Wednesday, March 4, 2015

2015 Season Preview

Well the big news in the last couple hours is that the owners and the players have agreed to a new Collective Bargaining Agreement and the season will start as planned.  For the Rapdis that means 2pm MST in Philly on Saturday.

Also today the Rapids announced they had signed their final draft pick, striker Dominque Badji, to a contract.  No surprise with the amount of play he's gotten this preseason.  That leaves Colorado with 26 signed players and 7 of 8 international spots filled.  We'll have to see what the roster rules are with the new CBA to know if the Rapids have room to make any more moves.

Along those lines the Post's Daniel Boniface was at training and had a few updates.  Charles Eloundou is now in camp so his visa issues have apparently been settled.  Trialists James Riley and Ben Newnam while trialists Benji Joya, Oscar Montoya, and Francisco Flores have not been seen in a couple of days.  Wes Knight was officially released Saturday and VDC and Neeskens were not present (Neeskens is under contract, VDC isn't).

So with all that I've updated my camp roster, it will be at the bottom of the preview.

The Rapids certainly attempted to improve this offseason, though I don't think they've done enough yet.

Goalkeeper: Clint Irwin is back and should be the #1.  Sounds like that he's missed some time this week as a player rep in the CBA talks and MacMath is ineligible to play against his home team so Berner could get the start on Saturday.  Based on preseason I think Irwin will be the nominal #1 but I expect he and MacMath to both get starts.  That's bad, but it seems to be Pablo's way.  If the two of them can settle into friendly competition as a way of staying at the top of their game that might work.  If one or the other feels like they're being disrespected we could see a repeat of the second half of 2014.  The silver lining is that I would think Irwin would see MacMath as more worthy of taking starts from him than Nasco and Berner were last season.

Defense: This seems like a mismash of talent that if we can find the right combo with we'll be in good shape, but it might take a while still to figure that out.  I think O'Neill and Harrington will start almost every game they're available for, but the other two positions are murky.  The big question mark is will Moor return to his old level after the injury?  If so that gives us 3 solid positions.  If he doesn't he'll still start for a while but I'm not sure how confident I am in any of the other CBs to play in his place.  Burling has experience, Sjober has the physical stature, and Watts is Watts.

As far as right back this is what I wrote last year:
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.
Substitute Riley (if signed) for Wynne and I could use the same statement about this year's team.  One of the areas we failed to address this offseason.

Midfield: The Rapids made their biggest strides this offseason in the middle of the aprk.  Sarvas, Pittinari, and Ramirez all look like solid starters already.  Mix in Powers, Sanchez, Serna and Torres and we've got a MLS-quality midfield with at least a couple of backups.  This should be the strength of the team this season and the key will be figuring out the best 5 (assuming we use the 4-2-3-1 formation we've been seeing in preseason) on a given night.

Forward: Um, yeah, nothing much happened here.  We signed Badji!  Otherwise we're apparently hoping that what we have can get us enough goals until a move can be made.  At this point I think the assumption is that Kevin Doyle will be joining the team but the question is when.  If we have to wait for the July transfer window then Brown, Torres, and Badji are going to have to figure out how to score without a holding forward.  If somehow we can get Doyle before the end of Wolves season then we can probably muddle through for a few games until he gets here.  If we don't make any move at all we're in trouble.

Bench: The quality depth is paper thin in defense and forward.  We saw that in Arizona when anyone but the expected starting group got on the field.  Its not pretty.  Even after the top 7 midfielders things take a nose dive.  The only place where we're absolutely set is goalkeeper.  Lets hope players stay healthy and out of trouble.

Coaching:  I don't see much improvement here.  As far as I can tell Pablo's planned trip to Arsenal to work with Wenger never happened.  Instead he went to 'Boro for a week and spent time with former Rapid and current Boro manager Aitor Karnaka.  No knock on Aitor but that's not exactly the same thing.  No experienced assistant coaches were brought in to help, instead two more of the 2010 midfield were added as rookie coaches, Claudio Lopez and Brian Mullan.  I think its great that so many ex-players are now involved in the club (Jamie Smith from that midfield is working with the Academy) but it was clear last season that Pablo needed some experienced advice to level out some rookie mistakes.  Hopefully he got enough experience on his own I guess.

Overall I think we improved, but the rest of the West improved more on average.

So here are my predictions for the season, last year I got just over half of my predictions correct:

  • We're not really a playoff threat this season but we improve from last year's disaster.
  • The winless streak reaches 17 games before being broken on Jameson Night
  • Pablo makes it through 2015 as coach and is not immediately fired after the season
  • We do win back the Rocky Mountain Cup in an upset, its a large part of why Pablo keeps his job
  • We host a USOC game but we still go losing a game we were favored in
  • Doyle joins in July and proves to be a great, but too late, signing
  • Torres wins the team Golden Boot
  • Irwin or MacMath leaves at the end of the year if not before
  • Ramirez turns out to be worth the young DP slot, but Pittinari returns to Argentina after his loan
  • We go most of the season without a jersey sponsor, again

Updated camp roster:

(* = international):

John Berner
Clint Irwin
Zac MacMath

Marc Burch
Bobby Burling
Michael Harrington
Drew Moor
John Neeskens
Shane O'Neill
Axel Sjoberg*

Carlos Alvarez
Sam Cronin
Marlon Hairston
Nick LaBrocca
Lucas Pittinari*
Dillon Powers
Juan Ramirez*
Marcelo Sarvas
Dillon Serna
Jared Watts

Dominique Badji*
Deshorn Brown*
Caleb Calvert
Charles Eloundou* (not yet in camp, visa issues)
Vicente Sanchez
Gabriel Torres*

Unsigned but still around:
D Joseph Greenspan (draftee, on Naval duty through 2017 probably, was in Vegas)
D Ben Newnam (trialist)
D James Riley
D Grant Van de Casteele
F Kevin Doyle* (negotiating)


BMer916 said...

of all of the Rapids blog (all like, 3 of them), you do the best job Jason. Longtime reader, and i just enjoy the actual information in your posts. Thanks for continuing to write this.

Jason Maxwell said...

Thanks BMer916, I was beginning to wonder if anyone was still reading. Comments have been sparse this offseason. ;)

Chris Earley said...

I still read and agree with the above comments. I dont put much stock in bl0gs as I really dont care to read some other fans opinion which is what most of these blogs are, but Jason comes across a bot more studious and educated than the average blogger