Saturday, March 29, 2014

Rapids-SporKCs Prediction

Still feeling lousy so I'm going to make this short.  Alas I will not be attending the game today, instead watching on Altitude.

Prediction: 1-1 draw, goal by Buddle.  KC is well rested and as the defending champs can't be taken lightly.  We're without Klute, Serna, and apparently Irwin.  I see this as fairly even at altitude so we get a point and Buddle gets on the board.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Iwrin, Klute Signed To New Contracts

I'm feeling pretty bad tonight so my game preview will be delayed until morning (hopefully by then).  I did want to get this good news posted.  Colorado has put that free cap space after Pickens' departure to good use, signing goalkeeper Clint Irwin and defender Chris Klute to new contracts today.  Assuming they're teh standard MLS contract that will keep them with the Rapids through 2017.  Great to see our young stars getting rewarded and the FO taking care of this early.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Is Arsenal Aware Of Their Rapids Partnership?

Today Arsenal FC announced their first trip to the U.S. since MLS started (their last trip was to Miami in 1989).  Its great to see them come over and support their partner club here in Colorado, especially since Stan Kroneke is the primary owner of Arsenal.

Oh wait, they aren't coming over to support their partner MLS club.  They're flying to NY to play a different MLS club, the New York Red Bulls.  Tim Hinchey confirmed on Twitter that they aren't coming to Denver:
won't happen this trip as they are coming in to NY then straight back. Working on the future.
Needless to say, some Rapids fans are seeing this as a bit of a slap to the face by Arsenal.  Apparently an unaffiliated MLS club is more important than their partner club with shared ownership.  Yes, Arsenal club-legend Thierry Henry, who is likely in his final season before retirement, plays for NY and this is probably a way to send him off by his old club.  Its not unreasonable for Rapids fans though to have the expectation that this link between Arsenal and Colorado would result in a game though, considering the amount that it has been built up over the years.

I'm not putting this on the Rapids FO.  I'm sure with the World Cup schedule this summer Arsenal decide to make the quick hop to NY after the WC, play for Henry, and head home.  But its a little ridiculous that KSE couldn't at least make sure they went through the effort of mentioning the Rapids in the announcement and committing to a game in the future.  I think that had they said something like "We want to take this opportunity to honor one of our club legends and time does not allow us to also travel to Denver.  We value our relationship with the Rapids though and we'd like to announce that in the summer of 2015 we are planning to train in Denver and play a friendly against the Rapids" everyone would understand that.

Given Arsenal's track record though (first U.S. trip in 25 years, a manager who has said he doesn't like the idea of preseason tours of the U.S.) this appears to be a quick in and out with another MLS club while completely ignoring their actual partner club, leaving it up to Hinchey to explain the situation to the fans of the Rapids.  The odds of them coming back in the near future seem remote, so Arsenal's only game in the U.S. against a MLS team in their history won't be against the team that shares a partnership or an owner.  Poor form Gunners and poor form KSE.  You could, and should, have done better instead of ignoring your "other" soccer team.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Pickens To Tampa, Rapids Luck Out

Matt Pickens had been claimed by New England on Friday, a day after the Rapids waived him.  Today the Revs sold Pickens to the Tampa Bay Rowdies of the NASL for a reported $150K transfer fee.  According to the Rapids this worked out for us:
The reason it ended up aiding Colorado is that the Rapids will now receive the full salary cap relief for what was owed to Matt Pickens in 2014, which will allow the club more flexibility with the roster.
“We knew that Tampa Bay was interested in Matt, and if he had gone directly from the Rapids to the Rowdies, or even stayed with New England, we would’ve only received partial salary cap relief,” said Bravo. “Once the transfer was completed to Tampa Bay, that meant that we would save the full amount.”
To clarify Bravo's statement, it appears (according to the Rapids FO) that he meant that if he had gone directly from the Rapids to the Rowdies after being waived by the Rapids we would have only gotten partial salary cap relief, we would have gotten full relief had we sold him to Tampa.

Bravo also said:
The end result, according to Rapids VP of Soccer Operations and Technical Director Paul Bravo, was “the best possible outcome for all the parties involved.”
 Which I greatly disagree with.  This was an acceptable solution that the Rapids managed to luck into, but hardly the "best possible outcome".  The best possible outcome would have been for the Rapids to sell Pickens to Tampa directly and pocket the $150K transfer fee (which, under MLS roster rules, becomes allocation money).  Instead the Rapids had Pickens for a year and were unable to move him, resulting them in waiving him and being on the hook for part of his salary cap hit.  The rEvs pick him up for free and within 5 days manage to sell him for $150K.  Mike Burns even suggests that this wasn't the ultimate goal when they claimed him:
Jeff Lemieux ‏@jeff_lemieux 29s
In speaking w/ Burns, pretty clear #NERevs didn't claim Pickens w/ intention of transferring him. Deal was just "too good to turn down."
So in 5 days the Revs claim Pickens to apparently add him to the team but manage to turn around and sell him, something the Rapids couldn't do in a year.  Instead the Rapids resigned themselves to taking a cap hit on Pickens and releasing him for nothing.

Yes, its great that we got out from under his cap hit with this move, but this was hardly the "best possible outcome".  This was the minimum outcome I was hoping for last season when it became apparent that there was no reason to have both Pickens and Irwin on the roster going into this season.  We owe a tip of the hat to New England for freeing up that cap space for whatever moves Bravo is hinting at here:
“This allows us to do a number of things, both in the short and longer terms. We’ll be able to re-sign players that deserve new deals here, and we can also be a little more aggressive in bringing in additional players,” continued Bravo.
The Technical Director stated that he hopes to make other roster announcements in the next week or so, using some of the salary cap space saved in this deal.
Lets hope we're more successful with those moves than New England is with the allocation money they got today.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Colorado Freezes Out Portland, Gets Pablo's First Win

Kudos to the C38 tifo group for their best one yet

In a freezing afternoon snow storm the Rapids used a pair of penalty kicks to get their first win of the season over the visiting Timbers.  For the first 15 minutes the Rapids controlled play, with Brown getting two good looks at goal in the first 5 minutes.  Portland got their legs under themselves though and re-balanced the field, but only managed a single shot on goal in the half.  Other than that it was a lot of back and forth but with little to show for it, though Colorado probably went to the locker room feeling better about themselves (and not just because they got to warm up!).

The second half was more of the same, with the Rapids taking more control as the half went on.  The critical moment of the game came in the 68th minute.  Powers played a through ball for Brown to run onto, beating the defense.  Ricketts came off his line to try to get to the ball, but at the last minute was scared off by the charging Brown and stuck his boot into Deshorn's gut.  Penalty, red card, and Ricketts was carried off on a stretcher after a long time on the field.  Sanchez stepped up to go 2 for 2 on PK's this season and COlorado had a 1-0 lead.

5 minutes after Ricketts' foul (and just about 90 seconds after Sanchez scored the PK) it happened again.  Powers stole the ball in the attacking half, played a ball to Sanchez, and Portland;s backup keeper came out to stop him.  This time Sanchez played the ball to the outside before getting tripped up, so it was only a yellow cared and a PK.  Reversing roles Brown stepped up to take the PK Sanchez earned, and hit a weak one nearly down the center.  Weber saved it, but the rebound came back to a charging Brown who finished it for his first goal of the year and a 2-0 lead.

The game ended by being marred by a pair of yellow cards on Jose Mari.  Then, in stoppage time, Portland got two good looks at goal but Berner came up with the save each time.  My strategic concern was that Portland had shown the ability to come back late, but leaving a 2 goal lead until stoppage time was a bit much for them. ;)

Other Observations:

  • I've been to some cold games at the Dick, but this was up there as one of the worst.  The combination of the wind and wet snow was unpleasant to say the least.
  • Amazing tifo by the C38 tifo crew.
  • Interesting to see Torres start on the bench.  I haven't seen any explanation for it, but I hope its not a regular thing.
  • There were some grumblings from some Portland fans about both penalties, but there was nothing to really complain about.  The first was 100% a penalty every time.  The second was a little harder to see live, but on replay you can tell it was the right call.
  • Jose Mari's second yellow was soft on replay, but from the ref's angle it looked like an elbow to the head.  Up a man in midfield there's no reason for Jose Mari to make that challenge and give the ref an excuse to even the teams.
  • Dillon Powers completely set up both goals with great passing.
  • Burch did well in stepping in for Klute.  Solid and unseen, just like you want from a defensive player.
  • Once again we did well with Buddle on the field, but Buddle didn't do much himself.  That's great for the team but I still wonder if that's enough from the highest paid player on the team.
  • In two games the Rapids have faced a total of 5 shots on goal while putting 13 on frame themselves.  Great early defensive effort.
  • Some fans are concerned that 2 of our 3 goals this season have been PKs, and the 3rd was a rebound from a PK.  If we hadn't had as many good chances as we have I might be concerned, but we're creating chances.  Without the PK Brown would have easily finished his chance.
  • 4 points from our first two games is a great start to the season, given the competition.
Man of the Match: John Berner.  Really tough call on this one.  Powers did the work setting up the PKs and Brown and Sanchez each drew a PK and scored a goal.  I went with Berner though.  Through 2 games, as a rookie, against the two conference winners last season he's given up 1 goal, and that to a world-class player in Thierry Henry.  He deserves some kudos.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Opening Day 2014

A recent birthday gift from my in-laws

Well, home opening day at least.  The Rapids face the Timbers tomorrow at 4pm in Commerce City.  Of course, tomorrow being the 1-year anniversary of the SnowClasico, snow is forecast for tomorrow afternoon after 1pm, with 1-2 inches expected.  Colorado ha confirmed that the game will be played.  The first tailgate of the season starts at 1pm in the normal place, and those who can't make it to the game can watch it on Altitude.

Injury Report:
OUT: D Chris Klute (R hamstring strain); M Brian Mullan (L knee surgery)
QUESTIONABLE: GK Clint Irwin (R quad strain), F Danny Mwanga (sports hernia surgery)

Irwin practiced at almost 100% today and will be a game-time decision.  Serna left today's practice with an injury so his availability is unknown.  Portland has 2 players out and 2 players questionable.  My guess at our starting XI:

With the sloppy conditions tomorrow I'm betting that Pablo won't risk the health of Serna or Irwin.  Otherwise it will be Burch for Klute and the same lineup we saw in NY last week.  Maybe we see Powers pushed back next to Jose Mari and Sanchez moved into the center if Serna starts, but I doubt it.

Strategic Consideration: In the first two week of the season Portland has rescued a home draw with a late goal in each game.  Seeing the game out and keeping Portland from rescuing points late will be key as Portland will think that they're not out of it if they're only down one.

Prediction: 1-1 draw, goal by Brown.  I think the sloppy conditions will make it hard for either team to get a handle on the game and will allow a couple of ugly goals.  Brown had good chances last week, I think he finishes one this week.

Pickens Taken By The Revs In Waiver Draft

Apparently there was MLS interest in Matt Pickens.  In today's waiver draft for his rights New England claimed him.  This isn't helping my feeling that there was a deal to be made with Pickens sometime in the last year but who knows.  There's also some talk that Colorado may be on the hook for some of Pickens salary still, I've got a question into the Rapids about it but I'm not sure they're going to be willing to answer it.  that would be really poor handling if it turns out to be true.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Rapids Waive Pickens

The Rapids announced late today that they've waved Matt Pickens.  After breaking his arm against FSL a year ago last weekend he was never able to reclaim the starting role, and his $190K salary was too much to invest in a backup keeper.  The Rapids tried to trade him up until the end, per the Denver Post last night, but there was, not surprisingly, no takers since the Rapids were obviously desperate.

You have to wonder if the Rapids could have managed this better.  By the time Pickens healed from his injury it was fairly obvious that Irwin had supplanted him and both keepers weren't going to be on the roster this season.  In those 9 months it wasn't possible to make a deal?  We saw a number of keepers move inside MLS this offseason.  Maybe Pickens' salary was too large to get a deal done, but this was pretty much the worst-case scenario to resolving this situation.

Pickens leaves as one of the top two keepers in team history, with his only competition for that title being Joe Cannon.  The team had more success with Pickens, but Cannon might have had better individual performances.  You couldn't go wrong choosing either one of them.  Pickens, of course, was in the nets for the MLS Cup victory and had a huge blind save very late in extra time to preserve the 2-1 score.  The only remaining players from the MLS Cup team are now Moor, Mullan, and Wynne, but of course we've got Pablo as head coach and Smith as an Academy coach.

Colorado now has 4 open roster slots, 2 of which can be filled by internationals.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Roster News

The Denver Post tonight has a couple pieces of roster news:

  • Pickens likely to be traded within MLS for a minimum amount, hopefully by the end of the week.
No surprise at this point.  Its now a buyers market for teams who want a GK because everyone knows the Rapids want to get Matt off the roster before they have to eat all of his salary this year.  Colorado really doesn't have much leverage when negotiating a deal.  Its too bad the team's gotten into this situation, you have to wonder if there was a deal that could have been made during the season last year, but hindsight is 20/20.  Still, giving Pickens away for almost nothing is a poor result given his value.
  • Armstrong is not actually on the roster, he is currently rehabbing with the team.
No surprise here other than getting the concrete answer of his status.  This means the team actually has three open roster spots, plus whatever happens with Pickens.

Bravo says they'll be looking at some trialists (other rumors have them signing Galindo soon) to fill those open spots but they're in no hurry.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Colorado Sneaks Out Of NY With A Point

A solid game with one defensive breakdown and one generous call let to a 1-1 draw in NY on Saturday.  It didn't start out that way though, as for the first 15 minutes the Red Bulls had the Rapids back on their heels.  After getting their feet under them the Rapids started controlling the game.  In the last 30 minutes of the half the Rapids had shots on target from Jose Mari, Nick LaBrocca, Deshorn Brown, and two from Dillon Serna.  Labrocca's was probably the best chance, with a long shot that Robles had to parry away from the upper corner, along with the 4 other saves, to keep the game scoreless at half.

The second half was both more and less eventful.  ;)  Only 3 shots on target the whole half, but 2 of them went in.  First, in the 57th minute, Torres took a bad touch near midfield giving the ball up.  After an initial clearance from Moor Lloyd Sam found an unmarked Thierry Henry in the 6 who headed the ball through a diving Berner's legs for the lead.  15 minutes later Vicente Sanchez played a ball into the box that Chavez tried to corral only to collide with Olave.  The referee decided to call the penalty and Sanchez finished it to level the score.  The only other shot on target was a late attempt from Henry that Berner saved, not that those of us watching on Altitude saw it.

I thought that the Rapids would need to take advantage of NY's weakness down the middle, and largely they were forced that way due to the weak offensive support they got from their wingers.  With the exception of Serna they really got nothing offensively out of Torres, Klute, and O'Neill.  That's something that will need to improve quickly.

Other Observations:

  • Berner did very well for being a rookie.  He's not going to take the starting job from Irwin, but knowing he's out third keeper (and thus, Nasco would presumably be better) makes me feel better about our goalkeeping options.
  • Wynne and O'Neill flubbed the NY goal.  Both moved to cover Cahill, leaving Henry unmarked.  Not the guy you want unmarked inside the 6!  Even though Henry nutmegged Berner on the header you can't blame the keeper in that situation.
  • Of course the whole sequence started with Torres giving up the ball then giving up on supporting the play.  Combined with the pretty invisible presence on offence it was not the performance you want from your DP.
  • Jose Mari was solid and quiet, pretty much exactly what you want from your defensive mid.
  • Powers appeared a little rusty and/or excited to have the season started.  He needed to take a second from time to time and make the solid pass, not play quite so hectic.
  • Deshorn Brown needs to remember he has teammates.  There were at least tow incidents where Brown got the ball, put his head down, and steamrolled to goal where if he had just looked up he would have seen an open teammate with a better shot.
  • Sanchez calmed things down and took control when he came in.  He should start next week.
  • The PK was incredibly weak.  There was contact but not enough to be worthy of a penalty call, and Chavez's embellishment was embarrassing.
  • Got to love this tweet from Powers after the game, great attitude from Pablo:

After they added 6 mins of stoppage Pablo says "Fine-why don't you just add 7 or 8 or 9. We want to win this game" Love that mentality.

Man of the Match: Dillon Serna.  With a 19-year old getting his first professional start you're just happy if he doesn't cause any major blunders.  Instead he was the best player on the pitch for Colorado at least until Sanchez entered the game (and Sanchez was a close runner-up for MOTM).  I questioned that he had earned a starting spot yet, but he proved me wrong int he first half.  I expect to see him get his first start in front of his home fans on Saturday.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Altitude Continues To Be An Embarrassment

The Rapids game just ended, a 1-1 draw.  Game recap coming by Monday.  Unfortunately Rapids fans didn't get to see the tense final minute as right at 4pm the feed was dropped, even for Richard and 'Celo in the studio.  We missed a chance by Henry saved by our rookie keeper and a tight chance by Sanchez to win the game.  The feed continued for people watching the game in NY so it wasn't a failure at the source, I don't know if the MLS Live or Univision Deportes feeds continued or not.

EDIT: MLS Live dropped, but illegal streams did not.  If MLS Live was just taking Altitude's feed (don't know if they were or not) though that might explain it.

Maybe its just a coincidence that Altitude had another show scheduled at 4, but I wouldn't be shocked if somebody at Altitude just assumed the game was over and shut down the feed without checking.  Even if it was a technical difficulty and not human error this is hardly the first time Altitude has screwed up a Rapid game.  Its embarrassing that it keeps happening.  Last year the Rapids really went out of their way to work on these issues, hiring Fleming because they were unhappy with who Altitude was using and publicly apologizing for Altitude's screw-ups (remember the "ASS" goal last season?).  Hopefully the Rapids can continue to put pressure on Altitude to solve these problems.

Friday, March 14, 2014

And So It Begins...

The Pablo Mastroeni era (as coach) officially begins tomorrow as the Rapids finally get the season started.  Colorado is in New York to face Thierry Henry and the Red Bulls.  Game time tomorrow is 2pm and the game will be broadcast on Altitude with Richard Fleming and Marcelo Balboa on the mics again this year.  The game will also be broadcast on Univision Deportes.

Injury Report:
OUT: Brian Mullan (L knee surgery)
QUESTIONABLE: Clint Irwin (R quad strain), Danny Mwanga (sports hernia surgery)

New York has 5 players questionable but everyone is available for them unlike last week.  You never want to see your starting GK on the injury list, Pablo says it will probably be a game-time decision for Irwin while I don't expect Mwanga to factor in the game.  Of course I wouldn't expect him tom factor into the game if he was healthy.  If Irwin can't go, rookie John Berner would get the start as Joe Nasco has been absent due to the birth of his first child.  Congrats!

My guess at our starting XI, and it really is a guess.  The first game of the season is hard enough to figure out even when you don't have a new coach:

Powers is not on the injury report, but he's not at full fitness due to his preseason injury concerns.  I still think he'll get the start but I wouldn't be shocked to see Sanchez start in his place or sub in for him.  We could also see Powers start instead of Sturgis and Sanchez in the middle in front of him.

Strategic Consideration: Last week Vancouver shredded New York 4-1 by working it right through the center of their defense.  The wings didn't factor in much at all, because they didn't need to.  To be fair to New York both Henry and Olave weren't available last week and they will be there tomorrow, but the Rapids should try to exploit that central weakness by having Buddle and Powers/Sanchez control the ball through the middle to spring Torres and Brown.

Prediction: 2-1 loss, goal by Brown.  The Rapids never play well on the road early in the season and NY will be looking for some revenge after that embarrassing display in B.C. last week.  Their home opener while celebrating with the Supporters Shield is a big hill for Pablo's first game in charge and I think its too steep for this team.  Brown is on fire right now and will get a goal, but it won't be enough.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

2014 Season Preview: Predictions

OK, time to offer my predictions for 2014.  I did pretty well at these last year (6 of 9) but whiffed badly in 2012 (2 of 6).  Lets see if I can keep going in the same direction.

  • In Pablo's first year he struggles but does well enough at coaching to keep the fans on his side.
  • That said, we still miss the playoffs and its not in the final game of the season.
  • We also due to the home/away imbalance, lose the Rocky Mountain Cup.
  • That said, we have a coach who I think actually understands there's some value in the USOC and we finally make a decent run and host a game (hey, I've got to be right one of these years).
  • The Rapids will need to go shopping for either a target striker or right back by mid-season.
  • Brown will out perform Powers in their sophomore seasons but neither one will have anything looking like a slump.
  • Torres will win the team's Golden Boot.
  • Mwanga inherits the title of WTF (re-)signing of the season, though it won't be nearly as obvious as the last few years (Harris, Edu, etc.).
  • VDC will show he should be starting by the end of the season but there may not be room (depending on injury).
  • Sanchez continues to wow us as the best veteran outside-MLS signing this team has made in YEARS.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

2014 Season Preview: Roster Makeup

Let's take a look at the roster as we enter the season.

There's a clear #1 right now with Clint Irwin between the pipes.  It appears that Joe Nasco will be the backup while John Berner will be the emergency keeper.  The concern of course is that combined they have less than 1 year of MLS experience.  That didn't seem to hurt Irwin last season so you would hope he's settled in at this point and if he gets injured that Nasco can step in like Clint did last season.

The big question mark is Matt Pickens.  As of now he seems to still be on the roster but there's been no sign of him since his Scandinavian trial ended.  That's a lot of salary to tie up in a player not even with the team.  If he does return he would presumably move past Nasco as the backup and challenge Irwin for the starting spot.

The same back 4 are back this year, though apparently in a shuffled order.  It looks like O'Neill will start the season at right back while Wynne moves back to the center.  Moor and Klute will continue in their normal spots at center and left respectively.  After that things get murky.  There are a number of options but none of them stand out as pushing the starters for time.  Armstrong, Burch, Griffiths, VDC, and maybe even Mullan can all manage spot work but I don't feel confident in looking to them to fill in long-term.

Right back seems particularly questionable.  O'Neill might be good.  Wynne might be able to move back there.  Bursch might be able to fill in.  There doesn't seem to be a great fit on the roster though.  We can duct-tape our way through another season but we should really look at finding a true right back.

Unlike defense we have a number of options in the center of the park.  It starts with last year's Rookie of the Year Dillon Powers, who is hopefully completely recovered from his concussion symptoms.  The newcomer is Spaniard Jose Mari who will try to fill in the whole left by Thomas' departure.  It appears that Pablo will want to play with 2 central/defensive midfielders so that might be Mari and Powers, or we might see Sturgis or LaBrocca paired with Jose Mari while Powers pushes forward.  Our first draft pick, Marion Hairston, is a bit of a work in progress but can also fit into that slot.  Jared Watts isn't likey to see playing time but could do in a pinch.

In front of that duo we'll have a 3-man line.  Powers would be a fit in the center if he doesn't team with Jose Mari.  If not Powers, Sanchez is the obvious choice.  In fact the real challenge for Mastroeni will be figuring out a lineup that gets both Powers and Sanchez on the field as much as possible.  On the wings there's a wealth of options.  The most likely duo will be last year's team Golden Boot Deshorn Brown and our DP Gabriel Torres.  We could also see Marvin Chavez, Sanchez out wide, Dillon Serna, or Charles Eloundou.

It appears early on that Pablo will play a target striker in front of the 3-man attacking line, which is obviously Edson Buddle.  As the only real target striker on the roster he'll be expected to hold up the ball and distribute.  The other possible lone striker would be Gabriel Torres.  After that the shelf gets kind of bare.  You wouldn't expect Hill or Mwanga to be able to handle the role on their own.  After right back, this is the area that needs help.

So at this point we've got 28 players signed and 6 out of 8 internationals.  That leaves up 2 spots to fill in as necessary and either or both could be international players.  Samuel Galindo is likely to fill one of those holes.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Questions As We Start The Season

Opening week (at least for the Rapids)!  I'll have a couple (2 or 3 including this one) of season preview-type posts this week before the game preview on Friday, assuming there isn't larger news to cover.  For this one I want to cover some of the bigger questions the club has going into the season.

1. For the 3rd time in 6 years the team will have a coach in his first season.  How will Pablo do?
  • I think we have to accept that, yet again, we're going to see a learning curve with our coaching staff.  There are some things that Mastroeni just isn't going to figure out until they happen in a game.  The key will be not to out-think himself.  Getting tricky with lineups and subs is a good example.  We can all point to games under Gary Smith and Oscar Pareja where its obvious the coach over thought things.
2. What are we doing with Matt Pickens?
  • We're not going to keep 4 goalkeepers on the roster.  Irwin is clearly the starter and Nasco and Berner were just signed.  So there's really not a spot for Pickens.  Unfortunately everyone else knows that, which puts the Rapids at a disadvantage when trying to trade or sell him.  What's the plan?
3. Who's playing right back, and where's the depth?
  • Last year right back was a combination of Wynne, Mullan, and stop gap measures.  This year early on it appears to be Wynne, O'Neill and stop gap measures.  I'm not sure Wynne is the answer, and I know O'Neill is better at CB, where he was playing during his Nats callup.  Will the Rapids need to make a move for a true right back at some point this season?
4. Can we get Sanchez and Powers on the field together?
  • In preseason both of these guys seemed to be the midfield general when they played, and both played well.  Assuming they stay healthy, is there a successful way to have both of them on the field?
5. How fit is Buddle?
  • Last year Buddle, due to his knee injury (generously) or lack of discipline (not generously), took almost half the season to get fit and his play (and Rapids results) suffered for it.  Reports from preseason are that he looks much better than this time last season, so is he really ready to go?  As the only real target striker on the roster we're going to need him at 100% from the start.
6. Will Gaby Torres live up to his DP status?
  • Making only 7 appearances last season really didn't let Torres get into the groove with the team.  Even so he put up 3 goals and an assist.  As the DP though, he's going to be expected to be the scoring engine for the team, can he do it?
There are plenty of other questions (less than 1 full MLS season combined at GK, was Eloundou worth the wait, Samuel Galindo) but these seem like the big ones. 

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Head Coach Pablo Mastroeni

Image by Cindy Schutz

About 12:30 today the Rapids made it official.  At the Centennial 38 season kickoff party they asked Pablo Mastroeni to sign his contract (above) as the next head coach of the Colorado Rapids.  Our long Colorado nightmare is over, the Rapids have a head coach.

Clearly the best decision the team could have made at this point.  A week out you couldn't select anyone else and I'm glad they got the job done.  Hat tip to the Front Office for having him sign the contract at the supporters party, that's a nice touch (and the title of the press release even mentions it).  If you're in a position where you're naming a head coach a week before the season starts, that's the way to do it.

Now everyone should be giving their full support to Pablo.  He's a club legend, the best to ever wear the jersey, and he deserves our full support.  We may not be happy with how we got here (I'm not) but that's now in the past.  If things go bad we'll deal with how we got there when we cross that bridge.  The future is Pablo Mastroeni, hopefully that's all the team needs.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

New Jersey Unveiled

Colorado unveiled their new jersey today and it matches the leaked version from a week or so ago.  They'll have a live showing it at the 'Cheers to the Rapids' event on March 19th.

Good solid jersey this year, though I'm still not thrilled with the color change on the stripes.  I'll probably pass on a new kit this season as I bought last year's but if I hadn't I wouldn't object to buying this one.  Unlike the blue flag kit which hasn't improved with time.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Rapids Sign One, Cut Two, Keep One?

A number of player announcements today.  The big one is that, as expected, Jose Mari was officially signed today.  Mari has returned to Spain to work out his paperwork for his permanent move to Colorado and is expected to rejoin the team later this week.  He'll be eligible to play once his visa and ITC come through.

Today the Rapids also announced that trialist Juan Guzman and draftee Albert Edward have been released from camp.  This leaves Arsenal youth player Samuel Galindo as the only unsigned player in camp.

Thanks for this one go to regular reader and frequent commenter Jester who noticed that Michael Stephens just signed with Stabaek, filling their last international spot.  That means that Matt Pickens won't be moving there, so presumably he'll be returning to Colorado and the Rapids will have to figure out what Plan B with him is.

One last non-player note.  C38 has announced that Pablo Mastroeni will be the special guest for Saturday's season kickoff party at the Celtic.  They have also said the Rapids will have a big announcement at the party, with the leading fan theory being the official announcement as Pablo as head coach.  We'll see what happens.

So now that preseason is wrapping up, here's our roster.  We've got 29 players signed against a cap of 30 and 6 of our 8 international spots filled.  We've got probably 1 too many goalkeepers, so you have to assume something is going to be done with Pickens, and probably too many attackers, though a number of them can drop into midfield.  The big depth issues are at right back (Wynne and then...?) and target forward (Buddle and then...?).

John Berner
Clint Irwin
Joe Nasco
Matt Pickens - On "Excused Absence"

Davy Armstrong - Homegrown Player - Will start season on IR(knee)
Mark Burch
Brenton Griffiths - International
Chris Klute
Drew Moor
Brian Mullan
Shane O'Neill - Homegrown Player
Grant Van De Casteele
Marvell Wynne

Samuel Galindo - Unsigned trialistInternational
Marion Hariston - Generation Adidas
Nick LaBrocca
Jose Mari - International
Dillon Powers
Dillon Serna - Homegrown Player
Nathan Sturgis
Jared Watts

Deshorn Brown - Generation AdidasInternational
Edson Buddle
Martin Chavez
Charles Eloundou - International
Kamani Hill
Danny Mwanga
Vicente Sanchez - International
Gabriel Torres - Designated PlayerInternational

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Preseason Playing Time Analysis

I've added up the playing time in preseason for everyone who played for the Rapids.  Its a bit like trying to read tea leaves, but here are some interesting conclusions.

  • Removing injured players, cut players, and goalkeepers, the player with the least playing time was Marc Burch at 185 minutes, followed by Edson Buddle at 190.
  • Mari was the only other field player still with the team under 250 minutes, probably due to his late arrival into camp.
  • Berner got about 20 minutes more time than Nasco, but that was probably affected by Nasco's return home for a family issue.  I expect Nasco to be Irwin's backup to start the season.
  • The 4 remaining trialists:
    • Mari - 215 minutes
    • Galindo - 265 minutes
    • Edward - 340 minutes
    • Guzman - 340 minutes
  • The player with the most playing time was Serna at 425 minutes, 30 minutes more than Klute in 2nd place.
  • After Klute were Moor and Wynne, so safe to say 3 of the back 4 have been decided.
  • If we were to pick a starting XI based just on playing time, using the 4-2-3-1, it would look something like this:

Edward(?) - Moor - Wynne - Klute
Sturgis - LaBrocca
Chavez - Sanchez - Torres
  • About 330 minutes went to players who didn't make the team (Ayarna, Kindle, Ibikunle)
  • Guzman and Edward tied Hill for 7th most minutes, the most by any players who might be new to the Rapids in 2014.

Rapids End Desert Diamond Cup With Draw

In a windy, rainy, ugly game in Tucson yesterday Colorado finished their preseason slate with a 2-2 draw against New England.  The starting XI:

Sturgis - Moor - Wynne - Klute
Mari - LaBrocca
Serna - Powers - Hill

After an early goal from the Revs the Rapids tied it up in the 25th minute after Serna capitalized on a defensive miscue.  His driving shot was blocked but the rebound fell to Buddle who finished the opportunity.  The weather kept things interesting but the teams went into the break deadlocked.  Sanchez took over for Powers in the middle of the field, in the 50th minute O'Neill got his first preseason work subbing in for Sturgis, and in the 56th minute Torres took over for Buddle.  A minute later, in the rain and wind, Irwin either spilled or just got beaten to a shot and New England cleaned up the mess to retake the lead.  In the 72nd minute the Rapids made a full lineup change of the remaining field starters, leaving them looking like this:

Watts - VDC - O'Neill - Edward
Guzman - Hairston
Chavez - Sanchez - Eloundou

Berner subbed in for Irwin in the 81st.  In the 82nd the Rapids beat the Revs and the elements for a 2nd goal.  Torres got through on a breakaway but the Revs backup GK couldn't hold the shot and Sanchez cleaned it up for the draw.  To top off the game Chavez and the Revs' Imbongo both saw red for a scuffle 5 minutes before the end.

The Rapids returned to Colorado today and will be preparing for their season opener in NY on March 15th.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Not To Sound "Ridiculous" But...

We are now inside of 14 days until the opening kickoff of the season and we still have no head coach.  This can't be considered normal or a logical strategy.  I know the FO is focused on finding the right fit who will stay in Colorado a long time, but how much of the current team are they willing to sacrifice for that future?  There's really 4 scenarios I see.

  1. Pablo is the guy and its already settled.  If so, why hasn't it been announced yet?  I can't think of any benefit to locking up Pablo for the job and not announcing it, so that leads me to believe they haven't locked Pablo up yet.  So either they don't know if he's the guy yet, or they haven't gotten him to agree to be the guy.  Neither one of those instill confidence that we've got a guy ready to lead the team into the season in 2 weeks.
  2. Metgod is the guy and this scrubbing of the website has something to do with it.  Why you would try to downplay the presence of the guy who's going to lead the team in the next couple of weeks though?  And again, referring back to #1, if he's the guy why haven't you announced it yet.  If he's the guy, why isn't he taking more of a public leadership role in Tucson?  Right now Pablo is, publicly, the leader of the team at the Desert Diamond Cup which doesn't seem to mesh with the idea that somebody already on the staff has been picked to take over.
  3. The team has picked an outsider for the job.  That's a disaster no matter how you look at it.  Bringing somebody in within the last two weeks before the season who hasn't spent any time with the team yet?  How would that work beyond spending the first half-dozen games of the season watching the new guy figure out his team?  And still going back to #1, if this is the plan then why haven't they announced this coach yet?
  4. They don't have a candidate yet, so they're letting Pablo continue to run the team while they figure it out.  I don't need to explain why that's a bad situation to be in just 2 weeks out.
My guess is that its somewhere between #1 and #2.  They want Pablo or Metgod to be the guy, but there's something not completed yet that's preventing them from announcing it.  What could still be in the way more than 7 weeks after Pareja officially left is beyond me, most teams figure this out by now.  My fear is that its #4, which means we're in a world of hurt.  I highly doubt its #3, but that would be almost as bad.

At this point the FO needs to bite the bullet, get a deal with Pablo or Metgod done, and announce the coach.  Every day they don't is another day that points to them not getting the logistics done, which is a lousy way to enter a season.

BTW, the prior MLS record for hiring a coach was 29 days.  Well its about 6-8 weeks for a number of coaches, but last year Toronto FC announced Ryan Nelsen in January when he was still playing for Blackburn Rovers.  He didn't actually join TFC to start coaching until February 1st though, 29 days before their season kickoff on March 2nd.  I figured that was a good tiebreaker for the record.