Friday, September 30, 2011

MLS Cup 2010: The Rematch (Part 2)

"No disrespect to the Eastern Conference, but tonight was the championship" -- Dallas defensive midfielder Daniel Hernandez after winning the Western Conference Championship in 2010

I just wanted to throw that in as a "friendly" reminder about our guests tomorrow. I expect him to get the official Class VI welcome for 90 minutes! Prior to giving Dallas a repeat of their MLS Cup defeat Class VI and the Pid Army will be hosting their annual chili cookoff at the tailgate (this year with a corn bread category!). Due to the contest the tailgate starts at 4pm with kickoff at 7. for those of you unable to make it the game is on Altitude.

Injury Report:
OUT: FW Conor Casey (L Achilles tear); Anthony Wallace (R knee arthroscopic surgery)
PROBABLE: MF Jamie Smith (R hamstring strain / R calf strain); GK Matt Pickens (R groin strain)

Disciplinary Report:
SUSPENDED AFTER 1 MORE CAUTION: FW Caleb Folan; MF Brian Mullan; FW Sanna Nyassi
SUSPENDED AFTER 2 MORE CAUTIONS: MF Ross LaBauex; MF Jeff Larentowicz; DF Tyrone Marshall; MF Pablo Mastroeni; DF Drew Moor; MF Wells Thompson

That's probably the best injury report we've seen all season. Other than Casey and Wallace who's seasons are over everyone is available. Dallas is missing 3 players to injury. Both teams played midweek Champions League games on the road but Colorado won with primarily reserves while Dallas got beat down with a number of starters. My best guess on our lineup:

Kimura - Wynne - Moor - Comminges
Mullan - Pablo - Larentowicz - Smith
Folan - Nyassi

Barring a pre-game injury this is almost guaranteed to be the lineup. Gary Smith said that the group that went to El Salvador wouldn't do any more than be subs for this game so the starting XI is pretty clear.

Key To Look For: Was the split team plan this week successful? Smith made a controversial move to essentially split the the team in half, including the coaching staff, for the two games this week. The first game went to plan with the 3-1 win in Metapan, now the "first team" has had a week of rest an no travel so they should be able to run through Dallas.

Prediction: 2-1 win, goals by Nyassi and Larentowicz. Dallas will be tough over the first 60 minutes forcing the teams to trade goals. With their midweek game Dallas will lose steam late and Nyassi's speed will beat them late for the winning goal.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

I'll Take My Crow Now Please

So, yeah, about that whole post where I said the Rapids will be beat by Metapan and the roster selection was not great. Well Colorado proved me an idiot with a 3-1 win last night. The reserve squad, lead by Steve Guppy and augmented by Wells Thompson and Tyrone Marshall, pulled together in a tough environment and dominated the scoreboard.

There was a pretty big mistake to start the night. The Rapids stayed in San Salvador, about a 2 hour drive from Metapan. It wasn't until the team got to the stadium for pre-game that the equipment manager realized he forgot a bag at the hotel, the bag with the team's cleats! Immediately they called their contact back and the hotel, he found the bag, and a police escort started towards Metapan. The problem was that kickoff was in 90 minutes and starters Wells Thompson and Andre Akpan didn't have boots! A number of players had kept their cleats with them, and they were able to borrow some from Metapan and run to a sporting goods store to buy others, but Thompson and Akpan were stuck wearing cleats that were too big. Just as the teams were taking the field for kickoff the bag arrived and the referees were forced to handle a delay as Ian Joyce and Omar Cummings helped Wells and Andre get the right shoes on. The rest of the starters without their normal shoes changed at half.

In the 31st minute Ross LaBauex played a ball in front of Eddie Ababio. Ababio chipped it over the keeper for the first goal. This was Ababio's first professional appearance (later int he game he would be replaced by Davy Armstrong who was also getting his first professional playing time as the Rapids first homegrown player). The lead only lasted 5 minutes as Stweard Ceus was called for a 6-second violation. I have literally never seen that called in a professional game. The ensuing indirect kick inside the box was finished off to level the score. Metapan was very unlucky not to score right before half as they had a wide-open volley go off the crossbar.

Right after half Amarikwa put the Rapids back into the lead with a volley off a header form the top of the box that the Metapan keeper fumbled and let get behind him. Cummings finished off the scoring with a classic Omar goal, running onto a long ball ahead of the defense and beating the keeper. At that point Metapan knew it was over and folded up shop.

As you can see, the Rapids proved me wrong. Colorado was really outplayed for a good part of the game, especially in the first half, but they manged to do two things that have been lacking recently. The first was finishing their opportunities. The 3 goals were really their only 3 good chances in the game (and Amarikwa's was only half a chance at best) and they finished all of them. The second was that they didn't make any defensive blunders. The couple of good chances Metapan got came from them outplaying us (or int he case of the goal, a horrible call), not from the keeper playing a bad ball or a defender not seeing an attacker on a pass. Combined they were worse on the field but better on the scoreboard.

My humble pie now eaten, I still stand by my belief that Smith skipping this game was an insult and a poor decision, regardless of the result. Just because the Rapids won doesn't change the questionable decision-making process.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Colorado Proves CCL Game Is Meaningless

Colorado faces Isidro Metapan tonight in El Salavador at 8pm MDT. The game is delayed until 10:30pm on FOX Soccer Channel but can be watched live on the CONCACAF Champions League site. The supporters groups are gathering at the British Bulldog for this one, presumably to watch the live stream on big screens.

The Rapids sent a mostly reserve squad to Metapan, with Cummings, Thompson, and Marshall as the only players who get regular playing time. Apparently the game is so unimportant that Gary Smith can't be bothered to travel, sending assistant coach Steve Guppy with the team to coach the game.

I actually agree that this game should have a lower priority. Our playoff chances are teetering on the edge while our odds of advancement in the CCL are very low. A loss in either of our next two games eliminates us, and even a draw makes it difficult. Getting wins in El Salvador and Mexico would be a long shot for a fully healthy Rapids squad, with the injuries and the importance of our remaining league games its time to punt. Had we started full lineups in either (or both) of the Real Espana games and gotten the wins that were there for the taking we'd be in a different situation, but since we didn't we need to move on from the CCL.

That said, its ridiculous that Gary Smith isn't with the team. He's the head coach and this is a first-team game. Unlike the players, the only physical exertion he has to perform at a game is to get off the bench to pass instructions once in a while. A flight to El Salvador and back shouldn't cause any problems with that. Its less than 200 miles further to Metapan from Denver than to Boston. If the Rapids had a midweek road match in New England, would he skip that as well?

Sending Omar Cummings, and to a lesser extent Wells Thompson, is also an odd choice. Cummings is our best healthy striker with more goals+assists than anyone on the team. Thompson is a backup, but with Jamie Smith having a history of pre-game injuries Wells has been pressed into service on a moments notice more than once. Now, with a critical league game on Saturday, he sends them both with the reserves to Metapan and says anyone on the trip won't play more than a substitute role on Saturday. So we can expect to see Folan and Nyassi up top and we have to hope Jamie Smith stays healthy.

Clearly this is a game Gary Smith has written off. If he can't be bothered to show up and support his team, why should I bother even watching it?

Prediction: 2-0 Rapids loss. A reserves team couldn't get it done against a weaker Real Espana team at home, there's no reason to think they can get it done in El Salvador.

Monday, September 26, 2011

This Is Getting Old...

Sigh. Another game, another lack of attack until its too late, another failure to win. The Rapids spent a good 60 minutes doing essentially nothing in the offensive third, and by then they were down 1-0. They showed some life in the last 30 minutes and were somewhat unlucky not to find two goals, but at the same time they were lucky to get one.

Once again Colorado conceded an early goal. This time it was an 18th minute 30+ yard blast from Khari Stephenson that Pickens inexplicably just chested right back to the center of the box. Wondolowski beat Moor to the ball and it was an easy shot past Pickens for the 1-0 lead. Wondo got another good look in the 35th minute, but Pickens was up to the challenge this time around.

After half the Rapids started to get moving, and they controlled the game for the final 30 minutes. This was largely due to San Jose taking former-Rapid Jacob Peterson off and Colorado putting former-Earthquake Brian Mullan on. The Rapids created plenty of chances but mainly converted them into corner kicks that were cleared. In the 70th minute Drew Moor got a snap header off form a corner, only to see 'Quakes keeper Jon Busch make a last ditch save to push it over the bar. On the ensuing corner though the ball pinballed around in front of net and Moor was able to slam it home to level the score. Folan almost won it in stoppage time, but Busch once again cleared it off the line.

My key to the game was our ability refocus on the league after the end of our CCL hopes. It seems like we haven't been able to focus on anything recently.

Other Observations:
  • Pickens is the only person to blame on the goal. A MLS-level keeper has to do better with a long-range shot than chesting it back into the center of the box. Moor let Wondo get behind him, but the difference was a split second reaction to a scenario that should never have happened.
  • At one point int eh second half Koz freed Cummings down the right side and Omar played a crossing ball right into the path of an onrushing Folan. It was an easy shot to put on target and force a big save. Somehow Folan managed to kick it out for a throw-in behind him on the far side. *shakes head*
  • Nyassi had 2-3 good chances to get a goal, only to come up with weak or off-target shots.
  • Comminges still hasn't quite settled in with the team yet, but I'm liking most of what I'm seeing.
  • Somebody smack the DJ that decided to play 'Rock the Casbah' as the fans left the stadium. Do they not know their league history?
  • And for those of you who don't (or don't know music) the San Jose supporters group is called the Casbah, because the Earthquakes were originally called the Clash. The Clash is also the group that sang 'Rock the Casbah'.
  • The Rapids have now gone 7 games in all competitions without a win. This ties Smith's record from 2010 and 2009. Unfortunately looking at our up coming schedule with games @Metapan, against Dallas, against FSL, and @Santos it could be a while before we see a win if we don't figure things out.
  • Luckily we finish @Vancouver, the worst team in the league. 3 more points will all but wrap up a playoff spot for us.
Player of the Game: Drew Moor. Not only for the goal, but for keeping San Jose quite most of the night back in his regular center back spot.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Western Foes Meet In Rematch Of Eastern Championship

The last time the Earthquakes were in town the Rapids sent them packing after a crazy goal by Koz and the trophy celebration to the left sent Colorado to MLS Cup. The stakes aren't quite so high tomorrow night but if the Rapids have any hopes of repeating they need to repeat the result from that night to solidify their playoff position. Kickoff tomorrow is back to the normal time of 7pm, which means the kegs will be tapped at 4 and the grills fired up at 5. I hope to be there by 6 after the Washington-Cal game. ;) Those of you not going can watch the game on Altitude.

Injury Report:
OUT: FW Conor Casey (L Achilles tear); Anthony Wallace (R knee arthroscopic surgery)
QUESTIONABLE: MF Jamie Smith (R hamstring strain / R calf strain)
PROBABLE: GK Matt Pickens (R groin strain)

Disciplinary Report:
SUSPENDED AFTER 2 MORE CAUTIONS: FW Caleb Folan; MF Ross LaBauex; MF Jeff Larentowicz; DF Tyrone Marshall; MF Pablo Mastroeni; MF Wells Thompson

The injury report is getting better, especially since Jamie Smith was able to play for a few minutes on Wednesday night. San Jose is missing 9 players to injury or suspension, so they're in bad shape. My guess on our lineup:

Kimura - Wynne - Moor - Comminges
Mullan - Pablo - Larentowicz - Thompson
Cummings - Nyassi

I don't think Smith will get the start, but he'll be the first start off the bench, spelling Thompson who played 90 on Wednesday. Mullan and Koz also played 90, but I think they'll both start at home with Mullan being another likely sub.

Key To Look For: How well can we refocus? The CCL is gone at this point, the only thing to play for is the league. Can we put ourselves in that mindset?

Prediction: 2-0 win, goals by Nyassi and Larentowicz. San Jose is a bad team on the road after playing in Portland on Wednesday. If Colorado can't beat a team like that then we might as well close up shop for the season. Nyassi uses his speed to get behind the defense for a goal and Ginger ninja powers one in from long range.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

I Love It When A Plan Falls Apart

In 2005, a not-so-crack soccer team was sent to the reserves by a coach for skills they didn't possess. These men promptly escaped from a minimally-interested Front Office to the Denver underground. Today, still not missed by the fans, they survive as minimum wage MLS players. If you have a game...if no one else cares...and if you can find them...maybe you can start...The B-Team.

Ironically because it was a CCL match and not a league game the A-Team theme was not played before the game like normal last night. Just in writing that I think I spent more time thinking about the game than Gary Smith did prior to writing his lineup card. In a game we had to win to hopefully have a chance to get to the knockout rounds we ran out a b-team lineup supplemented by Koz and Mullan (who were by far the players of the game). Not surprising, given their results in the reserves, we got a b-team result in the form of a 2-1 loss.

And really, that's all the time I want to spend on this game. Our CCL campaign is essentially over and Gary Smith doesn't seem to care, so why should I?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Rapids Face Must-Win CCL Game

Tomorrow night Real Espana becomes the final CCL team to make the trip to Denver for the group stage. In August we faced them in Honduras using mostly a team of reserves and drew 1-1. The only members of our best XI that started that game were Kimura, Larentowicz, and Cummings with Moor getting 20 and Nyassi getting 10 minutes late. Colorado was under siege that game, with only some bad shooting by Real and good saves by Ceus keeping us from losing.

This is pretty much a must-win game if the Rapids want to get pout of the stage. Assuming that Isidro Metapan doesn't pull the upset of the stage by winning in Mexico on Thursday, Colorado can clinch a spot in the knock-out rounds with wins tomorrow night and next week in Metapan. Given that we are almost certainly going to fail to get points in Mexico, given how our first team played against Santos last week, winning the next two games is really our only shot at getting out of the group. Of course we also really need to best San Jose on Saturday, so Gary Smith has to figure out how to juggle the lineup.

Prediction: 1-0 Rapids win. Real Espana looked dangerous against the back line of our reserves, but a starting team that has worked together would have successfully stopped much of their attack. Our offense isn't exactly clicking on all cylinders though, so I don't expect us to do much better than our reserves did. Of course this prediction assumes we see something close to a first-team starting XI.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Same Play, Same Result

For yet another game a complete lack of offensive ideas doomed the Rapids to a loss. After a boring first half where the teams combined for 1 decent attack Toronto came out re-energized for the second half while Colorado spent 15 minutes waking up from halftime. Unfortunately by then they were already down 2 goals.

The goals were mirror images of each other. In the 53rd minute a cross from the left found a badly marked Koevermans in the box and he put it past Pickens. 7 minutes alter a cross from the right side of the box found an unmarked Koevermans and he once again put it past Pickens. That put Colorado in a hole it was going to be hard to get out of.

The Rapids did make a game of it. In the 70th minute Nyassi made 60 yard run into the Toronto box before passing the ball off to Cummings. His eventual shot was stopped but the deflection fell back to Nyassi unmarked at the far post, and he put it in to half the deficit. After that both Larentowicz and Moor had shots cleared off the line. Moor's shot was in stoppage time and cleared off the same goal line as Moor cleared Cunningham's shot in extra time stoppage time of MLS Cup. In the end the deficit was too much and Colorado lost to Toronto in
Toronto for the 5th straight time.

My key to the game was our ability to score. We didn't show any hope of it until it was too late.

Other Observations:
  • Really only one observation this week, the team looked like it was just going through the motions, especially on offense. There's just no spark or creativity once the ball gets to the midfield or the forwards. If the team can't turn that around quickly we're going to be out of the CCL running, and probably out of the playoffs.
Player of the Game: Sanna Nyassi. The only thing resembling an attack came through him.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Rapids Return To Scene Of Their Greatest Triumph

The last time Colorado was in Toronto they left with their first ever win at BMO Field, and more importantly, the MLS Cup! Tomorrow they try to make it two in a row North of the border. The Rapids probably need 1 more win to really assure themselves of a playoff spot and their best chances are tomorrow and next week when they host San Jose. Game time is the very odd 11:30am Denver time, due to Toronto's TV contract. The game is on Altitude here in Colorado, and the supporters groups will be gathering at the British Bulldog to watch the game.

Injury Report:
OUT: FW Conor Casey (L Achilles tear); Anthony Wallace (R knee arthroscopic surgery)
QUESTIONABLE: MF Jamie Smith (R hamstring strain, R calf strain)
PROBABLE: GK Matt Pickens (R groin strain)

Disciplinary Report:
SUSPENDED AFTER 2 MORE CAUTIONS: FW Caleb Folan; MF Ross LaBauex; MF Jeff Larentowicz; DF Tyrone Marshall; MF Pablo Mastroeni; MF Sanna Nyassi; MF Wells Thompson; DF Anthony Wallace

Same injury report we've seen recently. I expect that Jamie Smith will not play. Toronto has 8 players questionable or worse, so they're hurting. My guess at the starting XI:

Kimura - Wynne - Marshall - Moor
Mullan - Pablo - Larentowicz - Thompson
Cummings - Nyassi

Most of these players started the disaster against Santos, but I think GS wants to get that win ASAP so he'll roll them out again, despite the Real Esapna game on Wednesday. We might see our new signing Comminges in for Moor or Wynne. Of course if he decides to rest players we could see Earls, Palguta, LaBauex, Kandji, or Folan.

Key To Look For: Can we score? Its been 4 weeks since our last league goal, and we need to figure out how to turn that around.

Prediction: 1-0 win, goal by Nyassi. Toronto is a bad team that's beat up. Even though we traditionally play horribly in Toronto I think the team will get an added bonus from playing on the field where they won MLS Cup, and that combined with the embarrassment of Tuesday night will propel them to a win. This prediction does assume at least an almost complete first choice team.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Rapids Embarrass Themselves On And Off The Field

Where do I start with this mess of an event. From the big things to the small things it was an embarrassment. Might as well take it chronologically.

1. I get en email from my ticket rep saying "No parking passes for this game are needed". I write back asking if that's true for the tailgate lot. He says yep, no passes. I decide to bring mine anyway (Well, its permanently in the glove compartment, it was coming either way) sure enough, you need the tailgate lot pass to get to the lot for this game.

2. Nice job removing all the porta-potties from the tailgate lot guys. Did you think the season ended at Labor Day?

3. Same email from ticket rep said all Santos fans had to go in on the East side, all rapids fans had to go in on the West. Of course as I go in on the West side I see plenty of Santos fans going in with me.

4. The roster sheet being handed out at the gate identified our new player Comminges as being from Les Abymes, Guatemala. He's from Les Abymes, Guadeloupe. But hey, all those CONCACAF 'G' countries are the same, right?

5. That same sheet had the standings for our CCL group incorrect. Somehow they showed the Rapids as the only team with a draw. Basic understanding of sports should make it obvious that its impossible for only 1 team to have a draw.

6. I get to my seat, which of course isn't actually my seat, because they moved all the die-hard fans on the East so all the Rapids fans were on the West side and all the Santos fans were on the East side, only to find a Santos fan two rows in front of me. Of course, because this was the section behind the Santos bench there;s no shock in that, I'm sure many Santos fans would have wanted to sit right behind their team's bench.

7. Looking across to the East side and seeing 8K Santos fans. Embarrassing for the organization that their opponents outdraw the home team due to the crappy marketing this organization does.

8. Finding out that Tina and the rest of the clan, Class VI leaders, got re-seated outside the Class VI section and near some Santos fans. Nice job taking care of some of your best fans Rapids.

9. The starting lineup. Really Smith? No Pickens against the best strike force the Rapids will play all season? And don't give me any crap about needing to rest him. He was on fire in LA and he's a goalkeeper, goalkeepers regularly play 40 games in soccer leagues around the world. Putting Moor on the right and Palguta was a winning move too, I hope Koz enjoyed his night off.

10. Not to mention the stunning strategic move of playing a 4-3-3 with a team that never plays that formation. Instead of starting Mullan in our traditional 4-4-2 that's worked well for us you start Kandji. Mac proceeded to prove that he doesn't belong in a reserves game, much less the CCL.

11. Security around the Pid Army and BSG while the whole East stands are yelling ********! on every goal kick. yeah, you wouldn't want your loyal fans to feel welcome or anything, you want to make sure you can keep the once-in-a-lifetime visitors happy so they'll still never come back.

12. 90 minutes of the worst soccer the Rapids have played in years. The team wasn't moving or talking to each other, and they flat out gave up on the 2nd goal, which is about the time I gave up on the game. BTW, the goal was onside.

13. Despite that I still stayed until the end, but I couldn't even get pissed at the Class VI fans who left at 4-0. I believe you should support your team through thick and thin, but after the debacle last night I couldn't blame people for walking out.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Rapids Biggest CCL Game Tomorrow

Colorado hosts Santos Laguna of the Mexican League tomorrow. This is the biggest CCL match the Rapids will play, as Santos is by far the best team in the group but a win tomorrow would put Colorado in the driver's seat for advancing into the knockout rounds. Game time tomorrow at the Dick is 8pm and the game will be on FOX Soccer Channel. Note to season ticket holders on the East side of the stadium (which would be everyone in Class VI, BSG, and the Pid Army), the East side of the stadium has been given to the Santos fans. You should have been contacted to be re-seated on the West side. If not, contact your ticket rep. Tailgate tomorrow starts at 5:30, with fish tacos on the menu!

Santos Laguna got into the CCL by being the runner-up of the 2010 Apertura season. They beat Olimpia of Honduras by an aggregate 4-3 score in the preliminary round and have beaten Real Espana at home 3-2 and lost to Isidro Metapan on the road 2-0. Santos were in the 2010-11 CCL where they were knocked out by Cruz Azul in the quarterfinals and in the 2008-09 CCL where they were knocked out by eventual champion Alante in the semifinals. They are currently 15th (of 18 teams) in the Mexican Clasura and just drew a tough game against Chivas on Saturday.

Despite their league struggles, both teams have stated that they are going to play the strongest lineups they can. Of course we've heard that before from Gary Smith. Hopefully he realizes this is the critical game of the CCL campaign. The Rapids have to be favored to beat Real Espana at the Dick next week, so a win tomorrow night would give Colorado a very good chance to get to 10 points by the end of Round 4, which would mean the only way they wouldn't advance would be the unlikely scenario of losing a 3-way tiebreaker at 10 points. That would mean the Rapids could go into the last two rounds without a lot of pressure, which is good since those are road games in El Salvador and Mexico, tough places to get a result.

Despite Gary Smith's statement, I expect to see a lineup of some starters and some reserves. I wouldn't be shocked to see Marshall, Mastroeni or Larentowicz, Mullan, and Nyassi not starting. Moor will start after being forced to sit out on Friday, and I assume that Cummings limited play on Friday will allow him to start. Against a tough team like Mexico I assume Pickens will get the nod over Ceus.

Prediction: 1-1 draw. I think a full strength Rapids side could beat Santos, but I don't think Gary smith will put out a full strength side. Because of that the Rapids will be pushed to their limit but they will manage to hang on for a draw. This will leave Colorado in the position of needing to beat Isidro Metapan on the road in order to advance.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Galaxy Stars Boil Rapids

Colorado played poorly, the coaching staff made poor decisions, and the team got a poor result. The 1-0 score hides the fact that this loss should have been by 3 or 4 based on what we saw on the field. For most of the first half LA was just attacking in wave after wave, forcing Pickens into 8 saves total, two of which were back to back and as good as the MLS Cup saving tackle at the end of the championship game.

There's really only two incidents to discuss in this game. On the LA goal the defense got worked. Marshall pushes up leaving a hole in the back and with 4 perfect passes LA puts it int he back of the net. Once Marshall got beat Wynne moved in to cover for him, Kimura moved in to cover for Wynne, and nobody (Mullan?) moved to cover for Kimura, which left PrimaDonnavan unmarked in the box and he doesn't miss in that situation.

The Rapids only real threat was in the second half when a loose pass from Folan was deflected to Nyassi's feet in the box, and Sanna was able to spin and put it on net. Ricketts made the save but the rebound fell in front of Thompson. Wells finished it, but was correctly ruled offside. It was a quick play but Thompson should have done better getting onside. The only other shot on target Colorado had was a long shot along the ground in the first half from Larentowicz that Ricketts easily saved.

My key to the game was how our makeshift backline held up to the powerful Galaxy offense. Not well, as it was a shooting gallery in the first half, but that was as much about the midfield and forwards not being able to keep possession than the issues with the defense.

Stat of the Game: Kimura played in his 100th MLS game.

Other Observations:
  • Really poor choice by Gary Smith to leave Cummings and Nyassi on the bench but start all the other first-teamers. Scoring has been hard enough when Cummings and Nyassi have been in, its been almost non-existent since the Casey injury without them. So the starting XI had no real ability to score, but now you've tired them out for the important CCL match Tuesday. Why?
  • Then to compound the error Smith realized his lineup wasn't working after we were down 1-0, and took off Kandji for Nyassi. So Nyassi didn't get much rest anyway.
  • Caleb Folan played all 90 minutes, had one shot, two forward passes in the attacking half, and spent more time in the center circle than anywhere else. Yeah, that was a waste.
  • Colorado had no ability to hold possession in the Galaxy half in the first half. The defense was kicking out to the attacking players, resting for 15 seconds while the offense turned the ball over, and then were under pressure again.
  • MLS has figured out the Rapids are week on the left side and are driving their attacks that way. Hopefully Comminges will help with that problem.
  • Pablo was solid int eh first half and checked out of the second half. Not a good sign.
  • The Rapids did start taking the game to the Galaxy late, especially once Cummings subbed in. I don't know if LA was just taking their foot off the pedal or if we were actually turning things around.
  • This is the first game of 7 in 23 days. If you're Gary Smith why wouldn't you use all 3 subs to try to get some players rest? You're going to need every minute off you can get a player. At the very least Folan could have been pulled for just about anyone on the bench and not hurt our offensive chances of getting another goal.
  • Kandji actually looked decent in his short time, Smith seems wedded to the target forward + speed forward combo that works so well for the C+C Goal Factory that its blinding him to who the better player is.
Player of the Game: Matt Pickens. Without his play in the first half the Galaxy score at least 4 goals.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Rapids Sign Guadeloupe Defender Miguel Comminges

Recap of the LA game coming later this weekend, but at half its not looking great. Meanwhile right before the game the Rapids announced a new signing. Guadeloupe international Miguel Comminges has been added tot he roster. He's a speedy defender that can play on either side. He's played in the second division in France and in the Championship, 1st, and 2nd Divisions in England. He's a regular for the Guadeloupe National Team and was on their Gold Cup squad this summer. The Rapids expect him to be available for the Santos Laguna game on Tuesday.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Rapids Try To Do Moor With Less In LA-LA Land

The Rapids come off their two week break with a trip to LA to face the Galaxy. It wasn't all rest though as Ceus, Cummings, Larentowicz, and Nyassi played for their National Teams. Ceus and Cummings got 2 full games, while Nyassi only had one and Larentowicz was on the bench for one and got 15 minutes in the second. Now its time to focus back on MLS and the current Supporters Shield leaders. Game time tomorrow is a late 9pm MDT for the FOX Soccer Channel broadcast. Class VI and Pid Army will be gathering at the Celtic in LoDo for a large party with door prizes and raffles, and smaller parties at CB&Potts in Fort Collins and McCabes in the Springs.

Injury Report:
OUT: FW Conor Casey (L Achilles tear); Anthony Wallace (L knee sprain)
QUESTIONABLE: MF Jamie Smith (R hamstring strain, R calf strain)
PROBABLE: GK Matt Pickens (R groin strain)

Disciplinary Report:
SUSPENDED AFTER 1 MORE CAUTION: FW Caleb Folan, MF Jeff Larentowicz, MF Wells Thompson (all need a clean game to knock one yellow off their total)
SUSPENDED AFTER 2 MORE CAUTIONS: MF Ross LaBauex; DF Tyrone Marshall; MF Pablo Mastroeni; MF Brian Mullan; MF Sanna Nyassi; DF Anthony Wallace

Unfortunately the injury report isn't much better than before the break. Jamie Smith and Anthony Wallace are still unlikely to be available. With Drew Moor suspended and missing his first game ever since arriving in Colorado that leaves a weak backline. The Galaxy have 5 players listed as questionable including Old Spice himself. My guess at the starting XI:

Kimura - Wynne - Marshall - Earls
Mullan - Pablo - Larentowicz - LaBauex
Cummings - Nyassi

I'd really prefer to see a younger lineup with some of the regulars saved for Tuesday's home game against Santos Laguna, but based on what we've seen so far with the CCL I don't think Gary Smith feels the same way. I'm pretty sure we'll see the standard XI for this one.

Key To Look For: How does our makeshift backline hold up against the powerful Galaxy strikers. Keane and Prima Donnavan are probably the most talented duo in MLS, especially with Casey injured, and they'll be going up against a backline missing a regular starter and with a left back by committee.

Prediction: 2-1 loss, goal by Cummings. I don't think the Rapids can hold up to LA's firepower. Cummings will level the game after LA goes up early, but out back line will break down in the second half and allow the winner.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Rapids All-Time Team: Speed Forward

The starting speed forward for the Rapids All-Time Team is Omar Cummings.

How Acquired: Drafted in the 3rd round (31st overall pick) in the 2007 Superdraft.

Years In Colorado: 2007 through present

This was the trickiest pick of the team. I went back and forth between a 4-4-2 and a 3-4-3, but eventually Cummings won out. (Don't let the titles of the forward positions fool you, I wasn't looking specifically for a Speed Forward but I needed some way to designate each of the forward positions, so the position titles are based on the players not the other way around.) Omar has been one half of the best strike duo in MLS the last 2+ seasons as his work with Casey has led to a "thunder and lightning" approach for the Rapids offense which the fans have nicknamed the C+C Goal Factory. In his 4+ seasons Cummings is already the 4th leading scorer in team history and he'll probably pass Spencer for 3rd by the end of this year. This despite not being a regular starter until his 3rd season.

Cummings is probably the best player actually developed by the Rapids in their history. Colorado has had good players sign with the team, like Conor Casey, and had players start in Colorado and then leave to become even greater, like Shawn Bartlett. Cummings is really the first player to develop as a Rapid and he looks poised to move on to a top-level club. His trial with Aston Villa this offseason went well enough that Villa and Colorado agreed on a loan deal for him, with rumors of a possible purchase if it went well, but Jamaica's place just outside the top 70 of the FIFA rankings meant that Cummings would have to appeal to get a work permit, a long process that would have used up most of his loan time. The only other player to develop in Colorado and move immediately to anything resembling a top club was Marcus Hahnemann's move to Fulham, but they were a Championship side at that point.

I expect this to be one of the more debated picks in my All-Time Team, and I can 't really disagree. There are a number of names that could have taken the final slot, both at forward or in midfield/defense in a different formation. The potential Cummings has shown and his combination with Casey up front give him the edge in my opinion.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Rapids All-Time Team: Target Forward

The starting target forward for the Rapids All-Time Team is Conor Casey.

How Acquired: Acquired from Toronto FC in exchange for allocation money, allocation position, and the rights to Riley O'Neill .

Years In Colorado: Early 2007 through present

This was an easy pick. There were 3 obvious choices for this team, Balboa, Mastroeni, and Casey. Conor is, by far, the best striker to ever put on a Rapids uniform. When he first arrived in Colorado in 2007 he was still recovering from a knee injury and his first season wasn't that impressive. Since the start of the 2008 season though, he's scored more goals than any other forward in MLS who's name isn't Landon Donovan. He's also blown right by Paul Bravo's team record for career goals (48 to 39 in 34 less games) and beaten John Spencer's record for goals in a season (16 to 14). Casey is also the only Rapids player to have more than 1 career hat-trick, with 3.

Casey's game may not look like much at a glimpse. He looks a bit slow and lumbering and at time he has feet of stone. At the same time though he's always where he needs to be, he can hold the ball better than almost any other striker in the league, and he finds his strike partner, particularly Omar Cummings, with great passes more often than not. I've heard him called an MLS-level Alan Shearer, which isn't a bad description. For some reason there's a noticeable number of fans who see Casey's negatives as greater than his positives, which is mind-boggling to me. The Rapids would be a significantly worse team over the last 4+ seasons without Casey.

One final note, Casey scored the most important goal ever scored by a Rapids player, and it earned him (or his twin Casey Conor) the MLS Cup MVP award. Excuse the quality of the video, it was the best I could find on YouTube.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Rapids All-Time Team: Attacking Midfielder

The starting attacking midfielder for the Rapids All-Time Team is Adrian Paz.

How Acquired: Acquired from the Columbus Crew along with their 3rd round Supplemental Draft Pick in the 1997 draft for the Rapids 1st round pick in that draft.

Years In Colorado: 1997 through 1998

How Departed: Left as a free agent and signed by Tianjin Teda in China.

I had to ask some friends (greenie and joeyclams) for input on the early years of the Rapids, as I didn't start following them until 1998 and didn't get MLS Shootout/Direct Kick so I could see the majority of their games until 2000. So my knowledge of the first coule years of the Rapids is kind of fuzzy. The one bit of advice I got from both of them is that Adrian Paz deserved the attacking midfielder spot. From what little I saw of the '98 season, it was hard to disagree.

In an era when most MLS players, especially American players, primary skill was their fitness and work rate Paz brought a level of technique and creativity the team needed in the attack. He was working with a group of forwards that, other than Paul Bravo, will not be quickly remembered. Guys like Waldir, Wolde Harris, and Marquis White. Despite that Paz is still 4th all time in assists, and on a per game basis is second only to Anders Limpar. Paz played in all but 7 games while he was in Colorado and he only missed about 300 minutes in total of the 53 games he did play in.

Paz also holds the distinction of being one of the only two Rapids ever to score in MLS Cup. His goal in the 75th minute of the 1997 MLS Cup cut the DC lead in half and made for a furious finish to the game as Colorado was searching for the tying score. Of course it wasn't to be and the Rapids would have to wait 13 years to get another chance. Still that goal was probably the highpoint in the Rapids first 14 seasons and the man who scored it should be on the All-Time team.