Thursday, October 30, 2014

Say Ciao To Jersey Sponsorship?

This Denver Post headline does not bode well for the future of the Ciao sponsorship:
Colorado Rapids sue Ciao Telecom over missed sponsorship payments
The article details how Ciao only paid $75K of the initial $80K to close the sponsorship deal and since then they've missed payments of $240K both at the end of Q2 and Q3, with a third payment of the same amount due at the end of next month.  The Rapids have now filed a lawsuit for the missing $725K.

The Post's reporting also details some of the risk involved for the Rapids, showing that the company hasn't made an SEC filing since March and in March the company had roughly $2 million in hand against $65 million in liabilities.  The other club the company sponsors, Reggina Calcio in Serie B has removed all Ciao marketing from their website.

Chris Bianchi, still reporting on the team despite being fired by, tweeted the following today:
Re missing shirt sponsor payments: club did not formalize shirt sponsorship with Ciao in Feb. over concerns this might happen.

Ciao stability was a concern stretching back to winter. Could take away arguably greatest club success of season in acquiring shirt sponsor.

Rapids had a rough deal in place in Feb for shirt sponsorship. Team - not Ciao, as I understand - then backed away to conduct more research.
None of this is good news for the Rapids.  They signed a 5 year deal worth 8.3 million in April and didn't get full payment then, followed by the first missed payment 3 months later.  The best case scenario from my POV at this point is that the Rapids manage to get the $725K their owed at this point out of Ciao and then terminate the relationship.  I don't see a scenario where the Ciao sponsorship actually continues into 2015, much less through 2018.

So that puts us back to almost square one on a jersey sponsorship.  Its also unknown what this does in terms of the planned investment this off-season we heard so much about in the last couple of weeks.  We know that the Front Office got approval from KSE to spend more money on scouting, coaching staff, and authorization for a second DP but I'm guessing that was at least partially due to the additional funds the sponsorship brought in.  Without that cash will the Front Office still be able to achieve their off-season plans?

The other question is how long will it take to find a new sponsor?  There have been numerous rumors that Fort Collins' OtterBox made an offer that was declined, are they still interested?  Tim Hinchey talked on more than one occasion that they were taking their time to find a company that shared the team's values and had a connection to Colorado, and they weren't going to just go with any national company that expressed interest to MLS.  That's one thing that made the Ciao announcement surprising to me as the company had no real connection to Colorado.  I've been told by multiple people today though that MLS had a hand in setting up the Ciao sponsorship.  Does that mean the league didn't vet Ciao?  Did the Rapids abandon their goal of a company with local connections that shared their values?  Will that make it easier to find another sponsor?

The Rapids and the league have not made any official comment on this story yet.  From what we know up to this point though, it appears the team felt pressured, either from the league, fans, or KSE to make a deal and get a sponsorship done and took an offer they knew they were wary of.  Unfortunately it blew up and left egg on their faces, again.  Sadly this is just another in a line of bad incidents this month for the Rapids.

Monday, October 27, 2014

That's All Folks!

The Rapids ended the season but not their winless streak with a 1-0 loss in Vancouver.  More of the same sadly, a lack of any offensive bite until too late and a free kick that beat them.  With that this long season is finally at an end.  For the playoffs I'm jumping on the Revolution bandwagon.  The Midnight Riders are good people and deserve a MLS Cup and Jermaine Jones is one of my favorite Nats right now.
  • The Rapids actually went with my advice and started 7 players 25 years old or younger (Torres turns 26 on Friday).  All 3 subs were also under 25.
  • Their tallest player marked Zat Knight on our attacking set pieces.  Our tallest player (Knight) did not mark their tallest player on defensive set pieces and that player scored the only goal.  Coincidence?
  • Generally in the time he's played I haven't been impressed with Zat Knight.  Not enough to give him another $140K contract next season.  If he wanted to take a discount on that to get it down towards $100K maybe.
  • The Rapids finish at 0.941 pts/game, the second worst in team history.  Had they finished with one less point it would have "beaten" 2001's 0.923 pts/game.
  • The 8th placed finish in the West is the worst finishing position in team history.  The team has finished last in the conference before, but that was before there were 8 (or 9) teams in the conference.
  • The 14 game winless streak is tied for 8th worse all time in league history.
  • The 2 points in 14 games is the worst single-season run in league history (FSL had 1 point in 15 games between the end of 2005 and the start of 2006).
  • Colorado gave up a league worst 62 goals this season.
  • Colorado scored 43 goals this season, 13th in the league.  This is right in line with our goal scoring since the league went to 34 games in 2011 (44, 44, and 45)
Later this week I'll have my opinion on the expansion draft and a season review.  News will probably be quiet until the expansion draft (and now dispersal draft with Chivas USA being officially contracted today) in early December.
Man of the Match: Charles Eloundou.  He created all the decent offensive chances before the Vancouver goal on his own.  I'm glad he's already under contract for 2015.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Once More Unto The Breach Dear Friends

A baker's dozen without a win now

For one last time in 2014 the Rapids take the field trying to break their winless streak.  If they succeed in Vancouver they will go 5-0-0 against Canada this year, which is about all we could take out of this season,  Otherwise its 14 in a row and 1 win in 18 to end the season.  Kickoff for this last one is 8pm tomorrow on Altitude.

Injury Report:
OUT: DF Drew Moor (L ACL tear); MF Brian Mullan (L knee injury); DF Thomas Piermayr (L MCl sprain)
QUESTIONABLE: DF Marc Burch (hamstring tightness);  MF Kamani Hill (rib contusion)

Disciplinary Report:

Vancouver is just missing two players out injured, otherwise their at full strength.  I dare not predict a lineup at this point but if it were me I'd start every healthy player 25 years old or younger, then fill in the gaps with experienced players.  We've got nothing to lose so why not see young guys like VDC, Boss, and Eloundou?

Strategic Consideration: I remember when I had something of note to write here.  It seems so long ago.

Prediction: 2-1 loss, goal by Brown.  Vancouver needs to match what Portland does in Dallas tomorrow to clinch the last playoff spot.  Dallas kicks off 90 minutes before the Rapids so Vancouver will have to put out a full-strength lineup.  Even if they find out before kickoff that the Timbers are getting blasted by Pareja & Co. just having their best players at home on turf will be enough to beat Colorado at this point.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Front Office Q&A Wrap-Up

Last week the Rapids Front Office held a Town Hall for C38 at the Celtic.  Apologies for the late update but an illness and a busy release week schedule prevented me from getting to it until now.  Here are some of the highlights from the notes I took.

Present: Richard Fleming (RF), Paul Bravo (PB), Tim Hinchey (TH), Pablo Mastroeni (PM), Drew Moor (DM)
Format: Written questions from the audience asked to the panel by Fleming, followed by one-on-one time with the panel

Also present in the audience but not participating was Zat Knight (and wow, he's a big guy!).

The first question asked was about who sets the goals for the team and what happens if they aren't met.  TH said they set goals collectively and their goals this year, as they have been every year, were to be a consistent winner, make the playoffs, and win trophies.  Specifically in regards to this year TH said that there will be more investment in the technical staff this offseason and there will be no staff changes in the Front Office or technical staff.

PM was asked about the constant shuffling of lineups and if it hurts results.  PM said continuity was good but early in the season when the lineups were shuffling they were still getting good results, and more recently injuries and suspensions have forced many lineup changes.

PB was asked about Claudio Lopez's role in the organization and responded that while he isn't officially part of the organization right now he is scouting for the team in South America.

TH had the next question about the money available from KSE backing up the team's stated ambition.  TH said that he has no criticism for the money KSE is spending on the team since they bought the team, built the stadium, fully funded the youth academies, etc.  They have now authorized more spending on FO and technical staff, more spending on technology, and they have authorized the addition of a second Designated Player this offseason.

The next question was to PM asking about the team's style of play.  The response was that the team was taking the space that other teams we're giving them.

After a couple of less important questions (PB all but confirmed that Chivas USA is going away) TH was asked to address the communication strategy from the FO.  He said that they're working on it and there will be more investment in that.

DM got a chance at his first question when he addressed the motivation of the players right now.  He says the players are well motivated and are frustrated with the current run.

PB was asked if the goal each year is just to do good enough to make a playoff run or is it more than that.  PB responded that they want to win every trophy they have a shot at (MLS Cup, Shield, U.S. Open Cup, Rocky Mountain Cup).  TH then jumped in and said that they feel continuity is critical to success and they haven't done a very good job of that in recent seasons, citing specifically the coaching staff and player turnover.  He then laid out the specific goal of the team (quoted as accurately as I could on the fly):
 We aim to be a well run club that competes in every competition and has the success we want
Following that was a suggestion of a Caribous of Colorado inspired 3rd kit which got a lot of laughs and wasn't entirely ruled out by anyone.

Then it was time to get serious again as the first of my two questions was asked.  Roughly:
With 2 of the last 3 seasons being among the worst in team history, what will you do differently in 2015 to get a better result?
TH's answer was that they were going to use 2013, which was one of the 3 most successful in team history, as a model (and that is accurate based on the same metric, pts/game, I was using to measure the two poor seasons).  They plan to get Pablo prefoession opportunites in the offseason, specifically he's already been invited to spend time with Arsenal and Arsene Wenger.  They'll be able to plan for the transfer window in advance and make some investments.  They're investing in scouting, including the trip the week before PB took to Arsenal, PSG, and Spain.

PB was encouraged to get ex-Rapids in the area involved, which he says he's working on.

TH then got my second question:
How do you respond to Arsenal making their first trip to the States since the 80's and not even mentioning the Rapids, their partner club?
TH said it was a fair question and that they contacted the Rapdis before they made the announcement.   Arsenal's original plan wasn't to trael this offseason and TH felt that the travel roster reflected that, but the team was offered a million-dollar payday for a single game against RBNY and decided to take it (left unsaid was the Thierry Henry connection.  TH said they're working on the relationship to build up trust and a good example of it was last week's trip.  A result of that trip was that the Rapids will get access to Arsenal's scouting network now.  TH believes Arsenal will eventually make the trip to Colorado.

Pm was asked if there were any positives at all that came out of this winless streak.  There was a lot of spin in his answer but said that he will never again make the same mistakes he's made this year, which is something I guess.

TH was asked about the balance between revenue and getting new fans and which comes first.  He said that its a balance but that in July they put together an 18-month plan on how to do both.  The big news (and to me, the most interesting piece of info the whole night) is that Josh Kroenke is now taking an active interest in the club and league.  He attended the MLS Board meeting two weeks ago, one of the first that either Josh or Stan have attended and will be serving on the MLS Governance Committee.  He's also already been out to the Dick for a couple of games.

The final question asked was how we catch FSL's youth movement.  TH pointed out that the most recent U.S. U-23 team had 3 Rapids on it, two of which came through the Academy (Serna and O'Neill, plus Hairston as a draftee) while no other team had more than 1 player on the squad, and FSL had none.  Success for the Rapids is putting players on the Rapids first team and beyond, not how big the Academy is or how many college stars it has.

After that the panel members broke up to answer questions one on one with the fans present.  I had to get going so I didn't stay any longer.  Most of the evening was about what I expected.  A lot of looking forward talk, invest was the word of the evening.  The most interesting part to me was the Josh Kroenke news, maybe that's a positive sign.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Plane Got The Biggest Cheer

4 shots on goal, only 1 of which was by the home team.  A PK for the only goal of the match.  In other words, BORING.
  • Can't really complain about the PK.  Klute's arm wasn't in an unnatural position but his instinctive reaction was to pull his arm out of the way which had the effect of playing the ball straight up.  If he had stayed still it would have been a rough call.
  • Watts gets a yellow for dissent after the call, which is stupid enough.  The he commits a professional foul getting a justified yellow and ending his season early.  Dumb.
  • 13 games without a win.  That's tied for 9th worse in league history.
  • Surprisingly its not even the worst streak this season as San Jose is currently in the middle of a 14 game streak.
  • Next week Vancouver will need to match what Portland does to clinch the playoff spot.  Our game will kickoff 90 minutes after Portland-Dallas so Vancouver will probably have to start a full strength lineup.  Not good odds for breaking the streak.
  • Centennial 38's Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the year were named at this game.  Player of the Year went to Jose Mari, Defensive Player of the Year to Shane O'Neill (For the record I voted for Deshorn Brown for PotY and Jose Mari for Defensive PotY).
Man of the Match: The fan that bought the banner circling the stadium.  Not so much for the message (though its hard to disagree given the current state of the team) but because I never thought I'd see a fan that passionate about the Rapids that they're willing to do something like that.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Welcome The Traitor Back To Colorado

12 in a row without a win

Normally a MLS Cup 2010 picture would be above, given Dallas as the opponent tomorrow, but the Dirty Dozen was more appropriate.  Oscar Pareja makes his first trip back to Colorado after skipping town on us this offseason.  Never mind that whole "happy to sign a new contract with the Rapids" or Dan Hunt tampering thing.  Game time tomorrow is at 1pm, so the tailgate with a baked potato bar starts at 10am.  For those of you who can't, or won't, make it the game is on NBC Sports Network.

Injury Report:
OUT: DF Drew Moor (L ACL tear); MF Brian Mullan (L knee injury); DF Thomas Piermayr (L MCl sprain)
QUESTIONABLE: DF Marc Burch (hamstring tightness);  MF Kamani Hill (rib contusion); DF Chris Klute (calf tightness)

Disciplinary Report:

Dallas is down former Rapid Hendrey Thomas and George "Own Goal" John to injury and Moises Hernandez to suspension.  Given that we're out of the running and beat up I have no idea who we'll see tomorrow so I'm not even going to try to predict a lineup.

Strategic Consideration: Really?

Prediction: 2-1 loss, goal by Brown.  Dallas can clinch 4th with a draw and possibly leapfrog FSL for 3rd with a draw or win if FSL doesn't beat Portland tonight.  Meanwhile the Rapids haven't looked like they've had anything to play for since mid-summer and I don't expect that to change.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Twelfth Verse, Same As The First

The Rapids took the lead then mental defensive errors cost them the win.  That's a new one.  Oh wait, no, that's the same thing we've seen over and over again in this losing streak.  Only this time it was against possibly the worst team in the league.  I say possibly because a reasonable argument could be made that we're the worst team in the league at this moment.
  • Pretty ball movement on the Rapids goal.  Eloundou suckered in the Chivas defender and dropped it off to Neeskens at the perfect time.
  • And credit to Neeskens for beating Kennedy near post, not many scorers pull that off. 
  • Gotta love a rookie coming in and on his first touch slaloming through four defenders like they were traffic cones for an easy goal.  Or at least I'd love it if he was a Rapid.  Here's an idea defense, KNOCK HIM DOWN!
  • Of course Zat Knight, tallest guy on the field by a decent margin, experienced EPL defender, gets beat on a header for the winning goal.  Nice job.
  • Jared Watts is not, not, not a CB.  Starting Wynne on the bench so Watts could start was pointless.  Well, it got Chivas 3 points.
  • Tied and looking for a wining goal we go to Kamani Hill and Edson Buddle while Gabriel Torres and Vicente Sanchez stay on the bench?  SMH
  • The Rapids need at least 4 points in their last two games to avoid the 2nd worst season in their history (2001 being the worst, which they've already beaten).  I don't see them getting it.
  • They would need to win their last two games to do better than their 2012 season, currently the 3rd worst in team history.  That's clearly not happening.
Man of the Match: Charles Eloundou.  He's clearly improving from the beginning of the year, looking up more and not just dribbling close enough to shoot wildly.  Given his age I'm still excited about what he could become.  Watching Cameroon play Sierra Leone this weekend there's still an opportunity for him to get back in the National Team picture too.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Our Last, Best Hope For Victory

The year is 2014.  The place: StubHub Center

Looking at our last 3 games, tomorrow's match against Chivas USA is our most likely opportunity to win a game this season.  It is also likely our last game ever against Chivas USA as all signs point to the team being contracted at the end of the season.  Game time tomorrow is 8:30pm.  Important note, Fleming and 'Celo will have the call on Altitude 2 as the Avs will be on the flagship.  Altitude 2 is 105/900 (SD/HD) on Comcast in the Denver area.

Injury Report:
OUT: DF Drew Moor (L ACL tear); MF Brian Mullan (L knee injury)
QUESTIONABLE: F Edson Buddle (R Achilles tendinitis); DF Chris Klute (calf tightness)

Disciplinary Report:
SUSPENDED AFTER ONE MORE YELLOW: MF Nick LaBrocca; MF Thomas Piermayr (1 good behavior game left)

International Absences:
Jamaica - FW Deshorn Brown
U.S. U-23s - DF Shane O'Neill; MF Marlon Hairston; MF Dillon Serna

Yeah, that's ugly and we'll miss O'Neill next week to as he serves his suspension.  Chivas will be missing former Rapids Nathan Sturgis to suspension, Chavez to international absence, and Rivero to injury, along with 3 other injured players.  Pablo has talked this week about shaking up the lineup so this is a complete guess:

But really, who knows.

Strategic Consideration: Having a strategic consideration requires having a strategy, something the Rapids have been lacking in recent months.

Prediction: 2-2 draw.  Goals by Torres and Powers.  Both teams suck and are missing key components.  Their defenses have been horrible.  This will be ugly soccer with no result.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Catching Up On Rapids News

Going back over the last couple of weeks to catch up on the Rapids news.

  • Mullan is officially retiring.  No surprise given the news we've heard this year about his knees.  Great player, and great career, he will be missed.
  • Rapids to be part of 2015 Desert Diamond Cup.  This is the annual preseason tournament in Tucson that the Rapids competed in this past year.
  • As we saw this weekend, Zat Knight was officially signed.  He is reportedly signed only for this season, with an option for next year.  That's the best way for the team to approach this.
  • Powers signs a contract extension, reportedly for 3 guaranteed years.  Great move by the team.
  • Brown, Hairston, and Serna called up for National Team duty this weekend.  Good for them and now that O'Neill is suspended he'll join them (though he'll still have to serve his suspension when he returns).  Won't make it easy to beat Chivas though.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Rapids Officially Eliminated From Playoffs In Loss

11 in a row without a win, a new record for the Rapids.  With the 4-1 loss we are officially out of the playoffs, though we've been unofficially out of the playoffs since late August.  Yesterday's game played out like all our losses recently, the other team was better than us.  Other notes:
  • Deshorn Brown got his 10th goal of the year, making him only the 3rd player in Rapids history to have back-to-back seasons with double-digit goals.  Conor Casey (who did it in 3 straight years) and Mark Chung were the other two.  John Spencer is the only other player to have double-digit goals in a season multiple times.
  • Brown also moved out of a tie with Carrieri for 9th all-time scorer in team history.
  • Marvell Wynne had a horrible half, with an amateur hour PK give-away and constantly being out of position.  Subbing him at half was a good move.
  • Taking his place was Zat Knight!  Look, our big midseason signing finally makes an appearance.  Too bad it wasn't until 45 minutes before we were officially eliminated.
  • Irwin made some good saves but also showed some rust/lack of confidence.  He's still our best choice though.
  • O'Neill's yellow causes him to be suspended for the game next week.
  • Sanchez is trying to do too much with the ball.  Given where this team is though, its hard to blame him.
  • This team really looks like its given up and is going through the motions.  A few individual bright spots (Brown) but generally they're just playing out the string.
Man of the Match: Deshorn Brown.  Good goal, had a great header that was stolen from him, and was actually involved the whole game which is more than I can say about some of his teammates.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Rapids Try To Avoid Record 11th Winless Game

Enough results for every field player

Sorry for going dark, I was on vacation in Orlando.  Expect a recap post of the news of the last two weeks sometime next week.  Up first though is Sunday's home game against Seattle.  As we see the Rapids have gone 10 games without a win, going back to July 25th.  That ties the team's longest winless streak so failing to win Sunday would set another less-than-desirable record.  Kickoff is at 1pm so the tailgate, featuring fish tacos, stats at 10am.  The game is on Altitude and UniMas.

Injury Report:
OUT: DF Drew Moor (L ACL tear); MF Brian Mullan (L knee injury); MF Jared Watts (L hamstring strain)
QUESTIONABLE: F Edson Buddle (R Achilles tendinitis); Mf Kamani Hill (L glute tightness); MF Jose Mari (R quad soreness); MF Vicente Sanchez (R knee soreness)

Disciplinary Report:
SUSPENDED: MF Carlos Lavarez
SUSPENDED AFTER ONE MORE YELLOW: DF Shane O'Neill ( 3 good behavior games left); MF Thomas Piermayr (1 good behavior game left)

Alvarez was suspended by the DisCo this week after entering the field of play from the bench celebrating Torres goal last week.  Weak sauce.  There's been no update on our injury report for a week so its out of date but the best we have to work with.  Seattle has a player injured and two questionable.  My guess at the XI:

At this point I'm just guessing, who knows what Pablo will do.  He hasn't decided on a keeper at last report so I figure Nasco will get the start.

Strategic Consideration: Dempsey + Martins.  They're kind of good.

Prediction: 2-1 loss.  Goal by Brown.  Seattle is really good and we aren't.  We'll set a new winless streak record and got to Chivas next week with our best chance this season to break it without Brown, Hairston, and Serna (all called up for international duty next week).