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.