Monday, October 31, 2011

Rapids Fall And Can't Get Up

Last night the soccer gods turned away from the Rapids. I'd say they were too busy with golden boy Tebow, but he might have had a worse day than the Rapids. As a Seahawks fan I feel no sympathy. :D A combination of a lack of offense and bad luck really destroyed Colorado's hopes of repeating.

The home side controlled play for most of the first half, but as we've seen in recent games, they could not convert that into goals. Meanwhile they picked up 3 significant injuries in the first half. The combination of those two things killed them. In the first 15 minutes of the second half KC took advantage of the weakened lineup for two goals and a red card and the game was over.

I'm going to dispense with my normal game review, because there's really only a couple of points to make. This loss is directly attributable to the injuries suffered. Folan left after 23 minutes due to landing badly and tweaking his knee. He's now out 2 weeks. Kimura left after 36 minutes due to breaking his left foot, he's out 4-8 weeks. Moor left after 60 minutes due to spraining his shoulder, he's out 2-4 weeks. We used all 3 subs in the first 60 minutes for players who were injured and will miss the return leg in KC. To their credit, all 3 players tried to play through their injuries before finally having to be subbed out.

Kimura's injury was the killer, and Moor's didn't help. Because of Koz having to leave Marshall was brought in to play center back and Wynne was pushed into Kimura's right back role. Marshall let Bunbury get behind him and couldn't quite catch up, allowing Teal to beat Pickens for the first goal. It was close enough that I have no doubt Wynne could have caught him if he was still playing center back. 10 minutes later Marshall again allowed Bunbury to slip behind him in the box and when closing him down tapped him and gave him the opportunity to go to ground, drawing a PK and a red card for Marshall. Marshall was also trying to cover for the injured Moor, who came out of the game at that point. Down 2 goals, a man, and out of subs the Rapids were done.

That leads me to the second point. Toledo had a bad night in the center, but it wasn't the travesty of justice a number of Rapids fans are making it out to be. The big misses by Toledo was the lack of a foul and yellow card on the collision that injured Kimura and the lack of any cards on the scuffle in the box between Kamara, Pickens, and Comminges. Other than that he really didn't miss that much. Unless Kamara's swipe rose tot he level of a red card (I haven't seen a replay, but it doesn't seem like it) at best a couple of KC players have additional yellow cards. What killed us were the injuries that resulted from the physical, but not dirty, play by KC and our continued lack of creativity on offense. Toldeo didn't cost us this game.

Player of the Game: Miguel Comminges. After a couple of game to settle in Comminges is looking like a solid pick-up. Last night he controlled the left side of defense and even made a couple of good attacking passes. In a game that went sideways due to injuries it was hard for anyone to stand out but I thought he had a good game.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Battle Of I-70 Starts Tomorrow

A quick turnaround for the Rapids as they are back in action tomorrow. The first leg of the conference semi-finals sees the SporKC's coming back to town. It will be the final home game of the season, no matter what happens, so let's go out with a bang. The tailgate starts at 2:30 with kickoff at 5:30. For those of you who can't make it you can see the game on FOX Soccer Channel.

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

KC has 4 players out, so both teams are at the same numeric strength (Since Pablo is not expected to play. Colorado is missing 3 of its 4 best players in Casey, Smith, and Pablo though (Wynne being the 4th, who will play) and that's going to be a challenge to overcome. Here's my guess at the starting XI, but its really a guess:

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

I'd really prefer to see Nyassi up top and Nane in midfield (and Folan in a suite somewhere) but Gary Smith seems to still like the Irishman. LaBauex, Akpan, or ven Earls could get a start though, so its a real toss-up.

Key To Look For: Our midfield. No Pablo and no Smith means that its a patchwork group in the middle of the field. That could put a real strain on an offense that's had a hard time generating chances in the best of times lately.

Prediction: 1-1 draw, goal by Larentowicz. Between the injuries and short rest before this game I don't see the Rapids getting a win. There's just too much stacked against them. Ginger Ninja will score off a free kick, but the defense won't be able to keep KC off the board.

Friday, October 28, 2011

One Game Down, Three To Go

A cold night in Commerce City worked to the Rapids advantage as they got a first half lead and then suffocated any chances the Crew might have had to get back into the game. Colorado won 1-0 and moved on to the Conference Semi-Final round to face Kansas City.

The Rapids took control early as they had the majority of play in the first half. With the exception of about a 10 minute period in the middle of the half Colorado had the run of play and were the most dangerous team. At halftime they had 62% of the possession. The attacking paid off right before half on a nice bit of passing from the team. Mullan played a ball through the Crew defense that Kimura ran onto. Cummings came in as the trailing player and was left unmarked and Koz played the ball back to him. Omar one-timed it past an airborne Hesmer for a great way to end the half.

The second half the Crew came out a bit more aggressive and the Rapids had to absorb more pressure. Slowly though Colorado retook control and wore the Crew out. With the cold weather and the altitude Columbus will seemed to fade as the half went on. By stoppage time the Rapids actually had the best two chances, but were unable to double their lead. That turned out to be unnecessary though as the team closed out the win and sent Columbus home for the season.

My key to the game was how Ginger and Nane/Thompson controlled the midfield. It turned out Jamie Smith partnered with Ginger and brought a good deal of stability to the center of the park. While things weren't perfect the Rapids dominance in possession was largely due to the midfield paring.

Other Observations:
  • The goal was a textbook example of moving the ball and finding the open man. It reminded me of how Cummings and Casey have linked up in recent years. Maybe this will give Omar a jump start for the playoffs.
  • The Rapids played one of the better team games of the season. Players were interchanging well and working together more cohesively than in many games.
  • That said, Folan was awful. There was no desire in his game and no effort in his play. There's no reason he needs to be on the field in a Rapids jersey again.
  • The bad news out of this game was the injury to Jamie Smith. Today's MRI revealed that he tore his right ACL and has months of rehab ahead of him.
  • The Wells Thompson sub was made at the right time, I just would have taken Folan off.
  • Nyassi and Cummings made some Crew defenders look stupid last night. It was fun to watch.
  • I was surprised to see Ross LaBauex as the sub for Smith, I was expecting Nane.
  • The Rapids move on to face KC at the Dick on Sunday. Kickoff is at 5:30.
Player of the Game: Brian Mullan. He drove the offense multiple times and set up a great goal. He was the engine of the team last night.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Defense Of The Cup Begins Tomorrow

The Rapids start the playoffs tomorrow night at the Dick against the Columbus Crew. 4 games in the next 11 days separate them from another trip to MLS Cup. Tomorrow night its simple, win or go home. There will be 30 minutes and, if necessary, PK's to decide a winner. Of course last year when Colorado started their run to MLS Cup they did it by beating the Crew in the first round. Kickoff tomorrow is at 8pm, so the tailgate starts at 6, regardless of how cold it is. Those of you that can't make it can watch on Altitude in Colorado, or streaming on elsewhere.

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

Columbus has two questionable players and one player suspended, so both teams are pretty close to equal strength. Given that its win or go home, there shouldn't be any reason to hold anyone back who can go. My guess at the starting XI:

Kimura - Wynne - Moor - Comminges
Mullan - Nane - Larentowicz - Smith
Cummings - Nyassi

Recent articles make it sound very unlikely that Pablo will be cleared from his concussion and able to play. That's a big loss for the team that Nane (or possibly Thompson) will have to step up and make up for. Otherwise I expect our normal second-half starting XI to start.

Key To Look For: How do Ginger and Nane/Thompson hold the midfield. If the Rapids can hold the ball in midfield they can make Columbus work at altitude on short rest. If they can't we'll see Colorado revert to long ball again.

Prediction: 1-0 win, goal by Moor. I think the cold weather, short rest, and the natural conservative play of a knockout game will keep this low scoring. Eventually Columbus will wear down with the altitude and additional travel and start giving up free kicks and corner kicks. Moor will convert one of them for the winner.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Colorado Ends Regular Season With A Win

After a first half completely bereft of ideas by either team (I commented at half that the best hope for either team to score was an own goal) the second half perked up and resulted in the Rapids clinching a home playoff game.

The half started on a bad note though as Vancouver scored 4 minutes in. A free kick from Alain Rochat bounced in front of goal and into the net with Pickens standing their with his arms pulled back like he thought it was going out of play. Just a horrible read by Matt. 10 minutes later Vancouver would repay the favor on the other end. The Rapids got a free kick just outside the box, Nyassi tapped it and Smith stopped it so Ginger Ninja could power it home, and he did, right between former-Rapids keeper Joe Cannon's legs.

The rest of the game was playing out to the point where I thought my prediction of a 1-1 game with Larentowicz scoring was going to be right on, but an unlikely source had other ideas. In the 84th minute after Folan had been dispossessed in the box Kandji (or a Vancouver defender, hard to tell) got to the ball and played it back to an open Wells Thompson. Wells took a couple of touches and launched an arcing shot from 20 yards that beat Cannon and gave Colorado a come-from-behind win and a home playoff game.

My key to the game was what offensive ideas the Rapids had. Despite the win and two goals though, they really didn't have any. One goal from allowing Ginger to slam a free kick at the goal, and a long shot from Wells Thompson aren't exactly things you plan for.

Other Observations:
  • The Vancouver goal is all on Pickens. The ball was a good 30 yards away from goal and actually hit the ground in front of goal with no Whitecap able to make a play on it. Matt has to stop that.
  • Other than the goal the Whitecaps only got 1 shot on target, mainly because they had n o real ideas but also because or defense did a good job of shutting things down.
  • Omar Cummings was non-existent in this game. I just hope that he can find his mojo in the offseason.
  • Far too many times the Rapids went for the long unsuccessful pass down the field instead of the shorter, more patient, pass. Kimura seemed particularly guilty of this.
  • Good to see Jamie Smith able to play, we'll need him in the playoffs.
  • The "thug" Rapids finished with the second lowest foul total in the league.
  • Playoff soccer starts Thursday night at 8 at the Dick versus the Columbus Crew!
Player of the Game: Jeff Larentowicz. not only for the goal, which was solid, but for being a team leader in Pablo's absence.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Warning! Whitewater Ahead!

The wettest fixture in the league happens tomorrow as the Whitecaps and Rapids face off in the rainy Pacific Northwest. Its also the final game in what has been a somewhat soggy season for the Rapids. Colorado has clinched a playoff spot though, and with a win they will clinch home field for the wild-card round. Kickoff of the game is at 5pm and will be on Altitude 2, which is channel 105 on Comcast in the Denver area. Class VI and the Pid Army will be watching from the Celtic in LoDo.

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

Disciplinary Report:

Vancouver has 5 players questionable or worse, and having already been eliminated from playoff contention they're just trying to avoid ending with the worst record in the league. After our game in Mexico on Wednesday and our playoff game next Wednesday its hard to know what our starting XI will be. Here's my best guess though:

Kimura - Wynne - Marshall - Earls
Mullan - Nane - Larentowicz - Smith
Cummings - Nyassi

In this group only Kimura, Wynne, and Larentowicz started in Mexico, and seem to be the ironmen that will hopefully be able to keep playing into the playoffs. Really though this is a crap shoot depending on what Smith wants to focus on.

Playoff Scenarios: The Rapids can clinch home field in the wild-card round a number of ways:

A win on Saturday
a Houston loss on Sunday
a draw and a Columbus loss on Saturday or a Houston draw on Sunday

Key To Look For: Are there any offensive ideas? Lately its been pretty barren beside get close tot eh goal and hope it goes in.

Prediction: 1-1 draw, goal by Larentowicz. Vancouver is a bad team, but the Rapids seem bereft of ideas right now and would be lucky to get more than a goal. Given that the team is tired with their second road game in 4 days I don't see more than a draw and hoping for other results happening.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Rapids CCL Run Ends In 2-0 Defeat

Colorado went to Mexico hoping that they could steal a win. Santos obliged them by starting their reserves. Then we found out the Rapids started half of their reserves and that was the end of that hope.

Colorado controlled play for much of the first half, but every time the ball got to the attackers it died. Kandji and Folan had no real idea what to do with the ball when they got it, and the few times they got a good look they couldn't put the ball on target. At halftime I was optimistic that the Rapids could steal a win, but that ended quickly with a great volley by Santos in the 55th minute to go up 1-0, and then they doubled the lead in the 67th minute with another good volley. After that Colorado was done.

Colorado had one final hope tonight, if Isidro Metapan and Real Espana played to a draw the Rapids would get through. Unfortunately Metapan won 3-2 and claimed second place in the group. The Rapids failed to advance because their reserves only got one point against Real Espana, the weakest team in the group. A win in either game would have been enough to clinch a spot in the quarterfinals.

Other Observations:
  • Why does Gary Smith continue to try to put out the minimum lineup he thinks he can get away with? There was no reason to fly Nyassi and Cummings all the way to Mexico, then bring them off the bench after we're down 1-0.
  • I appreciate the effort Kimura made at right mid, but he's far too defensive for that role unless your other midfielders are attack minded (and last night they weren't).
  • Folan, still awful.
  • Ceus had no chance on either goal and put in a solid night.
  • In general the defense and midfield got their jobs done, the attack just died whenever it got much past midfield.
Player of the Game: Jeff Larentowicz. Solid night leading the team but he couldn't get it done without attacking help.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Colorado Tries To Qualify for CCL Quarterfinals

Tomorrow night the Rapids play their final group stage game of the Champions League in Torreon, Mexico against Santos Laguna. With a win Colorado will clinch 2nd place in the group and a spot in the quarterfinals. With an extremely unlikely 4 goal win they will win the group. A draw or loss does not eliminate them, but it leaves their fate in the hands of Real Espana and Isidro Metapan who play on Thursday. A draw between them would allow the Rapids to finish in 2nd regardless of their result against Santos.

Colorado got beat down 4-1 in their home match against Santos with a lineup that was half starters and half reserves. The Rapids have brought most of their starters with them to Mexico. Other than Pablo and Smith, who are recovering from injury, the only other starters that didn't travel were Mullan and Pickens. There are still enough reserves on the trip that none of the starters have to play, but on first appearance it seems like Colorado is going all out for the win.

It won't be easy though. Santos clearly out-played the Rapids in September. Even though Colorado didn't play well the Mexicans would have beaten any MLS team on that night. If that team shows up again the Rapids stand no chance, regardless of who they use. There are two pieces of good news though. First, Santos Laguna has just moved to the top of the table in their domestic competition and has a good chance to extend that lead on the road this weekend. Second, they've already qualified for the quarterfinals of the CCL and they'll win the group as long as they don't lose to the Rapids by 4 or more. Since the Rapids only need a win to qualify they won't risk the result and try to score more if they get a comfortable lead. This may lead the home side to start some reserves and/or not put a high priority on the result.

Because of the huge question marks around both starting lineups I'm not going to try to make a prediction. If Santos rolls out their starters there's little to no chance the Rapids win. If they go with a largely reserve lineup though, there's a opening for Colorado to take advantage of. Their best chance is to score early and shock Santos Laguna. If the Rapids can get an early lead and keep the pressure up Laguna may fold up shop and just do enough not to finish 2nd in the group.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Rapids Do Enough To Clinch Playoff Berth But Not RMC

Colorado was the better team and controlled play for most of the game, but for the first time in Rocky Mountain Cup history there were no goals to be had in the game and both teams got a point. With it FSL maintains control of the Cup for a 5th straight year.

It was really a tale of two halves. In the first the Rapids had almost complete control of the game. They dominated possession and created multiple chances. Their best chance was within the first 10 minutes as Wells Thompson had an open net but somehow kicked the cross from Cummings behind him. The Rapids also created a great chance for a PK, but Nyassi chose to avoid the contact and take a dive instead of going through Rimando to get the easy call. Rimando was forced to come up big to block another Thompson shot right before half.

The second half was just ugly soccer. Neither team looked good and it was mainly poor midfield possession for 45 minutes. The Rapids did create a couple of good chances. Drew Moor needed his right leg to be about an inch longer as he got on the end of a free kick looking at an open net, but his stretched food could only knock it over the bar. Caleb Folan forced Rimando to tip one over the bar off a header from the top of the box, then minutes later slammed another header off the bottom of the bar only for it to hit the ground on the line and bounce out. FSL never got a shot on goal the whole game, but Colorado couldn't get one into the net.

My key to the game was just win baby. Nope.

Other Observations:
  • The draw, combined with Kansas City beating New York on Saturday, clinched a playoff spot. The Rapids will be the #2 or #3 wild-card. The #2 team hosts the #3 team in the wild-card round.
  • Pablo suffered a mild concussion when he was hit by Olave. This was the first time he didn't play the full 90 in an RMC game he appeared in.
  • Hard to say much about the defense and Pickens as FSL never really threatened. The couple of times they did they were up to the challenge.
  • Thompson has to finish that early chance. There was no reason for him to botch it that badly.
  • For the first half Mastroeni and Larentnowicz were able to set up inside the FSL half and it seemed like they were pumping ball after ball back into the attacking third. Nice to see, would have been nicer to see some finishes.
  • The Rapids had 26 crosses towards a defense that was larger than our attackers. We might want to re-think that strategy after the first 10 or so.
  • The next FSL fan who wants to talk about the Rapids being "thugs" and stuff it. FSL was fouling at a 2-1 clip and they weren't exactly minor taps.
  • Along those lines the Rapids are in line to have the second lowest total of fouls committed this year. Some thuggish play huh?
Player of the Game: Caleb Folan. Odd for a sub, and a forward, to get this in a scoreless game but Folan created 2 good chances which is more than anyone else did.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Final Home Game Of The Season Means RMC Time!

Tomorrow its on. Rapids - FSL with the Rocky Mountain Cup on the line! Need I say more?

OK, I will, but only because the tailgate is almost as impressive as the game. About 5 hours from now the crack Class VI/Pid Army chefs will be arriving at the Dick to start the grill on the biggest tailgate they've ever done, a full pig roast! It will take more than 16 hours for it to be ready for the final blowout of the season (barring a home playoff game). The tailgate starts at 5:30 with kickoff at 8:30. Anyone who's unlucky enough not to make it to the party can watch the game on ESPN2.

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

Disciplinary Report:
SUSPENDED: Miguel Comminges
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

FSL has 6 players questionable or worse and 2 players suspended, including 6-time Rocky Mountain Cup winner Kyle Beckerman. Obviously that favors the Rapids. Folan's new addition to the injury report shouldn't hurt much. My guess at our starters:

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

I think the Mullan - Moor combo is more likely than Moor - Earls to replace the suspended Comminges. Otherwise I don't see any reason that the standard starting lineup won't be in place. There is the Santos game next week, but with this being a Friday night game that gives the starters another day of rest.

Rocky Mountain Cup: The Rapids need to win by 2 to reclaim the Cup. A draw or a loss means FSL wins it, and a 1 goal wins leaves the teams even on points and goals so the Cup is not won, but it stays where it is (in the hands of the FSL fans). Just a reminder:

Key To Look For: There's no "key" to this game. To honor the late Al Davis, "Just win, baby".

Prediction: 2-1 win, goals by Nyassi and Cummings. I hate to predict this, because it leaves the RMC in the hands of FSL, but I don't think the Rapids have a two goal win in them. They'll take the lead but give one back before getting the winner and clinching a playoff spot.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Turmoil In The Front Office/All-Time Team Recap

I was just going to do a recap of my All-Time Team tonight but the Denver Post had an interesting article about tension in the Rapids Front Office this afternoon. It seems that Gary Smith is happy to sign a new contract for next year, but not if he has to continue to work with Technical Director Paul Bravo.

Apparently Paul and Gary don't see eye to eye on some of the decisions made this season. There's no details as to which issues have caused the conflict, but given some of the reaction I've heard from various points in the Front Office I'm willing to bet that some of it stems from the choices made for the CONCACAF Champions League. Needless to say this leaves Managing Director Jeff Plush a big problem he'll have to handle quickly to keep it from becoming a distraction.

If it were up to me I would tell Smith that Bravo's the Technical Director next year and he can either accept that and sign the contract offer or he can choose to leave. Its no secret that I have been less than thrilled with Smith's decisions this year and I'm not sure I want the Rapids to bring him back anyway, despite him being the best coach in Colorado history (unfortunately not a tough bar to cross). To add this on top of it means I wouldn't be all that interested in going out of my way to make Smith happy.

On to better things. Over the course of the season I've been picking my Rapids All-Time Team, which I finished last night. For those who came in late or just to jog your memories, here's the full team:

Head Coach: Gary Smith

Bench: Hahnemann, Bent, Moor, Karanak, Ben Dayan, Valderrama, Bravo

Assistant Coaches: Glenn 'Mooch' Myernick, John Murphy

What do you think? Who would be on your team? Discuss in the comments or in the BigSoccer thread I created.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Rapids All-Time Team: Bench

The bench is kind of the "Honorable Mention" category of the All-Time team. Players (and coaches) that were in the running but didn't quite make the cut.

Marcus Hahnemann - GK (1997-1999): Hahnemann was the first player that developed at the Rapids and moved on to better pastures. Marcus stepped in after a bad 1996 season and gave the team a rock to build from.

Jason Bent - D (1998-2000): Bent has been the only player to really claim the left back spot for more than a season. While the skill level of the league has passed the level he played at, at his time he was solid player out wide and going forward.

Drew Moor - D (2009-present): Honestly if I had done this list next year Moor probably would have been a starter. He hadn't missed a game as a Rapid until late this season, and his goal-line clearance at the end of MLS Cup preserved our first championship.

Aitor Karanka - D (2006): Karanka had more skill than any defender we've seen on a Rapids uniform. The only 3-time Champions League winner to ever play for the Rapids he brought a wealth of experience, and even showed up at the start of training camp in 2007 hoping to work out a new contract even though the team didn't want him.

Dedi Ben Dayan - M (2005-2006): Ben Dayan was electric on the left side of midfield. He was dangerous every time he touched the ball. Eventually though he returned home to his family in Israel, making for a far too short career in Colorado.

Carlos 'El Pibe' Valderrama - M (2001-2002): Probably the biggest name (and certainly the biggest hair) not to make the starting XI. El Pibe was the best player in MLS in its first decade and even in his final year in Colorado he was still hitting pinpoint passes to the forwards. The one knock against him was that it seemed like he never moved outside a 20 yard circle all game, and played almost no defense.

Paul Bravo - F (1997-2001): The only member of the Gallery of Honor not to make the starting XI, Bravo was the closest thing the Rapids had to an offensive powerhouse in their first 5-6 years. Until Conor Casey arrived Bravo held most of the team scoring records. Now he serves as the team's Technical Director. If I could have figured out a way to put 4 forwards on the field I would have.

Glenn 'Mooch' Myernick - Coach (1997 - 2000): As I said in my post about Gary Smith, Mooch was the only other head coach even in the running for this list. Until Gary Smith's MLS Cup win last year Mooch was the only coach to take the team to a final, and his record is second only to Smith's. Sadly Mooch passed away in 2006.

John Murphy - Coach (2006 - 2008): Murphy was largely credited for the Rapids great draft classes in 2006 and 2007, and coaching the reserve teams to their Reserve Championships in 2006 and 2007. Those teams produced players like Omar Cummings, Kosuke Kimura, Nick Labrocca, Bouna Coundoul, and Jordan Harvey.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Rapids All-Time Team: Head Coach

The head coach for the Rapids All-Time Team is Gary Smith.

How Joined: Hired as a liaison for the Arsenal Academy.

Years In Colorado: 2008 through present

There have been 6 total head coaches in Colorado's history, but there were only two under consideration for this spot, Glenn 'Mooch' Myernick and Gary Smith.

Gary Smith joined the Rapids in February before the 2008 season through Arsenal with the idea that he would work with the Arsenal youth academy program based out of DSG Park. He was almost immediately promoted to assistant coach under Fernando Clavijo though, a move rumored to have been made by the Front Office and not Claivjo. When Clavijo's family issues forced him to leave the team Gary was given the title of interim head coach for the last third of the 2008 season, then had the interim label removed shortly after the end of the season.

He took over a Rapids side that was teetering on the edge of playoff elimination and kept them ion the race until the final day. 2009 played out similarly as Colorado was eliminated with their loss to FSL in the final game. In 2010 Gary finally had all the pieces and while the team only finished 7th overall they clinched a playoff berth with 2 games to play, and of course they took that momentum all the way to their first MLS Cup victory. This year the team has played very similar to prior years under Gary Smith, and once again we are on the edge of clinching a playoff spot or being eliminated with 2 games left.

In comparison to the rest of the coaches in team history only Mooch comes close. Myernick took over a worse team and let them to MLS Cup in his first year (losing to D.C.), and he also took the Rapids to their only U.S. Open Cup final (losing to Rochester). However Gary Smith's teams average 1.44 points per game in league play, the best in team history (Mooch's teams averaged 1.35). The MLS Cup combined with the best overall record beats Mooch's two finals for the all-time best coach.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Rapids All-Time Team: All-Around Forward

The starting all-around forward for the Rapids All-Time Team is John Spencer.

How Acquired: Transferred for free from Scottish side Motherwell.

Years In Colorado: 2001 through 2004

How Departed: Retired after the 2004 season.

For the final player pick on the All-Time team I went with possibly the biggest heart the team has ever had (though Kimura gives him a run for his money) the wee Scotsman John Spencer. The heart and soul of the Rapids in the early 2000s, Spencer was the face of the team under Tim Hankinson. His fiery play led the team and made him a fan favorite.

In his first season Spencer scored 14 goals in 22 games, a Rapids record for goals in a season (since broken by Conor Casey), and was named to the league's Best XI squad. After an injury-plagued 2002 he repeated his 14 goal total in 2003, once again making the league Best XI and becoming one of the finalists for the MVP award. Spencer scored the first hat-trick in Colorado history, and he still ranks in the top 3 in most of the Rapids goal-scoring records. He is probably the best international player ever found by the Rapids, with Anders Limpar being his only real competition for that title.

Beyond the numbers Spencer brought a level of emotion to the field rarely seen in Colorado. As a fan you knew that he was giving it all for every minute he was playing, and he would have nothing left when he came off the pitch. Not only that, but woe be to the referee or opposing player who Spenny thought had done him or his Rapids teammates wrong. Somehow he had a way of showing his...displeasure...with whomever ticked him off without looking like he was losing it like Pablo often does. He was rightfully named captain most of the time he was in Colorado and was the team leader on the field.

That wraps up the starting lineup for the Rapids All-Time Team. This series is not over though as there are other positions still to be named.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Rapids Learn You Wynne Moor With Good Defense

Sorry for the double pun. ;) Saturday night a solid game from Colorado resulted in a much needed 3 points. Much like MLS Cup (but not quite as bad) the game wasn't pretty but it was successful.

The Rapids had the better of the play for most of the first half, punctuated by 2 shots on goal between the 23rd and 26th minute. The first forced a big Hartman save off a Sanna Nyassi blast from about 25 yards out. The second was a header from Drew Moor crashing the box on a corner kick. That one was not saved and the Rapids had a 1-0 lead. Dallas wasn't going to go away quietly though and turned up the pressure at the end of the half. In the final 5 minutes the former Burn forced Matt Pickens into two huge saves to preserve the lead and a 3rd play right at the post that probably would have gone outside the post but better safe than sorry.

The second half was more even and much sloppier. Despite the ugliness of the play though, only one shot on goal was recorded. Jamie Smith blasted it from 30 yards out to force another save. That doesn't mean there weren't plenty of chances. Nyassi missed an open net from a wide angle 30 yards out. Dallas had a chance to hit an open net when Pickens came out and didn't get the ball but they put it over the crossbar. At one point a Dallas attacker had it on his feet at the 6-yard box but couldn't get a shot off. Things got really interesting in the final 15 minutes when Comminges (correctly) got his second yellow and the Rapids played down a man. At that point though it looked like Colorado outplayed Dallas for the rest of the game.

My key to the game was how well splitting the team worked. Well 2 wins in a week is about the best you can ask for.

Other Observations:
  • Once again Gary Smith proves that what he says to the media and what takes place ain't ever exactly been similar (to paraphrase the great Jayne Cobb) On Tuesday he was quoted as saying that anyone who went to Metapan would play no more than a sub role in this game, leading me and others to question why he was sending Omar Cummings. Saturday night Cummings started.
  • Drew Moor's goal was a textbook example of a corner kick play. Perfect cross into the box from Nyassi and Moor crashed in to hammer it home.
  • Pickens really showed the two sides to his game this season. Great saves at the end of the first half, but twice in the second half he looked indecisive on whether to stay on his line or come out. The first was cleared by Wynne, the second resulted in that chip over the bar mentioned earlier.
  • Kimura may never turn out to be a great player, but he's turned into a good one. just another solid performance from him, especially after he had his bell rung.
  • Along those lines, buy a Kimura shirt to support Japan relief!
  • Comminges got two correct yellow cards. The first for time wasting when he grabbed the ball for a throw-in then wandered over to the bench for water. If he gets the water before grabbing the ball he probably gets away with it, but that was too blatant. The second was for clearing out a Dallas attacker that was going to beat him.
  • Dallas was forced to make a sub in the first half to bring Jackson off before he was red-carded. The difference was that Jackson committed a yellow-card foul, and committed a second close-to-yellow-card foul a few minutes later. By not being as obviously a yellow card as Comminges foul it allowed the ref to give Jackson a stern talking to, which prompted Dallas to sub him out.
  • Nyassi really should have hit the mark on his 30-yard miss. Hartman charged out but Nyassi beat him to the ball and Hartman slid to block a shot before Nyassi did anything. Nyassi could have taken an extra second to make sure he got it on target, touched it around the sliding Hartman and shot it on target, or with his speed touched it around Hartman and dribbled in closer before shooting.
  • Great use of subs by Smith. Marshall came on for Mullan to restore the 4-man back line after the Comminges card, Thompson came in to spell Smith and add some defense to the midfield, and Kandji came in for Cummings to run at the tired Dallas defense.
  • Kudos to Gary Smith for getting two wins with his strategy this week. I'm still not convinced we couldn't have done that with Smith coaching both games though.
  • The 3 points gets us 2 points from clinching a playoff spot, and as teams below us knock each other out I'm feeling fairly confident that our current 45 points will be enough.
  • Still, the next game is the Rocky Mountain Cup match against FSL. We need to win that to win the Cup back and as an added bonus we'll clinch a playoff spot. The Rapids have released the first of a Kings of the Rockies series of videos. you can see your humble writer holding the trophy at the 1 minute mark and again about 1:40.

Player of the Game: Marvell Wynne. Time and time again when a Dallas attack looked promising he was there to shut it down.