Thursday, August 30, 2012

Rapids Face Koz And The Timbers

Hopefully a good metaphor for the Timbers after the game

The Rapids head for the Rose City on Friday night to face the Timbers, a team they have never lost to.  Portland, of course, is where long-time Rapids fan favorite Kosuke Kimura was traded to and I'm sure he's going to want to show Colorado what they're missing.  There will be a large travelling contingent for this game including yours truly, so lets hope the Rapids can get something out of the trip.  For those of you not heading for Oregon, the game will be on Altitude at 8:30pm.

Injury Report:
OUT: FW Edu (R foot contusion); MF Pablo Mastroeni (headache symptoms); DF Anthony Wallace (L Achilles tear)
QUESTIONABLE: MF Kamani Hill (L quad strain)
PROBABLE: FW Omar Cummings (R ankle soreness)

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

Portland is only missing one player.  Pretty much the same roster to choose from for the Rapids.  My guess at the starting XI:

Castrillon - Casey - Mullan
Larentowicz - Rivero - Nane
Zapata - Moor - Wynne - Freeman

Really, after the disaster of last week, anything could happen.  I'm going to stick with what's been the typical lineup but Pareja could throw some curve balls in.

Key To Look For: Defense.  Duh.

Prediction: 2-1 win, goals by Casey and Larentowicz.  I expect Kimura will get an assist as he helps to break down a defense he knows well, but Portland is a bad team.  The Rapids can get two goals against them and take the 3 points.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Is The USSF High?

Next month the U.S Women's National Team will play Australia at the Dick as part of their gold medal celebration tour.  That's a great friendly for the Rapids to line up.  I'm not that interested in women's soccer so I'm not planning on going but I know a lot of Rapids fans are excited about the game, and given the season we've had, the Front Office doing something to get fans excited is a good thing.

Yesterday Rapids Season Ticket holders got their pre-sale information to buy tickets before they go on sale to the general public.  I was interested it what it would cost me if I did want to go so I went to the link ant took a look.  A ticket in Class VI's Section 108 will run me $58!  Then they're adding a $10.75 service fee. Oh and parking is another $10, $20 if you park in the VIP parking where I normally park with a Class VI tailgate pass for Rapids games.

So to sit in my normal seat and park in my normal spot this game would cost me $88.75. W.T.F.?!?!?!?!

To be clear, the USSF sets the pricing for this game, not the Rapids.  The only Rapids involvement is providing the contact information for season ticket holders to the USSF.

My normal Rapids season ticket costs me $21 a game, no service charge, and parking is free.  My ticket to the Swansea friendly cost me $28 and parking was free as a season ticket holder (I can't remember if there was a service charge but if there was it was only a couple of bucks).

How does the USSF justify charging 4 times as much as a regular MLS game and 3 times as much as an EPL friendly?  I think the U.S. women are great, but the level of soccer pales in comparison to those other options.  The women's National Team players themselves would admit that if asked.  They would get shelled by the Rapids in a straight up game, even as bad as we are this season.

I understand that the reality of this "goal medal celebration tour" is really a money-making tour for the USSF but there's making money and then there's highway robbery.  When the game is played and there's less than 50% of the house in attendance the USSF shouldn't take it as an indicator that the Denver market is a bad market for soccer, it should be an indicator that the USSF needs to lower their prices!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Train Wreck

I normally have a game review here, but after that disaster, what's the point? When you lose 4-1 and a strong candidate for MOTM is the goalkeeper you know its a bad game. We crashed and burned, move on.

Man of the Match: Matt Pickens

Sunday, August 26, 2012

UPCC Stage 7 - Denver Time Trial

Image from USA Pro Challenge website

Another great day of cycling! We spent the day down in Civic Center Park where today's time trial started and finished. It was an interesting setup with the team buses on one end the finish on the other and the start right in the center, bisecting the finishing straight like a T. For the riders to get from their buses to the start house they ran a path barricaded on both sides from the center to the start house, with one gap for people int he festival to cross sides. I happened to be trying to cross when they blocked it off for Tommy D (one of my personal favorite riders) to ride up to the start house for his warm up ride. We also passed the Radio Shack bus after the race just as Jens Voight and Chris Horner came out.

The time trial went somewhat as expected. Taylor Phinney had the best time and won the stage. Christian Vande Velde was 2nd, 10 seconds behind, Tejay Van Garderen was 3rd, 19 seconds back. The big surprise was Levi Leipheimer who finished 9th, 43 seconds off the pace! This means that the winner of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge is Christan Vande Velde of Garmin-SHARP! Go Argyle!

The only elimination today was EPM-UNE's Piamonte Carlos Fernando who overcooked the final corner onto the finishing straight, hit the barriers, and catapulted his bike over the dividing barrier and into the lane for riders coming out of the start house! He had to wait for a new bike to complete the final block of the time trial but it took too long so he was eliminated for being over the time cut.

Stage results:
1st: Taylor Phinney - USA - BMC
2nd: Christian Vande Velde - USA - Garmin-SHARP
3rd: Tejay van Garderen - USA - BMC

Rory Sutherland was given the Most Aggressive Rider award today

Full List Of Stage Winners:
Stage 1: Tyler Farrar - USA - Garmin-SHARP
Stage 2: Tejay van Garderen - USA - BMC
Stage 3: Tom Danielson - USA - Garmin-SHARP
Stage 4: Jens Voight - Germany - Radio Shack-Nissan-TREK
Stage 5: Tyler Farrar - USA - Garmin-SHARP
Stage 6: Rory Sutherland - Australia - United Healthcare
Stage 7: Taylor Phinney - USA - BMC

Final Podium:
Leader - Christian Vande Velde - USA - Garmin-SHARP
2nd: Tejay van Garderen - USA - BMC - 21 seconds behind
3rd: Levi Leipheimer - USA - Omega Pharma-Quickstep - 24 seconds behind

BTW , last year's podium was Levi, Christian, then Tejay.

Final jersey winners
Sprinter - Tyler Farrar - USA - Garmin-SHARP
King of the Mountains - Jens Voight - Germany - Radio Shack-Nissan-TREK
Young Rider - Joseph Lloyd Dombrowski - USA - Bontrager-Livestrong
Most Agressive - Tom Danielson - USA - Garmin-SHARP
Team - Radio Shack-Nissan-TREK

(The final Most Aggressive rider jersey is based on a media vote of who has been most aggressive all race.)

A week ago I predicted Tommy D with Garmin-SHARP a heavy favorite to have the winner if it wasn't Danielson.  Well Danielson slipped up on Flagstaff but his teammate was able to finish off the week with a great time trial and a big win for the hometown squad.  The team also had 3 of 7 stage victories and won 2 of the other 4 jerseys.  Overall a great race for Team Argyle!

13 years ago when I started following cycling seriously I never thought I'd end up seeing George Hincapie's final two days as a professional in person.  The peloton is going to have a big hole in 2013 without him.  Thanks for the entertaining racing over a great career George!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

UPCC Stage 6 - Golden to Boulder

Image of Rory Sutherland on Flagstaff from Jason Greene

Just got back from Boulder where we had an awesome day watching the race. If you watched the coverage on NBC the first look you got at the peloton was just meters after they passed us. We were at the corner of 17th & Spruce, 1 block after they raced passed the sprint point down 17th and they had to make a 90 degree turn onto Spruce, so we saw them coming and going. Then when they came back into town they made the corner going the opposite direction. I'm watching the coverage now and haven't seen it, but if they show a head on view of the first sprint that camera was located essentially right above my head.

The race itself was pretty good as well. ;)  An early break of 14 riders got free and stayed free until the Flagstaff Mountain final climb, which killed the final sprint competitions. The break included Rory Sutherland and Jens Voight! Once they hit the climb of Left Hand Canyon the break and the peloton started to splinter but a small group including those two stayed free as they came back through Boulder and hit Flagstaff. The big names of the race caught all but those two and Fabio Aru with United Healthcare's Rory Sutherland winning the stage and Jens finishing 3rd.  As you can see above, Sutherland was even smiling as he made the climb!

Meanwhile back with the race leaders Tejay van Garderen and Tommy D both somewhat bonked on the final climb. Levi Leipheimer and Christian Vande Velde took advantage. Levi attacked first with Christian having to wait until closer to the end of the climb. Levi finished 4th and picked up 29 seconds on Tejay, Christian finished 6th and got 8 seconds. Peter Stetina finished on the same time as Tejay, while Tommy D was 42 seconds behind Tejay.

Stage results:
1st: Rory Sutherland - Australia - United Healthcare
2nd: Fabio Aru - Italy - Astana
3rd: Jens Voight - Germany - Radio Shack-Nissan-TREK

As expected, today's stage caused some changes in the standings.  Defending champion Levi Leipheimer has moved into first overall with Christan Vande Velde 9 seconds back and Tejay van Garderen 21 seconds back.  In the final King of the Mountains competition, Jens Voight's attacks over the last couple of days finally took the jersey from Tommy D, who's had it since Stage 1.  With no more climbs Jens Voight is the winner.

EDIT: They do give sprinter points for the best times tomorrow, so the sprinter jersey competition is not complete.

Leader - Levi Leipheimer - USA - Omega Pharma-Quickstep
Sprinter - Tyler Farrar - USA - Garmin-SHARP
King of the Mountains - Jens Voight - Germany - Radio Shack-Nissan-TREK
Young Rider - Joe Dombrowski - USA - Bontrager-Livestrong
Most Agressive - Rory Sutherland - USA - United Healthcare
Team - Radio Shack-Nissan-TREK

The big loser today was Tommy D.  He finished almost 45 seconds behind Tejay van Garderen on a climb in his hometown that he holds the record on.  He also lost his King of the Mountains jersey on the final climb of the race.

Tomorrow's stage is a short time trial where each rider rides the course solo.  Garmin's Dave Zabriskie is the current National time trial champion, but Tejay van Garderen is very good at time trialing as well.  Levi Leipheimer and Christian Vande Velde essentially tied for first in last year's time trial, with Leipheimer getting the win by hundredths of a second so they're pretty good.

I would expect Tejay to win tomorrow, but the length of the time trial (9.5 miles) probably will prevent him from retaking the jersey.  The last time these 3 raced in a similar time trial was in the 2011 Tour of California.  Levi finished 2nd, Tejay 3rd, and Christian 10th.  That time trial was 15 miles long and Levi had 26 seconds over Tejay and 47 seconds over Christian.  Levi is still recovering from his fractured leg in April and Tejay and Christian have both gotten better, but I don't see Tejay picking up over 2 seconds a mile on Levi.  If Levi is off just a bit though, he could concede a second a mile to Christian.

Here's some pictures my wife took from our vantage point in Boulder:

Joey Rosskopf (Team Type 1) and Carter Jones (Bissell) try to catch the early breakaway ahead of the peloton

BMC including George Hincapie (5th) and Tejay van Garderen (in yellow) leads the peloton through the Boulder sprint point

Jens Voigt leads the break back into Boulder towards Flagstaff

BMC and Garmin are hunting down the breakaway before Flagstaff.  Taylor Phinney is 1st, Hincapie is 2nd and in the background Tejay van Garderen (Yellow) and Vincenzo Nibali (Orange)

Friday, August 24, 2012

UPCC Stage 5 - Breckenridge to Colorado Springs

Image from Garmin's Facebook

A relatively quiet stage today in the UPCC.  A small break led by Vincenzo Nibali got away early, but as is pretty typical in these type of stages they were all caught a couple of kilometers, setting up the expected bunch sprint finish.  After having a couple of false starts get cut off Garmin's Tyler Farrar found an opening and took his second stage of the week.  This after going more than a year without winning a race!  Teejay made sure to finish in front of Christian so there were no changes in the overall lead going into tomorrow's big stage.

Stage results:
1st: Tyler Farrar - USA - Garmin-SHARP
2nd: Taylor Phinney - USA - BMC
3rd: Alessandro Bazzana - Italy - Team Type 1-Sanofi

Leader - Teejay Van Garderen - USA - BMC
Sprinter - Tyler Farrar - USA - Garmin-SHARP
King of the Mountains - Tom Danielson - USA - Garmin-SHARP
Young Rider - Joseph Lloyd Dombrowski - USA - Bontrager-Livestrong
Most Agressive - Vincenzo Nibali - Italy - Liquigas-Cannondale
Team - Radio Shack-Nissan-TREK

No changes to any of the hopefuls for the overall win.  All the remaining competitors finished in the bunch sprint.  The race has lost a total of 21 racers at this point.

Tomorrow's stage will the final race for the Sprinter and King of the Mountains jerseys, as there are no points for those contests in Sunday's time trial.  It is also likely to have a huge effect on the overall winner.  Current leader Teejay Van Garderen is one of the top 2 or 3 time trialists in the field, so for riders like Tommy D and Christian Vande Velde to win the race they're going to need to take a lead into Sunday's final stage.  Tomorrow's race starts in Golden and takes the racers through Boulder, up Boulder Canyon to Nederland, and through Left Hand Canyon and up Lee Hill Road before returning to Boulder to finish up the Flagstaff Mountain climb.  Tommy D holds the record for the fasted climb up Flagstaff but I expect a number of riders to be doing their best to beat it tomorrow.


Ah, the Clash

Back to the main point of this blog.  Things don't get easier for the Rapids as their at the Supporters Shield leading Earthquakes tomorrow night.  Not an easy place to turn things around.  Game time tomorrow is 8:30pm on Altitude, so go out and enjoy the bike race in Golden, Boulder, or areas in-between, get a good dinner, and settle down for some soccer.

Injury Report:
OUT: MF Pablo Mastroeni (headache symptoms); DF Anthony Wallace (L Achilles tear)
QUESTIONABLE: FW Edu (R foot contusion); MF Kamani Hill (L quad strain)
PROBABLE: FW Omar Cummings (R ankle soreness)

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

Well the injury report is significantly better this week.  Almost every possible starter is healthy.  Meanwhile San Jose is missing 3 suspended players a 6 to injury so they're hurting.  My guess at the starting XI:

Castrillon - Casey - Mullan
Larentowicz - Rivero - Nane
Zapata - Moor - Wynne - Freeman

I think Cummings is heading to the bench now that everyone else is healthy and not suspended.  Otherwise no significant changes from our starting lineup the last couple of games.

Key To Look For: Defense.  They have to figure out how to Clampdown on the E-Quakes because we can't keep giving up stupid goals.

Prediction: 2-1 loss, goal by Casey.  We're a team that's going into a death spiral, on the road, against the current league leaders.  Their injury/discipline issues will allow us to hang close for a while, but eventually our defense will falter again.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

UPCC Stage 4 - Aspen to Beaver Creek

Image from UPCC website


That's right, everybody's favorite rider decided to solo away from the group early and took the race all the way to the finish in Beaver Creek.  Jens Voight is probably the most popular racer int he pro peloton, with his only real competition being maybe George Hincapie.  At 41 years old next month he's ridden the Tour de France 15 times, and plans to ride it a 16th time next year.  Well know for yelling at his legs or his shadow while riding everybody in beaver Creek was happy to be yelling for him at the finish.  Along with the stage victory he was also presented a lifetime ski pass to Vail/Beaver Creek by Lindsey Vonn (Levi Leipheimer won the pass last year, so they can ski together).

Other than Jens soloing off the front it was a pretty bland day, which worked out because the coverage sucked due to technical difficulties.  Teejay Van Garderen led the peloton to the line and while he didn't pick up any time on Christian Vande Velde he finished in front of him, so he retook the yellow jersey.

Stage results:
1st: Jens Voight - Germany - Radio Shack-Nissan-TREK
2nd: Teejay Van Garderen - BMC
3rd: Andreas Kloden - Germany - Radio Shack-Nissan-TREK

Leader - Teejay Van Garderen - USA - BMC
Sprinter - Damiano Caruso - Italy - Liquigas-Cannondale
King of the Mountains - Tom Danielson - USA - Garmin-SHARP
Young Rider - Joseph Lloyd Dombrowski - USA - Bontrager-Livestrong
Most Agressive - Jens Voight - Germany - Radio Shack-Nissan-TREK
Team - Radio Shack-Nissan-TREK

The only real changes in the overall standings is that Tom Danielson, Peter Stetina, and Chris Horner got gapped at the end and lost 5 seconds on the leaders.  The big loser was U.S. National Road Champion Timmy Duggan, who lost a minute on the leaders and is probably out of contention  Other than that everyone with a realistic chance finished in the the main group.

Tomorrow's stage takes the riders onto the Front Range as they descend from Breckenridge to Colorado Springs.  Before they start dropping they have the one King of the Mountains climb over 11,500 foot Hoosier Pass that may cause another early break to get away.  Expect a bunch sprint in the Springs for the win if a group doesn't get away though, as this is really the sprinters first chance to shine since Monday's finish in Telluride.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

UPCC Stage 3 - Gunnison to Aspen

Image from UPCC website

Stage 3 had a hell of a finish this afternoon.  The stage started about as expected, with a small group going off the front before the early climbs.  Tommy D decided to make it interesting though.  On the climb to 12,000 foot Cottonwood Pass Danielson jumped out of the pack and made a solo ride across the 1 minute gap to the break.  Then, over the course of the Cottonwood and 12,000 foot Independence Pass climbs he shed the break, eventually going over Independence Pass by himself with a 2:15 lead over the peloton.  A furious decent from the pass brought the peloton to within 20 seconds as they entered the final kilometer but Tommy D dug deep and held them off just long enough to win the stage by 2 seconds.

An interesting twist to the overall race standings after today's stage.  In the final push to catch Tommy D Christian Vande Velde got a jump on Teejay Van Garderen.  While they finished on the same time the fact that Christian finished ahead of Teejay and they remained tied on total time means the yellow jersey moved from Teejay to Christian.  A bit of a controversial decision, especially after the judges decided the two racers finished on the same time yesterday despite a noticeable gap between them.

Stage results:
1st: Tom Danielson - USA - BMC
2nd: Damiano Caruso - Italy - Liquigas-Cannondale
3rd: Jakob Fuglsang - Denmark - RadioShack - Nissan - TREK

Leader - Christian Vande Velde - USA - Garmin-SHARP
Sprinter - Damiano Caruso - Italy - Liquigas-Cannondale
King of the Mountains - Tom Danielson - USA - Garmin-SHARP
Young Rider - Joseph Lloyd Dombrowski - USA - Bontrager-Livestrong
Most Agressive - Francisco Colorado - Colombia - EPM-UNE
Team - Garmin-SHARP

Tommy D picked up 2 of the 12 seconds he was behind today, while Niabli lost another 16 seconds.  George Hincapie burned everything up to help Teejay up Independence Pass and lost over 12 minutes today, which ends his slim hopes.  Otherwise the favorites that still had a chance finished in the main group.  6 riders dropped out today for a total of 14 lost from the race so far.

Tomorrow's stage from Aspen to Beaver Creek includes climbing back over Independence Pass early in the stage before spending most of the day above 9000 feet.  They're also climb Tennessee Pass at over 10,000 feet before a final 2.5 mile climb to finish the stage in Beaver Creek.  The way Garmin, and particularly Tommy D, have been riding I expect another Garmin led breakaway to force BMC to keep working even though they no longer have the leader's jersey.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

UPCC Stage 2 - Montrose to Crested Butte

Image from the BMC team website

Stage 2 out of Montrose saved its surprises for the very end.  As is pretty typical for a stage like this an early break including names like Nibali and Zabriskie got away and the peloton didn't close it down.  Coming into the last 5k the break thought they had it won and started jockeying for position which saw the gap drop from 4+ minutes to 1:40 as they hit the final 3k climb to Mount Crested Butte but that appeared to be enough as BMC's Mathias Frank attacked and got away up the mountain.  After crossing under the 1K banner he was passed by a EPM-UNE rider, only to see that rider passed from out of nowhere (literally, as the cameras were pointed up the road and couldn't see anyone coming) by BMC's Teejay Van Garderen and Garmin's Christian Vander Velde with about 500 meters to go.  Apparently the peloton flew up the mountain and caught the break with less than a kilometer to go.

Stage results:
1st: Teejay Van Garderen - USA - BMC
2nd: Christian Vander Velde - USA - Garmin-SHARP
3rd: Ivan Rovny - Russia - RusVelo

Leader - Teejay Van Garderen - USA - BMC
Sprinter - Tyler Farrar - USA - Garmin-SHARP
King of the Mountains - Tom Danielson - USA - Garmin-SHARP
Young Rider - Joseph Lloyd Dombrowski - USA - Bontrager-Livestrong
Most Agressive - Infantino Abreu Rafael - Colombia - EPM-UNE
Team - Garmin-SHARP

No real change in the long-term chances of any of the big names.  Nibali lost almost two minutes yesterday and lost another 5 today so any last hope he had is probably gone.  otherwise nobody still in it lost significant time and nobody thought to be out of it made up time today.

Tomorrow's stage is the queen stage of the race, taking the riders from Gunnison to Aspen via Cottonwood and Independence Passes.  Both passes are over 12,000 feet, the highest in major pro cycling, and Cottonwood isn't even completely paved.  You can't win the race tomorrow, but you can certainly lose it if you get dropped on one of these climbs.

New Signing - Hendry Thomas

Today the Rapids announced the rumored signing of Honduran midfielder Hendry Thomas. Thomas is 27 years old and has played for Olympia in Honduras and Wigan in the EPL. He spent the last 3 seasons in England getting 55 appearances before falling out of favor with the current coaching staff. Looking at descriptions from Wigan fans Hendry appears to be a player in the same mold as Pablo Mastroeni. I'm sure Bravo and Pareja are bringing him in hoping he can fill the hole at the back of midfield freeing them up from the two d-mid formations they've been using recently. Based on reports and sources it sounds like he's under contract for this year and the team already has him signed to an option for next year.

Also today the Rapids said they have 25 year old American midfielder Anton Peterlin on trial. In 2009 Peterlin was surprisingly signed by Everton from the Ventura County Fusion of the PDL. After a year with the Everton reserves he moved to League One Plymouth Argyle where he got 12 appearances. After they went into administration and were relegated he moved to League One Walsall last season where he made 31 appearances.

Monday, August 20, 2012

UPCC Stage 1 - Durango to Telluride

Image from the Garmin team website

Today's first stage of the UPCC was more intense that expected.  An early break including many of the big names of the race like Tommy D, Nibali, Hincapie. Dave Z, and Peter Stetina forced a very fast pace resulting in the racer eaching the finish line in Telluride a full hour ahead of schedule!  The final riders in the break, Tommy D and Peter Stetina, were caught just 3 miles from the finish leading to a bunch sprint.  The stage was won by Garmin-SHARP's Tyler Farrar resulting in a great day for the local Garmin boys.  Since a large part of the peloton finished in a bunch sprint everyone int he group got the same time and there's no time differences so the jerseys were awarded based on finishing position.

Stage results:
1st: Tyler Farrar - USA - Garmin-SHARP
2nd: Alessandro Bazzana - Italy - Team-Type 1
3rd: Damiano Caruso - Italy - Liquigas-Cannondale

Leader - Tyler Farrar - USA - Garmin-SHARP
Sprinter - Tyler Farrar - USA - Garmin-SHARP (Since Tyler is wearing yellow, this will be worn by the rider in 2nd place in the competition, Alessandro Bazzana - Italy - Team-Type 1)
King of the Mountains - Tom Danielson - USA - Garmin-SHARP
Young Rider - Gavin Mannion - USA - Bontrager-Livestrong
Most Agressive - Peter Stetina - USA - Garmin-SHARP
Team - Optum Pro Cycling

A few top racers have essentially been eliminated from the overall race due to finishing 12 or more minutes behind the field.  Taylor Phinney, Ivan Basso, Cadel Evans, Danny Summerhill, Dave Zabriskie, and Ben Jacques-Maynes are all now racing to support teammates or for things like the King of the Mountains jersey as they're no longer a threat to the overall title.  Defending champion Levi Leipheimer is also in a bit of trouble.  He finished with the group but his team only sent 7 of a possible 8 riders to the race, 1 of which didn't start and 1 of which didn't finish.  So he only has 4 teammates while most of the other top challengers still have all 7 teammates with them.

Tomorrow's stage takes the riders from Montrose to Crested Butte with two King of the Mountains climbs early.  If the group stays together over those early climbs you can expect another bunch sprint in Crested Butte.

Chivas Essentially Eliminate Rapids From Playoff Race

Rapids get lead, Rapids lose lead, Rapids actually draw.  Yeah, an added twist to the last two months, this time we didn't lose the game, just the lead.  Most of the game consisted of the Rapids getting the ball into great situations and then blowing it.  Seriously, the Rapids had 19 attempts on goal, 5 shots on target, 1 goal.  Chivas had 5 attempts on goal, 2 shots on target, 1 goal.

On the Rapids goal it was all Mullan.  After a decent chance was snuffed out by Shalrie Joseph Mullan challenged him for the ball at the top of the box.  Joseph went down pretty easy, had he not he might have gotten a foul call.  instead Mullan popped free with the ball and was in 1 on 1 with the keeper.  He put it far post to give the Rapids the early lead.

The lead held up until the 83rd minute.  The only time Chivas got close before that was a 25+ yard shot in the 70th minute that Pickens saved.  In the 83rd Tristen Bowen got deep down the left side and Freeman was unable to stop the cross.  Pickens dove out but only deflected the ball into the path of Juan Pablo Angel who finished it and allowed Chivas to steal a point.

My key to the game was the defense not giving up a goal on a blunder.  Oops.

Other Observations:
  • The amount of great chances Cummings, Cascio, Casey, and Rivero blew was astounding.  We should have had another 3-4 goals easy.
  • Right now Omar Cummings couldn't find the back of the net with a map and a GPS.  At this point, once Casey is healthy, Omar should probably head to the bench.
  • Freeman could have done better on the Rapids goal, but Pickens has to pounce on that ball.  That's why we have a top goalkeeper.
  • Drew Moor was marking Angel and got beat, but the deflection by Pickens made it a tough situation for him.
  • I like Cascio's drive to the goal but occasionally he needs to pull it back instead of shooting from a poor angle.
  • A number of people on-line are posting about how Pareja/Bravo have ripped apart the MLS Cup team.  In this match 6 of the MLS Cup 2010 starters started.  2 came off the bench, 1 due to injury (Casey), and 1 due to coach's decision (Smith).  2 were injured and out (Pablo, Wallace).  The only healthy starter from the MLS Cup team that didn't play for the Rapids Saturday night was Kimura.  That's not exactly ripping a team apart.  (And 1 of the MLS Cup subs also subbed in, Thompson)
  • I thought there was a slim playoff hope left if we won this game.  We still have 2 games against an awful Portland team, another game against Chivas, and 3 other home games.  If we can't beat Chivas at home though we aren't going to beat them on the road and we may not beat Portland on the road.  We are now looking towards 2013.
Player Of The Game: Brian Mullan.  He's the only consistent field player we have at this point.  He was easily the MVP of this game, even if he hadn't scored.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

USA Pro Cycling Challenge Preview

Last years' UPCC jersey winners

Tomorrow the second USA Pro Cycling Challenge starts in Durango.  A 7-day stage race that will visit Telluride, Montrose, Crested Butte, Gunnison, Aspen, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Colorado Springs, Golden, and Boulder before finishing a week from today with a time trial in downtown Denver.  This is a (hopefully) short preview of the race but, as I mentioned on Thursday, the best info on the race can be found at  During the week the last two hours of every stage will be live on NBC Sports Network at 2pm MDT with a 30 minute pre-show at 1:30pm MDT.  Next weekend the race will be on NBC at Noon MDT with a 30 minute pre-show at 11:30am.

For those readers unfamiliar with professional stage racing there are multiple races going on every day.  The overall race champion is determined by the lowest total time when all 7 stages are combined.  Each day is its own race however, with bonus points (used to determine a rider's value from season-to-season) and prizes at the end for the rider that wins each day.  There are also separate competitions for the best climber (determined by awarding points for the first few riders over the top of designated climbs each non-time trial day), the best sprinter (determined by awarding points at intermediate sprint points in each non-time trial stage and at the finish line each day), best young rider (lowest total time for racers under the age of 23), and most aggressive rider (awarded by media vote after every stage, normally to a rider that attacked often or successfully, or a rider that overcame a particularly bad hardship on the day's stage).  There's also an award for the best team determined by combining a team's best 3 times every day with the lowest team total winning.  The current leaders in each combination are signified by that rider wearing a special colored jersey. Colors tend to be traditional but can change slightly form race to race, for the UPCC:

Leader - Yellow
King of the Mountains - Red/white polka-dot
Sprint - Green
Young Rider - White/Blue
Aggressive - Orange
Team - Rider's bib numbers have a yellow background

So as you can see while the ultimate goal is to have the best overall time, there are many different things going on each day and many different goals in the group of riders (known as the peloton).

The UPCC will have 16 teams of 8 riders each, for a total of 128 riders to start.  All teams are known by their primary sponsor(s) though the actual management of the team is a separate company.  Most teams will have 1, maybe 2, riders who's goal is to win the overall race.  The rest of the riders are their to support their leader and/or to race for one of the other jerseys.  Unlike the Tour de France an other top races where all 18 ProTour teams are required to race the UPCC is a smaller race, one level below the ProTour, which means they invite a variety of teams.  There are 3 levels of teams in this year's UPCC;

Pro Tour - The top teams in the world that race in every major race and usually have multiple quads in multiple races at the same time.  This year's ProTour teams are Omega Pharma-QuickStep (Belgium), BMC (USA), Radio Shack-Nissan-Trek (Luxembourg), Liquigas-Cannondale (Italy), Astana (Kazakhstan), and Boulder-based Garmin-SHARP (USA).

Pro Continental - The second division/AAA of cycling.  These teams are either working on building towards qualifying for Pro Tour status (which is based on the quality of riders on the team and their financial resources) or have found their niche as a good quality team that doesn't have the support to make it to the next level.  The Pro Continental Teams in this year's UPCC are RusVelo (Russia), United Healthcare (USA), Champion System (China), SpiderTech-C10 (Canada), and Team Type 1-Sanofi (USA).

Continental - The third division/AA of cycling.  Teams at this level are smaller organizations that are sometimes tied to a top team to be a development team for them.  Often they have very young riders just getting started in racing.  The Continental Teams in the UPCC are Bissell (USA), Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies (USA), Exergy (USA), EPM-Une (Colombia), and Bontrager-Livestrong (USA).

While the teams are each based out of their home countries they can sign riders from anywhere.  In the case of the Pro Continental and Continental teams their home countries have an affect on which races they get invited to and how their season-long results are calculated.  At the Pro tour level every Pro Tour team is required to race every Pro Tour race so the country is less important for anything other than national pride.

So now that you know who's racing and what's being raced for, who are the big favorites?  Here's a few I expect to be involved for the overall title.

Levi Leipheimer (USA/Omega Pharma-QuickStep) - Last year's defending champion is the obvious place to start.  In recent years Levi has made the 3 American races that include ProTour teams (Tour of California, Tour of Utah, and the UPCC) a focus, having won California in 2007. 08, and 09, Utah in 2010 and 11, and the inaugural UPCC last year.  A collision with a car early this year resulted in a fractured leg and has prevented him from having a good season, but he finished 2nd two weeks ago in Utah and is looking at the UPCC as his chance to get back on top.

Cadel Evans (Australia/BMC) - The 2011 Tour de France winner always has tp be considered.  He did not have as good of a Tour de France this year, being outraced by teammate Teejay Van Garderen (see below) but at Evans level he has to be considered a threat.

Teejay van Garderen (USA/BMC) - The best young rider at this year's Tour de France and the highest finishing American (4th).  He is expected to be the next dominate American stage rider and last year took the yellow jersey in the UPCC for one stage from Leipheimer before losing it back to him in the time trial.  Teejay finished 3rd in this race last year, 17 seconds back.  This year, with the race going through his home of Boulder, he's going to want to win.

George Hincapie (USA/BMC) - Actually probably not a threat to win but this will be the last race in Hincapie's amazing career and because of that you never know what will happen.  More on his career in my earlier post.

Timmy Duggan (USA/Liquigas-Cannondale) - Duggan is the current national road race champion but is a bit of a dark horse in this race having never finished well against a tough field like he'll see in the UPCC.  However boulder is his hometown so he can draw some inspiration from that.

Christian Vande Velde (USA/Garmin-SHARP) - The leader of Boulder-based team Garmin finished 2nd in the race last year, 10 seconds behind Leipheimer.  He'll want to help the team recover from a disastrous Tour de France by representing well on their home turf.

Dave Zabriskie (USA/Garmin-SHARP) - The current national time trial champion, the final day time trial sets up well for him.  with only a couple of short uphill finishes, if he can stay with the pack and conserve the losses on the road he could jump out with a win on the final day to take the yellow jersey.

Other racers to watch: Janez Brajkovic (Slovenia/Astana), Taylor Phinney (USA/BMC), Chris Horner (USA/Radio Shack-Nissan-TREK), Rory Sutherland (Australia/United Healthcare), Ben Jacques-Maynes (USA/Bissell, especially for the King of the Mountains), 'Fast' Freddie Rodriguez (USA/Exergy).

My prediction: Tom 'Tommy D' Danielson (USA/Garmin-SHARP) - The local favorite who went to college in Durango and then based himself out of Boulder for his career.  He currently holds the record for the fastest climb of Flagstaff Mountain, which will serve as the finish of the stage that ends in Boulder.  Dave Zabriskie might be the Garmin leader but I expect that Tommy D will take advantage of the home turf to surprise some people.  I think a Garmin rider in general has to be a heavy favorite to win.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Rapids Try To Get Chivas' Goat

Maybe some roasted goat at the tailgate?

The Under-A-Chivas are in town tomorrow coming off a beat down at the hands of the LA Galaxy.  The Rapids really need to pick up home points to have any playoff chance at all, so this is almost a must-win game.  Game time tomorrow is 7pm, so the tailgate starts at 5.  Those of you unable to make it can find the game on Altitude.

Injury Report:
OUT: MF Pablo Mastroeni (headache symptoms); DF Anthony Wallace (L Achilles tear)
QUESTIONABLE: FW Conor Casey (R hamstring tightness); FW Edu (R foot contusion); MF Kamani Hill (L quad strain); DF Tyrone Marshall (R calf tightness)

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

The injury report got worse this week as Hill was added and Marshall was downgraded.  The plus side is Casey looks like he'll be available, though its probably going to be a game time decision.  Chivas is only down 3 players so they'll be in better shape.  My guess at the starting XI:

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

If Casey;s not healthy we'll probably see Cascio.  If Casey is healthy we might see Cascio in place of Cummings, given some of the rumors out of the FO this week.  I doubt we'd see Cummings benched if Casey's not available.

Key To Look For: Defense, defense, defense.  Chivas couldn't slow LA down so we should be able to score but we can't let Chivas stay in the game by giving them easy goals off of defensive blunders.

Prediction: 2-1 win.  Goals by Larentowicz and Casey.  This, obviously, assumes Casey is playing.  Without him its going to be significantly more difficult to get a win.  I expect that the Rapids can score enough with Casey in the lineup to overcome any defensive lapses.  Without him a draw may be more likely.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

2012 USA Pro Cycling Challenge

The USA Pro Cycling Challenge starts on Monday in Durango. I'll probably have my own preview of the race this weekend, but the place to go for cycling information in Colorado is  Karen is a Denver resident but has traveled the world (along with her newest bike, Basso) to see some of the biggest pro cycling races.  This year she saw Paris-Roubaix and the Tour de France and she'll be following the Pro Cycling Challenge every day as it winds its way through Colorado.  Earlier this week I wrote a post for her on my VIP experience last year in Steamboat Springs.  If you're interested in cycling be sure to check out Pedal Dancer and if you're not, take the time to go see the race next week (if you're in Colorado) or watch the live daily coverage on the NBC Sports Network.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Seventh Verse, Same As The First

Rapids get lead, Rapids lose lead, Rapids lose cool, Rapids lose game, again.  That's pretty much the description of Saturday's game.

My key to the game was keeping things going from last week.  Nope, reverted back to our July form.

Other Observations:
  • Despite me saying this was the same as past games I will say that the defensive breakdowns weren't as bad.  The first Dallas goal somebody should have stepped up on, but it was still a low-percentage shot from outside the box.  The second goal was just a great free kick.  The third (and game-winning) goal however, that was a complete defensive mess.
  • Of course, if our offense could convert int eh first half we could have ended the game even before Dallas scored.
  • Omar Cummings, in particular, had a horrible game.  He had two great chances to score a second goal and completely flubbed them.
  • The first was a wide open goal from 30 yards.  A difficult shot but makeable.  Instead he rushed his shot and didn't even get close.
  • The second found him unmarked less than 10 yards out with Hartman out of position.  A striker can either power it home on the first touch or settle and place the ball.  Omar settled and then tried to power it home, which means he drove it right where Hartman was scrambling back into position for the save.
  • Castrillon got another goal to lead the team.  He's looking better up front but still disappears for long stretches.
  • The real disappointing thing was how the team lost its cool.  Moor got a yellow card that could have easily been a red and Castrillon got baited into a red card.
  • Castrillon deserved his red, sticking a boot into a player's face will draw it every time.  That said, George John is a punk.  He forced the contact and then flopped badly after the fact to get the red card.  He really deserves a post-game fine.
  • Another game where the Rapids played well enough to win for 95% of the game, but couldn't find the final pieces on either end to get the 3 points.
Player Of The Game: Brian Mullan.  Despite only playing a half he was our best player.  I have no idea why he was subbed at half.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Time For A New Streak

Yep, still using this pic :D

The Rapids are in Dallas tomorrow, aka DSG Park South (at least in the playoffs).  Two teams that have fallen greatly since they met almost two years ago in Toronto for MLS Cup.  Dallas is in worse shape than we are though, needing a miracle to even sniff the playoffs while if the Rapids can get hot over the next 5 games, 4 of which are against teams out of the playoffs, they can be back in the picture.  Game time tomorrow is 7pm on Altitude.A

Injury Report:
OUT: MF Pablo Mastroeni (headache symptoms); DF Anthony Wallace (L Achilles tear)
QUESTIONABLE: FW Conor Casey (L hamstring tightness); FW Edu (R foot contusion)
PROBABLE: DF Tyrone Marshall (R calf tightness)

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

Cummings is off the injury report, but Marshall has been added after his injury he picked up in the FSL game.  It doesn't sound like Casey is even as good as questionable right now, so that hurts.  Dallas is missing 5 players to injury and 1 to suspension so they're thinner than we are.  My guess at the starting XI:

Castrillon - Cummings
Larentowicz - Rivero - Nane - Thompson
Zapata - Moor - Wynne - Mullan

The exact formation is hard to post, but I think that's the XI we'll see.  Mullan moved to right back after Marshall's injury last week and reportedly played their some in practice this week so I think we'll see him there this week.  Rivero will probably push up into an attacking mid/withdrawn forward role.

Key To Look For: Now that they've figured out how to win, can they continue to put the pieces together.  While we beat FSL we still saw a lot of similar problems to our losing streak, can we keep getting better int hose areas?.

Prediction: 2-1 win.  Goals by Cummings and Moor.  Drew will get one against his old team which will balance out a boneheaded mistake by the defense.  Omar will get a boost from today's news that he's being called up for the Jamaican Nats next Wednesday and find a game-winner.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Rapids Hire Dir As Asst. Coach

The Rapids hired Dave Dir as assistant and goalkeeper coach today, replacing the outgoing David Kramer who's moving on to "other opportunities". Dir is probably best known as Dallas' first coach, heading the team from 1996-2001.  He then moved into the broadcasting booth and worked as a U.S. U-20 assistant coach from 2002 through last year.  Dir was actually Pareja's coach for the first 4 years Pareja played in Dallas, now Dir is working for Pareja.  Prior to MLS Dir had coached the Colorado Foxes and Regis University, so this brings him back to Colorado.  Kramer was originally hired as part of Claivjo's staff shortly before he left in 2008 and then worked for Smith the whole time Gary was in charge.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Fascinating Happy Hour With Rapids Executives

Tonight I was invited along with other bloggers and press to a happy hour with Rapids President Tim Hinchey, Rapids General Manager Paul Bravo, Rapids Head Coach Oscar Pareja.  Rapids Director of Media Relations David Lindholm organized the event and was also present.  There were 8-10 of us talking with the Rapids leadership trio.  Some of the other blogs and press included the Denver Post,,, and Burgundy Wave.

Most of this is going to be just a random set of impressions and information I got out of the gathering but I wanted to mention how interesting it was to listen to Coach Pareja speak.  I don't know if he's the long-term answer in Colorado yet but he is certainly passionate about his plans.  He talked about his time with the Colombian National Team in the 90's, the fact that parts of the game are "in his blood", and the mentality of players he wants playing for him.  I don't know what the result of his time in Colorado will be, but I'm glad I got the chance to listen to him talk.

Otherwise here's some of the random information and impressions I got out of the evening:

  • Hinchey stated that he's put his stake in the ground, that there will be a shirt sponsor by the beginning of the 2013 season.
  • The shirt sponsorship will probably make the Rapids profitable.  The average sponsorship in the league is 2.5 million a year, and the Rapids lost 2.2 million last year.
  • The shirt sponsorship is not a requirement to sign a DP but it would go a long, long way to making it possible.
  • Bravo's trip to Africa last month turned up two players they're working on getting visas for, a 17-18 year old striker and a 20-21 year old central midfielder.  It was unclear if they're just coming over for trials or the Rapids are actually signing them.
  • It sounds like one of these players was on one of the Olympic teams eliminated before the semis, but Bravo may have been referring to a 3rd player they're pursuing.
  • Pareja's system isn't just his system.  The whole club, from the 8/9/10 year olds up to the first-team, are using the same playing style and system.  This started even before Papi was hired when Bravo first showed up in 2009.
  • The team has had to work hard to make in-roads into the Colorado youth system, but its finally starting to pay off.  They have to do very little recruiting now, the success of the youth teams is starting to drive talent to them.
  • The biggest obstacle right now seems to be inertia.  Players who have played with Rush/Real/Storm teams since they were 6 years old tend to want to stay with their friends and club instead of moving into the Rapids system.
  • OP seemed to be willing to go down with his system.  He's learned about the team and made tweaks, but the foundation of the system won't change.
  • One of the tweaks started with the Swansea game, where he flipped the midfield triangle from one holding mid and two attackers in front of him to two holding mids and one attacker.
  • Mullan playing right back in the second half last week after Nane's injury may not be a one-off thing.  It sounds like he spent some time training there this week.
  • The door is open anywhere in the club for whatever Pablo wants to do.  If he wants to come back and play, coach, announce, get involved on the business side, whatever.
  • All three of them admitted places where they had been wrong this season, and they weren't minor things.
I can't say my perception of where the team is or my opinion of any of the three leaders was changed significantly by spending time with them, but it was interesting to get their take on things.   When push comes to shove though, its still going to come down to results.  The one thing I realized is that this system that the team is using is coming from all the leadership, not just Pareja.  So if the system is the problem just changing Pareja isn't going to be enough, its going to take a complete change of leadership.  If the system is right though, the club's development is going to feed right into it for years.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Rapids Beat FSL, All Is Right With The World

Apparently the problem with the Rapids in July was the fact that it was July.  As soon as we got out of the month we won!  Colorado took advantage of a FSL team that never got their heads in the game and got their first shutout in a month for a 1-0 win.

The first big moment of the game would turn out to be as close as FSL would get to scoring a goal.  Justin Braun headed down a cross and Pickens came up big with the save.  Immediately afterwards Moor got tangled with Saborio in front of the goal and Pickens had to step in to prevent any extra-curricular activities that might result in cards.

In the 38th minute Moor whipped in a cross to Castrillon.  His header attempt deflected right back to Nane at the top of the box.  For the second time in the game Nane had a clear shot and hit the crossbar.  Unlike the first time though, this time the ball deflected into the goal for a 1-0 lead.  It was Nane's first professional goal.  The half ended with Saborio reportedly expressing his displeasure with Class VI and Espindola also reportedly expressing his displeasure with the Pid Army.  To quote Top Gun they were "Communicating.  Keeping up foreign relations."  Always good to get into the opponent's heads like that.

The second half was much like the first.  The Rapids controlled a majority of the play and had some good chances, including Castrillon hitting the post, but couldn't convert.  FSL got the ball into dangerous positions but couldn't get a shot on target.  Their most dangerous attack came in stoppage time but a quick defense (Wynne and Zapata) put a stop to it and the Rapids broke their 6 game losing streak.

There was no key to the game until the Rapids won.  So I guess they'll be a key to the game next week. ;)

Other Observations:
  • .Castrillon was working all night to get a goal but couldn't convert.  He hit the post, had a couple of good headers saved, and had one deflected to Nane that ended up as a goal.  As I suggested a few weeks ago he does seem to be a better fit up front than in the midfield.
  • Cummings showed a few moments of the old Omar.  Unfortunately he hasn't found the scoring touch yet.
  • Rivero appears to be good for the first 60 minutes or so, then he drops off dramatically.  Bringing Hill in for him was a good move.
  • Nane had another solid game until his injury, I'm starting to think he's not a waste of a roster spot. ;)
  • Moving Mullan back to right back when Marshall got injured was an interesting move.  I wonder if we might see a long-term move for Brian?
  • Wells Thompson, aka the Holy Hacker, was used in the perfect spot again, a defensive sub when the Rapids have the lead.
  • The tema just looked like they wanted it more than they had in a while.  I don't know what during the week caused the change, but I'm glad they figured it out.
  • The Rapids avoided being the first team to be swept and go scoreless in the Rocky Mountain Cup, so at least there's that.
Player Of The Game: Matt Pickens & Brian Mullan.  I'm splitting it because they both had good games and they both hit major milestones.  Pickens won his 40th game as Rapid, a new team record.  Mullan played in his 300th MLS game, only the 15th field player in league history to hit that mark (Mastroeni and Marshall have also reached that mark).

Friday, August 3, 2012

Rapids Face Own Battle Of New Orleans

Andrew Jackson and Company take on the British

200 years ago this year the War of 1812 started.  On Christmas Eve 1814 the Treaty of Ghent, ending hostilities, was signed.  Due to the slow pace of communication in the 1800's New Orleans didn't find out about the treaty until after the Americans defended the city from the British on January 8th, 1815.  A battle fought when the war had already finished, with many thinking the British had won.

Tomorrow the Rapids face their own Battle of New Orleans as they meet FSL at home in the final game of the Rocky Mountain Cup, a prize already won for the year by FSL.  So despite the war for the Cup being over there's still one last battle to fight.  Let's hope that, much like Andrew Jackson and the Americans in the Big Easy, the losing team wins the final fight. (In reality the War of 1812 was more like a draw and in the long term the U.S. got most of the things out of the war they were aiming for).

Game time tomorrow is 7pm on Altitude, with the tailgate starting at 5.  With Balboa calling Olympic soccer for NBC Pablo Mastroeni will be doing color on the broadcast.

Injury Report:
OUT: MF Pablo Mastroeni (headache symptoms); DF Anthony Wallace (L Achilles tear)
QUESTIONABLE: FW Conor Casey (L hamstring tightness); FW Edu (R foot contusion)
PROBABLE: FW Omar Cummings (L ankle sprain); Jamie Smith (R ACL tear)

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

No change in the injury or disciplinary report from last week.  FSL is missing 3 players including Olave so they're about as hurt as we are.  My guess at the starting XI:

Casey - Cummings
Rivero - Larentowicz - Nane - Mullan
Wahl - Marshall - Wynne - Moor

At this point you could put all the defenders names in a hat and draw 4 and have as good of a chance of being right as I do.  I really don't know what we'll see.  I don't expect changes elsewhere though.

Key To Look For: This section is on hiatus until we actually win.

Prediction: 1-1 draw, goal by Casey.  This is pure wishful thinking on my part, I have nothing to back it up other than the losing streak has to end sometime, so why not this week at home against a FSL team that travelled to Costa Rica in midweek for CCL play?