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.