Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Two Bits Of News

After two weeks we've got a bit of news coming out of the Rapids.  First the "smaller" news.  Dillon Powers' trial at Reading FC of the English Championship has been extended for a week.  This is nothing but good news, if they had no real interest they would have just let him go.  Apparently they had a second similar player on trial at the same time and didn't extend him so they are taking a serious look at Powers as a long-term solution.

Now the big news.  From Marco Cummings on Twitter (Cummings has covered the Rapids at time for both the Post and MLSSoccer.com):
REPORT: Claudio Lopez "confirms" Colorado Rapids "in talks" with Real Sociedad and Carlos Vela
This is the first "on-record" confirmation that we have that the Rapids are really working on getting Vela.  In reality, this is the first "on-record" confirmation that the Rapids have ever been going after a name of the stature of Vela's.  This alone is a huge step for the club.

If you feed the link above through a translator you'll see that Real Sociedad is asking for 15 million Euros (about 16 million dollars) for Vela, since they have him under contract through the 2017-18 season.  This would be, by far, the biggest transfer fee ever paid by MLS (the current record is $10 million for Michael Bradley).  My bet is that a large part of the negotiations is working on getting that number down to something closer to Bradley's number.  Normally on transfer fees the club pays the transfer fee but for certain "key" DPs the league has stepped in and covered part or all of the transfer fee.  They did so for players like Bradley, Dempsey, Valeri, and Gaby Torres.  I would expect the league to do something similar here if a deal is reached.  That still leaves a multi-million dollar salary that KSE will be paying.

This is a deal the Rapids must get done.  This team has historically over-promised and under-delivered.  They've now made it official that they are willing to spend big money for a big player.  Coming off our worst two-season run in team history this is the type of signing this team needs.  Even if he's not worth $20 million in transfer fee and salary on the field (or whatever they negotiate ti down to) he's worth it off the field in sponsorship revenue, ticket sales, jersey sales, and as an indicator to the fan base the the Rapids are doing something to turn this ship around.

If Vela decides he doesn't want to come to MLS, fine.  Sometimes the player just isn't interested.  If that's the case though the Rapids MUST have a back up plan for another record (for the team) signing and they MUST get it done before the start of the 2016 season.  They can't go on the record about Vela, fail to get him, and then sign nobody else of note before the season.  That's just more of the same talk but no action this team has historically shown.  There's NO excuse for Vela to play for another MLS team next year.  Paul Bravo has confirmed that the Rapids have the first Discovery claim on Vela.  We now know we're in negotiations with Vela.  If Vela were to end up somewhere else in the league it would be a complete failure by the Front Office.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Dillon Powers On Trial With Reading

This morning The Sun reported that Dillon Powers is on trial with English Championship side Reading FC.  The English club is currently dealing with a couple of midfield injuries and could use the help.  It was just Friday in the Denver Post that Paul Bravo talked about how it was likely that they would be selling Powers sooner rather than later.  It looks like that time might be when the window opens on January.

Reading has been home to a number of Americans over the years.  Current Nats player Danny Williams is on the squad at hte moment.  Former Rapid Marcus Hahnemann played the majority of his career at Reding and Bobby Convey transferred from DC to Reading in 2004.  also current Rapid Kevin Doyle made 157 appearances for Reading in 4 seasons, scoring 55 times.  He's already tweeted that he hope it works out there for Powers.

Overall I think this would be a good move for Powers and, if the price is right, the Rapids.  Bravo is correct, we will be selling Powers sooner or later and I think he'd do better in the Championship than the rumored Serie A or Serie B transfer.  Assuming we can get value for him its the best move all around.  Just as long as he doesn't score or assist against Blackburn!

Friday, November 6, 2015

To Buy Or Not To Buy: 2016 Season Tickets

Last year around this time I discussed my decision to purchase 2015 season tickets.  As part of that I said that if the then-current Rapids woes continue I would be pressuring Centennial 38 (C38) to not renew the season ticket deal they had with the Front Office as that was the only way for C38 season ticket members to put pressure on the Front Office.  During this season I talked to most of the C38 board members about the ticket deal and my feeling that we shouldn’t be making a deal with the Rapids.  In the end C38 did make another season ticket deal with the Front Office that includes my seat for 2016.  So that leaves me in the same bind I was in last season with my decision having a more direct impact on C38 than on the Rapids.

As part of my decision making I reached out to the C38 board to ask them a couple of questions about their plans for both 2016 and, should the poor performance of the team continue, 2017.  They had a discussion about my questions at a recent board meeting and sent me a reply which they’re happy for me to share here.  Here are the questions I asked:
  • In light of the current plan being discussed publicly for the 2016 season by the Rapids front office which appears to be minimal changes to what they did this year, what can C38 offer fans as a good reason to buy/renew season tickets for next season?
  • Should 2016 not see a significant improvement over the last two years on the field has the C38 board discussed what the strategy will be when discussing 2017 ticket options with the Rapids?  If I decide to get tickets for 2016 I don't want to be asking my first question again at this time next year.
Here is the Centennial 38 board's combined answer to my two questions:

First, I think the thing to be clear on here is that no one in C38 can be happy with how the season has gone and how last year finished. It’s created more challenges for the group to have to tackle and, just as individual fans, has been heart breaking to see the team we love struggle so profusely on the field. As for why to renew or purchase a ticket for next season, there is a huge personal element to that as everyone has their own specific breaking point.  Why we think that people should renew or get their tickets through C38 though is fairly extensive.

First, we create an atmosphere that is far and above what just happens on the field. We have the best pre-game tailgate in the league every single home game where you can socialize and enjoy a portion of your day that lasts longer than the game itself. It’s a chance to meet new people, catch up with friends you may only see at games and just enjoy the community as a whole. On top of that, revenue created stays within the group and helps pay for things like tifo or equipment for the tailgate, etc.
Second, C38, because of leveraging our size through a bulk ticket purchase, is able to provide special events and team access that you just don’t get otherwise. Your renewal or purchase supports that.  For example, in the last year, we have hosted 500 members in the lower bowl of the Pepsi Center for an Avs game, we get special items for giveaways and player appearances at our several member events, the All Star Game party where 400 people got to enjoy free food, drinks and transportation to the game, the Elitches viewing party mid-season and the great kickoff party for 400 folks are all possible because of your support of the group by buying tickets through C38.

Also, and probably more importantly, is just the simple love of the sport and this team. We get how bad they have been the last 2 years and we aren’t doing the ticket deal with the front office as an endorsement of that performance. The reason we are doing it though is that enough of our folks are wanting to come back due to that love of the badge and we want to support them in that pursuit. By buying the large block and people taking part in that, we are able to control pricing. This is a major reason why we do it, along with some desired autonomy in the stadium, and people buying through C38 continues the ability of the group to be able to provide that. Over the past 3 seasons, that total savings for members is in the 6 figure amount.

The ticket deal that we do through the front office helps provide for and protect the C38 community. The security issues are miniscule compared to before 2013 when we first bought the sections. It offers chances to help out members when they are in a pinch, create some great giveaways, events, offset away trip costs, and the like, plus it keeps all your money within that independent community.
Lastly, we are going to buy a large block of tickets regardless as it supports our members in the multiple ways mentioned above that want to continue coming out. It would be money already spent and buying through C38 isn’t an endorsement of the team’s current status or add to the KSE coffers if that is a form of protest that is important to you. You won’t be spending your money with KSE, but instead you will be putting it into a group that will then put any remaining money back into you and the group. 

As for the future, we have made some adjustments to the plan. Instead of renewing for 3 years, we are only signing on for a single year. We are doing this as a response to the team’s recent form. A multi-year deal right now is not consistent with the commitment to improvement we expect to see on the field.  In addition to that, we are retracting our total purchase number by at least 200 seats because, as it stands, this isn’t a product that commands our previous ticket commitment. It also helps the group stay viable, but it still warrants the support of its members that are dedicated to this team win or lose. Ultimately though, the team needs to improve to keep this idea of owning multiple sections of the stadium in place. That is why we are culling it back in years and total number, to allow us to assess as the season ends.

I want to extend my appreciation to the C38 board for taking the time to seriously consider my questions and give me a well-reasoned response.  While I don’t agree with everything in the response it was well thought out and I understand where the board is coming from.

I am glad to see there is some pressure being exerted on the Front Office in the form of a shorter contract for fewer tickets.  The only way anything changes at this point is if the Rapids make less money due to the play on the field.  That said C38 is locking in two large groups of tickets (Section 108 and the Terraces) after two failed seasons so that  has to be a nice base for Tim Hinchey to build from as he works on the 2016 season ticket numbers.

At this point I still don’t know what I’m going to do for 2016.  As bad as this team is I still enjoy going to games but it has nothing to do with the Rapids at this and everything to do with Centennial 38.  From the great tailgate crew through the friends around me in the stands (including that Zero I referenced last year ;) ) I have a good time out at the stadium.  I just hate the fact that I feel like I’m rewarding the team for failure at this point.

One decision I’ve made regardless is that I’m cutting back on how much time I’m giving to the team each game.  For the last 7+ years I’ve been part of the C38 tailgate crew doing 80% of the soda purchasing and delivering for the tailgates.  That’s meant being at the tailgate from the beginning almost every home game which means a Rapids game takes 6-7 hours of my day (including drive time) each time.  I’ve been happy to do it but I’ve done enough.  If I renew my tickets I’ll only be doing soda for about a third of the tailgates which means most games I can reduce that time to something around 4.5 hours (if I still want to stop by and see everyone at the tailgate) to as little as 3.5 hours if I show up just before kickoff.   That’s all this team deserves at this point and my wife will appreciate not seeing half of our summer Saturdays completely lost to soccer. :D

I’m going to have to think about this question for a while longer.  Maybe the Rapids will do something to show they’re actually going to improve (Carlos Vela?) which would make my decision easier.  The announcement in the Denver Post yesterday that Pablo will be back certainly gave me no reason to get excited and buy tickets though.  If I, as the oldest fan blogger for the team, am seriously considering not buying season tickets what does that say about the state of the fan base and can the Rapids really afford another lost season?

Thursday, November 5, 2015

More Quotes About Pablo

Apparently there were more quotes from Tim and Paul about Pablo.  Looking at a few of Tim's comments:
On when the club decided to bring Mastroeni back
“We saw improvement over the second half of the season. It doesn’t mask how upset we are with the entire results of the year, but at the same time, for me, I don’t think it ever got to a point where it was a real consideration.”
Improvement being going from 15 points (.88 pts/game) to 22 points (1.29 pts/game).  Neither of those is playoff level soccer.
On whether the Rapids made a mistake hiring Mastroenibefore he was ready, considering his 17-32-18 record
“The evidence doesn’t lie. That’s just not good enough. That’s terrible. We’re not going to make any excuses or anything like that. We owe the fanbase a lot more than 17 wins over that many matches. We’re keenly aware of that. He’s aware of that. We’re all aware of that. We just have to do better. And I’m completely angry with our home form in particular. But I think we knew that it was going to be tough. Paul and I were put in a difficult situation with that coaching change at the timing when it happened. We certainly tried to do our due diligence with some coaches.”
Do I really need to go over this discussion again?  Or should I just point back to my prior posts on the subject?
On how long the Rapids are willing to stick with Mastroeni if the club finishes last next season
“It’d be unfair for me to speculate that far in advance. That’s an impossible thing for me to answer.”
“But I can tell you I don’t want to endure anymore pain, period. So we’re going to look at this very seriously as we start the season. It’s not just Pablo we’re talking myself, Paul, all of us are going to be held accountable going forward. All I can tell you is we’re completely focused on not having anymore pain.”
12-13 points in the first 5 games is the anesthetic I need to make the pain I'm feeling about the news that there will be no leadership changes go away.

And Now The Bad News

I know I said earlier this week that I was done with the commentary for a while but then we had news today.  The other half of the news today was this:

Colorado Rapids president: Pablo Mastroeni will be back as coach

 Yeah, really not the news any of us wanted to hear.  We all know why Pablo shouldn't be back at this point, I won't go into that again.  Let's take a look at some of the quotes from the article though.

"I guarantee he's going to be a successful coach in this league," Rapids president Tim Hinchey told reporters at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. "What I hope is that it's here."
Tim, the fact that you're not making a coaching change pretty much means your guaranteeing it by putting your job on the line.

"He's got 60 percent of the field sorted out," Bravo said. "If you take from our goalline to the first ten yards of the opponent's half, we're as good as any team in the league."
You know why strikers get paid the big bucks in soccer?  Because attacking is the hardest piece to figure out.  We do have a solid defense but that's largely due to putting 7, 8, sometimes 9 defensive-minded players on the field.  Hardly the "entertaining, attacking soccer" we've been promised in the past.

"That's terrible," Hinchey said. "We're not going to make any excuses. We owe the fan base a lot more than 17 wins over that many matches. We're keenly aware of that.
"Were all going to be held accountable at the end of the day. But for this group right now, stability is the right course for action."
End of what day Tim?  We've completely failed in all our on-field goals the last two seasons.  How is keeping that stable going to help?

Hinchey added that he was "completely angry" with the way the Rapids played at home. Last year, he said making Dick's Sporting Goods Park a "fortress" was his top priority, but Colorado was 5-7-5 at home — worst in MLS.
Apparently we're not holding anyone accountable for that yet...

"It's disrespectful to call (Kreis) an 'obvious upgrade over Pablo,'" Hinchey said. "I have a head coach so I'm not interested in commenting on other people that are available."
Ok now, that's just insulting.  Kreis only has a MLS Cup, another MLS Cup appearance, a U.S. Open Cup final appearance, and a CONCACAF Champions League final appearance, not to mention an all time 112-67-95 record, good for a 1.47 pts/game average.  In comparison the Rapids best-ever career coaching record was Gary Smith's 1.43 pts.game.  Pablo's current record is 1.02 pts/game.  To suggest that calling Kreis an obvious upgrade is disrespectful is ridiculous.  Sigi Schmid may be out in Seattle if they don't win it all, would calling him an obvious upgrade also be disrespectful?

This article was nothing but spin from Hinchey and Bravo to try to sell the fact that Pablo is coming back.  I was really hoping they were going to come to their senses and make a change but this article makes it pretty clear that's not going to happen yet.  For this to work they need to come out of the starting blocks earning 12-13 points in the first 5 games.  Otherwise the figurative pitchforks and torches will be out and the fans will be storming the gates.

Good News, Bad News

Two pieces of news today from Daniel Boniface of the Post sitting down with Tim and Paul.  The good news in this post, the bad in the next one later tonight.

plans to keep the No. 2 overall SuperDraft pick. As it stands, would return to .
I'm happy to see the Rapids are doing the right thing and keeping the #2 pick.  The way that second part is phrased I wonder if the Rapids are negotiating with the Union for a lower price.  Its no secret that MacMath and the Union have no interest in continuing their relationship.  I wouldn't be shocked to see him stay in exchange for a lower round pick (though at his salary level I don't think its worth it).

Monday, November 2, 2015

2015 Roster Review

Time for my annual roster review.  This is where I try to break down the roster with what I think the Rapids should do with each player within the realities of MLS's roster and acquisition rules, knowing that its a salary cap league.  This also assumes roughly the same leadership next season (Pablo/Lopez/Bravo/some offensive coach addition). The number after each player's name is their 2015 base salary.

F Dominque Badji, 50K - I would  plan to send him to Charlotte for 2016 but at the minimum he's worth another year of work
GK John Berner, 60K - Good quality backup keeper
F Kevin Doyle, 1.125M - I think with some sort of decent service and a whole season with the club he's easily into double-digit goals
F Charles Eloundou, 60K - Same rational as Badji plus I seem to like him more than most
D Maynor Figueroa, 100K - Best outside back on the roster
D Joseph Greenspan, 50K - The Navy will have their say but if  he's available we should use him
D Marlon Hairston, 80K - I'd like to see him get more playing time in Colorado than Charlotte at this point
GK Clint Irwin, 85K - Duh.  And give him a raise
D Drew Moor 258.5K - Duh.  There's a rumor that NYCFC is willing to greatly overpay for him.  If so then a trade might be worth it but otherwise he should stay.  And give him the captain's armband back
M Dillon Powers, 245K - If the rumored Serie A interest develops I could see selling him for a good price but short of that he needs to be installed as an every-game starter next season
M Juan Ramirez, 75K (plus transfer fee payment) - He's got some good skills but he need a lot of coaching
M Dillon Serna, 60K - He needs more playing time
D Axel Sjoberg, 60K - Another good find in the draft
D Sean St. Ledger, 125K - I liked what I saw, he wasn't perfect but we have greater needs than replacing him

Keep for now, be looking for an upgrade:
D Marc Burch, 110K - He's a little too expensive for what he brings.  If you could get him to take a pay cut to under 100K I'd move him to the Keep category
M Sam Cronin, 200K - Mainly because he's the best of our defensive mids but I don't love keeping him at that salary
M Vicente Sanchez, 210K - I know, he was great this season, but at his age and salary I'm not sure we should be building anything around him and if we don't I don't know how well he'll work with whatever offensive plan we see next season
M Marcelo Sarvas, 360K - Not nearly enough bang for the buck but I don't think he should just be cut.  Possible trade-bait
F Luis Solignac, 65K - Injuries derailed this season but I didn't see much out of him
F Gabriel Torres, 262K (plus transfer fee payment) - I don't know what to do about Torres.  Maybe cutting is better but I feel like there might still be something there
D Jared Watts, 60K - Just not a fan

Return from loan:
GK Zac MacMath, 130K - He's not worth the #2 overall pick to sit the bench
M Lucas Pittinari, 190K - Not good and rumored to have a very large (high-priced DP level) loan buyout

D Bobby Burling, 132K - we have to be able to do better than him, he's too much of a card magnet for that price
D Michael Harrington, 130K - Based on rumors I don't think he's happy here and I think the he and the Rapids will find a way to part ways
M Nick LaBrocca, 160K - I never liked having both him and Cronin on the roster and Cronin was the better option
D James Riley, 77.5K - Never should have come out of retirement

Unknown (not enough/no playing time):
M Carlos Alvarez, 70K
F Caleb Calvert, 65K

So that's 6 players to replace with another 7 to try to upgrade.  Not unreasonable for an offseason.  It also frees up 820K of salary cap which can be used for a number of players.

With that its time for a break.  This season has really worn me down.  I'll continue to update with any news the Rapids have but don'y expect any analysis or commentary for a few weeks.  I need some time to recharge.

Of course all that goes out the window if the Rapids do something major (DP signing, coaching change, executive change. etc.).