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

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+

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-

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-

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-

: 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

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:

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

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)

*Required 3 Internationals

*Roster (8 spots left)
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:

Kimura - Moor - Baudet - Harvey
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.