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, 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:

Moor - Baudet - Palguta - Harvey
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:

Moor - Baudet - Palguta - Harvey
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)
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:

Kimura - Baudet - Moor - Harvey
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)
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:
Moor - Baudet - Palguta - Harvey
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.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

DaMarcus Beasley sighting at the Dick

A full write-up of last night's 1-0 win over Toronto coming in the next day or so, but I wanted to post this ASAP. Deron White from the Colorado Rapids Examiner told me that he saw National Team winger DaMarcus Beasley walking around the stadium with Cory Gibbs at tonight's game. Beasley is currently riding the bench with Rangers in Scotland.

Beasley could just be in town visiting, but given his lack of playing time and our sudden lack of depth on the wing (Clark is done for the year and Smith is done until the playoffs) one wonders if the Rapids might be considering some sort of acquisition. The international transfer window is closed so I believe that Beasley can't be sold until January. Its a very confusing area, and then you add in the MLS roster rules and it gets even weirder. Assuming the Rapids could make a move for him I like it as a short-term "rent-a-player" type of move. I don't want to see the Rapids give him a long-term contract though.

Conor Casey Update

Steven Goff is reporting that Casey did not go to Salt Lake City due to his wisdom tooth extraction but he is in good enough shape to play for the Rapids tonight. Hopefully he's good enough to start and add some continuity to a team that can use all they can get this week.

A decision will be made tomorrow on if he will join the Nats team for the midweek game in Trinidad & Tobago or not.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Take Off Eh, You Hosers!

That's right, the boys from the 51st state are in town to face Colorado. Its the first of a double-header, the Rapids will head to the Great White North next week to face Toronto on the road. Because of the U.S National Team game and the Fox Soccer Channel coverage the game will start 30 minutes later at 8pm. The Cantina will open at 5:30 and all fans are invited there to watch the Nats World Cup Qualifier against El Salvador at 6pm. The supporters groups will still have their normal tailgate before the game starting at 6pm.

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

Official Discipline Report:
SUSPENDED: Pablo Mastroeni (1st of 3 games)
TWO CAUTIONS FROM SUSPENSION: Mehdi Ballouchy, Omar Cummings, Cory Gibbs, Scott Palguta

International Absences:
Conor Casey - USA

Carl Robinson is questionable for Toronto and Guevara is with his National Team. There is a small chance that Casey might be available for the game. Due to (presumably) emergency wisdom teeth removal he wasn't able to go to the Nats camp until late this week, if he went at all. If he wasn't able to train with the Nats and/or Bradley tells him he won't be used tomorrow night he may still be able to join the Rapids for the game, should his teeth allow. Its a long shot though so I'm assuming he'll be missing when I put together my best guess (and this week its really a guess) at a lineup:

Kimura - Baudet - Palguta - Harvey
Peterson - LaBrocca - Ballouchy
Cummings - Diz

A number of new names on that lineup. Baudet and Palguta seem to be the obvious choices to replace the traded Ihemelu and the injured Gibbs. Drew Moor could factor into the starting lineup but I'm guessing that Gary Smith will want him to get some more experience with his teammates before starting. Dalby seems the logical choice to fill in for the suspended Mastroeni, but LaBrocca could also move back to that position. In that case Noonan is likely to start at center/attacking mid. Peterson and Ballouchy are really our only choices out wide. Cooke's been cut and Clark and Smith are injured. Diz is the natural replacement up front for the big-man role Casey's been filling, but Noonan could just as easily take the spot if he's not needed in midfield.

Key To Look For:

Read the last paragraph again. 5 new starters from last week at minimum. The key is can all the new faces play as a team or is it going to be 11 individual players out there? The only good news is that we don't have to pull this off for the first time on the road. Gary Smith is going to earn his coaching stripes over the next few weeks as he juggles the injuries and suspensions. It starts tomorrow night.

Prediction: 1-0 win, goal by Omar Cummings. I expect to see a good deal of ugly and forgettable soccer from both sides. Neither side has been playing great lately. With Toronto on the road at altitude (and apparently had plane difficulties getting her on Friday) and all the new faces for the Rapids there isn't going to be much flow to this game. Still I think the home field advantage will be enough for the Rapids to pull out a win.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Midseason Review

We're coming around the final turn of the season, 75% complete. Time for a final mid-season review.

Goalkeeping: Things haven't changed much in goal from the midway point. Pickens has been solid but not spectacular, Burpo's a capable backup, and Ceus took the Charlotte Eagles to the USL-2 championship before losing in the final.
Grade: A-

Defense: The defense is still wildly up and down. Last week we saw them shut out the top team in MLS, but the week before they gave up 3 goals in the last 18+ minutes to turn a road win into a road loss. With the move this week of Ihemelu for Moor its obvious that Gary Smith sees this as the weakness and is trying to work on it. Gibbs still hasn't shown an ability to organize the defense which results in the team relying on individual talent as much as an actual game plan. Baudet has looked good in 2 of the 3 games he's played, maybe he's the piece the back line was missing. The Rapids fortunes will live or die onbthe ability of the defense to play as a unit.
Grade: C

The loss of Colin Clark for the season is a huge blow for the defense. Now we're missing Jamie Smith for at least a game and Pablo Mastroeni's stupid decision to go head-hunting last week has turned a 1 game suspension into 3. This leaves the midfield very thin with the likes of Noonan and Dalby expected to get playing time. When healthy (and not suspended) the midfield has done an adequate job, but nobody has stood out. Now more than ever we need LaBrocca and Ballouchy to step up and run the midfield. You also have to question cutting Terry Cooke instead of a defensive player since we are now hurting from our lack of midfield depth.
Grade: C-

Conor Casey leads the league in goals, Omar Cummings leads in assists and is a legitimate MVP candidate. They are the best striker tandem in the league. Because of this Noonan and Diz haven't had a chance to show much, but Noonan hasn't been particularly impressive yet. His play last week makes it look like that maybe he's turned the corner though. The only downside is that Casey and Cummings have played so well that they're missing games for National Team duty. Casey also has developed an annoying habit of picking up unnecessary cards for dissent or kicking balls away. He's on the verge of a second suspension for yellow card accumulation, something you don't see very often from a striker. Still you could hardly ask for more form the starting duo.
Grade: A-

19 players have started for the Rapids this season, which shows a solid bench if not a real deep one (especially since two of those players are no longer with the team). We have solid backups in goal (Burpo) and defense (Harden, Moor, Palguta) but as we're seeing as we move forward the backups are more questionable. Dalby hasn't been great, Noonan has been iffy, and Diz hasn't had enough time to really make an impact. With the reduced rosters its hard to fault the team for not doing better on numbers but it would be nice to see the quality backups spread over the field more. We're going to see the bench tested over the next couple of games and we'll see who comes up big and who doesn't.
Grade: C

Gary Smith has shown some good moves and his bad moves. As bad as the defense was in Chicago they weren't helped by the decision to sub wide players for more defensive players and go into a shell. At the same time we see subs like Ballouchy and Baudet combine for the winning goal last week. The team is playing better soccer but we haven't gotten as many results as we probably should have. Smith has his work cut out for him in the final 8 games of the season, dealing with major injuries and suspensions. Time to see how he can get the team playing down a stretch of relatively easy games.
Grade: C

: Some big moves since the last review. Signing Jamie Smith and cutting Terry Cooke looks like a lateral move at best so far, and possibly a bad move. That isn't completely the team's fault though as nobody can predict injuries. This week's move of Ihemelu for Moor plus getting a draft pick and allocation money was a great move by the Rapids. The earlier moves are a mixed back. Baudet has looked good while Noonan's time is running out. Diz hasn't seen enough time to really judge. Smith and Bravo seem to have a plan though, which is an improvement over prior years.
Grade: C

The Rapids have improved form their mid-season dip but they aren't up to the level of play early in the season. I think we're seeing that Colorado was lucky to face some of the better teams like Columbus and Houston when they weren't at full strength. The Rapids are a team that can win on any given day and they're as good as any of the non-top teams in the league. They aren't consistently up to the level of a LA, Columbus, or Houston yet. That's the difference in being in a fight for the playoffs or being in a fight for a better seed. Colorado is in the former group still.
Grade: B-