Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Pareja Watch Day 2

Well, day 2 of me reporting on it at least.

A couple of fans with well placed sources int he Rapids FO have done some digging and separately both gotten similar stories (though they may be talking to the same people).  The highlights:

  • Pareja was given a contract extension and raise through 2015 around the end of the season (this has been confirmed by other reports outside of fans as well)
  • He is now the highest paid coach in Rapids history
  • He's getting paid more in Colorado than Hyndman ever did in Dallas
  • The Rapids have not given anyone permission to talk to Pareja
  • There has been no conversation between the Rapids and Pareja about him being unhappy, or the Rapids being unhappy about any of his demands
  • Dallas has gone to the press to drive a wedge between Pareja and the Rapids
  • The Rapids are seriously considering filing tampering charges with the league over what Dallas is trying to do
If these sources are accurate it appears that Dallas has gotten desperate and are trying to force bad blood between OP and the Rapids FO, hoping it leads to the Rapids releasing OP or OP going to the FO and telling them he wants to go Dallas.  It probably also appeases their fans a bit to appear their making progress in signing him.

So we've got two contrasting stories, both serving the image each of the team's wants to have out there.  I doubt either one is 100% true, but what happens in the next week will go a long way to determining which one was closer to the truth.  There's a Caribbean combine in Antigua this weekend and the college combine (which the top players from the Caribbean will be invited to) starts a week from Friday.  Presumably this coaching tug-o-war will be played out one way or the other by then.

Of course if the sources above are accurate, the Rapids can quickly end this story by putting out a statement on Thursday similar to the one released in November.  That quashed the rumor fairly well back then.  Or Pareja could make a clear statement about where he wants to be in 2014.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Coaching Change Imminent?

First a bit fo housekeeping.  The Rapids season opener on March 9th in San Jose has been moved to May 15th to help San Jose deal with their CONCACAF Champions League schedule.  Personally I think the Rapids get screwed on both sides of this, losing their opener and accepting the make-up date in the middle of the week between two other games, but its the price you pay in a single-entity league.  The Rapids will now open the season on March 15th in NY.

Now on to the news of the day.  For the last couple of weeks the rumor of Dallas luring Oscar Pareja home to take their head coaching job have been picking up steam.  This subject first came up in early November when the Rapids squashed it pretty forcefully.  Lately though it appeared that Dallas may have come up with a good enough package to interest the Rapids into letting Pareja go, as the rumor has been floating around for 2 weeks or so and the Rapids haven't shot it down.  Also Dallas was reportedly about to name a coach from their final 3 candidates, then this rumor started and they haven't named a coach yet.

Tonight the Dallas Morning News soccer blog has published an article detailing what is reportedly going on.  I'm going to paste the link here but my virus scanner warned me that it was a high risk site.  Maybe it was a false positive or due to a random ad on the site but I don't want my readers going to it unwarned, but here it is(http:/soccerblog.dallasnews.com/2013/12/is-fc-dallas-dan-hunt-about-to-get-his-man.html/).

For those of you who don't want to read it, here are the highlights:

  • While OP was an assistant in Dallas it was no secret that he was being groomed to take over for Hyndman
  • Rumor has it that relations between the Rapids FO and OP went sour after Pareja asked for a raise and extension after Hinchey quashed the initial rumor of OP to Dallas
  • There's a suggestion that when OP left Dallas there was an agreement between Hunt (Dallas' owner) and Hinchey that Dallas would have the option to buyout Pareja's contract if/when they wanted to bring OP back to Dallas
  • The sticking point was, apparently, agreeing on what that buyout cost would be but that has been overcome and Dallas is now talking to OP about a contract offer
  • Colorado could still squash the move, mainly due to having no replacement lined up
  • Dallas could make an announcement this week of either OP or their backup, current interim manager Marco Ferruzzi
So in short, if this article is accurate, Dallas used Colorado as their AAA coaching affiliate and are now calling Pareja up to the big leagues.  Colorado could stop it but it sounds unlikely.  We are 19 days from the SuperDraft and we're not even sure who our coach is going to be.  Oh, and apparently after raving about our coach and saying he's going to stay for 2014, we got annoyed he asked for a contract extension and raise as he enters the last year of his contract.

What is this, the old Rapids FO?  Again, this is all rumor and such, but this sounds a lot like the old Rapids FO.  I thought we had turned a corner away from this level of mismanagement.  How do you even take on Pareja under (again, assuming the report is accurate) a scenario where you're essentially seasoning him for another team in the conference and probably the 2nd biggest rival to your own team?

If Pareja does leave the Rapids better have a coaching plan lined up and ready to roll out ASAP.  Given the report this should not have caught the Rapids FO by surprise.  As soon as Hyndman stepped down the Rapids should have known they'd probably need a new coach and they should have been lining one up.  Promoting Cabrera or having Bravo take over (the two most likely scenarios at this point IMO) don't lead me to believe that they were preparing for a change.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Happy Holidays 2013!

I hope all my readers have an enjoyable holiday season however you celebrate!  Here's to a MLS Cup run and a great World Cup in 2014!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Re-Entry Draft Phase 2 And Off-Season Training

The Rapids passed in today's Phase 2 of the Re-Entry Draft.  Also none of the Rapids trio of Ceus, Mullan, and Smith were picked in the Re-Entry Draft, so they are are all essentially free agents.  I would expect Mullan to come back to the Rapids in some capacity (player, coach, or player/coach) and possibly Smith the same way as well.  Ceus' time in Colorado, and probably MLS for now, is done.

Meanwhile a quartet of young Rapids are in England for some off-season training.  Chris Klute,, Clint Irwin, and Dillon Serna are training with Everton through Sunday, while Shane O'Neill is training with Fulham for a couple of weeks.  None of these are trials or loans, but any player training with another team is always being watched.  I wouldn't expect anything to come out of these trips but it does lay some possible groundwork for future years, especially in O'Neill's case.

The next big date on the off-season calendar is January 16th for the Superdraft in Philly.  Around that time the veterans will also be reporting to Commerce City for preseason physicals and fitness.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Rapids Acquire Marc Burch In Re-Entry Draft Phase 1

In today's Phase 1 of the Re-Entry Draft the Rapids acquired Marc Burch from Seattle.  Burch is a left back that has also played some center back and left wing.  He's 29 and 2014 will be his 9th year in the league, starting with the LA and then Columbus his first season before spending most of his career in DC, then moving to Seattle the last two seasons.  He made $75,000 last season and I would expect his 2014 number to be something similar.  By picking Burch in Phase 1 the Rapids are required to pick up his already agreed-to 2014 option in his contract.

This is a solid depth pick-up for the Rapids.  He can plug into a couple of holes and gives Pareja some flexibility.  If he shows well enough to challenge Klute for a starting spot it would give Oscar the possibility of flipping Klute to right back (he's naturally right-footed) as well.

Brian Mullan, Jamie Smith, and Steward Ceus left their name in the draft but were not selected.  Teams now have  a chance to negotiate with their players before Phase 2 of the draft on Wednesday.  Players picked in that portion of the draft do not have their options exercised, instead the club picking them has to give them a new contract offer ad a bona fide number (so no insulting lowball numbers) in order to retain the player's rights.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Offseason Roster Status Update

Tuesday the Rapids released the full list of the team and their contract status.  Breaking it down:

Already under contract for 2014:
Deshorn Brown
Edson Buddle
Nick LaBrocca
Drew Moor
Shane O'Neill
Matt Pickens
Dillon Serna
Nathan Sturgis
Marvell Wynne

Contract options picked up for 2014:
Tony Cascio
Atiba Harris
Kamani Hill
Clint Irwin
Chris Klute
Dillon Powers
Vicente Sanchez
Gabriel Torres

In negotiations for 2014:
Brenton Griffiths
Kory Kindle
German Mera
Brian Mullan
Danny Mwanga
Martin Rivero
Jamie Smith
Hendry Thomas

Leaving the club:
Diego Calderon
Jaime Castrillon
Steward Ceus

Still to be determined:
Davy Armstrong
Charles Eloundou
Anthony Wallace

So right now we have 17 players under contract for 2014.  We have 8 others in some form of negotiations, though odds are those 8 won't all sign.  So that gives us between 5 and 13 roster spots to work with as we fill out the team.  The big question mark for me is the status of Eloundou, I'm waiting to hear back from the Rapids about him.  The other surprises are the fact that Buddle was under contact for 2014 already and we want to bring back Cascio, Hill, and Mwanga.  I figured that we'd want to dump Buddle and only bring back one of those trio.  I don't know why we're bringing back Harris, but he'll probably be my WTF player again in 2014.

On the unsigned list I think we need to get Rivero or Thomas done, ideally both.  Mera would be nice for depth but not a urgent need.  The rest are all decent depth players, but not players we can't live without.  Smith and/or Mullan might be better to sign as coaches than players.  I'd like their leadership and experience being around but I'm not sure they have much left to help on the field.

By position this gives us 2 keepers (but I'd expect 1 to be traded), 5 defenders, 5 midfielders, and 5 forwards under contract (with those last two being somewhat flexible depending on how you classify guys like Sanchez and Cascio).  Clearly our focus needs to be more defensive than offensive in the near-term.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A Legend Retires

This morning Pablo Mastroeni announced his retirement.  Starting with the Miami Fusion in 1998 he played 16 MLS seasons, almost 12 of them with the Rapids before finishing his career in LA for the last half of 2013.  He holds the Rapids record for starts, appearances, and minutes, as well as being a 3-time team MVP and captain for almost 9 full seasons.

In his time with the Rapids he also earned 63 of his 65 National Team caps (his first 2 were while he was with the Fusion), including playing in the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, the only player to make multiple World Cup appearances for the U.S. while a member of the Rapids (Balboa played in 1 game in 1998).

Alone that would make Pablo a Rapids legend, but the pinnacle of his career in Colorado came in 2010 when he captained the squad to their only MLS Cup victory, being named team MVP for that season.  There has never been a greater player in a Rapids uniform.  The Rapids will honor him at a to-be-named game in the 2014 season.  At minimum he'll be added to the Gallery of Honor alongside Balboa, Bravo, Henderson, and Spencer but he has earned more if he wants it.  A testimonial match would be appropriate/

The Rapids have said in the past that the door is open for however Pablo would want to join the organization after hanging up the boots.  I expect he may take some time off before considering his options so we won't see him much in 2014, but hopefully he'll be part of the club in 2015.

The Rapids also released player updates on the whole roster today ahead of Thursday's Re-Entry Draft.  I'll cover that tomorrow, today's article was saved for Pablo.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Roster Churn Prior To Re-Entry Draft

A ton of roster news in the last couple of days.  Knocking it down 1 by 1.

Not to be harsh, but that's a good move.  Ceus obviously lost something this year.  He was one of the last eight players on the roster from the Cup winning team.  Ceus will be in the Re-Entry Draft on Thursday.
No surprise here, both these guys (another 2 from the Cup winning team) are approaching retirement.  In the Ceus article Bravo said he expects everyone but Ceus to opt out of the Re-Entry Draft, so he mush have some feeling that Mullan and Smith will sign new contracts, leave the league, or retire.  I wouldn't mind keeping them around as coaches but their time to help on the field is basically over.
Sounds like Armstrong is being kept on until he's healthy, then probably let go.  Wallace is wanted back but will probably go somewhere where he can get more playing time, which I can't blame him for.  These are another two of the Cup winning players.  The only 3 with no news this week are Moor, Pickens, and Wynne.
This one surprises me I figured the team might move on from both players.  Particularly Griffiths since he takes an international spot.  The coaches must see enough in practice to keep them on.  The article does say they're being offered their same minimum contracts they had this year.
Makes sense, especially after Calderon was let go.  I can understand not wanting to go through an expensive buyout for Mera and bringing him back on loan.  Smart way to go about it.
Meh, from an age perspective he makes the most sense out of the Cascio/Hill/Mwanga trio, but from a play and cost perspective I like Cascio better.  Still it was a safe bet that at least 1 of those 3 would be back.  Maybe they can get him cheaper.

Next major even is the Re-Entry Draft on Thursday afternoon, though we may hear news about some of these players signing new contracts before that.

Friday, December 6, 2013

World Cup Draw

Well, today's World Cup draw went about as bad as it could have for the U.S.  The worst possible draw for the Yanks from Pots 1 and 4 (based on FIFA ranking) would have been Spain and Portugal, the draw was Germany and Portugal.  Germany was the second worst choice in Pot 1.  To round out the group the Americans got their recent nemesis, Ghana, essentially the 3rd worst choice in a tie with Ecuador from Pot 2.  The U.S. was the highest ranked team in its Pot, leaving a group of the 1st, 1st, 2nd, and 4th top teams from the pots.  Added to that is that the U.S. was drawn into the 4th spot in the group, tying them with Italy for the worst travel schedule in the Cup.

That's the bad news.  The good news is the order of the games and that the travel isn't as bad as it first appears if the USSF makes an important move.  The U.S. starts off facing Ghana in Natal, then takes the long trip into the jungle to face Portugal in Manaus, before finishing the group stage against Germany in Recife.  This is probably the best order we could hope for.  Ghana is a must win game and we get it first while Germany hopefully gets 3 points off Portugal.  Assuming we get the 3 points we need we can fly to Manaus and try to take Ronaldo out of the game and get a draw while Germany probably beats Ghana.  That leaves the U.S. in a spot where the worst case scenario is a loss to Germany while Portugal beats Ghana, with goal differential being the tiebreaker between the Yanks and the Portuguese, and the best case being a Germany squad that's already qualified resting up a bit and the U.S. stealing a point and 2nd place.

Natal and Recife are 175 miles apart, essentially the same as Seattle to Portland.  Manaus to Recife is 1760 miles, about the same as Denver to Boston.  So essentially this travel schedule is the same as a MLS team playing a Sunday game at home, flying to play a road game against the other conference on Friday night, and then playing back at home on the following Wednesday.  A rough schedule but one MLS teams regularly face.  The key for the U.S. is their training base in Brazil.  Currently the U.S. has arranged facilities outside Sao Paolo, which is in the southern part of Brazil, 1300 miles from Recife and almost 1700 miles from Manaus.  Adding that additional travel will hurt the Yanks.  What the USSF should do is find a new training camp on the northeast coast around Natal or Recife.  It should be relatively easy to find another team interested in the Sao Paolo training camp as there are a number of stadiums nearby that other teams are playing at but even if its not it would be wroth paying for two training camps just to cut down on the travel.

Here's a quick recap of the rest of the draw.  Bold are the teams I expect to go through, italics are the teams I want to go through.  Don't hold me to these predictions though, 6 months is a long time and player form could change a lot in that time.  I'll do antoher set of predictions in early June before the Cups starts.

Group A:

Clearly the hosts will get out of this group, and who wouldn't want to see that.  If I have a 2nd team in this competition its Cameroon, but they're not on form right now.  Despite struggling the last year Mexico will get it together and get out of this group, unfortunately.

Group B:

The group starts with a rematch of the 2010 final, but both teams will get out of the group.  I like Chile and they'll probably be favored to get out, but I see an upset here.  I'm tired of Spain.  Australia is going to be road kill.

Group C:
Ivory Coast

Japan could be a spoiler in this group, especially since they'll have good fan support (the largest population of Japanese outside of Japan is in Brazil), but I think the Colombians and the Elephants will take it.  I'm excited to see the Colombians play and I've enjoyed the Ivory Coast's play for a while.

Group D:
Costa Rica

With the exception of Costa Rica this is a tough group.  Being on their home continent Uruguay should win the group and England and Italy will battle it out for 2nd.  I think England under performs again and Italy takes it but I don't particularly care for either team so I'll root for the Ticos in a lost cause.

Group E:

Everyone sees the Swiss as the easy draw, which is probably true.  France and Ecuador seem likely to make it out of the group but I'll root for the dis-respected Swiss and our CONCACAF brethren.

Group F:

Argentina won't break a sweat getting out of the group and will almost have home games being in southern Brazil.  Nigeria will take second against the Bosnian newcomers, despite being an underdog to them, and a weak Iranian team.  Works for me.

Group G:
United States

Ah, the moment of truth.  Clearly Germany should win this group but which team finishes 2nd.  My heart is going with the U.S. but my brain is telling me I'm showing my bias.  I can't root for a second team in this group as the 2nd team will be whatever result will be best for the U.S.

Group H:
South Korea

Belgium and Russia are notably better than the other two teams in the group.  I've got to root for South Korea after 2002 though, and I'll pick Belgium over Russia to root for.  Algeria isn't really going to factor in.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Castrillon Out, Thomas Returning?

Two more pieces of roster news this week.

First, Jaime Castrillon will not be returning to the Rapids in 2014.  Much like Calderon, his injury-limited playing time in 2013 opened the door for Brown to claim a starting spot, and the addition of Torres as a DP and Sanchez has made it obvious who the starting strikers will be.  Apparently Castrillon doesn't necessarily want to go back to Colombia (though there was interest from his former team there last offseason) so there's a chance we could see him land with another MLS team, or possibly even Orlando City in the USL for their final season before joining MLS in 2015.

Secondly, the Rapids want Hendry Thomas back, just not at the number his option was for so they've declined it.  At the right price Thomas would be an important piece to have returning.  Last year Thomas made 200K and I can't see paying him for than that, but if we could get him for 150K-200K that seems reasonable.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Diego Calderon Returns To LDU Quito

Well we have our first roster move of the off-season.  After finishing his season-long loan the Rapids have decided to let Diego Calderon return to LDU Quito in Ecuador.

Calderon started the first 5 games of the season before injuring his knee saving a goal in Salt Lake (and the Rapids won the Rocky Mountain Cup by 1 goal this year) in LA and spending the next few months on Injured Reserve.  By the time he got healthy Shane O'Neill had already made the center back spot alongside Drew Moor his, even pushing Marvell Wynne out to right back, so Calderon wasn't able to break back into the lineup.

While he showed good skills and looked like a solid part of the lineup, there's really no reason for the Rapids to buy him from Quito with the O'Neill-Moor pairing they have now.  If they want a backup for them they're more likely to sign German Mera.

EDIT: My bad, Calderon injured his knee saving a goal in the LA game the game after the first FSL game.  Updated.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

2014 Schedule Released

Better late than never with this post.  Yesterday MLS released the season schedule, the earliest its ever been released.  As expected this is the same home/away splits we played in 2012, and the exact opposite of last year's.  That means long road trips to the Eastern Conference (NY, Toronto, Philly, New England, and DC) and 2 away games in Vancouver, Seattle, Salt Lake, and Dallas.  The Rapids season starts on my birthday for a second year (though last year's start was actually delayed to the day after my birthday due to the blizzard).  This year we start in San Jose followed a week later by a trip to New York before we finally have our home opener on March 22nd against Portland.  We end the season, for the 3rd straight year, in Vancouver after a home finale against Dallas.

In-between the schedule breaks down like this:

  • A 3 week break in June during the World Cup.  We play at Dallas on the 7th then don't have another game until we host Vancouver on the 28th.
  • The only other weekend we have off is Aug. 23rd & 24th, though we do host LA on Wednesday Aug. 20th.
  • Two 3-game-in-8-days streaks.  Sunday June 1st through Saturday June 7th where we play Houston, Chicago, and @Dallas before heading into the World Cup break and Saturday July 26th through Saturday August 2nd where we play Chivas USA, @New England, and our loan home Rocky Mountain Cup match against FSL.  Not the ideal scenario to face our rivals.
  • The other two RMC matches in Salt Lake are Saturday May 17th and Friday September 19th.
  • 5 games on NBC Sports Network and 2 each on UniMas and Univision Deportes.  Presumably Altitude will have all the rest plus English versions of the Spanish-language national games.
  • One streak of 3 straight home games (May 24th through June 4th), otherwise we're never more than back-to-back at home or on the road.
  • This early in the off-season is too soon to figure out which teams are going to be tough and which should be expected wins.  Hard to get past the fact that our final 10 matches are all against Western Conference foes, playing all of them once and LA and Seattle twice.  Regardless of our playoff standing going into that final run we could change it significantly after that 10 game set.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Dillon Powers: 2013 Rookie of the Year

Two posts tonight, we'll get to the schedule release later this evening.  First the good news for our rookies.  Dillon Powers was named Rookie of the Year today, beating out teammate Deshorn Brown.  Powers and Brown finished first and second in each category (club. media, and player voting) putting them far ahead of 3rd placed DeAndre Yedlin of Seattle (though the difference between Brown and Yedlin in player voting was only 1.41%).  Combined the teammates got over 57% of the club votes, over 70% of the media votes, and over 41% of player votes.  Combined they got over 56% of all votes, split 55/45 between them.

I was #TeamDeshorn myself, being only the second rookie in MLS history to get to double-digit goals, but I have no complaints about Dillon winning the award.  He deserved it as much as Brown, and if they could have split it down the middle that would have been best.

Monday, November 18, 2013

News Roundup 11/18/13

A couple of news and notes in the last week.

  • Deshorn Brown started Jamaica's 1-0 loss to Trinidad & Tobago in a friendly on Friday.  They will play T&T again in Port of Spain tomorrow and I expect Brown to get some more time in that game.
  • Deshorn's countryman Brenton Griffiths underwent shoulder surgery on Wednesday.  The surgery will keep him out for about 4 months.  This will take him right up and possibly into the start of the 2014 season, so he'll have a hard time claiming a place on next year's roster after he's healthy.
  • As part of their preseason the Rapids will take part in the Desert Diamond Cup in Tucson, AZ from Feb. 19th - Mar. 1st.  They will play Chicago, FC Tucson, and New England, plus one more game against another one of the 5 teams in the competition (Chivas USA and FSL being the other two) depending on the standings after the first 3 rounds.  This after they play Chivas USA in Las Vegas on Feb. 16th.
And unrelated to the Rapids but of interest to soccer fans (and other niche sports).  If you have a Roku box you can sign up for DishWorld's sports package for $10 a month.  This gets you 5 sports channels; Universal Sports (Olympic sports), Nautical (boating and board water sports), One World Sports (coverage of East Asian sports including most of the East Asian soccer leagues and the Asian Champions League, plus the Chelsea, Arsenal, and Bayern Munich club channels), beIn Sports, and beIn Sports Espanol (English and Spanish coverage of European soccer and motor sports, South American soccer, World Cup Qualifiers, and cycling).  Comcast subscribers in Denver get both beIn channels on most packages but only in SD, while the Roku package is in HD and gives you the other 3 channels.  You also get 13 other non-sports channels for free ranging from Euronews to LUXE TV.

I used the beIn channel yesterday morning to watch the Cameroon-Tunisia World Cup Qualifier live and in HD from Yaounde, Cameroon.  It worked well.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Prediction Review

Let's revisit my pre-season predictions to see how I did.
  • The team will struggle early as players figure out their roles.  With 3 tough road games in the first 4 we'll be lucky to have more than 4 points.  Even after that we've got tough games against Seattle, Houston, and FSL in April.
As expected we did struggle, with only 3 draws in the first 5 games before getting back-to-back wins in April before finishing the month with 10 points in our first 9 games.
  • Due to this tough start we'll be near the playoff positions most of the season but fall out of the running before the final push, much like last year.
I was off on this one.  We were near or in the playoff positions all season, but we managed just enough points to qualify, though our road form dropped off precipitously at the end of the year.
  • We will, however, win the Rocky Mountain Cup back, finally
Nailed this one.  Glad to finally have the trophy back.
  • More than one new-to-MLS player will claim a starting position this year and will be expected to be a starter going into 2014.
I technically missed this one because I underestimated the success of our newcomers.  Irwin, Powers, Sanchez, Brown, Torres, and with a bit of a stretch (since the only played 1-2 games last season) O'Neill and Klute all established themselves as starters.  Calderon appeared to be heading that way before his injury as well.
  • The USOC will be a moderate success, with the team doing well enough to finally host a game before being eliminated by another MLS side.
Swing and a miss.  We flamed out in the USOC as normal, sadly.
  • Buddle doesn't live up to his bidding, but does well enough to continue to start.
At least until Torres showed up as a DP at the end of the season Buddle was clearly the starter, but didn't play well enough to deserve that spot IMO.
  • As mentioned above, Harris will be the WTF signing of 2013.
Maybe its just me, but I still say WTF when I see him in the lineup.
  • Pablo retires at season's end, possibly announcing it before the final home game.
Well today's article on MLSsoccer.com says he wants to play next year, so I guess that's a miss.
  • Despite missing the playoffs Bravo & Pareja will keep their jobs.
Well since they made the playoffs they'll certainly keep their jobs.

I'm calling this 66%, 6 right and 3 (Playoffs, USOC, Pablo) wrong.  A big improvement from 33% in 2012.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Offseason Starts

Two pieces of news out of Commerce City today.
Good move to start the off-season.  Sturgis is the kind of player that every MLS team needs.  A solid capable player that can be plugged into a number of spots at a reasonable salary.  He's nothing flashy but he's one of the basic building blocks of a MLS squad.
  • Reports are the the Rapids refused a team's request to talk to Pareja
Everyone assumes this is Dallas, since the only other team currently looking is Vancouver.  We knew that Dallas was interested but now it seems its official.  The good news is that either Pareja doesn't want to leave or Colorado is going to extract a pound of flesh from Dallas if he does.  I'm leaning towards him not being interested in the FCD job based on comments he's made and the general state of Dallas (not good) but we'll have to see how this plays out.

Monday, November 4, 2013

2013 Roster Review

We're sadly into the offseason, so its time for my annual roster review.  Here I separate players into categories of what I would try to do with them this offseason.  These evaluations attempt to reflect the realities of roster building in MLS, where its not easy to bring in a score of new players every season and you have salary caps to work with.  The good news is that this year there are significantly fewer "well, he's probably no worse than another option we could find" players.

Deshorn Brown - Duh, plus as a Generation Adidas player he doesn't even count against the cap.
Charles Eloundou - Gotta see what he can do.
Clint Irwin - Some may be concerned about a sophomore slump but I want him as the starter.
Chris Klute - Duh
Drew Moor - Not as much of a duh this year, but he is the veteran leader in the backline.
Shane O'Neill - Duh plus a homegrown player so doesn't count against the cap.
Dillon Powers - Duh
Vicente Sanchez - Sign this guy for 2014 now!
Dillon Serna - Homegrown status means he doesn't count against the cap.
Hendry Thomas - Play dropped off late but I still like his presence.
Gabriel Torres - Duh

Brian Mullan - He's given great service to the club but I think his time is up.
Jamie Smith - See Brian Mullan.

Keep IF They Return Healthy:
Diego Calderon - Hard to evaluate on only 3 games but I liked what I saw if he's healthy.

Keep Under Better Contract:
Martin Rivero - The Rapids shouldn't eat up $350K of the cap to make this guy a DP, but if they can extend his loan at $100K cap hit or less he's still got potential.

Keep Unless A Better Option Comes Along:
Nick LaBrocca - He does a lot of things good enough but nothing well.  Good utility player.
German Mera - Flashes of good individual skill but lapses as well.  He can get better though.
Nathan Sturgis - Had a great early season and then faded at the end.  He may have found a comfort spot here.
Anthony Wallace - Serviceable sub off the bench.
Tony Cascio/Kamani Hill/Danny Mwanga - These guys seem interchangeable this year,  Keep one of the three as a backup, my choice would be Cascio.

Trade/Sale Bait:
Jaime Castrillon - There were rumors prior to his injury that a team in Colombia wanted him.  If we could get something for him that would be a solid move.
Matt Pickens - I hate to say it, but Irwin is the future at the GK position and Pickens is too good and too expensive to sit the bench.  Somebody will want him.
Marvell Wynne - The team could find somebody to play RB almost as well for much cheaper, but somebody will want to take a shot on Wynne at CB.
Tony Cascio/Kamani Hill/Danny Mwanga - Whichever two you don't keep shop around for draft picks or an international spot.

Try To Trade But Probably Cut:
Davy Armstrong - Time's up on our first homegrown player.
Edson Buddle - Just go away and give us our cap room back.
Steward Ceus - Time for him to give the NASL a shot.
Brenton Griffiths - We need the international slot.
Atiba Harris - What he does well isn't something this team needs now.

Too Little Play to Evaluate:
Kory Kindle

That leaves the Rapids looking this offseason for a starting RB, a good backup keeper, and depth players, particularly in defense and defensive midfield.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

2013 Player of the Year: Clint Irwin

There were a lot of options for Player of the Year this year, which was a change from 2012 when the choices were Pickens, Pickens, or Pickens.  Looking back at my Player of the Match choices I gave it to 14 different players, 7 players more than once, and 4 players more than twice.  Those final 4 were Irwin, Brown, Sanchez, and Powers.  Out of the group Irwin got my award 9 times which made him the choice but I couldn't argue with any of the 4.

Irwin was a nobody who was a backup in the USL last year and who got a tryout chance with the Rapids in the pre-season and signed as the 3rd keeper replacing Ian Joyce.  After Ceus had a disastrous outing in the season opener in Dallas, allowing a ball to bounce over him for the only goal Pickens returned to the lineup for the next game against Philly before breaking his arm in the 5th minute of the RMC match in Salt Lake.  Enter Clint Irwin, who had taken the backup role from Ceus after the Dallas game.  Once Ceus stepped between the pipes though he never left, starting every league game from that moment on.  He set a MLS record facing a PK in each of his first 4 starts, saving one (against FSL no less) and having a second go off the post.  He tied a team record for shutouts in a season on a team that has had keepers like Marcus Hahnemann, Adin Brown, Joe Cannon, Bouna Coundoul, and Matt Pickens.

A guy who had no MLS experience and no expectations on him put up one of the best goalkeeping seasons in team history.  His career GAA of 1.10 is 5th best in league history and would be the 4th best season GAA a Rapids keeper had, just slightly behind the 1.06 of Hahnemann, 1.07 of Cannon, and 1.08 of Coundoul.  Clearly much more than was ever expected of him.

Thursday, October 31, 2013


Well that sucked. The Rapids of the last 3 games on the road showed up in Seattle last night, with the expected result. They were assisted by a number of mind-numbing mistakes from Oscar Pareja in his lineup and sub choices en route to a 2-0 loss. I'm going to dispense with the normal recap, because there's not much to say, for just some general comments about the game.

My key to the game was was score early, score often. We didn't score at all so that was a failure.

Random Thoughts:
  • In what universe is it a good idea to make a change to your established back line going into the playoffs, especially a one-and-done game on the road?  Mera was completely ineffective and directly responsible for both goals (and could have given up a 3rd on a PK).
  • Meanwhile O'Neill, now on the right, had no positive impact on the game and took away whatever attack we had down the right this season.
  • Powers and Sanchez weren't available so Rivero and Harris started.  Rivero made sense (LaBrocca has added nothing to the attack the last few starts) but he had a minimal impact.  There is no way the Rapids should be buying him this off-season at any level that would make him a DP.  If we can get him on loan cheap again then its worth it,, but I shudder to consider tying up a large percentage of our salary cap in him given how unproven he appears to be.
  • Harris was, as always, useless.  Cascio would have been a better start or, dare I say it, Buddle.
  • Thomas' play has really dropped off in the second half of the season.  Last night he was lucky not to draw a red.
  • The officiating was horrible, but didn't impact the end result.  Yedlin getting away with an elbow to Brown's face was shocking but not surprising given Petrescu's normal level for violent conduct, which involves practically knifing a guy to draw a yellow card.  To turn around and yellow Harris right after that for a tackle that didn't even make contact was ridiculous though.
  • Having spent too much time around refs I can see what Petrescu was thinking not calling the PK on the Rapids, but I wouldn't have objected had it been called.
  • The Dempsey-Irwin collision that drew a yellow on Irwin was probably a fair result, given that Irwin was the last man but with the ball rolling out towards the corner.  The way Petrescu let the Thomas-Yedlin collision go uncalled in the first half though a red would have been incredibly unfair to the Rapids (not to mention against the USSF's ATR on the 4 D's).
  •  I don't think I've seen a keeper make a mental blunder quite like the one Gspurning made to see red.  You could kind of justify only a yellow there for the handling, but to follow it up with a wild swing at Buddle (even if he did go down easy) made red an easy call.
  • Eddie Johnson gesticulating at the official afterwards was real classy.  He's surprised me with his quality of play since he got back to MLS, but his attitude is such that I'm not that disappointed that he was whisked out from under the Rapids at the last minute.
  • Pareja's subs: Sanchez for Rivero - OK, Rivero wasn't that effective but there were better options (Harris) to pull.  Buddle for Brown - Yeah, because down a goal in a must win match is the perfect time to pull the season's leading scorer.  Wynne for Sturgis.  W.T.F.  Now you put Wynne in, instead of from the beginning when he could have helped on D?
  • Of course the bench makeup was equally puzzling.  The non-GK unused subs were Wallace, LaBrocca, and Serna.  No Castrillon, Hill, Cascio, or Mwanga.  So after Buddle and Sanchez there was essentially no offensive help on the bench.  Stupid.
  • Not surprisingly Seattle had as many goals as we had shots on target (2).  That makes 5 shots on target in our last 4 road games combined while being outscored 7-0.  That's the fundamental reason our season is over.
  • A nice insult to injury move by the Rapids social media guys, who changed their Facebook cover photo to a image with "Renew Your 2014 Season tickets" within minutes of the final whistle.  How about letting the body cool first before hitting us up for money?
  • Rooting for a Portland-New England MLS Cup now.  Two fan bases that have been awesome working with the Rapids fan base.  I wouldn't get too upset with another LA win though, only because Pablo would get a second ring.  Same thing for NY and Koz.
  • Over the weekend and into next week I'll be posting my typical player of the year, season review, and offseason lineup decision columns. 
Player of the Match: Vicente Sanchez.  He subbed in played the last 30 minutes with a fractured bone in his shoulder and still had the biggest effect on our offense all night.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Tomorrow Is Win Or Go Home

Curse of the coin-flip?

After a bad weekend the Rapids are forced to play the wild-card game on the road in their worst location, Seattle.  Just to remind everyone, in eight competitive games in Seattle all-time we've lost seven and drawn once (earlier this year) with a -13 goal differential.  The good news is since that coin flip above the Sounders have lost 4 and drawn 1 while being outscored 13-3.  And only a truly awful goal miss from the refs last Sunday night got them that one draw.  So one team that has never played well in the city and another who's been spiraling down in recent games.  Should be fun!  kickoff is 8:30pm Denver time tomorrow and the game will be on Altitude 2 in the Denver area and NBC Sports nationwide.  The watch aprties are at the Armory and British Bulldog in Denver.

Injury Report:
OUT: DF Davy Armstrong (R ACL surgery); DF Kory Kindle (sports hernia)
QUESTIONABLE: MF Dillon Powers (concussion); MF Vicente Sanchez (R shoulder sprain); MF Jamie Smith (R knee)

FW Charles Eloundou - Not eligible until 2014

The injury reports haven't been updated since the weekend, but reports are that Sanchez will be available but Powers is almost certainly out.  On Sunday the Sounders had 3 players out and 3 questionable, I would expect similar numbers tomorrow night.  My guess on our XI:

This assumes Sanchez can start and Powers isn't available.  I'm going out on a bit of a limb when I predict Rivero in the midfield, but I think we've seen that LaBrocca isn't helping the attack.  Everything else is pretty much as you would expect.

Key To Look For: Score early, score multiple times.  The Rapids won't win 1-0 so they'll need more than one goal.  Getting one early to put Seattle on its heels and bring up that doubt that's plagued them the last 5 games started by losing 5-1 to us is the best way to get there.

Prediction: 2-1 win in overtime, goals by Brown and Torres.  This is going to be an tight, ugly game.  Short rest, artificial turf, and two teams that aren't playing great.  In the end the confidence the Rapids have from their earlier game against Seattle will be just enough to get them over the hump.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Rapids Throw Hogged Rock In Vancouver

In curling a hogged rock is a rock that never enters play and is removed from the game for not going far enough.  That sounds a lot like Colorado last night, who never seemed to enter play and were removed from the field on a Camilo hat-trick, losing 3-0.

I could break down the game like I usually do, but Drew Moor covered it for me.  "We almost looked like a team that was just satisfied to be in the playoffs, and that's unacceptable at this point.".  There's really not much more to say about this game, nobody in a Rapids uniform seemed to give a damn.

My key to the game was balancing the desire to get the win without overdoing it if we had to play mid-week.  Well all our starters save the injured Powers and Sanchez played and we didn't get anything close to a win.  Not good.

Random Thoughts:
  • Unfortunately we did get the hoped for result in the LA-Seattle game, a draw, which means this loss threw away a 3 seed.  Instead we're playing in Seattle on Wednesday night in a one game playoff.  Kickoff is 8:30 MDT on Altitude 2 and NBC Sports Network.
  • If we somehow beat Seattle in Seattle we'll play Portland in the conference semi-final round in a home-and-home series.  The first game would be at the Dick Saturday night at 8pm.
  • In our last 3 road games we've been outscored 5-0 and had a total of 4 shots on goal combined (3 last night).  Not good odds for having to go on the road in our first playoff game.
  • The Rapids took a bus from Vancouver to Seattle this afternoon rather than fly home and then back to Seattle.
  • Dillon Serna got his first ever minutes as a professional, subbing into the game for Deshorn Brown in the 77th minute.
  • Brown finishes as the team Golden Boot with 10 goals, most by a rookie since Ralph's MLS record 11 goals in 2003.  He had twice as many as any other Rapid.
  • Chris Klute finishes with the most assists at 7
  • The Rapids finish the regular season with new records in points, wins, and home wins, while tied for their second best season in points/game at 1.5 (2010 was the best at 1.53).
Player of the Match: Clint Irwin.  He at least tried to keep us in the game.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Rapids Go For Clean Sweep Over Canada


Here we are, the end of the regular season.  After going 4 for 4 against Canada so far this season Colorado can guarantee a home playoff game with a win in Vancouver on Sunday night.  Depending on Portland's game on Saturday and the LA-Seattle game kicking off an hour after we do on Sunday the Rapids could finish anywhere from 2nd to 5th but only a win will get them above 4th while a draw will leave them in either 4th or 5th.  Game time on Sunday is 6pm and the game is on Altitude 2.  Centennial 38 will be having one large party at the Celtic Tavern in LoDo.

Injury Report:
OUT: DF Davy Armstrong (R ACL surgery); DF Kory Kindle (sports hernia)
QUESTIONABLE: MF Dillon Powers (concussion); MF Vicente Sanchez (R shoulder sprain); MF Jamie Smith (R knee)

Disciplinary Report:
SUSPENDED AFTER ONE YELLOW; DF Shane O'Neill (Though any suspension would be served in the first game of the 2014 season, not the 2013 playoffs)

FW Charles Eloundou - Not eligible until 2014

Vancouver has Miller injured and Harvey suspended, otherwise they're at full strength but have nothing to play for.  Both Powers and Sanchez traveled to Vancouver, though Powers has not yet completed the league concussion protocols.  This is because the team has decided that if results end up with Seattle in 4th and Colorado in 5th, necessitating a mid-week playoff game in Seattle, the team will stay in the Northwest after the game on Sunday and not fly home.  If the Rapids are the 3rd seed (and not playing mid-week) or are hosting the mid-week game or are playing in LA they'll come home as usual.  Everyone else is available, but the starting lineup will probably be dependant somewhat on what happens in the Portland-Chivas USA game Saturday.  My guess at our XI:

This assumes Portland didn't lose to Chivas USA on Saturday night.  In that scenario the only way the Rapids avoid a mid-week game is to win and have LA-Seattle end in a draw, which I find highly unlikely.  I think Torres, Sanchez, and Powers will be held out to preserve them for the probable mid-week playoff game.  You might see Mera go in place of Moor as well.

Key To Look For: Balance.  We want the win in order to have the playoff game at home, but we don't want to wear ourselves down so much that we're too tired to take advantage of the home field.  Winning without killing ourselves should be our goal.

Prediction: 1-1 draw, goal by Brown.  The draw doesn't guarantee a home playoff game, but Seattle is so screwed up at the moment that they'll finish their game with a loss an hour after we finish, bringing them back to Colorado for the playoff game.  Brown will also tie the rookie record for goals.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Welcome to Colorado Charles Eloundou!

Surprising news from Commerce City, the long-lost Charles Eloundou arrived in Denver this evening.  For those of you who have forgotten, the Rapids won the rights to the Cameroonian forward in a lottery back in January, only to have his rights get tied up by the Cameroonian FA and his club in Cameroon.  Eloundou slipped off the radar after talks to get him to Colorado died down during the summer transfer window.  Out of nowhere the Rapids announced his arrival a few minutes ago.  No word as to what changed to get him here.

The roster freeze date has passed so he won't be eligible to play for the first team until the 2014 season starts.  He has been playing with Coton Sport, his old club, this fall and he's been called up to the Cameroonian National Team in the last year.  He'll start fitness work and acclimation to Denver tomorrow at the Dick.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Playoff Race Status - October 22nd

Now that the Rapids are in the playoffs, the focus switches to playoff seeding.  Going into the final weekend the standings look like this:

4th and 5th place will play a one-game playoff on October 30th or 31st at the home of the 4th seed.  The winner will get the 1st seed in a home-and-home starting at the 4/5 seed winner's home the weekend of November 2nd while the 3 seed will host the 2 seed to start their home-and-home that same weekend.  Colorado could finish anywhere from first to fifth based on their result against Vancouver and everyone else's results.  Going into tomorrow's game here's the best set of results for us:

FSL @ Chivas USA - Chivas, obviously.

San Jose @ Dallas - We don't care as long as San Jose doesn't score 13+ goals.

Chivas USA @ Portland - Chivas again, obviously.

Seattle @ LA - This game is a little tricky depending on our result.  If we beat Vancouver a draw is the best result, as it give us the 3 seed.  If we draw Vancouver then a LA win is best as it gives us the 4 seed with a home game against Seattle in the one-game playoff.  If we lose to Vancouver we're stuck as the 5 seed no matter what, so its a matter of if you'd rather face Seattle in Seattle or LA in LA.  I think Seattle in Seattle is a better option all things consider, so anything other than a Seattle win would be the best result.

Monday, October 21, 2013


With a little help from the galaxy the Rapids got the 3 points and playoff spot they were hoping for out of this weekend.  As predicted it didn't come easy though, with a 3-2 win that wasn't comfortable until the final whistle.

The action started early, with both teams getting good looks at goal in the first 10 minutes or so.  Oddly Vancouver's shot would be their only shot on goal that didn't go in, though it felt like they were closer than that stat makes it seem.  Because of that lack of shots though the Rapids had the early run of play, which meant Manneh's goal in the 32nd minute was a bit of a shock to the home crowd.  Manneh took a pass above the box in space and chipped Irwin from 20 yards out into the upper corner for the lead.  Like we've seen at other times, particularly in the second half of the season, the Rapids got right back into it though.  About 10 minutes later Moor was dragged down in the box trying to get up to head a free kick.  Gabriel Torres stepped up and took the PK (calling Thomas off with his body language), slamming it home in an impossible to stop shot to level the game at the break.

Coming out of the half the Rapids kept the pressure up with almost immediate payoff.  In the 51st minute Deshorn Brown caught up to a Clint Irwin punt on two hops and one-touch lobbed it over the onrushing Vancouver keeper for the lead.  The Whitecaps weren't done yet though, as they would get their shot from the spot.  Former Rapid Jordan Harvey was given a free run into the box where he was tripped by Shane O'Neill.  Camilo finished the job, putting the spot kick away, and leveling the score.  Torres was not going to be denied a potential playoff-clinching win twice in a week though.  Just 2 minutes later Buddle found Torres at the corner of the box with a cross-field pass.  Gaby cut the ball inside to his left foot and unleashed a curling ball to the far post upper corner.  3-2 lead on the type of goal we made him a DP for.  Then it was a matter of hanging on through a couple of Vancouver flurries before finishing the home regular season with a win.

My key to the game was attacking.  We didn't score early but we did score often, and we didn't ease up when we went down.

Random Thoughts:
  • With the win and the draw between LA and San Jose, the only way we miss the playoffs is if we lose next week, San Jose wins, and San Jose outscores us by 13 goals.  Not. going. to. happen.
  • We could finish anywhere from 1st (unlikely) to 5th, but no worse than 4th if we win.
  • My prediction for this game forgot to factor in the ref.  Without the PK's I was dead on, 2-1 with goals by Torres and Brown.
  • Brown now has 10 goals for the season, only the second rookie to ever hit double-digits in league history.  He can tie his countryman Damani Ralph if he gets a goal next week.
  • Because of that I think Brown should be rookie of the year over Powers, but its close.
  • Nice setup pass from Buddle on Torres' game-winning goal.  Good vision.
  • Torres has 3 goals in his last two Rapids games, plus a goal for Panama in that time.  That's why he's a DP.
  • What does it say about Rivero that he's not starting over LaBrocca when Powers is out?  Can we really justify paying a million dollars and making him a DP next year?
  • Moor and O'Neill struggled a bit this week with both goals coming from center-back mistakes.
  • With this win the Rapids set season records for wins (14), home wins(10), and points(51).  They will finish no worse than 4th in pts/game and could be as high as 2nd.
  • Pareja will clearly return next year and he should.  
Player of the Match: Gabriel Torres.  Duh.  He was also named MLS Player of the Week today.  First time this season a Rapid has won that award.

Sunday, October 20, 2013


Unless San Jose plays the most remarkable game of soccer I've ever seen and beats Dallas by 13 goals more than we score next weekend the Rapids are in the playoffs!  We could finish anywhere from 1st to 5th depending on the outcomes of the games next weekend but we're in.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Colorado Goes For 4-0 Over Canada

Colorado's own South Park backs the Rapids

Well its all come down to this, a home-and-home against Vancouver for a spot in the playoffs.  The Rapids can essentially clinch (barring San Jose suddenly scoring double-digit goals over the next two games) with a win and a LA win or draw.  If Colorado, Seattle, and LA all win the Rapids will clinch a playoff spot with no ability to move up from the 5 seed.  Vancouver is still in the running, but will be eliminated with a loss.  Game time tomorrow is 4pm and the game is on Alttiude for the first 30 minutes and Altitude 2 for the full game (948 in HD on Denver Comcast).  Tailgate starts at 1pm for the final regular-season home game with a baked potato bar added to the normal layout.

Injury Report:
OUT: DF Davy Armstrong (R ACL surgery); DF Kory Kindle (sports hernia)
QUESTIONABLE: MF Dillon Powers (concussion); MF Jamie Smith (R knee)

Disciplinary Report:

FW Charles Eloundou - Still waiting on International Transfer Certificate

Powers didn't participate in practice today so I'm assuming he won't be available tomorrow.  Otherwise we're at pretty close to full strength but Dillon is a big loss.  Vancouver has 3 players questionable so they're coming it at close to full strength as well.  My guess at our XI:

Torres and Brown both played with their National Teams on Tuesday but I think it will be all hands on deck for this one.  Anything less than a win puts our playoff hopes in jeopardy.  If for some reason they aren't starting it will probably be Buddle and Harris.

Key To Look For: Attack.  Two out of the last three games we've had a combined 1 shot on goal.  We can't afford that against Vancouver, we have to attack early and often.

Prediction: 2-1 win, goals by Torres and Brown.  Its going to be tight and this won't be an "easy" win like the 2-0 win over Vancouver in August felt like.  In the end though the home field advantage will be enough to get us through.  I also think LA will get a result over San Jose on Sunday, putting us in the playoffs this weekend.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Playoff Race Status - October 17th

Things are getting tight as we run in to the end of the season.  Right now everybody has 2 games left and the standings look like this:

Recent results have pretty much gone against us but we still control our own destiny.  Two wins and we're in no matter what.  Anything less than that will depend on results in other games.  We can clinch as soon as Sunday if results go our way.  Here's what we're rooting for this weekend:

Seattle @ Dallas: Dallas is eliminated so any points they take off of a playoff candidate is a good thing.  A Dallas win would be ideal.

FSL @ Portland: Portland, of course.  Technically a Portland win eliminates us from a chance at the top spot but I don't think we're getting there anyway and anything that hurts FSL is good.

San Jose @ LA: If we win on Saturday we clinch a playoff spot if LA gets any points out of this game.  I think the best result is a draw as it clinches our playoff spot but leaves LA close enough to catch in the final week.  Technically San Jose could catch us after a draw, but they would have to outscore us by 9 in two games, so its all but mathematically clinched.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Rapids Powerless In San Jose

A long end of the work week and a busy weekend kept me from getting to this recap until now.  Sadly its not like I missed much.  Colorado had no attack and very little defense in San Jose Wednesday night.  They had 0 shots on goal and gave opportunity after opportunity to the E-Quakes.  Eventually Wondolowski broke through, heading a corner home int he second half.  Only some brilliant work from Irwin and a pair of kick saves from Moor kept the score 1-0.

My key to the game was the play of the fill-ins.  Harris and Buddle were pretty bad, Rivero was adequate.

Random Thoughts:
  • Combined in the last two road games with Brown and Torres starting on the bench the Rapids have had a whopping 1 shot on goal (in Portland).  At home, with Brown and Torres starting, they scored 4 first half goals and 5 goals total.  No matter how much Brown (90 minutes on Friday for Jamaica) and Torres (2nd half sub on Friday for Panama) play tomorrow night they MUST start on Saturday against Vancouver.  We have no attack without them.
  • Moor's double kick save was the save of the week...for about 2 minutes.  Then Irwin palmed away a sure goal over the bar.  Sadly the ensuing corner kick is when Wondolowski scored.
  • I have no idea what our defense was doing, but San Jose had more open looks at the goal then I've seen in the last 2-3 games combined.
  • Vancouver hammered Seattle Wednesday night, then Seattle lost to Portland yesterday.  Suddenly that 5-1 win doesn't look so impressive.
  • BTW, since I flipped the coin Seattle has been outscored 10-2 in 3 losses.  Coincidence?  ;)
  • The Rapids still control their own destiny.  With a win on Saturday over Vancouver the Whitecaps will be eliminated from the playoff race.  The Rapids can clinch then with a win in Vancouver on the 27th.  They would also clinch with any San Jose loss, and all but mathematically clinch with a San Jose draw.  Anything short of a win Saturday though puts our playoff hopes in extreme jeopardy.
Player of the Match: Clint Irwin.  A defense that allows that many free looks can't have a player of the match, nor can an attack that gets 0 shots on goal.  That leaves Irwin as the logical choice, and he earned it with that save of the week candidate alone.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Coin-Flip Photos

Game recap tonight, hopefully, but I want to get these up so my wife can send out the link to her family.  These are from the coin-flip I got to do at the Rapids last home game.
Showing the coin

That yellow spot above my head is the coin we're all looking at

How did it land?

Seattle's choice

Post-flip picture #1
(L-R: AR Corey Parker, 4th Official Baldomero Toledo, Sounders Captain Mauro Rosales, Jake Nuechterlein, Me, Rapids Captain Drew Moor, CR David Gantar, AR Phil Briere)

Post flip picture #2

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Call Up

Getting harder and harder not to repeat myself on these

The Rapids have a quick turn around as they head out to the Bay Area tomorrow for a final matchup with the Earthquakes.  With a win and a Vancouver loss or draw the Rapids will clinch a playoff berth.  Even without the Vancouver result a win will prevent San Jose from being able to pass Colorado.  A loss puts San Jose within a point of the Rapids.  Game time tomorrow is 8:30pm for the weeknight game and Fleming and 'Celo will have the call on Altitude.  The watch party will be at the British Bulldog.

Injury Report:
OUT: DF Davy Armstrong (R ACL surgery); DF Kory Kindle (sports hernia)' MF Dillon Powers (concussion)
QUESTIONABLE: MF Jamie Smith (R knee)

Disciplinary Report:

FW Deshorn Brown - Jamaican National Team
FW Charles Eloundou - Still waiting on International Transfer Certificate
FW Gabriel Torres - Panamanian National Team

That's a bad set of missing players, but San Jose is equally hurting.  They've got two callups as well along with a suspended starter in Lenhart and 6 players on IR (including former Rapid Mehdi Ballouchy).  My guess at our starting XI:

With the missing players the lineup seems fairly obvious.  The only question mark is if LaBrocca slots in somewhere over a Rivero or Sanchez. 

Key To Look For: The play of the fill-ins.  Buddle and Harris have managed adequately, but  San Jose will be playing for their season tomorrow and they've got nothing to lose.  Buddle and Harris will have to step up.

Prediction: 1-1 draw, goal by Sanchez.  I think the missing players will be enough to make it difficult to get the 3 points in this one.  The draw will be enough to pretty much remove everyone but Vancouver as a threat to a playoff spot, but we'll need the win next week against Vancouver.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Tonight's Word Is Dismantled

Well, I didn't see that coming.  Colorado took Seattle to the woodshed in the first half, scoring almost at will, and spotted themselves a 4-0 lead at half en route to a 5-1 win over the league leaders.  The game started with my coin flip, won by the Sounders unfortunately, but that actually worked in the Rapids favor.  They have been working on a kickoff play all season and Saturday night it worked to perfection, putting Deshorn Brown through on a Torres pas and the rookie slotted it home for the 2nd fasted goal in MLS history, just 13 seconds into the game.

10 minutes later it was time for the Rapids other rookie to get on the board.  Vicente Sanchez saw that the Sounders were slow getting back on a corner kick and called for a ball quickly.  He crossed it in and Powers read what Sanchez was planning and crashed in to head it home for the 2-0 lead.

Brown wasn't done though, taking a pass from Powers, fighting through Yedlin's challenge, and beat Gspurning near post for his second goal of the night and ninth of the season.  Captain Drew Moor got into the act almost by accident in the 41st minute as another corner was knocked towards goal by Hendry Thomas but deflected off Moor and into the goal, giving the scoring credit to Drew.

The second half was a bit calmer, as the Rapids eased off the accelerator, having the game in hand.  After a rousing chorus of "Portland's Better!" from the Terraces Eddie Johnson would get Seattle on the board, taking advantage of a mis-communication in the Rapids defense to get a breakaway.  The Sounders got close a couple of other times but eventually gave up a response as just before the end of the game Gabriel Torres scored his first goal as a Rapid, curling a shot past the far post to finish the rout.

My key to the game was shaking off the rust.  Yeah, that took all of 13 seconds.

Random Thoughts:
  • Awesome tifo from C38 to start the game, and bonus points for featuring Rapidman!
  •  This game could have easily been 8-2.  The Rapids hit the crossbar on two free kicks and Gspurning had to make back-to-back point blank saves.  Irwin equaled Gspurning's saves with a little help from Drew Moor.
  • This is only the 3rd time the Rapids have scored 5 goals in a match.  They beat New England 5-2 at home in 2002 (in what would be Fernando Clavio's last game in charge of the Revs) and NY 5-4 in NY in 2008.
  • Sanchez and Torres showed ball work that we haven't seen in a Rapids kit since Pareja's fellow countryman Carlos Valderrama.  Nothing on the team matched El Pibe's hair though.
  • The forward combo of Sanchez - Torres - Brown is what a lot of fans (including me) have been hoping for for a few games and it paid off in spades with 3 goals and 3 assists.
  • Powers had a great game in midfield, overshadowed by Brown's great game.  Clearly the best draft class we've had maybe ever.
  • The only debate left in the Rookie of the Year competition is which Rapid should get it.  I'm on Team Deshorn now.  DeAndre Yedlin has been a trendy pick for some in the media, but seeing him get worked by fellow-rookie Brown on his way to putting up the 2nd best scoring number ever by a rookie should end any thought that Yedlin could win it.
  • Sanchez was great seeing that Seattle was sleeping on the corner and taking advantage.  He got both his assists off of corner kicks, which is something we've struggled with this season as Rivero's corners are not good.
  • Eddie Johnson told the Terraces to STFU after he scored,, sticking his tongue out at them.  This as the Sounders were still down 3 goals.  Great job by C38 getting into his head, stay classy EJ.  Remember you negotiated with the Rapids just to get back into the league before the Sounders swooped in to trump the Rapids trade offer with Toronto.
  • Torres needed that goal before heading off to play for Panama again.
  • Had a great time doing the coin flip, thanks to the Rapids for the experience!
  • Colorado can clinch a playoff spot with a win over San Jose and a Vancouver loss or draw on Wednesday .
Player of the Match: Deshorn Brown.  His first multi-goal game took him past Clint Dempsey for second on list for goals by a rookie.  He was rewarded with his first callup for the Jamaican National Team for their World Cup Qualifiers against the U.S. and Honduras next week.  He'll miss the San Jose game on Wednesday but he'll have the two games against Vancouver to try to meet or break the rookie goal-scoring record set by fellow Jamaican Damani Ralph at 11 goals.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Rapids Face Dempsey-less Sounders

Important coin flip tomorrow

Colorado begins the final four game run of the season tomorrow with a nationally televised game against my hometown.  The sounders flew into Denver today without designated player Clint Dempsey who is still recovering from a hamstring pull, so that helps the Rapids chances.  Game time tomorrow for the telecast on NBC Sports is scheduled for 8pm, which means kickoff will really be around 8:20 or 8:25.  The tailgate, featuring the annual chili-cookoff, will start at 5pm.

If you don't like the direction the Rapids are playing in the first half then you can blame me.  I won the team's contest to flip the coin for this match so it will be me at midfield before the game.  Hopefully I don't screw it up. ;)

Injury Report:
OUT: DF Davy Armstrong (R ACL surgery); DF Kory Kindle (sports hernia)
QUESTIONABLE: MF Jamie Smith (R knee)

Disciplinary Report:

FW Charles Eloundou - Still waiting on International Transfer Certificate

Yes, Jamie Smith is still on this team, though it doesn't look like he'll be playing tomorrow night.  That said, he probably wasn't going to play if he's healthy. ;)  Other than that everyone who's played this season is available including Diego Calderon.  Seattle has a player out and seven questionable (including Dempsey) so they're hurting.  My guess at our XI:

Torres will hopefully start again but with Pareja who knows.  I'm sure Buddle will start in the middle though that should really be Torres with Brown on the right.  Maybe we see Powers and Rivero but odds are Powers and Sturgis. 

Key To Look For: Shaking off the rust.  Lately after a bye week we've looked pretty bad, we can't afford that this week.

Prediction: 1-1 draw, goal by Torres.  Torres has to score eventually, right?  Seattle is playing well and I expect that to continue, but the home field advantage is enough to get us a vital point in the playoff race.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Playoff Race Status - October 1

A mostly good weekend of results for the Rapids leaves the standings looking like this:
Vancouver's and Dallas' losses really put them behind the 8-ball, but San Jose has jumped up to be the biggest threat with their win.  Still the Rapids have control and the other teams have to hope they (or LA) stumble.  Colorado's magic number to clinch is 9, so that's winning 3 of 4 or having the trio behind us dump an equivalent number of points (9 for San Jose and Vancouver, 8 for Dallas).

Even though we have 3 of our 4 games against Vancouver and San Jose, 2 wins or 2 wins and a draw isn't enough to clinch a playoff spot on our own, no matter what combination of games gets us there.  That said, 2 wins gives nobody room for error.  That would put us at 51 points, with Dallas being eliminated if they don't win every game and Vancouver and San Jose being eliminated with 1 loss or 2 draws.  Given that we can only get to 2 wins by giving one (or both) of those final two teams a loss that puts us in good shape.  LA faces the same dilemma we do, so that's one more team that would need to get results to leave us out of the playoffs.

So this weekend's game against Seattle isn't critical but we can really turn the screws on the rest of the conference with a win.  We can't afford to lose to San Jose next Wednesday if we lose though, so our goal this week needs to be at least 3 points.  2 might do it but I wouldn't want to risk it.  The other games we care about:

Dallas @ FSL: Again, I refuse to root for FSL even if its probably the best result, so go Dallas!

Chivas @ LA: I suppose a Chivas result is too much to hope for here.

Portland @ Vancouver: Vancouver losing is best, but it means there will be almost no chance to catch Portland for 3rd place.  Maybe a draw wouldn't be horrible?

Wednesday the 9th:
Vancouver @ Seattle: Obviously we want a Seattle win.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Playoff Race Status - September 26

As we enter the final month of the season I'll be doing regular updates on the playoff race in the West.  Here we are going into the Rapids bye week:

So right now we are holding onto the last playoff spot, but everyone above us other than FSL has a game in hand so catching them will not be easy.  Below us both Vancouver and Dallas have a game in hand, but with a 4 and 5 point lead respectively over them they can't catch us when they play that game in hand this week.  They can make it very tight though.

The good news is that we still control our own destiny.  Just by winning our two remaining home games we make life very difficult on Vancouver, San Jose, and Dallas.  Vancouver would need 10 points in 5 games to catch us, Dallas would need 11 in 5, and San Jose 10 in 4 (which means anything more than 1 draw and they couldn't do it).  If we leave the door open by not picking up those wins though and it won't take much for us to drop out of the playoffs.

The games that concern us this week and the best results:
FSL @ Vancouver - Vancouver losing points would obviously be best, but short of a FSL win actually clinching a playoff spot for us I refuse to root for them.  Go Vancouver!

LA @ Portland - Its really hard for any result to hurt us as this is the game in hand both teams have on us and any result will keep at least 1 of them within reaching distance of us.  A draw is probably the best as it keeps both teams within 2 points.

Columbus @ Dallas - A Columbus win is obviously best.

New York @ Seattle - I don't believe we'll make up a 5 point gap on Seattle in 4 games, even if we beat them next week.  So best for them to win and get some cushion in their Supporters Shield race so they won't be so desperate when they come to town.

San Jose @ Chivas - I don't think either of these teams are catching us, but San Jose has an outside chance so a Chivas win would be the best result.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Wherefore Art Thou Torres?

The Rapids brought no offense and one defensive lapse and left Portland with a 1-0 loss.  Outside the goal the teams combined for one shot on goal each, so while there was a lot of action in this game if it weren't for the defensive blunder it would have been a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

The big question as the game started was our offensive lineup with Buddle, Harris, Rivero, Powers, and LaBrocca starting while Torres and Brown were on the bench while Sanchez wasn't in the gameday 18.  The latter was easily explained as Sanchez didn't feel right while practicing on the the turf in Portland so he was held out to be safe.  The other two, particularly Torres, were question marks that have not yet been explained.

The lowlight of the game was in the 13th minute as Drew Moor cleared a ball from the back right.  He made a pool clearance putting it right on the head of Portland's Rodney Wallace.  Wallace saw the open space in front of goal that was left by Moor being out of position and headed it right into the path of Valeri, running into that space.  Moor got back and enough in the way to force Valeri into a nice chip over the on-rushing Irwin for the lead.  Shortly after that Valeri put Urruti through into space that was available because Moor was out of position, but Irwin came up with the big save to keep it a one goal game.  Colorado's one shot on goal was late int eh first half and it was an tight angle shot from Harris that Ricketts easily smothered.  The only other piece of excitement was Buddle getting in 1 on 1 and pinging the shot off the post, but he was called offside anyway.

My key to the game was controlling Diego Valeri.  He scored the only goal and set up their only other shot on goal.  Pretty much failed on that one.

Random Thoughts:
  • Why did Torres start on the bench?  It was understandable last week as he had played 180 minutes in Panama's World Cup qualifiers then flown back from Panama, but this week there was no excuse.  The Rapids and KSE didn't go through a long saga to make Torres out first DP for him to be a super-sub.  In a game in which we struggled to find any good offensive chance, seeing our star striker on the bench into the second half has many fans (including me) questioning Pareja's choice.
  • Bad enough that Torres was left on the bench, but its been reported that had it not been for Sanchez' late scratch Rivero would have started on the bench as well.  Hard to understand why the team is strongly considering paying the rumored million-dollar transfer fee from Rosario Central and making him a second DP for a player that can't even crack the starting XI when everyone is healthy.
  • I'm not sure what Pareja thought an attack of Buddle backed up by Harris and LaBrocca was going to do.  Buddle is streaky and has been hot, so I get starting him, but Harris and LaBrocca aren't exactly dangerous players. Start Buddle, but pair him with Torres/Brown/Castrillon (who turned out to be our 3 subs) to give him somebody dangerous to play off of and to relieve the pressure on him.
  • Not surprisingly Harris picked up a card for another hack foul, this time in the first two minutes of the game.
  • Rivero still looks rusty, especially on free kicks.  He said after the game that he still doesn't feel quite 100%.
  • Powers appears to have hit a rookie wall.  He's lost some of the focus he had most of the season.  Maybe giving him a couple of games off and getting Rivero some work would be good to set Powers up for (hopefully) the playoffs.
  • Portland had a break late in the game that allowed Wynne to remind everyone that he's still the fastest man in the league.  He was 12 yards on the attacking half of the field when a bad turnover by Brown started the break, and he was on the midfield stripe, 7-8 yards behind Ryan Johnson, as Johnson received the ball in stride.  By the time Johnson hit the top of the box lining up his 1 on 1 with Irwin, Wynne was able to slide in and tackle the ball away.
  • Thomas bounced back from his sloppy game against Dallas with a solid outing.
  • Irwin misjudged the play on the goal.  Moor takes the lion's share of the blame but if Irwin realizes Moor is going to at least make life difficult for Valeri and stays on his line its a much harder shot for Diego.
  • The Rapids really deserved a point from this one, especially after Torres and Brown came on.  Colorado was controlling the game and pushing hard but could not get a shot on target.
  • The other results didn't hurt us too much.  We took a bit of a hit with the loss, but LA drawing and Dallas losing kept us in control of our playoff chances.  We win our remaining two home games and it would take a amazing effort from Dallas, Vancouver, or San Jose (2.2 pts/game or better over the last 4-5 games) for them to pass us. 
Player of the Match: Shane O'Neill.  He was a beast on the back line and got into some good attacks as well.  Great to see from the 19 year old.