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.