Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Rapids Apparently Stuck In An Eddy, Part 1

The last few weeks have been quite disappointing for Rapids fans. In the last 9 games the Rapids have won once. The transfer window opened and closed with the only moves being a trade for a backup defender and the signing of our first Academy product. Every other MLS team played a significant international friendly or played international teams in Superliga or the Champions League. Players like Thierry Henry, Rafa Marquez, Omar Bravo, and Nevy Castillo joined the league. In all of this its hard to even remember Colorado is still in the league, much less get excited about them.

There are a number of subjects I want to cover (thus the Part 1 of the title) but I want to start with an interview Jeff Plush gave to MLSSoccer 2 weeks ago. I've held off commenting on it until now because I wanted to wait until the transfer window closed and see if the Rapids did anything.
There is certainly more of a race to sign players in the last few weeks, it’s really accelerated. I would love to see there is enough evidence that [such moves] would be competitive. We haven’t seen that yet. RSL is a prime example of winning without a Designated Player, without necessarily the highest payroll. You win with 24 players. I think it’s interesting chatter. But the clubs who are successful in our league tend to be clubs that have a team mentality, a team spirit, a Houston or an RSL.
Plush wants evidence that signing a DP is competitive. In MLS there are 3 major trophies, the U.S. Open Cup, MLS Cup, and the Supporter's Shield. Since the Designated Player rule was created, each of those trophies have been handed out 3 times. In 2009 the Shield was won by the Crew, with GBS as their Designated Player while LA was the runner up with Beckham as a Designated Player. in 2008 the Crew also won the Shield. Technically GBS was not a Designated Player according to MLS' books (since the Crew used allocation money to buy down his hit on the salary cap to under 400K) but he still had the same effect on the field and still used up about the same amount of room of the salary cap.

In 2009 the Galaxy, again with Beckham as a DP, missed winning MLS Cup by a missed PK in the shootout. In 2008 the Crew, with GBS, won MLS Cup over New York, with Angel as a DP. In 2008 DC won the U.S. Open Cup with Emilio and Gallardo as DP's. In 2009, still with Emilio, they lost the final to Seattle who had Ljungberg as a DP. So 5 of the 9 trophies were won by teams essentially with DP's, and 4 of the runner ups for those trophies had DP's.

This year there are 6 teams ahead of the Rapids in the standings, 4 of them have DP's. Only Dallas and FSL ahead of us do not have DP's. San Jose and Toronto, just 2 points behind us, have DP's. Chicago, in a battle for the final playoff spot, now has 2 DP's. Only DC, who signed Branko 2 months ago, has a DP and is out of the playoff race (KC signed Omar Bravo as a DP but he won't join the team until next season). 2 of the 4 remaining teams in the U.S. Open Cup (Seattle and DC) have DP's as well.

The evidence on the value of using a rule to sign a high-priced player is there if Jeff Plush wants to see it. Certainly early on there were mistakes made with the DP rule (Denilson, Landin, Reyna) but as teams are figuring out how to use the rule their success rate is going way up. The most recent batch of signings (Henry, Castillo, Marquez, etc.) all look to be very successful. Plush's comment that he needs it to be proven is just doublespeak for the Rapids really saying "We don't want to spend money".
We are essentially back starting the process again. The world has changed pretty dramatically for everyone. We are repositioning our proposition. It’s going well but we are kind of at square one again. We can move very quickly. Beginning of the 2011 season is likely. It would be very unlikely for something to close in time for something to be on the jersey this season.
Really? After almost 4 years since the league started allowing jersey sponsorships we've gotten essentially nowhere? Meanwhile most other teams (11 of the 16) have found sponsorships. Philly hasn't yet, but their in their first year. Kansas City is obviously waiting for their new stadium next season. That leaves New England, Dallas, and Colorado, generally considered to be the 3 worst run teams in the league. Its an open secret that the Rapids almost closed a deal with Chipotle last season, but apparently they had no Plan B when that fell through. There's only so much you can blame the economy for when the rest of the league is figuring out how to get deals done.
We’d be very keen to have Arsenal come over for a friendly but that rests with Arsène Wenger and that’s not what his strategy is at this point. We could get a Mexican club at any time, but our feedback is that that is not what people are looking for.

We are still talking to a couple of clubs [Colorado were in discussions with Valencia and Rangers before both clubs canceled plans for summer tours]. It’s more challenging than we would like. Some still view Denver in the hinterland. We do try to convince people that Denver isn’t in the middle of nowhere. It could be a mid-August timeframe and it would be a South American club.
Its obvious at this point that his comments about a possible mid-August friendly against a South American opponent was just a bone he was throwing out to take some of the heat off.

The idea that Denver is a hinterland in the eyes of the clubs is just so much BS I'm surprised we can't smell it from here. It wasn't a hinterland when Everton came here in 2008 and it wasn't a hinterland when they built the "world's biggest soccer complex". There's a direct flight every day from Heathrow to DIA and there's a British consulate in Denver, along with a large (fr an American city of this size) British population in the metro area. The idea that Manchester City won't come to the Dick or Invesco to play the Rapids because its the hinterland, but they'll play Portland of USSF D-II in a 5000 seat stadium is laughable. The reason that Inter Milan will trek all the way out to Frisco but won't make the 10 minute trip from downtown Denver to DSG Park is simple, money. Once again the Rapids try to get out of looking cheap by ginning up another excuse that they hope the general public will buy.

This was a disastrous interview for Jeff Plush to allow to happen in the midst of a 7 game winless streak. Plush essentially told the fans "We haven't done anything, and we don't care". Meanwhile the Rapids playoff hopes are fading quickly, in a World Cup year the organization has given the fans nothing to get excited about, and the rest of the league is leaving the Rapids spinning in an eddy in the river while they move downstream.

Part 2, looking at the player moves of the season, to come next week


deron said...

The only way GBS is a DP is to fit the argument. If he was a DP then so was Christian Gomez.

Jason Maxwell said...

I disagree. GBS was paid as a DP and the allocation money used bought his cap hit down to the same as a DP, but without requiring the DP slot to be used (and thus, allowing his whole salary to be paid by the league and not out of the Hunt's pocket). As far as assembling the team and the play of the team he had the same effect as a DP would have. Same salary cap hit, same roster spot taken up, etc.

Gomez did not have the same salary cap hit as a DP I remember it.