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.