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.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Rapids Hope To Dunk Timbers

Timbers try to keep their playoff hopes from getting all wet

4th place versus 5th place in the West tomorrow as the Rapids head to the Rose City to face the Timbers.    A big game for playoff possibilities, the winner will start to think about seeding rather than just making it in.  As an additional bonus its a nationally televised game on the NBC Sports Network.  Game time is listed as 8pm so kickoff will be right around 8:30 after the pre-game show.The Denver watch party is at the British Bulldog.

Injury Report:
OUT: DF Davy Armstrong (R ACL surgery); DF Kory Kindle (sports hernia)
QUESTIONABLE: DF Diego Calderon (R knee surgery)

Disciplinary Report:
SUSPENDED: MF Nathan Sturgis (yellow card accumulation)

FW Charles Eloundou - Still waiting on International Transfer Certificate

Injury reports haven't been updated since last week but I haven't heard of any changes.  Portland is down 4 players and had 4 more players questionable last week.  We may see Buddle not in the starting XI, or playing at all, due to the turf in Portland as well.  My guess on the XI:

Torres will be back in the XI certainly, and I think we see Rivero and Brown as well.  The midfield is a question mark though as without Sturgis we could see LaBrocca or Harris.  

Key To Look For: Diego Valeri.  Portland is a different team when he's allowed to control the game compared to when he's taken out of it.  Keeping him contained will be key.

Prediction: 1-1 draw, goal by Torres.  Torres has to score eventually, right?  I think the Rapids manage to squeeze a point out of this but Portland is a hard place to play, we shouldn't expect more than that.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Deja Vu All Over Again

The Rapids went down on a goal by Dallas' David Ferreria but came back to win 2-1 on a goal from a forward and an own goal.  Wait, why does that sound familiar?  Oh, that's right.  :D

Before the entertaining 2nd half though the fans had to deal with a 50 minute weather delay before the gates even opened and a relatively dull first half that didn't have a single shot on target.  At halftime Dallas inserted Blas Perez and went to work.  The move paid dividends (indirectly) almost immediately by stretching the defense and allowing Ferreria to find a hole between O'Neill and Moor int he 51st minute.  He took a cross from Jair Benitez and slotted ti home for the 1-0 lead.  Then Vicente Sanchez went to work.

In the 59th minute he tracked a poor clearance from Dallas' Mark Watson that fell straight down to him int he box.  With a wide open far post Sanchez volleyed the dropping ball home to level the score.  6 minutes later Sanchez took a pass from Klute, broke George 'Own Goal' John's ankles with a great cut, and crossed it to an onrushing Gabriel Torres.  Just before Torres got there Matt Hedges dove in and poked the ball away...right into his own goal.  2-1 lead for the burgundy boys.

After that there were some iffy moments from our defense.  German Mera entered the game for the final few minutes and the Rapids went to a flat back 5, something they appeared unfamiliar with.  They held firm enough though and got the win.

My key to the game was focus for the players after dealing with the week in Denver and Blas Perez.  Neither team looked particularly focused in the first half but once Perez came in (and later, Brown and Torres for the Rapids), things got interesting.  The Rapids did enough though.

Random Thoughts:
  • Big win this week, especially combined with the other results.  The only other Western team to get a win was Seattle, so the Rapids put a bit of a cushion into their place in the standings.  They're now a point ahead of LA, 2 ahead of Portland, and 5 ahead of Dallas who are in 6th (though all 3 have a game in hand).
  • Interesting that both Perez and Torres started on the bench after their play for Panama.  As the big attacking options for both teams I expected them to start almost no matter what.
  • Sanchez's goal was perfectly lined up with section 108 to see it setup.  The gaping hole at the far post was easy to see, it was just a matter of if Sanchez could hit it right.  Clearly he did.
  • The second goal may have been an own goal, but had Hedges not poked the ball away Torres would have had an easy tap-in.  It would have been a goal either way.
  • Interesting that Rivero can't break the starting lineup now that he's healthy.  We have done well without him, but given that the Rapids reportedly have a million-dollar decision on him at the end of the season it doesn't bode well for keeping him.
  • Buddle was more active in this one again, maybe he's really figuring it out.
  • Wynne had a dangerous slide late that could have been a PK but on replay I think he made a good tackle and didn't commit a foul.  Even if he did it appeared to be just outside the box.
  • Wettest tailgate we've ever had.  Made it hard to enjoy the pig roast but a big kudos to the C38 tailgate team for working through it!
  • At least by announcing the kickoff delay early we were all able to stay at the tailgate and enjoy before heading in.  The lack of the mini-doughnut stand was a bummer though.
  • Now, onto Portland for another big game.
Player of the Match: Vicente Sanchez.  No need to explain this pick.  Right now he's clearly, IMO, been the best mid-season signing in the league.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Rapids Try To Finish Rough Week On High Note

So that's why we're called the Rapids...

Bad week for the area, I hope my local readers are high and dry.  Remember, reach out to your C38 community if you need anything, we're here to help.  As of right now tomorrow's game is proceeding as scheduled, with kickoff against or MLS Cup foes FC Dallas at 7pm.  The C38 tailgate starts at 4 for anyone who needs a break from the stress of this week.  Its a big one as well as its our annual pig roast.  Right now some of the tailgate team are camped out in the tailgate lot at the Dick roasting two whole pigs for tomorrow's tailgate.  Come for some great pork and hopefully great soccer!

Injury Report:
OUT: DF Davy Armstrong (R ACL surgery); DF Kory Kindle (sports hernia)
QUESTIONABLE: DF Diego Calderon (R knee surgery)

Disciplinary Report:
SUSPENDED AFTER ONE YELLOW; DF Shane O'Neill; MF Dillon Powers; MF Nathan Sturgis

FW Charles Eloundou - Still waiting on International Transfer Certificate

That's as close to a full roster as we've had this season.  The only player missing that has played any time is Calderon, who came off IR today.  However Armstrong and Kindle were put on the season ending IR list.  Dallas has 4 players out injured, including former Rapid Ugo Ihemelu.  My guess at our XI:

I know Torres played in both Panamanian World Cup Qualifiers during the break but this might be the most important game left on our schedule, given that we're home and Dallas is just 2 points behind our playoff spot.  I think he starts but Brown could go in his place.  The midfield is a bit of a question mark with two of Sturgis, Harris, LaBrocca, Powers, and Rivero starting.  My bet is the last two but we could see some other combinations.

Key To Look For: Focus and Blas Perez.  Its been a rough week in the Denver area and even if the players have come out OK I'm sure they have family and/or friends affected by the flooding.  Also practices have been shifted and I'm sure daily routines have been disrupted.  Getting focused on this game for 90 minutes might be difficult.  Even if they do, they have to deal with Blas Perez who burned us for 2 goals last time Dallas was at the Dick.

Prediction: 1-1 draw, goal by Torres.  The crazy week and Perez will be enough to keep the Rapids from getting all 3 points, but they'll get a valuable point and as importantly, keep Dallas from getting 2 points.  Torres opens his account with the Rapids as well.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


That is all.

Oh, one more thing.  Gabriel Torres had an absolute goalzo for Panama in tonight's 2-2 draw.  He also had Panama's second goal.
(From SBNation)

Monday, September 9, 2013

Buddle Burns Old Team For 3 Points

A pretty average game of soccer had one big highlight for the Rapids, with Edson Buddle hammering a long shot for the only goal of the match.  Due to an long-running high-school football game we didn't see the first action of the match as LA forced a big save out of Irwin less than 2 minutes into the game.  After that neither team could find their aiming point as there wasn't another shot on target until after the 30th minute.  What a shot it was though, as Irwin barely got just a fingertip to it, but that was just enough to force it into the outside of the crossbar where it spun away from the goal.  Colorado got two shots on target right before the break to end was was a rather dull half outside that LA shot.

The second half didn't start much better, with LA getting the only on target shot before the 75th minute.  Sometimes you only need one good shot though, as Buddle would then prove.  After some great work from Sanchez who stole the ball, got into position, and drew defenders he dropped it back to an on-rushing Edson who one-timed a laser beam into the upper left corner for a 1-0 lead.  Then the LA offense woke up.  Suddenly they were all over the Rapids box, and only some desperate defending and a pair of great saves from Irwin kept LA off the board.  Colorad had one more good chance they didn't convert and they got out of their last trip to SoCal with 3 points.

My key to the game was bouncing back from last week.  It was a little difficult to see at times, but the desire was certainly there and you can't complain about 3 points out of the home of the defending champs.

Random Thoughts:
  • Altitude took some, IMO unnecessary knee-jerk, abuse from Rapids fans on BigSoccer and Facebook.  There was no way they were going to get a high-school football game done in the 2.5 hours they scheduled it before the 30-minute pre-game show, but 3 hours should have been enough.  They just got unlucky that the game went into OT, and in the end they only missed the first 5 minutes of the Rapids match.  Just bad luck.
  • That said, going to a long commercial between the football game and the Rapids game was BS.  That was a screw-up.
  • I've rightfully beat up Buddle for his lack of results this season, so he deserves credit for scoring in each of the last 3 games.  Apparently the pressure of Torres has gotten him involved.
  • If there was an assist of the week award, Sanchez would get it for the work he did to set up Buddle.  Vicente might be the best mid-season signing in MLS so far, and yes, I'm including Dempsey.  (I assume Dempsey will pass him eventually.  So will Torres)
  • The Rapids defense looked really sketchy for the 5-10 minutes after the goal.  That's been our weakness this season and we still haven't completely figured it out.
  • Brown and Rivero were obviously going to be the first two subs, but they needed to happen sooner as you could feel momentum shifting for a few minutes before Pareja made the call.  They could have happened at half IMO.
  • Neither one of those two show up on any statistical leader lists for this game, but the tone of the game changed in our favor when they came in.
  • I think Harris has finally been played out of the starting XI once Torres is back.  He's not on the same level as the rest of the starters and almost gave up a PK early.
  • With other results, next week's Colorado-Dallas game is pretty big for the playoff race.  A win gives us a bit of cushion, a loss makes it very tight.
  • Right now we'll make the playoffs by winning our last 3 home games (Dallas, Seattle, Vancouver).  That would put us at a team record 51 points and a 1.5 pts/game average.  I can't see how that won't be good enough.  Our road games (Portland, San Jose, Vancouver) are places to build up a cushion should we stumble at home and improve our positioning.
Player of the Match: Clint Irwin.  His saves kept us in the game when we needed a goal and kept the lead once we had one.  (Yes, this is the same write-up I used two games ago for Vancouver.  It applied equally well here)

Friday, September 6, 2013

Stars Not Out In LA Tomorrow

Five players missing, including all 4 DPs

The much reduced LA Galaxy will be hosting the Rapids tomorrow night at the Stub Hub Center.  Keane, Donovan, Gonzalez (not that he's doing much), and Penedo have all been called up for their National teams while Torres is gone for the Rapids to play for Panama.  This makes the game very similar to their last meeting that the Rapids won 2-0, but that was in Commerce City.  Game time is 8:30pm and the game is on Altitude.

Injury Report:
OUT: DF Davy Armstrong (R ACL surgery); DF Kory Kindle (sports hernia)
QUESTIONABLE: DF Diego Calderon (R knee surgery)

Disciplinary Report:

FW Charles Eloundou - Still waiting on International Transfer Certificate
FW Gabriel Torres - Panama National Team

Only 5 players missing, 3 who haven't played a minute this year.  Calderon has been gone for a while and Torres has barely been here, so for the most part we're at the full strength we were at for the 8 game undefeated streak.  LA has 2 injured and the 4 on international duty.  My guess at our XI:

There's been talk about Rivero starting over Powers, which I think would be a good move, but my bet is that OP stickes with the constant lineup as much as possible.  Buddle fills in for the missing Torres.

Key To Look For: Bounce back from last week.  We apparently came out of our bye week flat and paid for it.  Can we find that drive again?

Prediction: 1-1 draw, goal by Brown.  Both teams will be trying to work without their stars, but LA has more of them missing.  Colorado gets a valuable point on the road, but not without some tense moments.  Brown ties Dempsey for 2nd on the scoring list for goals by a rookie.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Rapids Give Up Late Goal In KC

Me, shortly before kickoff on Saturday on Diamond Head on Oahu:
So I didn't watch the game.  We lost, 2-1, and apparently didn't look good.  A late goal took a vital point from us after Buddle got another goal off the bench.  That makes this weekend's game against LA important to at least get a draw.  I'm home now and will resume normal coverage.  ;)

One last one, from Disney's Aulani in Ko Olina, Oahu: