporters groups will be tailgating as always starting at 5:30.

Official Injury Report:
OUT: DF Julien Baudet (L forearm fracture); PROBABLE: FW Conor Casey (L thigh sprain); DF Cory Gibbs (R calf strain)

Official Discipline Report:
SUSPENDED: Ugo Ihemelu (Red Card vs. Columbus)
TWO CAUTIONS FROM SUSPENSION: Mehdi Ballouchy, Ugo Ihemelu, Pablo Mastroeni, Scott Palguta

Chivas USA is hurting on all fronts. They have 2 players suspended, 6 players out with injury, 3 players questionable, and 3 players probable. This includes both their first-string and second-string keepers. The Rapids are in much better shape as you can see. My guess on the starting XI:

Kimura - Gibbs - Palguta - Harvey
Smith - Ballouchy - Clark
Cummings - Casey

If Smith isn't ready to start yet I assume LaBrocca would start in his place. Casey was named to the National Team today for the game against Mexico on Wednesday, so he must be feeling up to playing.

Key To Look For:

Winning the games were supposed to win. We're at home against a very weak and rusty Chivas side. With a win and a couple of other results we could move up as high as second in the West, and at minimum we can put some space between us and Chivas for the #4 spot. This is the type of games that good teams win.

Prediction: 2-0 win, goals by Omar Cummings and Conor Casey. With a third-string keeper the Rapids should find a way to put a couple on the board. Chivas is also missing some of its attacking power and is finding it hard to score recently, so I think that even our defense can shut them out.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Weekend Roundup 7/24 - 8/2

The Weekend Roundup is back early because QoS got an early start to the season with Cup games the last two weekends

Colorado Rapids - After the loss to Columbus, Colorado has fallen into a tie with Chivas for 4th place in the West and with Toronto for 7th place overall. Due to the games in hand the Rapids have the edge over Toronto and DC for the next-to-last playoff spot. The Rapids are in a 4 way for 3rd in goals scored with Toronto, FSL, and Dallas but are tied for 7th with FSL and Columbus in goals allowed.

Queen of the South - QoS starts their league play on Saturday, but the last two weekends has seen them playing in the early rounds of two Cup competitions. First, two weeks ago, the Doonhamers hosted Livingston in the first round of the ALBA Cup (A Cup competition open to the lower 3 tiers of the Scottish league). Queens picked up an early goal in the 9th minute and then held off Livingston for the remainder of what was a pretty dull game for the win. Of particular note for Rapids fans is that this was the first game in the managerial career of Livingston's first manager, former Rapids assistant coach John Murphy.

Last weekend the Dumfries boys travelled to Queen's Park for a battle royale in the first round of the Co-operative Insurance Cup aka the League Cup. The Doonhamers didn't take long to prove they were the better Queens as they scored in the 1st, 10th, and 13th minutes and followed that with a 4th goal in the 70th minute before allowing the opposition to get one back in the 82nd minute. A good double Cup wins to start the season for Queen of the South.

Kildare County - After Kildare's first win 4 weeks ago the Thoroughbreds have taken off. They followed the win with a scoreless draw at home against Limerick. After hosting Mohaghan United and losing 2-0 they travelled to Wexford where they claimed their second win of the season 3-0. They started the season 0-1-15 with 2 Cup losses, but since then they've gone 2-1-1 with both wins by 3 goals. Unfortunately they are 7 points from safety with only 12 games to play. It seems that County left it too late this season, but there's still hope.

Monday, August 3, 2009

This Was A Game Of Inches

The Crew defense dammed up the Rapids offense and the difference in the game was a couple of inches between the two keepers. Late in the first half Cory Gibbs committed an unnecessary (and admittedly, somewhat ticky-tack from what we could see on TV) foul near the top of the box. Chad Marshall lined up the free kick and put it on net. Matt Pickens dove and got to the ball, but allowed it to slip by him and inside the far post for a goal. A few minutes later the Rapids put a cross into the box and Omar Cummings got his head on it and pushed it to the near post, but Crew keeper Will Hesmer dove and managed to stop the ball a couple of inches before it completely crossed the line. Those inches, both on the Pickens miss and the Hesmer save, were the difference in a 1-0 loss for the Rapids.

I've been playing a good deal of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 for the Wii the last few months and one of the common phrases from Scott Van Pelt after a good shot is (in a weak Irish accent) "Useful..Ussefuul shot that...Useful". All I could think of watching his game was "Useless...Usselless soccer that...Useless". While the Rapids controlled most of this game, they did it by passing the ball in the back and middle 2/3rds of the fields then launching it forward and hoping Colin Clark or Omar Cummings could run it down, usually unsuccessfully. The rest of the game was the Crew occasionally making forays into the offensive third, just to be shut down. I think Pickens only had to make one other save, besides the one he missed. The only otter notable event was Ihemelu picking up two yellows and thus a red late in the game.

My key to the game was the defensive battles. I said this back line usually makes one blunder a game, and sure enough they did. Meanwhile since nobody but Cummings stepped up on offense the Crew defense just shut him down and were able to win the game.

Other Observations:
  • The Crew just wrote the book on how to beat the Rapids until another offensive threat other than Cummings emerges. Sit on Omar, shut him down, wait for the inevitable mistake from the Rapids defense, take the 1-0 win.
  • We started Nick LaBrocca on the right with Ugo Ihemelu behind him and the best offense we got out of the right side was Cummings swinging out wide to cross balls in. It would have been nice if we could have had an offensive threat on the right to set Cummings up. you know, like Terry Cooke?
  • Pat Noonan, Mehdi Ballouchy, did you realize this was an actually game and not a scrimmage? Because you sure didn't look like you felt any urgency to create a goal.
  • Colin Clark looked out of sync after his month off. Not a surprise, but still a bit disappointing.
  • When Baudet is healthy I'd like to see a back line of Kimura - Baudet - Palguta - Harvey. It seems like Ihemelu and Gibbs are making at least one stupid mistake a game just from inattention or not caring. While the other 4 may make a mistake, they'll do it while trying hard and contributing to trying to win.
  • Cummings spent the first half trying to set up a goal, then at halftime obviously realized that his offensive partners had about a snowball's chance in hell of scoring. So in the second half he tried to do it all himself. It let to him losing the ball when he could have passed it, but after the first half I find it hard to blame him.
  • It was good to see Diz and Smith get some time, but they need to become 90 minute players quickly, particularly Smith.
Player of the Game: Omar Cummings. At least he tried to generate some offensive, even if int he process he was a bit too selfish. It was more than anyone else did.