Monday, June 30, 2014

USA - Belgium Round 2

That's American striker Bert Patenaude in white in the fourth ever World Cup game in 1930 with Belgium in the dark uniforms.  The U.S. would win 3-0 and in the next game Patenaude would score the first ever World Cup hat-trick in a 3-0 win over Paraguay.

Tomorrow will probably not be so easy for the Red, White, and Blue as it was 84 years ago.  Belgium has been a great team in recent years and has beaten the USA the last two times we played, both friendlies.  That said they didn't appear dominant in the group stage in a weak group with Algeria, Russia, and South Korea so there may be some weakness the Yanks can take advantage of.  Combined with that they're a beat up squad with upwards of five injuries and a player missing to red card suspension.  The U.S. is hurting as well with a pair of broken noses (Dempsey and Jones) and Altidore's hamstring, though the USSF has announced that Altidore will be available tomorrow, but who knows for how long and how much of that is trying to game the Belgians.

While I feel like the U.S. can win, my prediction is that they'll lose a tight game.  A 1-0 loss wouldn't surprise me.  Unless we can figure out how to keep possession and force Belgium to chase the game we won't be able to hold them off.  However if we can force them to chase then the weather and our fitness work to our advantage and we could slip in a late winner.

Colorado Gets Another Easy Three Points From Canada

The Rapids returned to league play like they had never taken a break, while Vancouver looked like they had never started playing.  Early dominance from Colorado led to a Dillon Powers goal midway through the half and a stupid PK given up by Vancouver near the end of the first finished off any hope the had.  The second half was a dull affair where the Whitecaps never looked like they were going to get back into the game.

My strategic consideration was how quickly each team would knock the rust of the break off.  The Rapids didn't have any on them when they started the game!
  • Jose Mari didn't start because he turned an ankle in training on Friday.  Today it was announced he could miss up to four weeks.  Ouch.
  • Jared Watts did well in his stead, though he didn't have much to do since Vancouver was lifeless.  I'm not sure he's the answer for this whole month though.
  • Nigel Reo-Coker made the mistake of acknowledging the 108 hecklers early in the match, which only emboldened us.  Then at the end of the half he makes a stupid tackle on Brown to give up a PK.  Chalk up another win for 108!
  • Great spin and shot by Powers for the first goal.  I'm not sure he even touched the ball until the shot but he confused the defense anyway.
  • There was a nice exchange of looks between Brown and Sanchez after the penalty was given.  Deshorn seemed to be bringing the ball to Vicente with a "Look what I got you!' expression which made Sanchez smile.
  • With the goal Sanchez breaks the tie for the goal-scoring lead with Brown and scores his 5th PK of the season.
  • Stupid dissent yellow form LaBrocca late in the game.  Now he sits one yellow from suspension wile we're down a midfielder (Jose Mari) and possibly trading a second (Sturgis).
  • At one point in the second half Irwin lit into Hairston for a missed assignment on defense.  It was more passionate a discussion than you usually see when a team was in control like the Rapids were.  Irwin really wanted the shutout.
  • With the win the team moves into a tie for 3rd for best points per game in the league, and 2nd in the West behind Seattle.
Man of the Match: Vicente Sanchez.  It doesn't even look like he was injured, and had that bike actually have gone in late in the first we'd be talking about the Goal of the Year and a goal up there with Balboa's bike in 2000.

Sturgis to Chivas USA?

The first of 3 entries tonight.

Deal not finalized- but Sturgis heading to Chivas USA, I’m told. Don’t know what receiving in return.
If accurate it will be interesting to see what we get in return.  Sturgis is a solid role-player but we have a good young group for midfielders (Powers, Serna, Hairston, Eloundou) backed up by a couple of great vets (Sanchez, Jose Mari) so Sturgis playing time was going to be limited going forward.  If we can get good value for him this would be a smart move by the Rapids.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Round Of 16 - Midpoint

Brazil 1 (3) - Chile 1 (2)
The home team struggled much more than they should have in this one.  Chile put up a good fight and almost won it was a shot off the crossbar in the 120th minute, but Julio Cesar was up to the task of PKs.

Colombia: 2 - Uruguay: 0
Its James Rodriguez's world and we're just living in it.  Great game from him and the rest of his Colombian team.  Uruguay had no teeth after Luis Suarez's suspension and the result was never really in doubt.

Netherlands 2 - Mexico 1
El Tri chokes again in the Round of 16.  The PK late was a foul but Robben should have also got a card for embellishment.  Its really their own fault though, sitting back to absorb Dutch pressure for 30+ mintues was never going to work.

Costa Rica 1 (5) - Greece 1 (3)
This was a dull, dull game.  Costa Rica got through for CONCACAF but there wasn't much to be excited about.

Brazil - Colombia - I think Colombia pulls off the upset here, unless Brazil finds another gear.  This is the first really good team the hosts have faced in this World Cup.  Should be a great game.

Netherlands - Costa Rica - The Cinderella run ends here for the Ticos.  The Dutch are too good for Costa Rica to over come, but they'll make it entertaining.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Rapids Attempt To Extend Their Canadian Streak

Rapids + Whitecaps = Wet

So far this season Colorado has 3 wins in 3 games against Canadian teams.  Tomorrow they try to make it 4 in 4 as the league restarts after the World Cup break.  Vancouver is in town as focus returns to domestic soccer.  No word if Iranian World Cup squad member Steven Beitashour has re-joined Vancouver yet or not, otherwise neither team has players missing for the World Cup.  Game time tomorrow is 7pm so the tailgate starts at 4 and hopefully Colombia - Uruguay won't go into extra time.  Its bahn mi hot dog night at the tailgate.

Disciplinary Report:
SUSPENDED; MF Dillon Serna (Suspension handed down by Disciplinary Committee for tackle in Dallas game)

No, I didn't skip the injury report, there is literally nobody on it.  I can't remember the last time that happened, its been years.  Vancouver has 3 players out plus whatever Beitashour's availability is.  My guess at our XI:

I'm assuming that there's been enough rest that most of the players who went Tuesday night can go again.  Klute wasn't in the 18 on Tuesday night so he might be out of favor and not start.  Otherwise this seems to be the obvious lineup.

Strategic Consideration: Welcome back.  Colorado will need to knock off the rust after some time off.  Vancouver played Wednesday night so they're back into the flow already but they're also tired.

Prediction: 2-1 win, goals by Sanchez and Brown.  Getting Sanchez back will be enough to see Colorado past Vancouver and make it 4 wins over Canadian sides.  The rust means Vancouver will make it interesting but int he end the altitude will catch up to them and allow a winner.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Second Half Farce Leads To USOC Elimination

The Rapids didn't bother to show up on Tuesday night until they were up 2 men and down 2 goals.  By then it was too late.  Pablo put pretty much the best team out there he could have and the response was luke-warm.  Then Atlanta played dirty and cheap, the officials lost control, and Colorado lost the game 2-1.

  • The first Atlanta goal was a bit of a slip by the defense but it was a great touch by the Atlanta striker.  You have to tip your hat.
  • The second Atlanta goal though, yuck.  Irwin came out and got caught in no-mans land which left a wide open goal for the Atlanta striker to hit.
  • Chavez celebrating that goal in front of the relocated Terraces should have been a tip as to what was coming.
  • And then the game went to hell.  Chavez stomped on Moor's face as he went by and it was on.  Both teams started pushing and shoving, 4 red cards were issues, both head coaches were dismissed, and the game spiraled out of control.
  • I can't complain about any of the actions except for dismissing Pablo.  He never entered the field and while he moved passed his technical area it wasn't anything you don't see other coaches doing.
  • Down two men Atlanta went to the diving and shoving mode of play.  Anything they could do to waste time or delay the Rapids.
  • Good move bringing Sanchez out at that point, we didn't need him getting injured.
  • Pretty sad that for almost 30 minutes the Rapids had a 2 man advantage and could only manage a PK goal.
  • Near the end of the game multiple easy balls were let go over the end line because the Rapids just couldn't get their act together.  Embarrassing.
  • The "classy" Silverbacks then celebrated by dancing at midfield.  I realize this was on of their biggest wins in their history but given the temperature of the match the celebrations were best saved for the locker room.
  • Full credit to the Rapids, they didn't blame the officiating for the loss.  They took full responsibility and Drew Moor in particular stood up and said it wasn't good enough.
In the end the Rapids threw away a golden chance to make it at least to the semifinals by playing like crap.  The officiating was a joke but Colorado has nobody but themselves to blame for the loss.  Horrible night for the team.

Groups G & H Completed

Group G:
Germany: 7 +5
United States: 4 0
Portugal: 4 -3
Ghana: 1 -2

My Picks: Germany, United States

USA! USA! USA!  There was a nervous 25 minutes in the second half after the U.S. went down 1-0 and Ghana leveled the score but Ronaldo made up for crushing the U.S.'s hopes on Sunday by scoring the winning goal and sending the U.S. through despite the loss.  The group went almost exactly as I expected, German and U.S. wins on the first match day, draws on the second matchday (I expected Germany to beat Ghana), and a Germany and Portugal win on the last matchday with second place being decided by goal differential between the U.S. and Portugal.  Thanks for being an idiot Pepe.

Group H:
Belgium: 9 +3
Algeria: 4 +1
Russia: 2 -1
South Korea: 1 -3

My Picks: Belgium, Russia

As expected Belgium easily handled this group.  The surprise was how well Algeria did.  The draw today put them through to the Round of 16 for the first time in their history and sent high-priced Fabio Capello and the Russians home.  South Korea finished out a horrible tournament for Asia, eliminating all 4 teams in the group stage with a record of 0-3-9 and a -16 goal differential.

Round of 16 matchups:
Germany - Algeria - Algeria wants revenge for the 1982 West Germany farce but they won't get it.  Germany easily.
Belgium - United States - Too early to call.  ;) I need to see how things go in the next few days.  But I will make a prediction Monday night.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

USA - Germany Round 3

In 1998 the U.S. was in the same group as Germany and lost 2-0 on their road to the 3-6-1 disaster that was 1998,  In 2002 they faced Germany and lost 1-0 on a Torsten Frings handball (see above).  Tomorrow they face Germany with advancement and first place in the Group of Death on the line.  The good news is that we're getting closer with each game and if the trend continues we should be in line for a 0-0 draw.  :D

In reality this game could go two different ways.  The way we all hope it goes is that both teams come out conservative, test each other, decide its not worth injury, exhaustion, or suspension, and settle for the draw that lets Germany win the group and the U.S. advance.  The other way is that Germany feels like it needs to reestablish its dominance in the group after the draw with Ghana and comes out attacking in order to get the win and the 3 points leaving the U.S. hoping the result of the Portugal-Ghana game goes their way.

I'm not worried about the travel or heat, and I'm not really worried about the U.S. being broken after the late equalizer from Portugal.  Under a different coach maybe but one thing JK seems to be able to do is get the team focused when its necessary.  I am worried that we aren't as good as a determined German team.  If Loew wants to prove a point to Jurgen, or Germany fees like it needs the win, or if they're just feeling particularly good tomorrow we're in trouble.  We can get a draw in that scenario but we wouldn't be favored to.  If Germany is happy with a draw though it will be all smooth sailing tomorrow.

I think we better hope Germany is satisfied with the draw.  Unless their last-second equalizer that kept them alive wakes up Portugal I think Ghana beats them.  So far they've been the better team and their style is one that could tear Portugal apart.  With luck Portugal keeps it to a 1 goal game in a low-scoring affair and Ghana loses the tiebreakers but that's a lot of ifs.

Groups C, D, E & F Completed

Group C:
Colombia: 9 +7
Greece: 4 -2
Ivory Coast: 3 -1
Japan: 1 -4

My Picks: Colombia, Ivory Coast

Talk about going down to the wire.  A last second PK (maybe soft, but legit) puts Greece through and eliminates the Ivory Coast.  They really had no business being in a position where 1 goal could eliminate them, they're a better team than that.  Not surprisingly they actually have a better goal differential than Greece but in the end they couldn't get the job done.  I'm surprised how poor of a tournament Japan had, but all the Asian teams seem to be having a bad tournament.

Group D:
Costa Rica: 7 +3
Uruguay: 6 0
Italy: 3 -1
England: 1 -2

My Picks: Uruguay, Italy

Well I got the ranking of the 3 former champions exactly right.  I just didn't see Costa Rica running wild over the group.  Great tournament already for the Ticos and they have a good chance at making the quarterfinals.  England failed, again, and Italy missed the knockout rounds by the skin of their teeth. :D

Round of 16 matchups:
Colombia - Uruguay - Colombia looks like one of the strongest teams in the tournament and Uruguay will certainly be without their bet player.  Colombia easily.
Costa Rica - Greece - Anyone who says they had this matchup in their round of 16 is lying, nobody saw this coming.  Costa Rica is the better team and will carry the CONCACAF flag into the quarterfinals.

Group E:
France: 7 +6
Switzerland: 6 +1
Ecuador: 4 0
Honduras: 0 -7

My Picks: Switzerland, France

Right teams, wrong order.  I didn't see Switzerland and Ecuador tying, which was the difference.  Honduras is the only team in the Americas not to get a win but that's not a surprise.  Ecuador and Honduras are the only teams from the Americas so far not to make the knockout rounds.  The only other team that isn't trough yet is the U.S.. *gulp*

Group F:
Argentina: 9 +3
Nigeria: 4 0
Bosnia & Herzegovina: 3 0
Iran: 1 -3

My Picks: Argentina, Bosnia & Herzegovina

As expected Argentina ran away with this group.  Nigeria showed they were better than first appearances but they made it a close race with Bosnia.  Nigeria is the first African team to qualify for the knockout rounds this tournament while Iran makes it 0 for 3 for Asian teams.

Round of 16 matchups:
France - Nigeria - This could be a good game but I think France has enough quality to handle Nigeria.
Argentina - Switzerland - Argentina will make it through to the quarterfinals without too much worry.

Monday, June 23, 2014

USOC Round 5 Tomorrow

To distract everyone from Thursday's showdown with Germany we've got another U.S. Open Cup match tomorrow night.  The NASL Atlanta Silverbacks are in town after beating FSL in the last round.  Game time tomorrow night is 7pm and the tailgate starts at 5pm.

Today the Rapids found out that with a win tomorrow night they'll host the quarterfinal matchup and their opponent will be the Fire-Crew winner.  That game would be played July 8th or 9th.

Knowing that they have a game over a lower-league team tomorrow and then they would host a Fire or Crew team that look beatable to get to the semis I think the Rapids should go all in on the U.S. Open Cup this year.  We should be favored to win tomorrow, then favored to beat the Fire or Crew at home.  That gets us two wins from a trophy with a 50/50 shot for each game to be at home.  With Seattle, KC, Portland, and SJ in the same part of the bracket a lot of dangerous MLS opponents will be eliminated before we could get to them.  Same thing with Dallas, Houston, and LA (along with lower-league Carolina) and Philly with New England along with the lower league Cosmos and Rochester.

Play the first team tomorrow night and (assuming we get a win) in the quarter-final.  Rotate players out if necessary on Saturday and for the 4th of July game.  Though with a week off before tomorrow's game, 4 days, then another week off before a 4-5 day break with no travel at all there shouldn't need to be that many changes.  I'm actually OK if we drop points in the next couple of weeks if that means we push through to a USOC final.

My prediction for tomorrow is that we see the first team.  On Friday night the reserves played in Sacramento and most of the players you would expect to start a non-first team USOC game played.  With the travel and the focus the team has on rest and keeping players healthy I wouldn't expect many of them to be available to start tomorrow night.  So that really leaves the main first team to play.  Given that I predict a win and a spot in the quarterfinals.

Groups A & B Completed

Group A:
Brazil: 7 +5
Mexico: 7 +3
Croatia: 3 0
Cameroon: 0 -8

My Picks: Brazil, Croatia

As expected Brazil won this group but surprisingly Mexico pushed them right to the edge.  This isn't the same Mexico team we saw last year.  Mexico, de nada.  Croatia had a disappointing tournament, they had to expect to get more than 3 points out of this set of teams.  Cameroon had a disaster of a World Cup, they've got to figure out how to play as a team.  Their lineup selection didn't help either.

Group BL
Netherlands: 9
Chile: 6
Spain: 3
Australia: 0

My Picks: Spain, Chile

I got Chile right and I knew one of the European teams would win the group I just missed badly on which one.  The Spanish team that had run over everyone (except the U.S. at the 2009 Confederations Cup ;) ) finally reached the end of its line and the Netherlands look like the best team in the tournament.  Australia was never going to get anything out of this group.

Round of 16 matchups:
Brazil vs. Chile - Brazil will win this but not without a lot of work against a strong Chile team.
Netherlands vs. Mexico - Mexico has looked good, but not anywhere near as good as the Dutch.  The Netherlands easily.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Groups G & H After Two Rounds

Group G:
Germany: 4 +4
USA: 4 +1
Ghana: 1 -1
Portugal: 1 -4

My Picks: Germany, USA

Well as crushing as that Portuguese goal was the U.S. is still favored to advance along with Germany.  Germany will almost certainly win the group, the question will be will they be satisfied with a draw or will they want to make a statement against their former coach and the German-Americans on the U.S.'s team?  The Ghana-Portugal game will be wide-open as Portugal knows it needs to win big to win a tiebreaker.

Group H:
Belgium: 6 +2
Algeria: 3 +1
Russia: 1 -1
South Korea: 1 -2

My Picks: Belgium Russia

Belgium has advanced already and just needs a draw with South Korea to win the group.  South Korea still has a slight chance but they need to make up goal differential and get the right result in the other game.  Algeria sits well after their big win today but needs to finish the job while Russia needs a win and South Korea not to run up the score on Belgium.

U.S. Advancement Scenarios

I don't want to talk about the game other than to say that Bradley has played his two worst games in a U.S. uniform in years and cost us advancement tonight.

Here's how the U.S. can advance:

  • Beat Germany - They would win the group
  • Draw with Germany - They would finish second in the group
  • Lose to Germany - They advance in second in all of these scenarios
    • Portugal - Ghana draw
    • Portugal win and the goal difference in the two games is less than 5 combined
    • Portugal win, 5 goal differential exactly, and Portugal doesn't outscore the U.S. by more than 1
    • Ghana win, both games are 1 goal games, and Ghana doesn't outscore the U.S. by more than 1
The horror scenario is a Ghana and Germany win, that's the most likely scenario for the U.S. not to advance.  If the U.S. can't get a point then they need to be rooting for Portugal to keep it close with Ghana.

Oh, and if the U.S. loses 3-1 and Portugal wins 3-0 it would be a random draw of lots between the U.S. and Portugal to see who advances.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

USA - Portugal Round 2

Off to the rain forest tomorrow for the second of the U.S.'s matches.  Ronaldo and the Portuguese await looking to revenge their loss in South Korea during the 2002 World Cup.  The good news is that's there's not much at stake for the Yanks, just clinching a spot in the knockout rounds with a win.

Today's draw between Germany and Ghana didn't help the U.S. much.  The good news is that due to it, they can clinch with a win tomorrow.  The bad news is that with a draw tomorrow Ghana is still alive and could pass the U.S. with a win over Portugal combined with the U.S. losing to Germany.  The draw also keeps the Germans from automatically qualifying before their game with the U.S., so they'll be coming in looking for a result in that last game.

Portugal is down defenders Pepe (due to his idiotic red card) and Coentrao (injury) along with forward Almeida (injury).  It also appears that Ronaldo will not be 100% but who knows if Portugal is maybe playing games with that injury.  Rui Patricio (GK) and Bruno Alves (defender) have also sustained knocks and their status is unknown.  If the U.S. was healthy I'd really like our chances, but we all know about Jozy being ruled out for this one (and probably the whole World Cup), Dempsey's broken nose, and the fact that Cameron, Bedoya, and Besler all grabbed hamstrings during the Ghana game so the U.S. is hardly indestructible Captain Americas.

I think the U.S. should get at least a draw tomorrow though, and a win wouldn't be a shock.  Portugal looked horrible against Germany and we just saw Germany struggle with Ghana.  I'm not suggesting U.S. > Ghana = Germany > Portugal, that's too simplistic, but it does appear that Portugal has had the weakest performance so far in Group G and now they're missing more players.  If everyone but Jozy is healthy enough to play then the U.S. will be in better shape.  The key will be Michael Bradley.  He has to play better than that performance Monday night and help the team keep possession in midfield.  That will reduce the pressure on Johannsson/Wondo/Diskerud, whichever one starts for the injured Altidore, and be able to keep the ball away from Ronaldo and Nani.

The last factor is the travel and weather.  This better not be an issue for the U.S.  Weather reports tomorrow are similar to Houston and with more than half the team having played multiple season in MLS, a long trip to hot and humid Houston is par for the course.  That should give the U.S. the advantage late in the game as the Portuguese will hopefully start to wilt in the rain forest environment.

This team has an ability to focus under JK when the chips are on the table and I think that we see that again tomorrow as they pull off a point, and if the breaks go our way (not the type of break Dempsey got on Monday though) we can get 3 points and a spot in the knockout rounds.

Group F After Two Rounds

Group F:
Argentina: 6 +2
Nigeria: 4 +1
Iran 1 -1
Bosnia & Herzegovina: 0 -2

My Picks: Argentina, Bosnia &Herzegovina

Well Argentina took care of business as expected, though Iran really made them work for it.  Nigeria played much better than their first game and got a lot of help from the referees in beating and eliminating Bosnia, probably the best team to be eliminated so far.  Iran is still alive though its a long shot in needing a win over a good Bosnia side and Argentina beating Nigeria when all Argentina needs is a draw.  One of those wins also has to be by 2 or more goals.  Possible, but not likely.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Groups D & E After Two Rounds

Group D:
Costa Rica: 6 +3
Italy: 3 0
Uruguay: 3 -1
England: 0 -2

My picks: Uruguay, Italy

So 9 days ago when I said,
The only reason this isn't the Group of Death is that nobody really thinks Costa Rica can take points off the other 3 teams while Ghana could in Group G.
Can we just pretend that didn't happen?  These are not your SnowClasico "Its not fair!" Ticos.  Two former champions down, one (eliminated) champion to go.  Even if England actually rallies (HA!) and beats Costa Rica they've already qualified for the knockout rounds.  Meanwhile Italy-Uruguay is a knockout game as only one of those teams is moving on.  So I'll be 50% right but who cares, go CONCACAF!

Group E:
France: 6 +6
Ecuador: 3 0
Switzerland: 3 -2
Honduras: 0 -4

My picks: Switzerland, France

I was right about Honduras being a thorn in the side of this group as Ecuador had to work to beat them today.  Switzerland has the Hondurans next which gives them the edge over Ecuador having to play the buzzsaw that is the French.  I may have picked the right teams in the wrong order.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Group C After Two Rounds

Group C:
Colombia: 6 +4
Ivory Coast: 3 0
Japan: 1 - 1
Greece: 1 -3

My picks: Colombia, Ivory Coast

This is going about how I expected.  Colombia has qualified for the knockout rounds, the only question is who will join them.  Ivory Coast has the easiest path with just a win over Greece being all that's needed.  With a big enough win combined with a Japanese win over Colombia and Ivory Coast could still win the group.  Clearly Japan and Greece have to win to have any chance but they need the right result in the other game as well.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

What Can Brown Do For You?

Deshorn Brown and the rest of the first team manhandled Orlando City last night.  Brown recorded a hat-trick while LaBrocca and Powers each put away one in a 5-2 win.  The Rapids outclassed them all over the field and only a great early strike and lax defending up 4-1 got Orlando their goals.

  • Loved the (I'm sure unintentional) homage to Herculez Gomez with Brown taking a seat in the stands to celebrate one of his goals.  In the 2nd game ever at the Dick in 2007 Gomez scored at the same end and jumped into the stands to take a seat in celebration.
  • That was a great first team lineup we put out there last night and we were clearly the better team.  That's called taking the USOC seriously.
  • The first Orlando goal was a great strike from outside the box.  Hat tip to Orlando for that.  The second goal was lousy defending on a corner though.  Up 4-1 it seemed like everybody decided the game was over.
  • I did like how the team came right back down the field and re-established the 3 goal lead.
  • Welcome back Vicente!  I loved late in the game when he game driving down the center of the park and sent the Orlando City defenders spinning in circles.  It didn't result in a goal but it was good to see the fire even up 5-2.
  • We're back at it next week.  Same bat-time, same bat-channel.  Tuesday night, 7pm at the Dick when we welcome the NASL Atlanta Silverbacks with a spot in the USOC Quarterfinals on the line.

Groups A & B After Two Rounds

Group A:
Brazil: 4 +2
Mexico: 4 +1
Croatia: 3 +2
Cameroon: 0 -5

My picks: Brazil, Croatia

I'm sitting hare in my Cameroon jersey wondering what int he world happened to the Indomitable Lions.  I knew getting out of the group is a long shot but they're currently rivaling Spain for the worst team in the tournament.  What a mess.  Meanwhile Brazil looks nothing like the world-beaters I expected and Mexico seems to have found whatever they lost in 2013.  Damn you Zusi for giving Mexico a lifeline!  Croatia just needs to beat Mexico to get through or have Cameroon pull off a epic upset of Brazil.  Cameroon has been eliminated but the 3 other teams can all win, finish 2nd, or be eliminated on the final match day.

Group B:
Netherlands: 6 +5
Chile: 6 +4
Australia: 0 -3
Spain: 0 -6

My picks: Spain, Chile

Um, wow.  What happened to Spain.  Talk about a crash and burn.  They need to beat the Aussies to avoid last place!  Meanwhile the Netherlands, along with Germany, looks like the best team at the tournament.  Chile is quickly becoming a favorite team for me..  not only do they play well but their understanding of the importance (or lack there of) of the game in appreciated.  Their ties to the trapped miners (they brought dirt from the mine to sprinkle at their training ground to remember what's truly important) makes it easy to root for them.  Netherlands will play Chile to decide who's first and who's second, with Netherlands taking first in the case of a draw.

Groups F, G, & H After One Round

Getting caught up after a couple of busy nights (US and USOC) so expect a number of posts tonight/tomorrow.  First we wrap up the first round of World Cup games.

Group F:
Argentina: 3 +1
Iran: 1 0
Nigeria: 1 0
Bosnia & Herzegovina: 0 -1

My picks: Argentina, Bosnia & Herzegovina

Just about what I expected.  Nigeria confirmed that it wasn't that the U.S. was that good against them, they really were that bad.  The Iran-Nigeria game looked like a 90's era MLS game, I half expected David Vaudreuil to make an appearance!  Bosnia lost to Argentina as I expected but played well enough to show they should be able to take second.

Group G:
Germany: 3 +4
USA: 3 +1
Ghana: 0 -1
Portugal: 0 -3

My picks: Germany, USA

The results could not have gone better for the U.S.  More on the game later, but the perfect day would have been a U.S. win and a German stomping of Portugal and that's what they got.  Throw in the Portuguese red card as the cherry on top.  You never want to celebrate injuries but the U.S. isn't going to be too upset that Portugal is certainly down their other central defender and possibly two other players, plus Ronaldo now sounds questionable.  The only bad news was Jozy's hamstring.  A win by Germany and the U.S. this weekend would be ideal, but a win by Germany (likely) and draw by the Yanks puts us in a very good place.

Group H:
Belgium: 3 +1
Russia: 1 0
South Korea: 1 0
Algeria: 0 -1

My pics: Belgium, Russia

I'm a little surprised that both Belgium and Russia struggled as much as they did, I thought they were clearly the class of this group.  I think Belgium still easily takes first but Russia is looking shaky for second since they have to take on Belgium next.  There might be a chance for South Korea to sneak by them.  Algeria really had no attacking ideas and their 1 goal came from a PK.

Monday, June 16, 2014

USOC Tomorrow!

Yeah, its easy for this to get lost in the World Cup but the Rapids do play tomorrow night.  The USL  Orlando City FC is in town for this 4th Round game.  FSL lost in stoppage time to the NASL Atlanta Silverbacks on Saturday, so a win tomorrow night gets us a home game next week against another lower-league side.  Kickoff is at 7pm and there is a tailgate starting at 4pm.  Only the West side of the stadium will be open, with those who bought $20 tickets (with or without discount) getting the two sections at midfield while the rest of us who paid $15 will get the two sections on either side of those.  All of C38 (Terraces and 108) will be sitting together in 125.

Orlando City is joining MLS next season and will want to show they belong.  If you remember they knocked us out of the USOC last season, though that game was in Orlando.  Pablo has said all the right things about "taking this game seriously", but I could dig out quotes from Oscar Parjea, Gary Smith, and Fernando Clavijo saying the same thing.  I don't put predictions on USOC games until I know how seriously the Rapids truly take it.  If we do take it seriously though we should be able to beat Orlando City.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

USA - Ghana Round 3

Well here we are.  The U.S. faces Ghana in what I think is a must-win match for the 3rd World Cup in a row.  In 2006 the U.S. needed a win in their final group game to make the knockout rounds but lost 2-1.  In 2010 the U.S. faced Ghana in the Round of 16 and again lost 2-1, this time after 30 minutes of extra time.  Then, to add insult to injury, Ghana knocked the U.S. out of the U-20 World Cup last year with a 4-1 loss in the final group game.  The silver lining was that the one goal was scored by Boulder's own Shane O'Neill.

Tomorrow's matchup is only the first game of the group stage but to me its a must-win.  With Portugal and Germany looming I don't see a realistic chance of the U.S. getting out of the group without 3 points tomorrow.  Maybe a draw is enough but that would require us to get a win somewhere (probably Portugal) which seems less likely than beating Ghana.  A loss would certainly end and aspirations the Yanks might have.

The good news is that I think the U.S. can and will win.  Klinsmann has a way of getting this team to rise to the occasion and he's had plenty of time to prepare them for this game.  Ghana is talking tough but the U.S. seems focused and ready.  We just need to play like we did against Nigeria and not Azerbaijan.

Group E After One Round

France: 3 +3
Switzerland: 3 +1
Ecuador: 0 -1
Honduras: 0 -3

My picks: Switzerland, France

About what I expected so far.  France had the easy game against a woeful Honduran side.  Switzerland apparently got tired of being the seeded team nobody knew about and decided to add drama with a stoppage time winner but got the job done as expected.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Groups C & D After One Round

Group C:
Colombia: 3 +3
Ivory Coast: 3 +1
Japan: 0 -1
Greece: 0 -3

My picks: Colombia, Ivory Coast

Exactly what I expected.  Colombia handled the Greeks (though they struggled a bit at times) and Ivory Coast was a bit better than Japan.  No surprises here so far.

Group D:
Costa Rica: 3 +2
Italy: 3 +1
England: 0 -1
Uruguay: 0 -2

My picks: Uruguay, Italy

On Wednesday I said:
The only reason this isn't the Group of Death is that nobody really thinks Costa Rica can take points off the other 3 teams while Ghana could in Group G. 
Um, yeah.  About that.  Turns out that not only can Costa Rica take points, they can do it in dominant fashion over the team that might have been the favorite going into the WC.  I did not see that coming.  Uruguay has dug quite a hole for itself and there's no easy way out.  England - France played out about how I expected, except the conditions weren't as bad as feared.  The heat and humidity wasn't much worse than playing in Orlando or Houston at this time of year.  Assuming similar conditions next Sunday night the U.S. won't have too much trouble with the weather.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Groups A & B After One Round

Group A:
Brazil: 3 +2
Mexico: 3 +1
Cameroon: 0 -1
Croatia: 0 -2

My picks: Brazil, Croatia

Still feeling confident about my picks.  Croatia was screwed by the ref on Brazil's PK, but I think the foul on Cesar that disallowed their goal was a good one.  Or at least one that you see called regularly.  In the end they have a right to feel aggrieved but I think Brazil was the better team.  Neither Mexico or Cameroon looked particularly good, but Mexico had at least one goal incorrectly disallowed for offside.  They possibly had a second unfairly taken away but it was very very close so I'm not sure.  I think Croatia can get enough points off of these two to get out of their hole.  They do need to go to their backup keeper though.

Group B:
Netherlands: 3 +4
Chile: 3 +2
Australia: 0 -2
Spain: 0 -4

My picks: Spain, Chile

Um, I'd like to re-think my group winner pick please.  It was stunning how easily the Netherlands tore apart Spain.  Of course Iker Casillas' horrible play in net for Spain didn't help.  With Spain being unable to defend and Chile not wanting to defend there could be a lot of goals in this group.  Australia hung in well against Chile until late, especially after the first 15 minutes made it appear it was going to be a rout.  I thought the Aussies might get a draw but they ran out of gas and Chile got a vital goal for goal differential.  But look at the bright side, they're still ahead of the defending champions!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

World Cup Projections

OK, we're less than 18 hours from the start of the tournament so I guess I need to get my picks down.  Here we go!

Group A: (Brazil, Croatia, Mexico, Cameroon)
Brazil is the clear choice to win this group.  I want to pick Cameroon, as I consider them my second team, but realistically this will be Croatia as the runner up.  Cameroon has the talent but can't seem to get on the same page.  Mexico is still a mess and won't get out of the group.
Brazil, Croatia

Group B: (Spain, Netherlands, Chile, Australia)
An interesting group.  Spain is the class of the four teams and will win the group. Chile will surprise the Netherlands and use the home continent advantage to take 2nd, though they'll do it by more likely winning 4-3 than 1-0.  The Dutch will put up a good fight before going home, while the Aussies are just happy to be in Brazil.
Spain, Chile

Group C: (Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast, Japan)
Despite the loss of Falcao Colombia is still the heavy favorite in this weaker group and will win it.  Greece seems overrated to me and ripe to be beat out for second by the Ivory Coast.  Look for Les Elephants to take 2nd and move to the knockout stage.  Don't count out Japan though, they're my pick for a surprise team.  The largest population of Japanese citizens outside of Japan live ion Brazil so they'll likely have larger than average home support.
Colombia, Ivory Coast

Group D: (Uruguay, Costa Rica, England, Italy)
The only reason this isn't the Group of Death is that nobody really thinks Costa Rica can take points off the other 3 teams while Ghana could in Group G.  The top 3 teams in this group are probably better than the 3 in Group G and one of them is going home early.  I think Uruguay uses the fact that they're more comfortable with the environment to win the group.  Meanwhile England underachieves again and Italy gets through in second.  Look at the bright side English fans, you won't be eliminated on penalties.
Uruguay, Italy

Group E: (Switzerland, Ecuador, France, Honduras)
The Swiss aren't particularly flashy or sexy but they've got enough to get the job done in this group.  Ecuador isn't strong enough to hold of France, even with the French's injury issues.  Honduras can be a thorn in the side of these other teams but don't have enough quality to make the top 2.
Switzerland, France

Group F: (Argentina, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iran, Nigeria)
Is there any doubt Argentina will win this group?  Until their friendly with the U.S. last weekend I thought Nigeria could challenge Bosnia for second, but the team I saw in Jacksonville won't be a challenge for Bosnia.  Iran might have one of the better jerseys in the tournament, but not one of the better teams.
Argentina, Bosnia-Herzegovina

Group G: (Germany, Portugal, Ghana, United States)
Well here we are, the Group of Death.  On a given day any of these teams could be the other without it being a huge surprise (well, Germany losing to anyone other than Portugal would be a bit shocking).  Germany has a nice schedule with their toughest game first, a win over Portugal sets them up nicely to win the group which is what they're going to do.  Portugal - United States in Manaus will may decide 2nd place and I think the travel and climate gives the edge to the Yanks, but it will be very close.  No team can sleep on Ghana, but unless they beat the Americans on Monday I don't see a way out of the group for them.
Germany, United States

Group H: (Belgium, Algeria, Russia, South Korea)
The easiest group to pick, the two European teams should get out without much effort.  Belgium could be a dark horse to go far in the tournament while Russia is good enough to make the Round of 16.
Belgium, Russia

That leaves a final 16 of Brazil, Croatia, Spain, Chile, Colombia, Ivory Coast, Uruguay, Italy, Switzerland, France, Argentina, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Germany, United States, Belgium, and Russia.

Brazil beats Chile without too much work
Spain beats Croatia, again without too much work
Italy beats Colombia, the loss of Falcao finally catches up with the Colombians
Uruguay beats Ivory Coast in a close one
Switzerland beats Bosnia-Herzegovina in a close game but the result is never in doubt
Argentina easily beats France
Germany smokes Russia
Belgium beats the United States, showing why they're a dark horse favorite

The quarterfinals then go:
Brazil beats Italy as their age leaves them unable to keep up with the home side
Spain beats Uruguay in the best quarterfinal match
Germany beats their Swiss neighbors
Argentina puts an end to Belgium's dark horse hopes

Leaving the best 4 teams in the world as semi-finalists, Brazil, Spain, Germany, and Argentina.

The South American sides take advantage of being on their home continent to set up an epic rivalry World Cup final between Brazil and Argentina.  Before we get there though, Germany beats a deflated Spain for 3rd place.  Then the home side exorcises the ghosts of 1950 in winning their unprecedented 6th World Cup title in front of their home fans in Rio.

Brazil, your 2014 World Cup Champions!

Roster Moves

The Rapids made a pair of roster moves over the last few days.  Last week they announced the re-signing of homegrown player defender Davy Armstrong.  Armstrong blew out his knee playing on-loan with Phoenix last season and had been rehabbing it since then.  He's now at full strength and was able to earn a new contract.  Armstrong has made 1 appearance for the team in league play, for 4 minutes in a 2012 match.  He also has featured in USOC and CCL play.

Today Colorado announced the waving of defender Brenton Griffths.  Griffiths was a 2013 Supplemental Draft pick and was signed early in the 2013 season.  Griffiths made 1 league appearance last year as a 90th minute sub and also played in the USOC.

As you can see this was swapping one deep bench defender for another, but it does free up an international spot as Griffiths is Jamaican.  I'm not surprised to see Griffiths waved as he was so far down the depth chart it was unlikely he was ever going to get playing time.  I'm surprised that the team re-signed Armstrong though.  He's been with the team since late summer 2010 and only ever made the one league appearance in 3+ seasons, I assumed that he would be kept on until healthy and then released to find another team probably in USL/NASL.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Dallas Burns Rapids Defense

As many fans feared the decision to play the second team on Wednesday seems to have cost the Rapids as the planned on win didn't emerge from Saturday's game in Dallas.  Instead Dallas sliced and diced a possibly tired Rapids defense in the second half en route to a 3-2 win.  Colorado can feel unlucky in some ways, as two of the three Dallas goals were scored due to unusual deflections, but at the same time Dallas had two great opportunities they smashed off the woodwork.  The Rapids defense fell apart as the game went on, and Dallas took full advantage.

My strategic consideration for this game was focusing on the game and not the grudge match.  If anything maybe a bit more fire was needed.
  • Nice header by Jose Mari, but he was a bit off in this match.  A good example was on Dallas' third goal when he slid in and didn't get the ball.
  • Of course he was the second player in that sequence to do that after Moor whiffed.  At which point O'Neill should have just taken the yellow card instead of trying to defend the shot.
  • Klute, worst game as a Rapid I think.
  • Pareja was forced to use two of his subs due to injury, but it actually helped.  In that heat Pablo should have subbed sooner.
  • Torres for 2 minutes?  Not helpful.
  • Irwin can't be blamed on any of the goals.  The first two took unfortunate deflections after it appeared he had the original shot covered.  The third was just a great shot.
  • LaBrocca had a solid game, but a solid game from Nick just isn't what we need right now.
  • A rough two games to go into the World Cup break.  We need to bounce back strong.
Man of the Match: Deshorn Brown.  Great touch on the goal and since nobody stood out (at least in a good way) that's enough to get the MotM award.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Dallas May Take Our Coach But They'll Never Take...


Payback Round 1 tomorrow as Colorado makes its first of two trips to Dallas to face coach until 6 months ago Oscar Pareja.  They would also face Hendry Thomas, but he's injured.  Meanwhile Jose Mari got Wednesday off and should be ready to go. :D  Apparently 120 Ciao employees will be in attendance at Toyota Stadium (known as DSG Park South come playoff time) to root for the Rapids as Ciao's American HQ is in Dallas.  Game time is 6:50 tomorrow, 30 minutes after the end of USA-Nigeria, which should give you just enough time to get dinner between the games.  Fleming and 'Celo will have the call on Altitude as the team heads into the WC break (USOC game aside).

Injury Report:
QUESTIONABLE: D Gale Agbossoumonde (lower abdominal pain); M Nathan Sturgis (right foot); F Edson Buddle (groin strain); F Vicente Sanchez (L knee strain)

No official word but I'm assuming that Torres has rejoined the team after Panama National Team duty.  That doesn't mean he's fit enough to be available though.  Dallas has 4 players out injured (including Thomas), 1 questionable, and 1 suspended so they're in worse shape than us.  George "Own Goal" John is one of the players out injured as well.  My guess at the starting XI:

I really have no idea who to expect as the 5th midfielder.  Everyone I'd consider played significant time on Wednesday.  The only other question is if O'Neill can start a 3rd game in a week, I don't doubt Moor can.  Given that the team has a 10 day break after tomorrow I think he can go.  Other than that, the rest of these players better start given the 2nd string lineup we ran out on Wednesday.

Strategic Consideration: Focusing on the game, not the grudge match.  Most of this lineup was brought to Colorado by Pareja, and almost all of them played for him last year.  Then he bailed on them.  I'm sure some of these guys want to prove a point, but getting focused on that and not on winning the game will cost us.

Prediction: 2-1 win, goals by Powers and Brown.  Dallas has been pretty good at not getting shut out during this losing streak, so I think that continues but 1 is all they get.  Meanwhile the well rested Rapids first team gets the win and proves the point(s) to Pareja.  Brown jeeps his recent run going and Powers continues his all-star season.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Rapids Reserves Draw Fire

There's not much to be said about this game.  Both teams started a second string lineup, played like they were a second string, and got a scoreless draw out of the match.  While it was interesting to see some lesser used players, there were points left on the field last night.  I'm going to save my editorializing on this game until we get through Saturday's game and into the World cup break.  One way or the other there will be a lot to talk about.

My strategic consideration for this game was Quincy Amarikwa.  He didn't enter the game until late in the second half and didn't factor into the result.
  • This was me when I saw the starting lineup:
  • I mean really, only 2.5 starters in the XI?  That's the most second team lineup I've ever seen the Rapids play for a league game.
  • 2 shots on goal combined, both by the Rapids.  Not a single free kick on either side that required a defensive wall or marking off 10 yards.  In short, a midfield battle.
  • Liked what I saw of Neeskens.  He obviously struggled to be on the same page as his teammates, no surprise, but he had good vision and trust.
  • I like Eloundou's energy and drive, but he needs to get a better set of boots.  He still slides around far too much.
  • Mwanga needed to just walk into the locker room when he was subbed off and clean out his locker.  If he couldn't do anything against this opposition (and he couldn't) there's no way he should get any more playing time.
  • LaBrocca is not an attacking player.  Having him up front was a waste.  He shouldn't be a starter at this point.
  • Piermayr hit far too many crosses to nobody.
  • The Rapids were very lucky to get a point.  The mis-communication between Berner and the defense that led to a header on an empty net should have cost us a goal.
  • Had Powers and Serna been subbed on in the 60th minute when Brown was, I think we win this game.  There just wasn't enough time for the 3 of them to play together by the time they all got on.
  • Onward to Dallas, and hopefully three points that makes this point worth it.
Man of the Match: Dillon Powers.  He showed why he's so important to this team when he entered the match.  He calmed down the midfield and controlled play.  Too bad it didn't lead to the winning goal.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Old Home Week Continues

He's a Ginger Ninja!

Sunday it was Omar Cummings coming back to the Dick.  Tomorrow night its Jeff Larentowicz and Qunicy Amarikwa make their return with the Fire.  Saturday it will be a trip to Dallas to see Oscar Pareja, Hendry Thomas, and Stephen Keel.  Lots of ex-Rapids this week.  The game tomorrow is at 7pm, so the tailgate stats at 4, for those people who can get out of work early.  Those that can't make the game can watch on Altitude.

Injury Report:
OUT: Nathan Sturgis (right foot); F Edson Buddle (groin strain)
QUESTIONABLE: D Gale Agbossoumonde (lower abdominal pain); F Vicente Sanchez (L knee strain)

International Absences:
F Gabriel Torres (Panama)

Chicago has a player injured and two questionable.  With three games this week we know Pablo is going to play with the lineup.  My guess (and that's really all it is) at our lineup:

Given the substitutions on Sunday I think Pablo is preparing to play close a full strength lineup at home tomorrow and roll the dice with who's in game shape in Dallas on Saturday.  Piermayr may spell Wynne or ONeill and Eloundou will give LaBrocca a break.  But then I could be way wrong, the Denver Post is reporting that almost a full second string was working together today as possible starters.

Strategic Consideration: Quincy "coked-out hamster" Amarikwa.  Our former late-game sub is currently the Fire's leading scorer and his speed could give the back line fits if we're not paying attention.

Prediction: 2-1 win, goals by Serna and Brown.  The Fire are not a good team and are also coming off short rest having played on Sunday and then had to travel.  The Rapids should win this game and will, but Ginger Ninga and Q will combine to get one against their old team in the loss.

Rapids Melt Creamsicles

The Rapids dominated this game from start to finish.  The stats bear this out.  Houston didn't have a single shot on target (they gave the crossbar a solid rattle once though), only 5 total shots, less than 38% possession, and only 5 5 minute periods where they had the majority of possession.  Meanwhile Colorado had 15 shots, 9 on target, and 3 goals.  Scoring within 5 minutes put this game away before it started.

My strategic consideration for this game was taking advantage of a weakened opponent.  You can't ask for more than a 3 goal win while leading for 85 minutes of the game.
  • You couldn't script a better start to the game.  A pinpoint cross from Wynne that Brown headed home for an early lead.
  • The Powers puts Brown through for a second goal in the first half.  Very, very close to offside but I didn't get a good enough view to say the AR got it wrong.
  • Hill's goal in the 2nd half was amazing.  A back heel flick off a corner at waist height?  99 out of 100 times that ball doesn't get anywhere near goal, regardless of who's flicking it.
  • Powers sent the corner in, giving him 2 assists for the game and a team-leading 3 for the season.
  • Wynne had an outstanding game.  In the first half he was just slicing the Houston defense apart while still covering his defensive responsibilities.
  • Good to see Hill get a goal after not finishing the wide open chance he had early in the first half.  Great defensive clearance but hard to believe he couldn't get it in the empty net.
  • Klute was oddly quiet in the attack, but the game plan might have been to let Wynne go forward and have Klute stay back.
  • Marlon Hairston is doing great coming off the bench.  And he didn't let the poor shot he took with his first or second touch of the game get him down.
  • The subs were clearly to prepare for two more games this week.  Brown, Powers, and Jose Mari all pulled by the middle of the 2nd half.
  • Good to see Omar Cummings back at the Dick.  The fans tried to make him feel welcome.
Man of the Match: Deshorn Brown.  As you can see there were plenty of players to choose from, but if MLS makes Brown the league's Player of the Week,w ho am I to disagree with it?

USOC 5th Round Draw

Many updates tonight.  there will be a game review of Sunday's game and a game preview for tomorrow night.  First though the 5th round draw for the U.S. Open Cup was held today.  If the Rapids beat Orlando City on the 17th a week later they'll host a 5th round game against the winner of the Atlanta Silverbacks and....FaKe SaLt LaKe!

This wouldn't be an official Rocky Mountain Cup match if it came to pass, but you know that the rivalry would still spill over.  Of course to get to that point both teams still need to win their 4th round games.