Thursday, December 27, 2012

Cummings-Sturgis Trade Follow-Up

Now that I'm back from my holiday travels time to get into this trade that happened at the oddest time I can remember, Sunday morning two days before Christmas.  The Rapids gave up the other half of the C+C Goal Factory, Omar Cummings, in return for allocation money and Nathan Sturgis.

My first instinct is much like the Kimura trade from last year (oddly, Cummings and Kimura were roommates and were considered the Odd Couple of the team).  I understand why we moved Omar but if we got value for him will be dependent on the next moves the team makes.  How much allocation money we got is the real question that will never be answered.  Sturgis is a journeyman MLS player, on his 6th team in 8 years despite being only 25.  He has also played for the U.S. at the U 17, 18, 20, and 23 levels.  Listed as a defensive midfielder he's also played center back on a somewhat regular basis.  Sturgis is a depth player, nothing more at this point.

There has been some talk about how this is a salary cap move as Omar was set to make $250K next year after his new contract.  I'm not saying that's wrong, but his updated salary from the Players Union didn't reflect that after his contract last year.  There could be a significant escalation clause in his contract for next season, but if so the Rapids did a lousy job of handling Cummings.

The updated roster is below.  We currently have 20 signed players plus Avila and reportedly Calderon.  Out of those 20 players only 10 of them predate Pareja's hiring of just under a year ago.  Assuming we get up to 30 players, 2/3rds of the roster will have less than 1 year of experience in Colorado.  Omar Cummings was the last player on the roster brought in under Fernando Clavijo, Pablo Mastroeni is the only player from the Tim Hankinson era, the other 9 were brought in by Smith (they all have rings, so nobody Smith brought in in 2011 stuck).

* = pre-Pareja acquisition
Steward Ceus*
Matt Pickens*

Chris Klute (on loan from Atlanta through late-Sept)
Drew Moor*
Anthony Wallace*
Marvell Wynne*

Davy Armstrong*
Eric Avila - Unsigned
Tony Cascio
Jaime Castrillon
Jeff Larentowicz*
Pablo Mastroeni*
Brian Mullan*
Shane O'Neill
Martin Rivero (on loan from Rosario Central through 2013)
Nathan Sturgis
Hendry Thomas

Andre Akpan*
Edson Buddle
Atiba Harris
Kamani Hill

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Rapids Trade Cummings For Sturgis

More after the holidays but today the Rapids traded Omar Cummings to Houston for Nathan Sturgis and allocation money.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Rapids Reportedly Close To Signing Diego Calderon

So much for the quiet holiday period. ;)  Multiple reports out of Ecuador are stating that Ecuadorian National Team member and LDU Quito defender Diego Calderon is coming to MLS, and one report links him with the Rapids.  Tim Hinchey tweeted last night they he expects to announce the signing of a left-footed CB/LB by the end of the week.  Calderon is a left-footed CB/LB and his season ended on Sunday, so it seems to pair with Hinchey's tweet.  Mile High Sports is also reporting the move but its unclear if they are basing that report on the Ecuadorian reports or if they have a source at this end.

Calderon is 26 years old and has played with LDU Quito since he became a pro in 2005 (he made 11 appearances on loan to Deportivo Azogues in 2006).  He was part of their 2008 Club World Cup team where he played against Pachuca (winning 2-0) and Man U. (losing the final 1-0).  He's also been capped 5 times for Ecuador since 2011 and was on the bench during Ecuador's most recent two World Cup Qualifiers in October.

The Rapids were also linked with Isidro Metapan striker Nicolas Munoz today (as was Houston) but they issued a pretty quick denial of that rumor.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Season Openers Announced

Williams and the Union are back on March 9th!

MLS announced the home openers today.  The Rapids will be the visiting team for two of them as well as hosting their own (of course).
  • March 2nd - @Dallas
  • March 9th - Home opener against Philly (and my birthday!)
  • March 16th - @FSL
We only visit Dallas and FSL once next year, so we'll get those trips out of the way ASAP.  Obviously the Rocky Mountain Cup match looms large, a good result there would set us up well but with two home games this year we'll have a path to win the Cup even if we lose that game.

The rest of the schedule is expected in January. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Roster Analysis - 12-17-12

OK, I lied.  I didn't get back to the news this weekend.  However that means I have time tonight to post my first roster analysis of the offseason.  But first the roster news from Friday.

Eric Avila picked in the Re-Entry Draft:  He was in Dallas while Pareja was a coach there, so there's some familiarity.  Based on his play he appears to be a backup for Rivero, but I thought that's what we had Hill for.  Maybe some competition in camp if Avila signs?

Marvell Wynne re-signed: No brainer.  As soon as it was announced we weren't picking up his option it became the biggest thing to get done this offseason.

Edson Buddle acquired in trade: The Supplemental draft pick is meaningless, so no loss there.  I think we can assume we gave up a chunk of allocation money that could have been used to sign a different player, so that's the real loss.  That and the $225K in salary cap.  If its the Buddle of 2010, its a steal, if its the Buddle of 2012 we overpaid greatly.  High risk, high reward.

So here's the roster as we hit the holidays, traditionally a quiet time in MLS until the week leading up to the Superdraft in mid-January.

Steward Ceus
Matt Pickens

Chris Klute (on loan from Atlanta through late-Sept)
Drew Moor
Anthony Wallace
Marvell Wynne

Davy Armstrong
Eric Avila - Unsigned
Tony Cascio
Jaime Castrillon
Jeff Larentowicz
Pablo Mastroeni
Brian Mullan
Shane O'Neill
Martin Rivero (on loan form Rosario Central through 2013)
Hendry Thomas

Andre Akpan
Edson Buddle
Omar Cummings
Atiba Harris
Kamani Hill

So assuming we sign Avila that's 21 of 30 slots filled so far.  We have 10 midfielders so we're pretty much set there.  5 forwards is light but Castrillon and Cascio are listed as midfielders, so its more like 8 and 7, which is still have the roster.  There's been talk of an attacking Designated Player, but with Buddle, Castrillon, Cummings, Rivero, Thomas, and Larentowicz I don't see where that type of player fits.  The only way I see that working is if somebody is moved, and the likely player to be moved in that scenario is Cummings.

We need a 3rd young GK, I assume we'll draft one.  That leaves defense.  Only 4 defenders on the roster, and 2 of them played a combined 1 game in 2012.  That's obviously the big issue.  We need at least one experienced fullback, probably two, and a good backup center back.  That's the minimum.  We probably need at least 4 more defenders, even with Armstrong and O'Neill both having spent time in the back on reserve and U.S. youth teams.

Nothing to panic about yet.  We still have about 1.6 million in cap room (minus what Pablo, Thomas, and Wynne re-signed for) to work with after the Buddle acquisition, so there's room to play with.  If 2 months from now we're still this light on defenders its time to start wondering what the hell is going on.

Friday, December 14, 2012

3 quick player moves

Rapids re-sign Marvell Wynne.  Yay!

Rapids select Eric Avila in the Re-Entry Draft.  Rivero backup?

Rapids trade allocation money and supplemental draft pick to LA for Edson Buddle.  Um, interesting.

More later tonight or tomorrow (depending on how I feel after seeing The Hobbit.)

Oh, Casey was selected by Philly and Freeman by New England in the Re-Entry Draft.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

News & Notes - 12/13/12

Just a couple of notes on the eve of Phase 2 of the Re-entry Draft.

  • Hunter Freeman tweeted that its been good to be back for a year, but there's a new challenge ahead.  I think its safe to say he and the Rapids did not come to an agreement on a new contract and he won't be back next year.
  • Tim Hinchey tweeted that if the paperwork gets done there will be a re-signing and a trade to announce tomorrow.  My guess is that Wynne is the re-signing but the trade is a bigger question mark.  There was a rumor earlier in the week, not even well sourced, that Cummings could be traded to an Eastern team.
  • Shane O'Neill was picked for the U.S. U-20 squad announced today.
With only one player taken in last week's Phase 1 (Santos, by the Fire) I expect to see a number of picks tomorrow.  The Rapids have the most players in the draft (8) and I expect at least a couple to be chosen.  Casey, Freeman, and Smith seem the obvious candidates.  I'm not sure how active the team will be in making choices, I could see somebody like Califf or Keel being chosen.

A couple of good articles on this week.  First a Year in Review, which has links to 3 other good review articles.  Second, a link to a discussion of Mastroeni's role next year, which seems to match how I expected him to be used if he came back.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Oh Captain My Captain

Today the Rapids and Pablo made it official, Mastroeni will be back for 2013!  He signed a new contract with only 2013 guaranteed, and the assumption is that its for a reduced number.

This is good news.  The team will most likely expect Larentowicz and Thomas to start with Pablo coming off the bench and serving as a spot-starter with those two aren't available.  He'll also be able to mentor O'Neill, provide veteran leadership, and eventually (my guess is at the end of the year) retire on his own terms.

There's a rumor going around that Smith is also close to a new contract, but he and Freeman have left their names on the list for tomorrow's Re-Entry Draft, and we are now in a period where teams can no longer negotiate with those players until after the draft.  Marvell Wynne removed his name form the draft however, which is a good indicator that he and the team are close to a new contract and they can keep negotiating with him through tomorrow.

I would be very surprised if we lose Smith or Freeman tomorrow, or if we pick anyone up.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Thomas Re-Signed, Smith Green Card, Rivero Back, Pablo Returning?

Some interesting tweets from team President Tim Hinchey today.
Jamie has a green card now.
Looks like our new deal for Hendry Thomas will go through shortly – happy to have signed him long-term. Official announcement soon!
Rivero is already back as part of his initial 2 yr loan.
got it. Fair. Not all three will be high cost.
So we know that Jamie Smith now has his green card and Rivero's loan is for 2 seasons as originally thought.  Its not official yet but Hendry Thomas has been re-signed.  The last tweet is the most interesting as the "three" Hinchey is referring to are Thomas, Larentowicz, and Mastroeni.  So it sounds like all 3 will be back but not at high cost.

Thomas was making almost $200K last season and you have to figure he didn't go down from that.  Larentowicz was given a new contract early last season that has him at $200K.  So if any of them are going to be at lower cost its almost certainly Pablo.  My guess is that he's been offered a new deal at under $150K with the understanding that he's now a veteran leader and depth player, not a starter.  It may even be as a player/coach where part of the salary (for coaching) won't count against the cap.

With Rivero, Larentowicz, and Thomas coming back, all expecting to start, that could be a pretty solid midfield for the 4-3-3.  Of course the question then becomes, where does Mullan play?

Monday, December 3, 2012

MLS Silly Season Starts

Well the MLS trading season opened today, and it opened with a bang.  Kimura ends up in NY, FSL guts their team, and apparently everyone wants Portland players.  Colorado got in on some action as well.

  • The Rapids extended the international spot they traded Vancouver last offseason from 2014 through 2016 in return for Atiba Harris.
Ugh.  Harris is a 27 year old St. Kitts and Nevis striker who's bounced around the league for 7 seasons and 4 teams.  He has a green card so he doesn't take up an international spot.  In 138 appearances (107 starts) he has 17 goals, 19 assists, 40 yellow cards, and 2 red cards.  You read that right, he has more cards than he has goals and assists.  To compare, Casey had 121 appearances, 101 starts, 50 goals, 16 assists, 29 yellow cards, and 2 red.

He made $160K last year and you have to assume he'll get a similar number in 2013.  To me, this was a bad move.  Harris is nothing more than a backup you bring in when you need to get physical.  He's overpaid at $160K, and burning an international slot, even one in 3 years, is a waste.
  • Colorado declines options on defenders Hunter Freeman and Marvell Wynne and midfielder Jamie Smith, they are re-negotiating with all 3.
Big roll of the dice here.  Players have until Thursday night to remove their names from Friday's Re-Entry Draft.  If they don't any team can pick them up for the amount of their current option.  I can't imagine somebody wouldn't jump all over Wynne is he's available so the Rapids must be pretty confident that they'll be close enough to a deal in the next 72 hours that Wynne won't be exposed.  I don't see Smith or Freeman being picked at their current number, so they have an extra week to get deals done with them before the 2nd half of the Re-Entry Draft, where teams can claim players and offer them new lower deals.

At the moment the Rapids only have 3 defenders under contract for next season.  Drew Moor, Anthony Wallace (who's played a total of 10 games in the last two seasons), and Chris Klute (who's on loan from Atlanta until late September).  That's not good.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Offseason Training

Its been quiet in Commerce City this post-season, especially compared to this time last year.  Today we got a bit of news about off-season training though.  Andre Akpan, Tony, Cascio, Chris Klute, and Martin Rivero will spend 10 days starting next week in Derby, England training with Derby County FC.  Derby currently sits 12th in the Championship (2nd level), 1 point behind Blackburn Rovers), and is the former employer of Rapids President Tim Hinchey.  Before being hired by Colorado in 2010 Tim was the VP of Commercial for Derby County for 3 years.

We also found out from his Twitter feed this weekend that Steward Ceus has gone to Sunderland, England to train with Sunderland FC (16th in the EPL) through Tuesday.

Unrelated, but a tweet from Media Director David Lindholm today hints at some big news that Mile High Sports will be breaking, probably next week.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Roster Review

Now that the Rapids have waived 8, let's review who's left and what I think they should do with them.  My ratings reflect the fact that its very hard to turn over a large number of roster spots with MLS budget and acquisition rules.  There are a number of players that are worth keeping because replacing them would be difficult, not because they've particularly stood out.

Davy Armstrong - As a homegrown player he doesn't count against the cap.  An easy keep.
Tony Cascio - A good rookie season and with Casey gone an opening for him to get more time.
Jaime Castrillon - But only as a forward, his work at midfield doesn't deserve repeating.
Drew Moor - Duh
Brian Mullan - Our best field player in 2012.
Shane O'Neill - Homegrown player and showed well in his brief playing stints.
Matt Pickens - Duh
Martin Rivero - Was the engine of the midfield and at only 22 years old and $50K, great value.
Hendry Thomas - Great ball-handling and passing once he got here, and being given the nickname of El Patron suggests he's filling the leadership void left by Pablo.
Marvell Wynne - Duh

Pablo Mastroeni - I love Pablo, but I think his time is at an end.  Unless the doctors are really confident he can play without a recurrence of his concussion symptoms its hard to take a risk on him at this point.

Keep Unless Better Option Appears:
Andre Akpan - Decent backup, but nothing more at this point.
Steward Ceus - Ditto
Hunter Freeman - Serviceable on the right, but at over $100K you hope for a little more.
Kamani Hill - Hard to know if he can sustain his play on a regular basis, but worth giving a shot.

Keep Under Better Contract:
Jamie Smith - He's hurt a lot for making $150K.  If the Rapids could bring that number down a bit and/or give him incentives to achieve then he'd be worth keeping.  At $150K though, not so much.

Trade Bait:
Omar Cummings - Unfortunately I think his best days are behind him.  I'm guessing some MLs team will want to take a chance on him though.
Jeff Larentowicz - If Hendry Thomas is re-signed I don't see a long-term future in Colorado for the Ginger Ninja.  He's a good player though and could bring a missing piece in a trade.

Too Little Play to Evaluate:
Chris Klute
Anthony Wallace

Friday, November 16, 2012

Rapids Cut 8, Including Conor Casey

Regardless of if he's Casey Conor or Conor Casey, he's always Rapids #9!

This afternoon as the team broke for the off-season the Rapids announced the players they would be cutting.  8 players in total have been released, with the big name being hometown hero Conor Casey.  With my vacation and the election I never got around to doing my normal breakdown of what I felt the Rapids should do with their lineup, but I'll include my comments on these 8 players and break-down the rest hopefully over the weekend.

Edu - Biggest miss in a signing this year.  A waste of money and space, easy decision to cut him.

Ian Joyce - 3rd string goalkeeper that hasn't played a competitive match since 2010.  I had a soft spot for him since I won his jersey after the 2010 regular-season finale, but at 27 this opens up a spot for a new young keeper.  Not a surprise cut.

Scott Palguta - Anyone who watched him play since mid-2010 could see that he wasn't keeping up with the level of play in the league.  Another easy decision.

Tyson Wahl - The Rapids took a chance on him when acquiring him from the Impact mid-season.  He was never better than adequate but wasn't horrible.  Wouldn't have been shocking to see him kept or cut.  Losing the international spot in 2014 for a player who didn't stick hurts a bit though.

Tyrone Marshall - Good experience, but this season it became evident that the years were catching up to him.  He no longer had the wheels to keep up and he was burned many times this year.  I expect him to go into coaching, so maybe we'll see him on the sideline again but there wasn't going to be a spot for him on the 2013 roster.

Joseph Nane - This was the first name that kind of surprised me.  I thought he had made good progress this season.  He wasn't going to be claiming a starting job anytime soon but he seemed to be a capable backup.  However with Shane O'Neill being signed to play the same position as a homegrown player he was going to struggle to find minutes.  I would assume that the team feels confident in either Hendry Thomas or Pablo Mastroeni returning to take the starting role.  I'm a bit surprised they couldn't trade him for something, unless he was out of contract.

Luis Zapata - He and Casey were the real surprises to me.  Zapata was the regular starter at left back when healthy and played well, if not always spectacularly.  I expected Zapata to go into next season as the starter, with Wallace and any others given the chance to take the job from him.  Clearly they feel confident in Wallace's return to form and/or Chris Klute's ability to step up to the next level as with today's cuts they're the only players with experience at left back on the roster.  Either that or they're planning to find somebody.

Conor Casey - And now the big one.  This was one of the two biggest decisions (along with Pablo) the Rapids had to make this offseason and I wasn't shocked when word leaked earlier this week that the team didn't want Casey back at his current $400K/year salary.  That's a lot of salary cap to tie up in a player who spent the better par of the last season and a half injured.  That said, I figured the team and Casey would agree to a lower number with incentives that Casey could achieve if he stayed healthy.  Occasionally a team will cut a player like this and both sides know that before preseason starts they'll agree to a new contract.  It doesn't sound like that's going to happen with Casey:
“Conor has been an incredibly important part of the Rapids since he got here in 2007, and has forever left his mark on the club,” said Technical Director Paul Bravo. “He’s the Rapids’ all-time leading scorer and the MLS Cup MVP in 2010. But after having a conversation with him about his future, we all decided that it was the right time to move on.”
“It was truly an honor to be able to play in front of my hometown fans and to bring a championship to Denver,” said Casey. “While I am sorry to see my time with the Rapids come to an end, I want to thank the supporters here in Colorado for everything they gave to me and the club over the last several years.”
That doesn't sound like a club or a player that's expecting to reconnect.

I think if the decision was cutting him or paying him at $400K the Rapids made the right decision.  If they were fairly sure he could regain his 2010 form he'd be worth the money, but that seems a long time ago now and tying up that much cap on a player that hasn't bounced back from injury well is a big risk.  I would have liked to see him signed for $200-$250K, but if he wasn't willing to do that, letting him go is probably the right move.

There have been some comments already about the possibility of trading Casey instead of getting nothing for him, but trading a player with his injury history and at his salary is a hard sell.  If he wasn't going to take a lower salary for his hometown team, odds are he wasn't going to take one elsewhere.  He isn't an older player looking for one last shot at getting a championship, being only 2 seasons removed from being named MLS Cup MVP.  Honestly, I wouldn't be shocked if he hangs up the boots at this point if he's unwilling to take a lower contract, but we'll see what happens.  I suppose if another MLS team takes him in Phase 1 of the Re-Entry Draft (which means they're agreeing to pick up his current $400K option) he might continue to play.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Player Of The Year

No surprise here as Matt Pickens was the run away winner for my Player of the Year award.  Looking back at my Player of the Game awards I gave it to him 9 times, over a quarter of the games.  The next closest player was Mullan with 6 awards.  No other player got more than 2.  In a disappointing season where most of the team struggled to get on the same page Matt was a steadying influence in the back.  He saved the teams countless number of times this year, preserving 1 goal leads and draws for the few points we managed to get.  Even in games we got blown out of he was the best player, keeping 3 goal losses from being 5 or 6 goal losses.

Last off-season I question if Pickens was worth keeping around long-term after his play dropped off at the end of the 2011 season, suggesting that if we got a good offer we should trade him.  That's why I'm not the coach or Technical Director as I was badly wrong with that suggestion.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Bravo and Hinchey Interviews Shed Light On The Off-Season

Two interviews with the Rapids leadership were published today.  Let's start with Chris Bianchi's interview of Paul Bravo for
“What people fail to realize is I’ve been around this club for a long time as a player, as an assistant coach, and now as a technical director,” Bravo told last week. “We don’t make decisions here for our own personal good. We’re here to do what’s best for the club.
I think this is fair. There have been some unfair things said about Bravo over the last year from fans on BigSoccer and Facebook. There was even one fan who accused bravo of taking kickbacks from agents for signing their players (commonly referred to in soccer as a 'bung'). I don't doubt Bravo is doing what he thinks is best for the team and he's not intentionally tearing things down for the sake of his ego. That said, passion and best intentions isn't enough. You also have to be good at your job. The team made it fairly clear in the preseason that Bravo holds final responsibility for the roster makeup. He made some good moves this year (Rivero, Thomas) but also some poor ones (Edu, not having a backup for Pablo).
“We don’t make personal decisions,” Bravo said. “Now, what [the Kimura] deal netted us is Hendry Thomas [due to the allocation money acquired], at the end of the day is the way I look at it.”
Interesting note that we did use the allocation money we got in the Kimura trade, and used it to sign Thomas. Because the details of that stuff is never revealed to the public we don't know if the Rapids could have gotten the Thomas deal done without the Kimura allocation money, so we'll have to take Paul's word for it. That makes the Kimura trade a solid move for the team, even if it meant losing a fan favorite like Koz.

Moving on there was a more in-depth interview with Tim Hinchey at
What’s the latest regarding the shirt sponsor?We’ve been engaged with a particular company for the last couple of months....After having success delivering one for Derby County, I thought we could come in, take the same best practices and get it done, but it’s not gone as fast as I thought.
Good to hear that negotiations are proceeding for a jersey sponsor. Earlier this year Hinchey said that it wasn't an absolute requirement to sign a DP, but it would go a long way to making it possible. He also stated that we would start the 2013 season with a sponsor, so the clock is ticking.

How important is that the ‘fan experience’ to your success? Any plans to expand it?The ‘driveway to driveway experience’ is critical to the success of our club. That fan experience journey – when they’re putting on their kits at home and when their getting excited about it – that’s something unique about our sport. It’s a good day out at the park; our key supporters’ base come early, parking is free, they tailgate, they barbecue, they have their flags out.
I'm glad to see Hinchey appears to recognize the value of the supporters groups.  I know there's work to be done this off-season between the club and SG's, so lets hope things continue in the direction they've been going the last 3 years.

You had your first international friendly in years versus Swansea City. Do you have any more plans to bring in any more events to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park?We’re going to look at that every year. We purposely wanted to illustrate to our fan base that we were prepared to invest and bring quality clubs back into Dick Sporting Goods Park.... It was a fantastic day out and we got fantastic feedback, but when it came down to the matchday, 8000 people came versus our average crowd now is about 15,000. We get a lot of request for this, but the turnout was a bit disappointing.
The answer also talks about the success of the women's National Team game at the Dick and that they want to bring more of these events to the Dick.  Last week the Rapids announced they would be bidding for one of the 6 home World Cup Qualifiers in 2013.  I had similar concerns about the success of the Swansea friendly as Tim seems to have.  Its hard to justify that expense if you're only going to draw 8K.

What would it take for Mr Kroenke to allow you to sign a marquee name?First and foremost, I am never going to recommend that we bring over a marquee player over 30. I’m not interested in retiring a player in our league and paying that kind of potential salary on someone who may have one or two good years – that’s just not what our philosophy is going to be. If we can illustrate to our fan base that we’re authentically investing in a quality product, that’s going to mean more to me than bringing in a name that we think might marginally increase our commercial output.
Of course this is the $64,000 question for Rapids fans.  I like the fact that they;re more interested in signing a young player than an older name.  Of course, as I said last week, I'll believe it when I see it.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Rapids Looking For Attacking DP

Apparently the Rapids are looking towards Europe for an attacking DP.  Now I could go into a long post about what the Rapids should be looking for and the likelihood of them finding it at an affordable rate, but what it would all boil down to is:

"I'll believe it when I see it"

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Vacation Recap

I took a week off to go visit the in-laws in Orlando and do Walt Disney World, so a recap of some of the news that's come out in that time.

  • Pareja will return next season
    • No surprise.  The Bravo/Hinchey leadership team seemed pretty committed to Pareja's direction.  Honestly I prefer the stability of keeping the same coach over having Bravo fire Pareja and finding a Pareja-clone to replace him with.  If the Rapids wanted to make a change, it needed to start above Pareja.
  • Top player priorities are securing Rivero and Thomas for 2013 and hopefully beyond.
    • Good.  They should be the top priorities.  Though I was under the impression, based on reporting and announcements made at the time, that the Rapids had already secured Rivero for two years when they worked out his loan.  It will be interesting to see what happens with him.
  • Pablo still hopes to play in 2013
    • Obviously Pablo knows best what shape he's in, but the Rapids have to be very careful not to tie up a good piece of the salary cap on a player who could be just another head impact away from another long-term stint on the Disabled List, or even retirement.  I'd give him another chance, but at a significantly reduced salary.
  • Colorado will preseason in Tuscon again in 2013.
    • For purely selfish reasons I was hoping the Rapids would be part of the Pro Soccer Challenge at Walt Disney World in February (see the opening line of this blog post).  It appears that MLS is setting up their version of the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues for preseason training, with most Western teams expected in Tucson and most Eastern teams expected in Orlando.
  • Bravo announced on From the Pitch that they are actively pursuing a DP-level attacking player
    • Yeah, I'll believe that when I see it
  • Colorado gets Chicago's natural 2nd round pick for Wells Thompson
    • Whatever the "conditions" were for the conditional draft pick were meet according to the Rapids.  They couldn't have been that high since Wells only played 65 minutes for the Fire.
  • One last note, apparently a top Crew player was available when we traded Beckerman for Ballouchy.
    • So not only did we make possibly the worst trade in MLS history, we passed up a Eddie Gaven or Chad Marshall to trade with our rivals.  Clavijo really was an idiot.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Finishing On A High Note

For the second game in a row the Rapids played a glorified scrimmage and won 2-0.  Due to results earlier in the day the only thing Houston had to play for was a slight chance at improving their MLS Cup hosting hopes, while balancing that against knowing they had a playoff game in Chicago on Wednesday.  Not surprisingly the latter concern won out.

Colorado started a newer (if not younger) lineup and Kamani Hill took quick advantage.  In the 9th minute he picked up a short pass from Castrillon just outside the center circle and Houston gave him a free run to just outside the box where he powered it past the keeper for his second goal in as many games.  9 minutes later Houston got its only shot on goal of the half, but Ceus was there to tip it over the bar.

 The second half was much like the first, complete domination from the Rapids, one Houston shot on goal, and one Colorado goal.  The second Rapids goal started with newcomer Chris Kulte crossing in front of the box where an unmarked Rivero brought it down and shot (very similar to his goal last week).  This time the keeper was able to get back and block the shot, but the rebound went right to Akpan at head level and he knocked it home to seal up the game.

My key to the game was what Houston had to play for.  Very little int he end, and they showed it in their play.

Other Observations:
  • These last two games have been enjoyable to watch.  Yeah the competition has had nothing to play for, so take everything with a grain of salt, but if this kind of play is what Pareja's been looking for we've taken a few steps in the right direction.
  • Back-to-back shutouts for Ceus which gives the team 9 total for the season, the most since Bouna Time had 9 in 2007.
  • Chris Klute looked good for his first MLS action of his career.  Not enough data to make a long-term judgement of course.
  • Davy Armstrong also got the first MLS action of his career in the final sub of the season.
  • Team awards: MVP - Pickens, Defender - Moor, Young Player - Rivero, Golden Boot - Castrillon, Humanitarian - Mastroeni, Developmental Player - O'Neill, Fan Favorite - Pickens.
  • Class VI's MVP went to Pickens, Defender of the Year went to Moor.
  • My MVP along with other awards, season review, and roster analysis will be coming up over the next couple of weeks.
Player Of The Game: Kamani Hill.  Game-winning goal and good play throughout.  We better bring him back next year.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Houston, This Is Colorado. Signing Off.

Unfortunately, failure was an option this year

One last game to wrap up the 2012 season tomorrow.  Houston is in town for our only look at them this year.  They have playoff positioning to play for, while the Rapids will need a win if Portland wins earlier in the day to avoid being passed for 7th in the West (though getting passed would give us a better draft pick).  Game time tomorrow is 7pm and since its the final game of the season the tailgate starts at 4, with the left-overs of the pig roast that have been cooling in the freezers of Class VI.  Those of you who can't make it can see the game on Altitude.

Injury Report:
OUT: FW Edu (R foot contusion); MF Pablo Mastroeni (headache symptoms); MF Brian Mullan (L knee scope); MF Shane O'Neill (L orbital fracture); GK Matt Pickens (R adductor stage); DF Anthony Wallace (L Achilles tear)
PROBABLE: FW Tony Cascio (L ankle sprain); FW Conor Casey (R knee soreness); FW Omar Cummings (R ankle soreness); MF Jeff Larentowicz (L groin tightness)

Disciplinary Report:

Casey is listed as Probable but has already been shut down for the season.  Houston literally has nobody on the injury report and nobody suspended so they are at 100% for this game.  The question will be if they have a shot for the 3rd or 4th seed or if they're already locked into the 5th seed.  My final guess at our lineup:

Cascio - Cummings - Castrillon
Thomas - Rivero - Larentowicz
Klute - Moor - Wynne - Freeman

Left back is wide open right now with Wahl suspended and Zapata dealing with an injury.  Considering how little is on the line in this game though, we could see any kind of lineup..

Key To Look For: The scoreboard.  By kickoff Houston will know if they have a shot to move up to 4th (and host the wild-card game) or even 3rd (and get a bye).  If they don't they know they'll have another road trip in mid-week and may rest some players.

Prediction: 2-1 loss/1-0 win.  The first guess is if Houston has a shot at home-field in mid week or a bye.  The second is if they know they're 5th and have to travel.  Either way Castrillon gets the goal.  Houston's a better team than us so its just a matter of how hard they try.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Youngsters Carry Rapids Past Chivas

What was really just a glorified scrimmage for two teams out of the running resulted in a much needed 2-0 win for the Rapids.  Colorado dominated play and were in control most of the time, yet lost almost every stat on the stat sheet.  Even coming from a stathead like myself its a great example of how stats can be misleading.  Early in the game Wahl whipped in a cross that was bobbled and fumbled by the Chivas GK, only to be cleared back to Wahl.  He whipped in a second cross and Castrillon slightly deflected it with his head.  It fell right to an unmarked Rivero on the far post who had time to glance over, confirm the AR had not flagged him for offside, and then slip the ball between the keeper and the near post for a 1-0 lead in the 16th minute.

In the 43rd minute Cummings pounced on a horrible pass from the Chivas defense and charged at the goal.  Instead of trying to beat a defender 1 on 1 he found Kamani Hill crashing the far post.  Hill headed the ball back across goal to Omar's side where the keeper, moving back towards Hill, couldn't get it and the Rapids had a 2-0 lead going into halftime.  Right before half Chivas got their first shot on goal, but Ceus saved it easily.

The second half was a bore fest of Chivas passing around the back and having no idea what to do going forward, and the Rapids just sitting on their 2-0 lead.  Chivas got one shot on target late that Ceus deflected for a corner and that was it for them.

My key to the game was defense and the Rapids didn't have to do much defending in this one.

Other Observations:
  • The 3 points means this will be the 3rd worst season in team history (based on pts/game).  We're guaranteed to finish with at least 1 pt/game.
  • Great to see Hill get the start and a goal.  Hopefully he's done enough to stick around for 2013.
  • Ceus gets a shutout in his first ever league start.  Not bad.
  • Armstrong made the 18 for the first time in a league game, but didn't play.
  • Hard to draw much more from this game.  Neither team had anything on the line and used a number of young players as they plan for 2013.
Player Of The Game: Martin Rivero.  He controlled the midfield, completed 40+ passes, and topped it off with a goal.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Wait, The Season's Not Over?

Not quite time to flip to 2013 yet

Yes, being eliminated from the playoffs followed by an international break did make it feel like the season was over, but there are still 2 games left.  The first one is tomorrow night in LA against the Under-A-Chivas. Chivas has been outscored 9-1 in their last 3 games so they're reeling more than we are.  Kickoff tomorrow is at 8:30pm on Altitude.  There's no official Class VI/Pid Army viewing party for this last road game.

Injury Report:
OUT: FW Edu (R foot contusion); MF Pablo Mastroeni (headache symptoms); GK Matt Pickens (R adductor stage); DF Anthony Wallace (L Achilles tear)
DOUBTFUL: MF Brian Mullan (L knee pain)
PROBABLE: FW Tony Cascio (L ankle sprain); FW Conor Casey (R knee soreness); FW Omar Cummings (R ankle soreness); MF Jeff Larentowicz (L groin tightness)

Disciplinary Report:

Casey and Mullan have been shut down for the season despite not being listed as OUT.  Larentowicz made the trip but the team is watching him as well.  Chivas is only missing two players, so they're in better shape than us.  Given our injury issues and the fact that Pareja has said he is going to look at some of the younger players this lineup is a total guess:

Cascio - Akpan - Castrillon
Thomas - Rivero - O'Neill
Wahl - Moor - Wynne - Klute

This seems like a decent balance of young and old, but Pareja could surprise me.

Key To Look For: Defense.  This is pretty much the permanent key for the rest of the season.

Prediction: 2-1 win.  Goals by Cascio and Castrillon.  Chivas is horrible, worse than us, and they can't stop anyone from scoring.  Their last shutout was July 28th against Portland.  So we can get goals.  Of course our defense can't stop anyone either, so they'll score too.  I think the Rapids have a shot at this one though.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Pickens, Casey, Maybe Others Shut Down For Season

Today the Rapids announced that along with Pickens, Casey will also be shut down for the last two games due to his nagging knee injury.  Mullan may join them, and Larentowicz will be watched closely to see if he needs to be added to the list.

This will also allow Pareja to play some of the younger players like O'Neill, Armstrong, and Cascio in their place.  That's really what Colorado should be using these last two games for anyway.  Since we're out of the playoff race there's nothing more for the veterans to prove, so letting them start their off-season recovery and conditioning early will help them going into 2013.  Getting a good look at the young players will help us with off-season roster decisions.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Pablo, Pickens, and Salaries

Some news and notes for the off-week:

  • Today's update on Pablo's condition is encouraging, but long-term.  He is practicing with the team multiple days a week but he's not yet ready to play.  Apparently he'll make a decision about retirement once the season is over.  It sounds like he wants to continue playing but I still believe that he'll decide to retire.
  • Matt Pickens' groin injury on Saturday night appears to be season ending.  It seems like Steward Ceus and possibly Ian Joyce will get the start in the last two games as the longest consecutive game streak currently in MLS and in Rapids history will end at 75 games.  Smart move by the team, being out of the playoffs Pickens has no need to risk injury and this gives Pareja a chance to evaluate Ceus and Joyce  before the off-season.
  • Last week the Players Union released the updated salary list.  This includes salaries for Klute, O'Neill, Thomas, and Wahl.  No real surprise for anyone other than Thomas, who's making $187K this year, which is a bit higher than I expected.  We'll have to see what his number is for next year, if he returns, but odds are he'll be one of the higher paid members of the team.
  • The other note of interest is Cummings' and Moor's new contracts.  It appears that they both took a        bit of a pay cut in exchange for extending their deals.  Cummings gave back $9K and Moor gave back $30K.  An interesting move by both of them.

The full list of salaries, with new/updated numbers bolded.

Player Position Base Guarenteed
Akpan Andre F
Armstrong David M
Cascio Tony M
Casey Conor F
Castrillon Jaime M
Ceus Steward GK
Cummings Omar F
Freeman Hunter D
Hill Kamani M
Joyce Ian GK
Klute Chris D
Larentowicz Jeff D
Marshall Tyrone D
Mastroeni Pablo M-D
Moor Drew D
Mullan Brian M
Nane Joseph M
O'Neill Shane M
Palguta Scott D
Pickens Matt GK
Rivero Martin M
Schmidt Luis Eduardo M-F
Smith Jamie M
Thomas Hendry M
Wahl Tyson D
Wallace Anthony D-M
Wynne Marvell D
Zapata Luis D

Monday, October 8, 2012

Rapids Sent Crashing Down By Earthquakes

I don't have the patience to spend a whole lot of time on this disaster of a match.  Needless to say after being 2-0 down in the first 10 minutes it didn't get better from there.  A 4-1 loss looks better than it was.

Other Observations:
  • Matt Pickens was subbed out in the second half due to a groin strain.  Those were the first league minutes he missed since missing a Rocky Mountain Cup match in Utah in 2010.  Ian Joyce got the start for that game.
  • That meant that this was the league debut of Steward Ceus.  He didn't have much to do, and was left stranded on the final San Jose goal.
  • Drew Moor is now the only player to play every minute of the season.  He continues to be the Rapids ironman.
  • Akpan's PK saved the Rapids from their first 4 goal loss since September of 2004 (a 6-1 loss in New England).  No team in the league has a longer streak without a 4 goal loss.  Houston, Philly, and Montreal, as expansion teams, have not suffered a 4 goal loss in their history but they all started after the Rapids last 4 goal loss.
  • Great move by the Rapids to combine the Terraces, it worked well.
  • I should say more, but yuck.  That really covers it all.
Player Of The Game: Nobody.  Everybody sucked.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Rapids Try To Settle Quakes

Old Rapids commercial.  RIP Mooch. 

Tomorrow the Rapids do something they haven't done in at least 11 years.  Prepare for and play a game after being eliminated from playoff contention.  The last time the Rapids were eliminated prior to their final game day was possibly 2001 (hard to tell with the rest of the season being wiped out due to the 9/11 attacks) and before that the only other time it happened was the inaugural year in 1996.  So tomorrow is somewhat new territory for the team and it will be interesting to see how they approach it.  We've got league-leading San Jose in town and a cold night in the forecast.  Luckily it happens to be chili cookoff night at the tailgate!  Kickoff is at 7 so chili starts at 4.

Injury Report:
OUT: FW Edu (R foot contusion); MF Pablo Mastroeni (headache symptoms); DF Anthony Wallace (L Achilles tear)
QUESTIONABLE: FW Conor Casey (R knee soreness); MF Jaime Castrillon (R knee soreness)
PROBABLE: FW Tony Cascio (L ankle sprain); MF Brian Mullan (L hamstring strain): MF Jamie Smith (groin strain)

Disciplinary Report:
SUSPENDED AFTER NEXT 2 YELLOWS: MF Jaime Castrillon; DF Tyrone Marshall; MF Drew Moor; MF Martin Rivero

International Absences:
MF Shane O'Neill (U.S. U-20s)

San Jose is missing 7 players to injury or suspension, including former Rapiud Mehdi Ballouchy who blew out his ACL last week.  Cummings was called up for Jamaica but will not leave until after this game.  Hard to know what Pareja will do with tomorrow's lineup since we're out of contention.  He has talked about getting players who have played a bench role this season some playing time.  My guess at the starting XI.

Cascio - Akpan - Cummings
Thomas - Rivero - Larentowicz
Zapata - Moor - Wynne - Freeman

With Casey and Castrillon both questionable and Mullan probable I think we'll see Cummings and the young forwards tomorrow.  Other than that I expect our normal lineup for a top of a table team like San Jose.

Key To Look For: Defense.  This is pretty much the permanent key for the rest of the season.

Prediction: 2-1 loss.  Goal by Cascio.  San Jose is the top of the table for a reason and I don't see us stopping their 3-headed attack.  Their defense is vulnerable though, and with the home advantage and weather I think we can sneak one in.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

On To 2013!

With Vancouver's 4-0 win tonight over Chivas USA the Rapids are officially eliminated from the playoff race.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Galaxy Draw Down Rapids Playoff Hopes

A relatively dull game yesterday at the Dick resulted in a 1-1 draw and the removal of all but the faintest hope for Colorado's playoff possibilities.  The game started quickly with Rivero getting an early shot on target followed by LA getting two good chances, the second of which they converted in the 10th minute.  After Keane had a couple of attempts blocked right off his foot by Moor and Larentowicz, Sarvas first-timed the 2nd rebound into the far side of the net from outside the box.  Sarvas was unmarked but it was a laser shot that would have been hard to defend.

The Rapids didn't give up though.  Right after the goal Rivero had another close chance.  In the 16th minute Freeman crossed the ball in along the ground with Casey, Cummings, and Castrillon crashing the box.  The ball was behind Cummings (who appeared to be the target) but Castrillon was there to clean it up, knocking it home to level the score.

In the 29th minute Landon Donovan scored only to have it waived off for a foul he committed against Freeman.  On replay it may have been a generous call.  Freeman certainly got pulled down by Donovan, but only after Freeman had wrapped him up to start the play.  Probably a no-call would have been appropriate but a little home town reffing doesn't hurt. ;)

That was the closest LA got to another goal.  The Rapids had a couple of good chances including a great header by Drew Moor late int he game that Saunders had to parry over the bar, but for the most part it was LA parking the bus and the Rapids being unable to break down their defense.

My key to the game was defense and while there wasn't a serious error on the goal, LA didn't really test the defense either.

Other Observations:
  • Good solid game from the Rapids who outplayed the Galaxy for most of the game.
  • Zapata really struggled however.  He was beat regularly and his crosses were nothing to really get excited about.
  • Rivero's free kicks are sink or swim, either they're dead on or they're way off base.
  • His corner kicks leave a lot to be desired though, that's one thing Jamie Smith has over him.
  • Right before the called off goal Beckham was being his normal high-maintenance self on a free kick.  MLS refs need to stop putting up with that crap.
  • Right after the goal Donovan got a yellow for screaming at the ref for his call.  I did say it was a weak call, but you can't go after a ref like that.  The Galaxy need to dial their egos back a bit.
  • The only Galaxy shot that got close in the second half was a long one by Juninho.  LA really wasn't making an offensive effort.
  • The Rapids are still in the playoff hunt, barely.  If the Whitecaps win on Wednesday we're out.  If they don't we have to beat San Jose on Saturday or we're out.
Player Of The Game: Matt Pickens.  Made a number of big saves and stood out when the rest of the team played fairly average.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Rapids Face Do Or Die Against LA

Never Doubt The Bruce

The Travelling Galaxy Road Show is in town on Sunday, possibly including Old Spice for only the 3rd time in his MLS career.  A win by Vancouver on Saturday and anything but a win in this game will officially eliminate the Rapids from the playoffs.  Even if both teams win, there's still only a thin margin for error the rest of the way.  For such a big game there has to be a big tailgate, and Class VI and the Pid Army are delivering.  Not 1 but 2 pigs are being smoked overnight in the DSG Park tailgate lot for this party, and it starts at 2pm.  The game is on Altitude locally and Galavision nationally.

Injury Report:
OUT: FW Edu (R foot contusion); MF Pablo Mastroeni (headache symptoms); DF Anthony Wallace (L Achilles tear)
PROBABLE: FW Tony Cascio (L ankle sprain); FW Conor Casey (R knee soreness); FW Omar Cummings (R ankle soreness); MF Brian Mullan (L hamstring strain)

Disciplinary Report:
SUSPENDED AFTER NEXT 2 YELLOWS: MF Jaime Castrillon; MF Jeff Larentowicz; DF Tyrone Marshall; MF Drew Moor; MF Martin Rivero

LA has 4 players questionable or worse, including Old Spice himself and Wilhelmsson (who scored against us two weeks ago).  Its really hard at this point to guess the starting XI for the Rapids, but I'll take a shot:

Castrillon - Casey - Mullan
Thomas - Rivero - Larentowicz
Zapata - Marshall- Wynne - Moor

I'd prefer to see Freeman on the bench for this one after he got worked over by the Galaxy two weeks ago, but I don't think we'll see that.  We could see Cascio or Cummings up front and I wouldn't be shocked.

Key To Look For: Defense.  This is pretty much the permanent key for the rest of the season.

Prediction: 2-0 loss.  I don't see any changes in the Rapids from two weeks ago that maes me think we'll see a different result.  The tailgate should be fun though.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Rapids Not Yet Out Of Their Playoff Misery

The Rapids played a good 30 minutes and an adequate 60 minutes on Sunday night, which was enough to get out of Vancouver with a 2-2 draw and a slight playoff hope.  The early game was controlled by the Whitecaps, with Pickens having to come up twice on big saves and Wynne making multiple clearances.  Around the 30th minute Colorado started to take control of the game and really put Vancouver under pressure.  In the 34th minute Rivero took a pass from Wynne just over midfield and drove towards the goal. The Whitecaps decided not to pressure him so at the top of the box Martin let it rip and nailed the post.  For once this season the Rapids got a lucky break and the rebound came right to Cummings who finished it from a narrow angle for the early lead.

Colorado continued the pressure, with Vancouver's keeper being forced to make a big save off a Castrillon header right before half.  They picked it up again after the break and keep control of the game.  About the 60th minute though the momentum switched and the Whitecaps started to drive the game.  Off a corner kick that was cleared into the far corner Koffie beat Cummings and sent a cross in that Rochat redirected past Pickens to level the game.  4 minutes later Robsen played a good through ball past Marshall and Wynne to an on-rushing Miller who made it a 2-1 lead for the home team.

Things weren't looking good for the Rapids at this point as this appeared to be another game where Colorado would get a lead only to give it back on defensive miscues.  Jamie Smith had other ideas though.  8 minutes from the end of the game he snagged a misplayed ball from the Vancouver defense, forced himself past 3 defenders, and slammed home the tying goal.  Great individual effort.  The Rapids had a shot to win the game in the 90th minute only for Knighton to come up with one final big save.

My key to the game was defense and sure enough, a 5 minute span of mental mistakes cost us.

Other Observations:
  • Casey missed a lot of headers on Sunday night.  He really needs a run of healthy games to knock off the rust, but there's only 4 games left.
  • The Rapids looked like the better team for the 15 minutes on either side of halftime.  The rest of the time they let Vancouver stay in the game and it cost them.
  • On the first Vancouver goal the 3 closest Rapids to the ball were Cummings, Casey, and Castrillon.  Something's wrong there.
  • This was the first game where I wasn't impressed with Thomas.  He wasn't horrible, but he didn't control the midfield like he had in his prior games.
  • Good to see the team battle back after going down, we haven't seen enough of that this year.
  • The Rapids need a miracle to make the playoffs but it still is possible.  Amazingly we're going to still be mathematically alive when we enter October, as the earliest we can be eliminated now is Vancouver's game on October 3rd.
Player Of The Game: Jamie Smith.  Maybe that never-say-die goal is what this team needs to wake up.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Playoff Hopes Will Be Soaked For One Team

Whitecaps - Rapids; Wettest Game In MLS

Tomorrow night Colorado is in Vancouver to face the whitecaps.  A loss all but officially eliminated the Rapids from the playoffs (if they aren't at that point already).  A loss by the Whitecaps doesn't eliminate them, but if they can't beat the Rapids at home they don't have much of a chance.  Game time tomorrow is 5:30pm and the game is on Altitude.  Class VI and the Pid Army will be gathering downtown at the Celtic to watch the game.

Injury Report:
OUT: MF Davy Armstrong (personal medical issue); FW Edu (R foot contusion); MF Pablo Mastroeni (headache symptoms); DF Anthony Wallace (L Achilles tear)
QUESTIONABLE: FW Tony Cascio (L ankle sprain)
PROBABLE: FW Conor Casey (R knee soreness); FW Omar Cummings (R ankle soreness)

Disciplinary Report:
SUSPENDED AFTER NEXT 2 YELLOWS: MF Jaime Castrillon; MF Jeff Larentowicz; DF Tyrone Marshall; MF Drew Moor; MF Martin Rivero

Vancouver is down two players due to injury so they're in good shape.  Cascio's injury makes the lineup a bit tricky but here's my guess:

Castrillon - Casey - Mullan
Thomas - Rivero - Larentowicz
Zapata - Marshall- Wynne - Moor

Something tells me that with Cascio out we'll see Casey and not Akpan in the starting 11.  The back 4 seems pretty set at this point, but who know's for sure.

Key To Look For: Defense.  This is pretty much the permanent key for the rest of the season.

Prediction: 1-1 draw, goal by Castrillon.  Neither team is playing well at this point so its hard to see either winning.  Unfortunately right now a Colorado win would be more shocking than a Vancouver one, but I think we can squeak a point out of this match.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

What Was The Point Of The Kimura Trade Again?

Back on July 1st the Rapids traded Kosuke Kimura to Portland for allocation money and an international spot for 2012.  Since then the Rapids cut an international player (Harrison Henao) and signed an international player (Hendry Thomas).  Jamie Smith may have gotten his green card as well, which would have freed up another international spot.  Last weekend was the roster freeze deadline for the year so the Rapids won't be signing an other players.  See the problem?  The Rapids traded for an international spot for 2012, and never used it.  Thomas took the international spot of Henao who was waived about 2 weeks after the Kimura trade.

At the time I understood the trade of Kimura.  He had obviously been passed on the depth chart in Pareja's mind by Freeman and he's in a contract year and wanted to go somewhere where he could play.  Win-win for both teams.  Honestly at the point he was traded Freeman was outplaying him and the Portland fans love his passion but aren't impressed with his play there so he may never have gotten the spot back.

If you're going to trade a guy who's been with the team 5+ years and been a steady starter for the last 3 though, I expect the team to get some value for him.  Instead they got some allocation money which the Rapids never seem to use except for other trades and an international spot they didn't use, so essentially they got allocation money for him.

If I had to guess, about a week after the trade reports came out that Colorado had made a bid for Senegalese defender Mor Diouf from a South African team.  I'm betting the Rapids thought they were going to get the deal done and traded for the international spot to be able to add Diouf to the roster.  If so, this was a poor decision on two levels.  First apparently the deal wasn't as "done" as Colorado thought as Diouf never signed and is still playing in South Africa.  Secondly, the Rapids made a decision a week after the reports of their interest in Diouf to cut Henao which freed up an international spot anyway.

Colorado still has the allocation money they got, so it wasn't a complete giveaway, but a pretty poor trade none the less.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Boys Against Men

The older experienced Galaxy worked over the younger Rapids in LA on Friday.  While the scoreline was only 2-0 the differences between the teams was obvious for the whole 90 minutes.  Colorado actually had more attempts on goal and more corner kicks, but LA was clearly the more dangerous team.  In the 15th minute they made that abundantly clear as Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan spun Marvell Wynne like a top for an easy goal.

In the 58th minute LA did it again.  New signing Christian Wilhelmsson Beat Zapata down the left side and pulled him into the middle.  Wynne and Zapata stumbled over each other which gave Wilhelmsson an opening he took advantage of.  Pickens got a hand on the shot but couldn't stop it and it was 2-0.

The closest the Rapids got to a goal was late in the game when a LA defender whiffed on a clearance in the box, leaving the ball at Casey's feet.  Conor, as a good striker is want to do, immediately set up and took the shot but Saunders made the save.  Had Casey looked up he would have seen an unmarked Castrillon on the far post for an easy pass and goal.

My key to the game was defense, because I thought we could score.  Well it didn't matter how well we could defend because we couldn't score.

Other Observations:
  • Wynne really got turned around on the first goal but otherwise he actually had a pretty good game, making a number of big interceptions.
  • I can't blame Casey for taking the shot he did, that's the instinct you want a striker to have.
  • Some people had wondered about the difference in salaries between the teams in this game.  The Galaxy had over 5 times the salary on the field that the Rapids did, but that was all due to Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan.  The rest of the Galaxy were actually trailing the Rapids salary.
  • The second goal is one of the few times this year where you can say Pickens really should have done better with it.  Everybody's allowed one or two mistakes a season though. ;)
  • With Casey and Cummings starting the game on the bench (Casey for the second straight fame) so youngsters Akpan and Cascio could start, its time to start wondering if the era of the C+C Goal Factory is over.
Player Of The Game: Hendry Thomas.  His passing over the last two games has been outstanding and in a game where nobody really stood out, Thomas was calm and competent which is more than I can say for most of the players.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Rapids Get Chris Klute On Loan From Atlanta

Its halftime, 1-0 LA.  If you aren't watching you aren't missing much.  At the beginning fo the game the broadcast announced that the Rapids had loaned defender Chris Klute from the NASL Atlanta Silverbacks for a year.  He can play right or center back.  Klute played for the U.S. U-17s in the 2007 U-17 World Cup and has played twice for the U-20s.  He starred at Furman University and Clayton State University before signing with Atlanta in June, playing every minute since then.  he's originally from Grand Prarie, TX and played in the Dallas Texans youth program.

Given his connections to Dallas youth soccer and the U-17 team, safe to say this is a player that Pareja and/or Cabrera have had their eyes on for a while.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Colorado In LA To Face Old Spiceless Galaxy

No Spice for the Galaxy tomorrow

The Rapids are out in LA-LA land to face the Galaxy.  David Beckham is questionable and not expected to play, so a bit of a break for Colorado.  Donovan will be coking back from injury and should be available.  Meanwhile the Rapids are as healthy as they're going to be this season.  Game time is a late 9pm start tomorrow night and the game is on Altitude.

Injury Report:
OUT: FW Edu (R foot contusion); MF Pablo Mastroeni (headache symptoms); DF Anthony Wallace (L Achilles tear)
PROBABLE: FW Conor Casey (R knee soreness); FW Omar Cummings (R ankle soreness)

Disciplinary Report:
SUSPENDED AFTER NEXT 2 YELLOWS: MF Jaime Castrillon; MF Jeff Larentowicz; DF Tyrone Marshall; MF Drew Moor; MF Martin Rivero

Besides Old Spice LA is down 3 other players sue to injury.  Its kind of hard to know what Pareja will b ethinking this week, but I'll take my best guess:

Cummings - Casey - Mullan
Thomas - Rivero - Larentowicz
Zapata - Moor - Wynne - Freeman

I know Pickens will start and I'm pretty confident about the midfield, but everything else is a guess.  I have a feeling that against a team like the Galaxy we'll see C+C Goal Factory instead of Akpan, Cascio, or Castrillon, but I don't really know for sure.  LA has some speed so I'm thinking we'll see Marshall on the bench.

Key To Look For: Defense.  I think we can score on LA, but Donovan, Keane, and the rest are very dangerous and we have to contain them.

Prediction: 3-1 loss, goal by Casey.  We're going to lose big on this one I think.  I've seen nothing from the team this year that makes me believe we can stand with LA on the road at this point.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Trade Official, Rapids Get Draft Pick

Here's the official announcement, the Rapids get a conditional draft pick from Chicago in exchange for Wells Thompson.

There's a good deal of consternation in the on-line Rapids fanbase about wells asking to be traded to find playing time, but it doesn't bother me.  Look at what's happened this season:

*Wells was on pace for 727 minutes this year, his lowest season total of his career.
*In Pareja's 4-3-3 there really isn't a defensive winger spot, so Wells' minutes were coming as a central/d-mid (which he also played at under Gary Smith at times).
*Currently in that role the Rapids have LArentowicz and Thomas as starters, with Nane apparently moving past Thompson on the depth chart, based on recent play.
*Shane O'Neill was recently signed as the new young player and has already been announced as Larentowicz's primary backup, subbing in for him last game instead of Wells.

Its not a surprise that a player in that position who's already seen his playing time diminish and a younger player quickly moving up on him would want to move.  If anything the requested trade by Kimura earlier in the season would me more concerning, but even then Koz had (rightfully or not) been supplanted as the starter by Freeman and, in a contract year, Kosuke knew he needed to go somewhere he would start.

Obviously you don't like to see the locker room unsettled by trade requests, but both of these were cases where the players asking to be traded were being pushed out by better players.  That's certainly better than a Moor or Pickens, who are clearly starters, asking for a trade.

As to the return value of a conditional draft pick, its not ideal.  At the same time I never thought that highly of Thompson.  He had a role of coming off the bench as a defensive replacement to protect a lead, but beyond that he never seemed to fit anywhere else.  He didn't have the skills to  be a regular starter when everyone was healthy, and he didn't particularly add skill to the attack when subbed in while the team was losing (though in full credit to him, he tried to attack more than most players).  His tackling was always an adventure, he didn't earn the Holy Hacker nickname for nothing, but you knew that he'd give 100% while he was out there.  A (hopefully high) draft pick is probably a fair trade, if the Rapids can put it to good use by finding the next Cascio.

Wells To Chicago, But For What?

Lost Hooligan just tweeted this, so safe to say Wells Thompson is now a member of the Fire.  The question is, what did we get for him?

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Rapids Unveil New Jerseys

Pictures by Class VI member Chris Earley

At today's season ticket holder party the Rapids unveiled the new 2013 home jerseys, modeled above by captain Drew Moor.  The dark bands you see are the 2012 season ticket holders names on the jersey.  The white sleeves are an intentional connection to the Arsenal jersey (also owned by Kroenke) and you can't see it under Drew's left hand, but there's a small Colorado state flag on the lower left of the jersey.

The Rapids also had a poster "map" of the jersey to assist fans with finding their name.

No Thompson Trade Yet

The team has confirmed that Wells has asked for a trade to find more playing time but states that no deal is complete yet.  Roster freeze date is Saturday, so safe bet he'll be traded sometime this week (I'm guessing an official announcement tomorrow).

Semi-Official: Wells Thompson Traded

Luis Zapata has tweeted good luck and well wishes to Wells Thompson this morning, so he's obviously going somewhere.  Rumors right now are that its Chicago.  More details when I get them.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Young Guns Chop Down Timbers

My apologies for the delay.  Last night was taken up by watching the best action-adventure movie of all time in IMAX, Raiders of the Lost Ark.

A surprisingly young team started against the Timbers on Wednesday night.  Casey was given the night off, Cummings was with Jamaica, and Mullan was given a chance to rest for most of the game after his Achilles injury in Portland.  Instead Cascio, Akpan, and Castrillon started in their places and immediately took the game to the timbers.  In the first minute Cascio beat Koz and abused the near post.  In the 5th minute qa cross from Moor was deflected and Kimura managed to beat Cascio to it by inches, but his header fell right to Akpan who finished it for a 1-0 Rapids lead.  In the 27th minute Cascio again beat Koz, having an open shot off a Castrillon cross.  Ricketts made the save but it fell right back to Cascio and he made the second chance count, doubling the Rapids lead.

On the defensive side Portland wasn't threatening.  They didn't get a shot on target until the 75th minute when Chara beat and shouldered Zapata off the ball, but Pickens was up to the task with a kick save.  That would be their only shot on target for the night.  Meanwhile the Rapids had 6 shots on target total, plus Cascio's near post blast.

Colorado put the game away in the 86th minute.  A Kamani Hill corner to the far post was headed back to the near post by Moor where, once again, Kosuke was beat by Castrillon who headed it down and past Ricketts.  3-0 and that's all she wrote.

My key to the game was scoring a meaningful goal.  5 minutes in and it had been accomplished.  Amazing how that helps a team win...

Other Observations:
  • A number have fans have wondered if this game was a changing of the guard.  With Casey given the night off and the young guns playing well, have we seen the beginning of the end of C + C Goal Factory?  I want to see it against a team better than Portland, but its an interesting question.
  • I love Koz, but this game was an example of why he was traded.  Tony Casscio abused him all night.  He admitted after the game that the emotions of returning to Colorado got to him, but that's not how you convince a team they were wrong in trading you.
  • Castrillon has a team lead 7 goals and Rivero a team lead 8 assists.  It hasn't looked good at times, but the new players seen to be finding their place.  Cascio is in the top 5 of goals and assists as well.
  • Moor had two assists tonight (though the assist on the first goal seems generous) from the right back spot, but those were his only two good crosses it seemed.  He'll need to work on that.
  • Portland apparently doesn't know the offside rule.  Every time they seemed to get something going they would be called offside.
  • I got a better look at Thomas this week and liked what I saw.  Very calm on the ball and decisive, something this team needs.
  • Good to see that Mullan wasn't so injured he couldn't play.  A few minutes at the end of the game was just about right for him.
  • Loved seeing the Olympians at the game, too bad only Missy Franklin decided to wear the jersey the Rapids presented them.
Player Of The Game: Tony Cascio.  a goal, an assist, and a goalpost.  He looked good Wednesday night.