Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Rapids Stuck In An Eddy, Part 3

Part 1 and Part 2 if this, for now, 3 part series are here.

So far we've discussed the fact that the Rapids apparently have no plans to improve this season and the fact that their moves since the end of last season seem to be running in place. This week I want to look at some of the statements we've heard from the Rapids leadership lately.

Let's start with coach Gary Smith (prior to the win over Houston):
“What you need effectively are four wins,” he said. “Six games are at home. I’d have bitten someone’s arm off at the elbow to be in that position.”
The leader of the team has set a goal of 4 wins in 10 games. This coming off a streak of 1 win in 10 games. So in the last 2/3rds of the season 5 wins out of 20 is "effective". That amounts to 7-8 wins over the course of a 30 game season. I'm really glad we put 6 wins up in out first 10 games, because otherwise the goal of 5 wins in the rest of the season would leave us going nowhere.

I'm not sure 4 wins is enough, 5 is probably going to be what we need. Assuming that 4 games is enough though, do you really want your head coach to come out and say "We're aiming for a .400 winning percentage"? Shouldn't he be saying "Every game is winnable, and we'll be disappointed if we don't win more than all of them" or something? Admittedly some of our games look like we're unlikely to win (@LA, @NY) but you have to have the confidence to go in to those games expecting to win.

Let's move on to Technical Director Paul Bravo (from the booth during the broadcast of the KC home game):
"We're striving to be great, we're not striving to be average"
Really? As I've shown in the last two parts of this series they don't seem to be striving to do much more than the status quo. Does "striving to be great" include passing on the only non-U.S. linked signing in a year due to money? Does "striving to be great" mean signing no significant players while the rest of the league signs players like Henry and Castillo? Does "striving to be great" include being the only MLS team not to test themselves against international competition this season? Does "striving to be great" include a coach making a statement that they're aiming for a .400 winning percentage?

Bravo's statement is a great platitude, but he needs to back it up with more than talk.

Finally, Managing Director Jeff Plush. We've already covered his statements about DP players and international matches in the first part of this series, but that's not all he's said. For example, (on the signing of Davy Armstrong:

"We know that, for our country to be as successful as it can be in this sport, you have to develop your own players," Rapids managing director Jeff Plush said. "We can't be in the situation where we're going out and acquiring players from around the world to build our rosters. You have to have a development system. So it's a very exciting day."

To be fair to Plush he seems to be following his own statement, given the lack of international signings in the last year. But the idea that we're going to be successful in this sport without building our rosters from international players is ludicrous. Name me one team in the top 5 leagues in the world that has only domestic players. That concept went out the window as the sport grew worldwide over the last 20 years due to TV, and it was even outdated before that. While I understand that Plush was trying to hype the (legitimately) important step of signing an academy player, statements like this just make you wonder if he knows what it takes to succeed in this league.

I'm all for making soccer work in this country, but we have a (soon-to-be) 18-team league, 10 soccer-specific stadiums by next year, players like Henry playing here, and a fanbase that is disappointed when the National Team fails to make it to the quarterfinals of the World Cup. I think the sport is doing fine considering the league is only 15 years old. Plush's focus should be on what the Rapids need to do to succeed, not what the sport needs to do. Considering his team is in a playoff spot (barely) while his team averages 4 starters in the starting XI per game and an international coaching staff tells you that a domestic-only policy doesn't fly.

I just picked one recent quote from each of the men in charge of the Rapids. There are others that could be listed, but I think this makes the point. I think its clear that the Rapids leadership is not on the same page as the fans or the rest of the league. Until they are, the Rapids will continue to float in this eddy while the rest of the league sails by in the main current of improvement.

For now, this is the end of the series. We'll see what the future brings.

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