Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Player Of The Year: Marvell Wynne

Two small pieces of news before we get on with the Player Of The Year discussion:

*Steve Nicol turned down the Rapids interview request. There was some talk about him being uncomfortable with the environment here, but all along I thought getting Nicol out of Boston, where he's been for 13 years, would be a long shot. The concerns about the FO environment are a convenient excuse, but if he was really interested in the job otherwise he would have at least interviewed with Plush and Bravo to find out how many of the rumors had a basis in fact.

*MLS announced he season will start on March 10th and the Rapids will open at home that day. The opponent is still to be announced but given the other teams having their home opener that week we know that it will be FSL or an Eastern Conference team other than DC.

The Rapids player of the year is Marvell Wynne. No offense to my Class VI and Pid Army brethren who picked Moor as Player of the Year and Kimura as Defender of the Year, but Wynne was better than both of them. His speed allowed him to team up with either Moor or the slower Marshall at center back which allowed him to push forward in the attack while his partner covered behind him. When needed he was also able to move back to his "natural" position on the right to cover when Koz was injured or pushed forward to midfield.

While playing Wynne made numerous plays that made me sure that he has committed a penalty, only to see on replay that he had made a perfect tackle or interception of the ball to deny a scoring opportunity. Wynne regularly made opposing strikers look stupid as they thought they had a clear run at goal only for Marvell to come flying by them and take the ball off of their foot. His speed in the attack didn't get him credited on many goals (2 assists total) but he regularly pulled defenders out of position and chased down loose balls that allowed Colorado's attack to succeed.

Reviewing my game recaps there were other strong candidates, Drew Moor, Jeff Larentowicz, and surprisingly Matt Pickens. Moor gets points for playing out of position most of the season, but loses those points since he wasn't as good in his new position at left back. Pickens started out the season on fire, but his late season gaffes (highlighted by the goal in Vancouver) really prevented him from getting the award. Ginger Ninja had a solid season but when push came to shove the fact that I think Wynne would start for almost every MLS team based on his play this year was enough to give him the edge.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Rapids Lose Nyassi To Montreal

In today's expansion draft the Montreal Impact picked Sanna Nyassi from the Rapids. No team could lose more than one player, so after that selection the rest of the exposed players were safe.

Losing a player is never ideal, but given the possible outcomes this was probably the best result we could have hoped for. Due to the fact that the Rapids were handcuffed by the requirement to protect 3 of their internationals they were always going to have a player that was appealing to Montreal available. Some of the names of players who should have been exposed thrown around in Nyassi's place in the last 48 hours (Mullan, Pickens, Mastroeni, etc.) would have easily been taken by Montreal, or if they weren't somebody like Kimura would have been taken.

The difference between Nyassi and those other names is that if everyone is healthy those other players are all likely starters. Nyassi is a likely reserve/late-game sub if everyone is healthy. If you have to lose somebody, its better to lose a depth player than a starter.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Rapids Reveal Protected List

Colorado just unveiled their protected list for the expansion draft:

Conor Casey
Omar Cummings
Danny Earls - International
Jeff Larentowicz
Pablo Mastroeni
Drew Moor
Brian Mullan
Joseph Nane - International
Matt Pickens
Jamie Smith - International
Marvell Wynne

You can see that the pictured Kosuke Kimura is not on the protected list. He's the big surprise. There's also a few raised eyebrows at Danny Earls being protected as one of the internationals instead of Miguel Comminges.

Personally I think protecting Mullan and especially Pickens over Kimura is a huge mistake. Koz is the most underrated defender in the league. I don't see how Montreal doesn't snap him up. My only hope is that there's some deal already worked out where Montreal takes him and trades him back for allocation money, similar to the pre-draft deal the Rapids worked out with Portland last year and Anthony Wallace.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Coaching Search, Week 2

First of all, Colin Clarke's name has been floated in some circles as a possible candidate, but he just accepted the Carolina Railhawks job, so we can rule him out.

Today Jeff Plush did an interview with ColoradoRapids.com that lays out what they're looking for in a coaching search, and a bit about what happened with Gary Smith. Goal.com also got an interview with him that has a few more details.

Plush stated that they're looking for somebody with experience working in the U.S. system. That will rule out any surprise international signings. They also want somebody who will play a more attacking style, possibly with a Latin influence. Its not hard to read between the lines and see that Plush was disappointed with the focus on European players over Latin players under Gary Smith.

Everything that Plush says sounds good, but talk is cheap. Let's see what happens when the new coach starts making moves.

Right now if I had to put money on somebody it would be Denis Hamlett. I wouldn't rule out John Murphy, Steve Nicol, or a current assistant coach like Steve Ralston though.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Expansion Draft Looms Ahead!

Today the Rapids released information about the expansion draft, namely which players qualify as internationals. That means its time for my take on who to protect.

Automatically protected under homegrown player rule:
Davy Armstrong
Josh Janniere - I'm not sure how he qualifies as homegrown for the Rapids, but maybe the status transfers with the player.

Internationals (Must protect 3):
Miguel Comminges - He seemed to lock down the left back spot once he showed up.
Danny Earls - He's the last man standing. Folan should not be protected and nobody is likely to take Smith given his ACL injury
Joseph Nane - As a Canadian he'd be an attractive target for Montreal

Remaining 8:
Conor Casey - Duh
Omar Cummings - See Casey
Kosuke Kimura - Possibly the most underrated defender in the league, and the heart and soul of the team.
Jeff Larentowicz - See Cummings
Pablo Mastroeni - I see this as a duh but many don't. I also believe, based on gut feel, he has a no-trade clause and must be protected anyway
Drew Moor - See Larentowicz
Sanna Nyassi - Toughest choice to make as there are 3-4 players (Mullan, Pickens, Wallace, etc.) that could be protected here. I think Nyassi is the best combination of likely to be taken and most damaging to lose
Marvell Wynne - See Moor

So that's the 11. Some tough decisions due to having to protect a couple of internationals we don't really care about. Maybe the Rapids can pull off another lat minute trade like they did last year and move some internationals off the roster.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Life After Smith, Day One

Well the first 24 hours after the Smith announcement has brought some interesting fall out.
  • Nick Thomas tweeted that Paul Bravo is not a candidate for the job.
  • The Rapids asked for, and were denied, permission from the Portland Timbers to speak to John Spencer about the job.
  • ESPN's Jeff Carlisle dug into the story a bit to find out what the real issues were.
I never thought Bravo was going to be a candidate, and I knew the Timbers wouldn't allow the Rapids to take a run at Spencer.

The most interesting story was the ESPN article. Some good information in there. The part about the CMO being involved in roster decisions is odd. I can understand that if they were discussing the potential return of signing a big-name DP player, because you want to consider extra ticket sales, sponsorships, jersey sales, etc. when you sign a player like that. I don't know why a CMO would be involved in deciding to sign Ababio or Comminges though.

One quote from Smith that I want to highlight:
Not once did I ever come into conflict about wanting a designated player or needing more money, either personally or in terms of support
Given this can we put the whole "KSE didn't give Smith the money he needed for players" meme behind us? Apparently Smith doesn't think money was an issue.

In the long run it appears Smith wanted final say on roster decisions, and Plush (and/or Bravo) wanted it to be more of a collaborative effort. In the end that's a hard gap to bridge and I'm not surprised that the parties went their separate ways.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Smith Out As Head Coach

Well, that time off was a grand total of 3 days. Within the last hour the Rapids have announced that Gary Smith will not be returning as head coach in 2011.

Smith was out of contract and it had been reported a month or so ago that Colorado and Gary had agreed on financial terms for a new contract. However Smith was reportedly unhappy working with Technical Director Paul Bravo and stated that he wasn't willing to sign the new contract until that issue had been dealt with. Apparently the Rapids weren't willing to do enough to suit Smith and both sides decided to go their separate ways today.

It won 't surprise regular readers to learn, unlike a large portion of the Rapids fanbase, that I'm OK with this move. Smith has been the best coach in Rapids history, but that's not a high bar to cross. Clearly he was more successful than any coach in Colorado history, bringing the Rapids their only significant trophy in last year's MLS Cup. Outside of that great playoff run though, Colorado has continued to do just enough in regular season play to stay in the playoff hunt but not really dominate at any point. His roster handling during the CCL was poor and his decision to not even travel to Metapan for the away game was a bad decision. Combined with the "either Bravo goes or I go" stance he seemed to take in his public comments recently it was enough for me to be OK with him going.

Now the question is where the Rapids go from here. Steve Guppy is the first name that pops to mind, following the same path from assistant to head coach as Gary Smith took. He was brought in by Smith though and may leave with him. Some other names that have been floated have been former NE coach Steve Nicol, former Rapids player and Fire coach Denis Hamlett, and former Rapids assistant coach John Murphy. I'm sure we'll see more names surface in the coming days.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


As expected, the Rapids season ended last night. It was always going to be an uphill battle and the mountain just got too steep.

Colorado started 6 regulars, 2 backups, and 3 reserves and Kansas City took full advantage. On a free kick in the first half they found the open area that Drew Moor normally fills, and Palguta failed to fill last night. The strong wind caused the ball to die a few feet short of where Pickens expected it and it was headed home to give KC a 1-0 lead int he game and a 3-0 lead in the series. At that point it was a done deal. There was no way the Rapids team on the field was going to score 3 goals to tie the series.

Honestly at that point I hit the fast-forward. Due to work commitments I didn't even get to start watching the game until 9pm and I didn't need to be up until 11 to watch the end of the season. I didn't miss much though as the Rapids still had no attack. In the second half the SporKC's put a final nail in Colorado's coffin. Once again on a set piece they found the weak spot in the Rapids defense where Drew Moor would normally be and headed the ball home for a second goal and a four goal lead in the series.

Unfortunately a couple of Rapids players decided that if they couldn't win they were going to get their shots in. Both Thompson and Nyassi took cheap shots at the KC players in payback for what had been a physical, but not dirty, series from KC. Very disappointing.

In the end what killed us was our lack of offense. In this game, where the Rapids had to win by 2 and needed to score 4 by the end of the game, they only got 4 shots on goal total. We got a combined 5 shots on goal in the two games, 1 more than the total goals KC scored. With no offense there's no way we were going to continue the season.

In the end though, we played with the scudetto on our chests, the silver ball at our feet, and the championship banner on the wall. That makes this season unforgettable regardless of the results.

I'm going to take a break for a few days, but I'll be back next week with a season recap, my choice for Player of the Year, and where I think we should go from here.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Season On the Line Tomorrow

That's Jamie Smith dressed up as the Mad Hatter for Halloween yesterday.

Another quick turnaround as the Rapids face the end of their season tomorrow in Kansas City. Down 2 goals Colorado mus win by 2 to force overtime and PKs or 3 to win and move on. On top of the other problems a storm is rolling into KC tomorrow night (probably the front edge of what's rolling into Denver tonight) which could make the game sloppy. Game time tomorrow is 6pm and the game is on FOX Soccer Channel. The viewing party for Class VI and Pid Army is at the Streets of London pub.

Injury Report:
OUT: FW Conor Casey (L Achilles tear); FW Caleb Folan (L ankle/L knee sprain); DF Kosuke Kimura (L foot fracture); DF Drew Moor (R shoulder AC joint sprain); MF Jamie Smith (R knee ACL tear); Anthony Wallace (R knee arthroscopic surgery)
QUESTIONABLE: Pablo Mastroeni (concussion)

Disciplinary Report:
SUSPENDED: Tyrone Marshall

Ugh, just a disaster. Pablo has already been ruled out, so that's 5 starters and 3 of their backups out. Meanwhile KC just has the same 4 players out that were out for Sunday's game. On the bright side, this might be the first time all season Pickens isn't on the injury report! At this point we're almost at the "pick names out of a hat" level of roster construction, but here's my best guess:

Comminges - Wynne - Palguta- Earls
Mullan - Thompson - Larentowicz - Nyassi
Cummings - Kandji

IThat's really a pure guess though. Pickens, Wynne, Cummings, Nyassi, Comminges, and Mullan will be starting their 4th game in 12 days so they may be reaching the end of their fitness. We could see Ababio, Nane, Akpan, or even Holody depending on who feels like they can go.

Key To Look For: We must score early to open the game up. The longer the game goes without the Rapids scoring the more KC will 'park the bus' and we've seen our inability to break that sort of defense down over the second half of the season. If Colorado can score early it will force KC to play and attack rather than sit on a one goal lead for over a half, which will continue to give us opportunities to get the second goal.

Prediction: 0-0 draw. I'm just not seeing a Rapids offense that has been shut out in 2 of the last 4 games (3 of 5 if you include the Santos game) breaking down a KC defense that is just trying to protect their existing 2-0 lead. KC doesn't need to score and won't really be pushing the game, and the longer it goes scoreless the better for them. Colorado will have chances, but not good ones and they won't convert them, leading to the end of our season.