Wednesday, March 30, 2016

International Games Round-Up Part 2

A full slate of games yesterday resulted in not a lot of playing time for Rapids.

Dillon Serna, Eric Miller - U.S. U-23s.
Neither Miller or Serna played for the U-23s in their 2-1 loss to Colombia yesterday.  The loss eliminates the U.S. from the Olympics.

Marco Pappa - Guatemala
Pappa came in at halftime and looked pretty good, though the team was overmatched by the U.S.  Guatemala now sits third in the group and needs to beat T&T to have a shot at advancing.

Mekeil Williams - Trinidad & Tobago
Williams got the start and played the full 90 minutes in a 5-0 route over St. Vincent.  T&T leads the group with the U.S. close behind.

Shkelzen Gashi - Albania
Gashi got the start for Albania in their 2-0 win over Luxembourg.  Reports are he almost had a goal if it weren't for a big save.

Michael Azira - Uganda
Azira was an unused sub in Uganda's 0-0 draw with Burkina Faso in their African Cup of Nations qualifier.

So Serna and Azira were the only Rapids not to play while with their national teams.  Miller, Gashi, Williams, and Pappa all got 90 minutes (Pappa's split over 2 games).  Doyle got 20 or so minutes before being injured.

Monday, March 28, 2016

International Games Round-Up Part 1

So after a scary Friday here's a recap of the 7 Rapids who were in action (or not) over the weekend.  Six of the seven will have a chance to b e in action again tomorrow before heading back to Denver for Saturday's game against Toronto.

Dillon Serna, Eric Miller - U.S. U-23s.
Miller got the start and played the full 90 for the U.S. in the Olympic qualifier.  Serna did not make the gameday 18.  The U.S. got an important road goal in the 1-1 draw.

USA vs Colombia - Tuesday Mar 29th, 7:30pm - ESPN2

Marco Pappa - Guatemala
Pappa was a late scratch from the starting XI against the U.S. but did sub in at halftime and made a couple of Americans look bad.  A huge 2-0 win for Guatemala puts them in good shape going into Columbus tomorrow night.

Tim Howard did not have a stellar night for the U.S.  It was already decided before the game that Guzan would get the start tomorrow night.

Guatemala @ USA - Tuesday Mar 29th, 5pm - ESPN2

Mekeil Williams - Trinidad & Tobago
Williams, surprisingly (at least to me) was an unused sub against St. Vincent.  T&T had to work harder than expected but did get the win and now leads the group.

T&T vs. St. Vincent - Tuesday Mar 29th, 6pm (No U.S. TV)

Kevin Doyle - Ireland
Doyle got the surprise start for Ireland and, well, we all know how that went.  If you want to see a very graphic image of the injury go here.  He, obviously, will not be available tomorrow.

Shkelzen Gashi - Albania
Gashi did not make the gameday eighteen due to a calf injury.  His status for tomorrow's game or Saturday's is unknown.

Albania @ Luxembourg - Tuesday Mar. 29th, 12:15pm (No U.S. TV)

Michael Azira - Uganda
Azira was an unused sub in Uganda's 1-0 loss to Burkina Faso in their African Cup of Nations qualifier.  He'll have another chance to get his first cap tomorrow.

Uganda v.s Burkina Faso - Tuesday Mar. 29th, 10am (No U.S. TV)

Friday, March 25, 2016

Kevin Doyle Possibly Seriously Injured In Friendly

Bad news out of Dublin.  After getting a surprise start for Ireland Kevin Doyle was strechered off with what appears to be a serious leg injury.  Early reports are calling it a possible broken leg.

Sentana tweet here

Independent article here

More info as it come in.

Positive news from Irish News Sport:
Kevin Doyle has a deep gash on his leg but apparently nothing broken. 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Busy International Break For Rapids

For the first time maybe ever there are 7 Rapids in action over this international break.  That doesn't even include Tim Howard (who is not yet a Rapid) or Jermaine Jones (who can't play for the Nats while suspended for referee abuse).  Not only that but with the increased coverage international fixtures get many of their games can be seen now in the u.S.  So here's a list of games they'll play and what TV/stream (if any) there is for them.

(All times MDT)

Dillon Serna,  Eric Miller - U.S. U-23s
The U-23s play a head-to-head against Colombia for the final Olympic spot in Rio.  I would expect both players to at least get some playing time.

USA @ Colombia - Friday Mar 25th, 3pm - Fox Sports 1

USA vs Colombia - Tuesday Mar 29th, 7:30pm - ESPN2

Marco Pappa - Guatemala
Guatemala plays a home and home against the U.S. in World Cup Qualifying.  I would expect Pappa to start both games.  We'll also likely see Tim Howard in at least one of the games but Jurgen Klinsmann is playing his cards close to the vest on that one.

Guatemala vs USA - Friday Mar 25th, 8pm - beIn Sport

Guatemala @ USA - Tuesday Mar 29th, 5pm - ESPN2

Mekeil Williams - Trindad & Tobago
T&T also has a pair of World Cup Qualifiers against St. Vincent & the Grenadines, these are the other two teams in the U.S.'s group.  Williams should start both matches.

T&T @ St. Vincent - Friday Mar. 29th. 1:30pm - beIn Sport

T&T vs. St. Vincent - Tuesday Mar 29th, 6pm (No U.S. TV)

Kevin Doyle - Ireland
Ireland is playing a pair of warm-up friendlies for Euro 2016 in June.  Doyle has been in the eighteen for the last few friendlies but has mostly ridden the bench, I expect that to continue.

Ireland vs. Switzerland - Friday Mar. 29th. 1:45pm (No U.S. TV)

Ireland vs. Slovakia - Tuesday Mar 29th, 12:45pm (No U.S. TV)

Shkelzen Gashi - Albania
Albania is also playing a pair of warm-up friendlies for Euro 2016.  I'd expect Gashi to feature in both games.

Albania @ Austria - Saturday Mar. 26th, 10:30am - ESPN3/WatchESPN

Albania @ Luxembourg - Tuesday Mar. 29th, 12:15pm (No U.S. TV)

Micheal Azira - Uganda
Uganda has a pair of African Cup of NAtions qualifiers against Burkina Faso.  This is Azira's first ever call-up so his expected playing time is unknown.

Uganda @ Burkina Faso - Saturday Mar. 26th, 12pm - (No U.S. TV)

Uganda v.s Burkina Faso - Tuesday Mar. 29th, 10am (No U.S. TV)

So half the games will be available somewhere on U.S. TV/streams and we can see everyone but Doyle and Azira at least once.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Rapids Get A Point From A Dire Game

Ugly game, ugly result.  A good corner from Pappa was undone by a bad goalkeeping blunder by MacMath, resulting in a 1-1 draw.  I said it my preview a draw wouldn't surprise me and it doesn't, but the poor quality of play and how we surrendered the tying goal did.  A game where a draw was probably a fair result but it feels like two dropped points by Colorado.

General Impressions:
  • Nice corner from Pappa and good header by Powers.  It would be nice to be a regular threat on corners, its been a while since we could say that.
  • Horrible drop by MacMath to set up the DC goal.  He had a player near him but a GK has to make that catch.  On the day Howard was announced as well, he'll want to forget everything.
  • There's a clip going around twitter that shows 6-7 midfield turnovers combined by both teams in a 45 second period.  That's what type of game it was.
  • This game looked a lot like the 2014/15 Rapids, especially in the first half.  Long balls hoping that Doyle would get on the end of them, clearances to nowhere, etc.  Its not hard to look at this game and think nothing's really chanced offensively.
  • Perfect stat to encompass that, the only shot on goal Colorado had was the goal.  DC had 6 (and outshot us 19-8).
  • Not that our defense was particularly good, its just that DC's attack sucked.
  • Watts took a big regression back to last year.  His passing map for this one is....not good.
  • Sjoberg had some good clearances but otherwise was pretty much a non-factor.
  • I don't understand why Burch is even starting, he didn' show anything that he deserves to play over Miller.
  • Of course the real question mark in the starting XI was Badji.  I don't see how Pablo can justify starting him against Toronto after his game.  He was easily the worst Rapid on the field.
  • Pappa hustled and wanted to make something happen.  He finally did on the corner but he can't do it alone.
  • Powers tried but really suffers from being pushed forward.  Either we need to play him further back where he can distribute without as much pressure (something he's good at) or he needs to sit.  I prefer the former idea.
  • Azira is a much more capable player than I feared given his background.
  • Doyle was more active in this one but isn't full there yet it seems.  He did miss 2-3 crosses by just a inch or two.  I still think he needs more support.
  • Tied with two points there for the taking and Pablo uses one of this three subs.  That puts us at five of a possible nine subs used this season despite leading for a grand total of about 11 minutes this season.  Coaching skills do not seem to have improved in the offseason.
  • 4 points in the first 3 games keeps us on that 12 points in the first 9 games minimum pace I think Pablo needs to keep his job.  It does not get us into the playoffs though.
  • There are a number of fans online who seem pleased with getting 4 points out of March.  That's a sign of how far the bar has been lowered by Rapids fandom.  This hasn't been a good month for results, its been barely adequate.
Man of the Match: Mekeil Williams.  The only defender to play well yesterday.  He's put in tow good games and I have my hopes the Rapids have found a hidden gem in him.  He left after the game to join Trindad & Tobago's national team so that makes 6 players heading out on National team duties this break.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Rapids Sign Tim Howard

The long rumored deal is finally official.  As announced live on ESPN this morning Tim Howard is a Rapid and will join the team when the summer transfer window opens.  That just happens to be on the 4th of July, which is kind of a big game for the Rapids.  One wonders if the Front Office petitioned the USSF and MLS to move it back from July 8th (last year) to July 4th.

Everton only has the FA Cup left to play for this season, they have really no chance at a European spot.  They'll play either Man U or West Ham in the semi-finals on April 23rd or 24th.  If they were to lose there might be a chance that Howard gets here before the close of the primary window in May.  If they win the final will be after the window closes and there's no chance Howard leaves before the final is played.

Its also no coincidence that we got the TransAmerica news on Friday which takes the deal through the 2019 season and ESPN is reporting today that Howard's deal iss through the 2019 season.  I'm sure the increased deal from TransAmerica covers most if not all of Howard's DP salary.

This is a win in every possible way off the field for Colorado.  Getting a live announcement on SportsCenter for the team, a new sponsorship deal, increased interest in the team, it checks all those boxes.  Well done by the FO on that front.

Howard Signing In 15 Minutes

MLS just tweeted that the Rapids will make a player announcement on Sportcenter at 9:20 this morning.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Battle Of The Eagles

Talon vs. Edson.  Either way RapidMan is still better

Colorado makes the first of many East Coast trips this weekend as we're in the nation's capital facing DC United.  Its also our only appearance on ESPN this season.  We're hitting DC at a weak moment so maybe that will favor us but Gashi's suspension will hurt.  Game time tomorrow is 3pm on ESPN2.  No official watch party but the Southside Bar & Kitchen on Colfax always has a group watching the game.

Player Availability:
OUT: GL John Berner (hand); D Sean St. Ledger (knee injury)
SUSPENDED: M Jermaine Jones (through 4/13); F Shkelzen Gashi
UNAVAILABLE: D Joseph Greenspan (Navy duty)

Other than Gashi its what was expected.  DC has 4 players out, including their first and second string keepers, and 2 other questionable.  Form FSL player Espindola is one of those questionable players, I'll be happy if we don't have to see him.

Starting XI Prediction:

The real question marks are the outside backs and Gashi's replacement.  My bet is Solihnac over Serna for the latter, though I'd prefer the other way around.  At outside back its going to largely depend on who's healthy but the fact that Miller got called up for the U-23s leads me to believe he's ready to play.  Williams had a great game last week so I'm hopeful he gets the start over Burch or Hairston.

Prediction: 1-0 win, goal by K.Doyle.  I'm going out on a bit of a limb here but DC has not been great this year and they're hurting.  With the lousy weather predicted this won't be pretty soccer but I think the Rapids can take advantage and get out of town with 3, though I wouldn't be shocked by a draw.

Howard Announced Tomorrow?

So say former U.S. National Team player Heath Pearce on Twitter:
Been told that signing will be announced tomorrow. If true, getting a great leader.
 This is the Rapids only appearance on ESPN this year so it makes some sense.  Along with the TransAmerica renewal signs point to it being likely but we'll see.

Also today Dillon Serna and Eric Miller (along with Boulder's Shane O'Neill) were called up for the U.S. U-23's Olympic Qualifying games with Colombia on March 23rd and 29th.  So that's 5 players now heading out on Nats duty after tomorrow's game (Doyle, Pappa, Azira, Miller, Serna).

Friday, March 18, 2016

TransAmerica Extends Sponsorship

Tonight the Rapids announced that TransAmerica has extended their jersey sponsorship for another 3 seasons, through the 2019 season.  One of the key components of signing players like Jermaine Jones and (possibly) Tim Howard is the sponsorship dollars they bring in.  I doubt the Rapids would look at extending their contract until they knew hey could get full value out of those signings so I take this as a good sign that the deal to use the #1 allocation spot is all but done and they're just waiting to announce it until the time is right.  If I had to bet Tim Howard has agreed to a contract and they're just negotiating a release date with Everton, and waiting for the Opening Week hype to die down, before they announce it.

Another interesting note from this announcement.  Last May when the TransAmerica sponsorship was first unveiled the official quoted in the announcement was the CMO of the Investments and Retirements division, who was based here in Denver.  I've heard rumors that the sponsorship was mainly driven by the new Denver office wanting to get some local promotion for their Colorado expansion.  Today's announcement quotes TransAmerica's Chief Marketing Officer, listed by Bloomberg as one of the company's key executives.  That's probably a good sign that this sponsorship has grown from a local Denver deal to something more supported by the company as a whole (and presumably, with greater financial backing).

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Callup and Suspension

Some surprise news today as Michael Azira got his first ever callup for Uganda.  They play Burkina Faso in back to back World Cup Qualifiers during this international break.  Add him to the list with Kevin Doyle and Pappa.

A less enjoyable surprise also was revealed today.  Gashi is suspended for Sunday's game in DC.  As you can see from the video in the link he's suspended because he entered the field to celebrate Pappa's goal at the end of Saturday's match.  The suspension is technically correct but its a weak call from the MLS Disciplinary Committee.  "No harm no foul" seems to apply here.  I don't remember any of the subs from the U.S. who piled on Donovan at the end of the Algeria game in 2010 being suspended.

Again the DisCo has set a standard and we have to see if they live up to it.  My guess is they won't, but that's typical.  The only thing consistent about the DisCo is their inconsistency.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Kudos To Rapids Marketing

Its no secret that over the years I've been...critical...of some of the Front Office off-field moves.  That only works though if I give them credit when they do something right and some of the marketing they've done early this season is definitely right.

Long time Rapids fans can list any number of marketing and outreach ideas from the FO over the years that landed with a thud with the fans.  This has left some of them with a lack of interest in what the Rapids are promoting at a given time.  This year though they've done a couple of things that have really appealed to me as a long-time fan and from what I've heard, other fans like me.

Last week the Rapids starting XI came out for pre-game warm ups in these training jerseys:
A nice throwback to the early Rapids kits (specifically this 2001 home kit) when the Rapids were green:
Seeing them was a fun nod to the past but the Front Office also arranged for season ticket holders and C38 members to buy their own versions for $40.  I picked one up and its not cheaply made or overpriced, its a solid souvenir for those of us who remember those early days.

The second thing is a little silly, yet appreciated:

Yeah, I'm talking about RapidMan.  He's goofy and really doesn't make sense, but he's our goofy mascot.  He at least had character and was something unusual to represent the team.  The 4 animal mascots are bland an uninteresting.  Bringing him back is another nice shout out to the team's history and long-time fans.

I'd even add in the signing of Jermaine Jones.  Its was a big move on the even of the season that made people sit up and take notice.  I'm not sure he's any sort of long-term answer on the field but apparently the team feels the same way if the SI report of a one-year deal is accurate.  Off the field though its another sign that the team is increasing its effort and interest and while maybe they haven't dialed in the scouting its at least showing they're trying.

In the end of course none of this matters if the on-field results don't improve significantly from the last two seasons.  While the Mythbusters proved you can polish a turd there is a limit to how much a good marketing plan can cover for a bad team, especially one that has had the last few years we have.  Credit where credit is due though, the marketing department has made strides in reaching out to long-time fans this year.  Lets hope that continues.

Loans & International Call Ups

A little bit of mid-week roster news:

  • Appiah and Calvert have been loaned to Charlotte.  This was fairly predictable.  Calvert spent most of last year with the Independence while Appiah as a draft pick will be more likely to get time there than in Colorado.  We'll see if anyone else makes the trip to the East Coast.  ?Unless their loans are full-season loans with no recall clauses they still count against the 28 man roster cap.  As reserve players they already don't count against the salary cap so no change there.
  • Kevin Doyle was called up for Ireland, Marco Pappa for Guatemala.  They'll both leave after the DC game.  With (most of) the league taking the following weekend off due to the FIFA dates they won't miss any Rapids games.  We'll wish Doyle great success and no injuries in Ireland's friendlies against Switzerland and Slovakia.  We'll wish Pappa no injuries and no success as Guatemala will be playing the U.S. in back-to-back World Cup Qualifiers during the window.
  • Oddly enough Gashi was not called up for Albania for their pre-Euro friendlies against Austria and Luxembourg.  I don't know if this was due to his illness and fitness level, just giving him a chance to adjust to his new team, not needing to see what he has pre-Euros, or not needing him any more..

Monday, March 14, 2016

Who's Your Daddy?

Pappa. Pappa's your daddy LA.  In a game where the Rapids were the better team but not much happened we finally got the break we needed at the last possible moment.  Almost literally with the final kick of the game (LA kicked off and booted it deep afterwards) Pappa scored the only goal in Colorado's first win of the season.

General Impressions:
  • Great goal from Pappa.  If Amarikwa hadn't had a goal of the year candidate for San Jose on Sunday Pappa's would be goal of the week IMO.
  • It was good to see the aggression from the Rapids.  We didn't win on a lucky shot, we had numerous good opportunities and scored one.
  • LA beat DC (our next opponent) 4-1 last week.  This week they had 1 shot on target.  Nice job by a makeshift defense.
  • I really liked Williams, though he's clearly naturally left-footed and should be playing left back.  He and Miller should be our fullbacks.
  • Watts had a solid game.  I still don't think he should be starting but no complaints from this game.
  • Azira had a good game but it wasn't man of the match.  Even without Pappa's goal.  I assume it wasn't Pappa as they had already decided on Azira and couldn't change the graphic in time.
  • Speaking of which, it would have been nice for DSG to have actually fixed the broken pixels in the viewscreen during the offseason.
  • Gashi was my pre-goal man of the match.  Much better touch this week and a good save and a bit of inaccuracy is all that kept him off the scoreboard.
  • Hey,, Dillon Serna is on this team!
  • LA was more whiny than usual.  Clerlay by the 60th minute they said "0-0, yeah, we can live with that" and tried to whine and time-waste their way through the last 30 minutes.
  • That was continued in Arena's post-game quotes where he whined about the stoppage time.
  • That said, Doyle's yellow card was incredibly stupid.  Yeah Rowe was wasting time but that shove let Rowe dive, waste time, and force a unnecessary yellow on Doyle.  Based on last year's pace that yellow could be the difference between missing a game due to suspension this year or not.
  • The green warm-up tops were great, though it should have been the whole team in them, not just the starters.  I will enjoy wearing the version season-ticket holders were able to buy.
  • Loved seeing Rapidman again!  He showed up in the second half, we scored, we won.  I'm just saying.
Man of the Match: Marco Pappa.  I mean, duh.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Home Opener Finally!

Maybe this guy will make an appearance?

Its been a long winter of discontent but tomorrow we finally get to get back out to the Dick and enjoy a home game.  Of course its a tall mountain to climb tomorrow as the opponent is the LA Galaxy and their roster of ex-European stars.  The injury report helps us out a bit but this will still be a tough match.  Game time tomorrow is 5pm so the C38 tailgate kicks off at 2pm.  Along with the normal hot dogs and beer there will be chowder and a live recording of the C38 podcasts with an interview with the commentary team of Fleming and Balboa.

Player Availability:
OUT: GL John Berner (hand); D Sean St. Ledger (knee injury)
SUSPENDED: M Jermaine Jones (through 4/13)
UNAVAILABLE: D Joseph Greenspan (Navy duty)

No surprises there.  Apparently Berner has been in a cast for a while and they just neglected to list him last week.  We found out that Williams not playing last week was a strategic decision, not a injury forced one.  LA will be missing starting GK Kennedy and starting F Dos Santos and has three other players listed as questionable including former-Rapids Ginger Ninja.

Starting XI Prediction:

There's a lot of options given Pablo's coaching style.  We could see Pappa start either as a straight swap for Badji or pushing Powers back to Watts spot.  We could see Watts or Burling at center back, pushing Williams back outside or to the bench.  The only players I'm sure of are MacMath, Sjoberg, Cronin, Gashi, Powers, and Kevin Doyle.

Prediction: 1-1 draw, goal by K.Doyle.  LA has quality, even if its old.  Mike Magee could eat our back line up.  They are hurting and playing at elevation though so I think we can mostly neutralize them.  We get a draw in front of the home crowd, barely.

Thursday, March 10, 2016


Pictures from tonight's jersey release party tweeted by Centennial 38 and the South St. Bulldogs:

Its been almost 10 years since he "retired" to Las Vegas to star with the Blue Man Group.  Its good to see him back in Denver and hopefully we'll see him during the season at the Dick. ;)

Also the jersey is now for sale at the MLS Store:

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Roster News and Notes

Cleaning up a few rumors and news items around the roster.
If accurate that makes me like this deal even more.  Jones is nearing the end of his career and as much as I like him I didn't want to be on the hook for him for more than a year or two.  This allows him to show what he still has for a year and clear that suspension and it allows the Rapids a PR boost in signing him and some quality minutes from a good player.  Then at the end of the year if he's shown he still has it then we, or another team, can make him a new offer.  I predict that Jones wanted a 1 year deal as well to be available to be signed for the inaugural season of LAFC.  Its well known that he wanted to be closer to his family in LA.  If I had to bet money that's where I would expect him to play in 2017.
  • Stephen Keel apparently is doing media for MLS, based on this Twitter.
Guess that means he didn't make the Rapids roster.  That surprises me.
  • The Post's Daniel Boniface tweets that Dennis Castillo and brad Spencer are still with the team
I still expect Castillo to be signed, surprised it hasn't happened yet.  I wouldn't read too much into Spencer still being here, given that he's John's son.  We may be interested in signing him or he may just be taking advantage of access to keep sharp while he looks for other options.
  • All quiet on the Tim Howard front.
My guess is that they want to ride the PR wave of the Jones signing and opening week for a bit longer, then we'll start hearing about Howard again.

If we assume Howard and Castillo will be signed we still have one open roster spot.  There's really no rumors out there about any signing coming soon so we'll have to see what happens.

Monday, March 7, 2016

New Year, Same Result

For the third time in four years the Rapids were held scoreless in their season opener.  That, combined with a minute if inattentiveness, is all that was needed to end up with a loss to start the season.  The scorelines was a bit unfair to Colorado, who seemed to be the better team overall.  We probably deserved a draw based on our play but we're way past time for morale victories.  There was at least a point to be had yesterday and we came away with nothing.

General Impressions:
  • The goal was due to the team waiting an extra minute mentally to come out of the halftime locker room.
  • That said, Watts put everyone in a bad position by chasing Amarikwa around instead of sticking to his position.  That, combined with Sjoberg being caught in no-man's land and beaten by a great pass was all that was needed.
  • Our tow best looks were a Miller bomb that Bingham had to tip over the bar and a Pappa header that was deflected off the post.  Good start for the new guys.
  • Watts even starting was a surprise, as was Hairston.  No official word but talk is that both Burling and Williams had knocks they couldn't shake off.
  • Miller looked the best of our new players and Pappa looked decent in his few minutes.  The sooner he's starting and sending Watts/Azira to the bench the better.
  • Gashi struggled in his debut.  I liked how involved he was but his touch failed him.
  • I wasn't that impressed with Azira either.  Hopefully his start was only due to injury.
  • MacMath couldn't do much about the goal.  Irwin wouldn't have been able to either.
  • I liked the overlapping runs from Miller and Hairston.  We didn't see that last year.
  • Hairston though isn't at this level yet.
  • Watts got burned badly by misplaying Amarikwa in the first half.  Came up with a gorgeous tackle to recover but he shouldn't have let it get to that point.
  • Despite the two mistakes Watts actually looked better than last year.
  • Badji shouldn't be starting a MLS game, I'm not sure he should even be playing in one at this point.
  • Looks like the primary strategy was to hit it long to Doyle and let him run onto it.  Too bad SJ's primary strategy as to let Wynne shadow Doyle.  There's no ball Doyle is going to beat Wynne to.
  • Generally the coaching was what we saw last year.  General ideas but a lack of a true plan.
  • Down 1 we don't use our third sub for Serna or Conor Doyle.  Pablo being Pablo.
Man of the Match: Dillon Powers.  The offseason training and fitness regime served him well.  He looked good running the offense.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Are You Red..Y?

Lots of talk over the last 4 months becomes action tomorrow as this season finally gets started.  For the Rapids that means a game in San Jose.  Its hard to think of a season opener as a "must win" (unless we're talking college football) but considering this is the only game we play against a non 2015 playoff team or FSL until Philly comes to Commerce City on May 28th this is about as close to one as you can get.  Kickoff tomorrow is at 1pm.  Fleming and presumably Balboa will have the call on Altitude 2, channel 900 on Comcast HD.  Centennial 38 will have its season kickoff party tomorrow at the Celtic starting at 11.  Silent auction, giveaways, FIFA tournament, etc. for the first couple of hours before kickoff.

Player Availability:
OUT: D Sean St. Ledger (knee injury)
SUSPENDED: M Jermaine Jones (through 4/13)
UNAVAILABLE: D Joseph Greenspan (Navy duty)

The name you don't see there, surprisingly, is Sam Cronin.  Up until Wednesday he was listed as suspended due to picking up a yellow and a red in the next to last game last season.  The red got him suspended for the final game and the yellow got him suspended for the first game this season due to yellow card accumulation. MLS realized the loophole he fell through (players that get their yellow card accumulation suspension due to a card in the final game don't carry over, but Cronin's was in the next to last game) so he will be available.  Pappa is not listed on the injury report either, though with his lack of preseason playing time I expect he's on the bench at best.  San Jose has one player suspended and one player out.

Starting XI Prediction:

Most of this is fairly obvious.  The only questions I have is right wing and who's next to Cronin.  It could be Solignac instead of Badji and Azira instead of Watts.  The back 5 are no brainers.

Prediction: 1-1 draw, goal by K.Doyle.  Its always hard to predict the opening match or two, especially with the missing players we have.  I don't expect pretty soccer in this one but I think we get a point on the road.

2016 Salary Cap Estimation

I just did a rough look at our salary cap situation. The 2016 cap is $3.66 million. I took a guess at who our top 18 senior players would be, including Howard. I charged the full max amount for Howard, Gashi, Jones, and Doyle of $457.5K. I also charged $215K for Sarvas as that's what we're rumored to be picking up for him. I used last year's compensation for everyone else but Pappa (who I bumped from 80K to 225K). Williams I have no idea on so I left him blank. That put us at just over $3.7 million this year.

So that's close enough to leave us plenty of wiggle room on who is counted as a senior player, how we apply allocation money, etc. Also Howard's hit this year goes down to $228.75K if he joins in July, freeing up $228.75K of salary cap which would put us under.

My expectation is that we're pretty much done with senior players other than Howard. Spots 27 and 28 will probably be off book players or a cheap senior player.  Castillo (most likely off-book) and Keel ($60K last year) could be those players.

Players I used in the 18: Azira, Berner, Burch, Burling, Cronin, K.Doyle, Gashi, Hairston, Howard, Jones, MacMath, Pappa, Pfeffer, Powers, Sjoberg, Solignac, St. Ledger, Williams.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Rapids Make A Couple Of Signings

Me right now

The Rapids started the day filling to their empty roster spots about how I thought they would.  They announced they signed draftee GK Chris Froschauer.  Then they announced they signed draftee M Emmanuel Appiah.

Then at 5:30 today they dropped the mic.  Colorado traded general allocation money and their  first round pick next year to new England for Jermaine Jones.  Yes, that Jermaine Jones.  Using that TAM they accumulated they've bought him down to non-DP status.

This idea was kicked around by the fan base and I was against it as a DP.  As a non-DP though?  All for it.  Jones is my favorite current Nat, though he dropped quite a bit with that playoff hissy-fit last year.  Because of that he'll miss the first 6 games as he serves his suspension for pushing the ref.  His first game will be April 16th against the Red Bulls at the Dick.

That suspension also explains/solves my concern about any big signing having to learn on the fly as the season goes.  He can't play for 6 weeks so he'll have the equivalent of almost a full preseason to work with the team in practice before he's eligible.

my assumption is that this "solves" the right wing issue by pushing Pappa out there so Jones can sit in the center with Powers and Cronin behind him.  Or maybe Powers will be in the center with Jones and Cronin behind him.  Either way it will be a midfield of Cronin, Gashi, Jones, Pappa, and Powers with Kevin Doyle in front of them when everyone is healthy and available.  That's a significant improvement over what we had last year.

The last notable game that Jones played in Colorado was the Snow Clasico which birthed the Sno Fro:

Current roster:

GK John Berner
GK Chris Froschauer
GK Zac MacMath
D March Burch
D Bobby Burling
D Marlon Hairston
D Eric Miller
D Axel Sjoberg - Inernational
D Sean St. Ledger - International
D Mekeil Williams - International
M Emmanuel Appiah
M Michael Azira
M Sam Cronin
M Jermaine Jones
M Marco Pappa
M Zach Pfeffer
M Dillon Powers
M Dillon Serna
M Jared Watts
F Dominque Badji - International
F Caleb Calvert
F Conor Doyle
F Kevin Doyle - International - DP
Shkëlzen Gashi - International - DP
F Luis Solignac - International

Thursday, March 3, 2016

2016 Season Preview

Less than 72 hours until kickoff!  Time for the annual preview.

Goalkeeper: We spent a lot of time talking about this position this offseason.  I don't want to reiterate so I'll just say that we got a bit worse going from Irwin to MacMath and could get a whole lot of (unnecessarily) better if Howard comes in.

Defense: Yuck.  A solid unit last year got an unnecessary makeover and we're left with a lot of questions.  First the positives, namely the outside backs.  For the first time in what seems like forever the Rapids solved their right back problem before the season started in the form of Eric Miller.  I also have high hopes for Mekeil Williams at left back.  The bad news?  Center back is paper thin and not that strong to start.  Right now we're looking at Card Machine Burling, Oft Injured Sjoberg, and Injured For Preseason St. Ledger.  St. Ledger and Sjoberg would be my preference and they can probably get the job done but there's no room for error.

Midfield: This group is in pretty good shape.  With Cronin, Powers, Gashi, Pappa, and Serna and some depth in Badji, Solignac, and Azira we should do ok.  Pappas' laco of playing time this preseason is worrisome, he needs to be integrated quickly.  Gashi is the real prize here and if he can successfully be the link between Pappa and Kevin Doyle our offense should be greatly improved.

Forward: Great starters, no depth.  Gashi and Kevin Doyle should be the best combo since C&C Goal Facotry.  G+D should create some Goal Differential.  When they leave for the Euros though we're looking at some combination of Badji, Solignac, and Conor Doyle.  That's not likely to get the job done.

Bench: As mentioned earlier today we are very thin at critical points and have  less than 80% of our roster.  Berner is a fine backup for MacMath and we have options in the midfield but defense and striker has almost nothing to rely on.  This, along with coaching, will be our downfall this season.

Coaching: Ah, our Achilles heel.  So far this preseason between watching the play in Arizona and reading the various articles I don't see anything that makes me think Pablo's coaching is going to be any better in 2016.  With Pablo's "pedagogy" talk and the fact that we've been told that Powers will be playing further back but he has yet to do that, I'm getting a serious deja vu feeling.  Spencer has been brought in to help the offense (and be the coach in waiting) but if Pablo doesn't get radically better it won't matter.

Overall we improved relative to the rest of the conference but not enough to make the playoffs.  We're going to need some more signings and a quick improvement in coaching to pull that off.

On to my 2016 predictions:

  • Rapids finish with points in the low-40s and in 8th place in the West
  • The Rapids get less than 12 points in their first 9 games, leading to Pablo's removal as head coach sometime in that stretch.
  • Spencer takes over and rides the "new coach" bounce to a win over FSL in game 10
  • Colorado pulls an upset in the third Rocky Mountain Cup game in Sandy and retain the Cup for their first back-to-back RMC wins since '05-'06.
  • Pablo stays with the organization in another capacity (Academy?)
  • We win a USOC game, maybe two, but bow out before the competition gets really interesting
  • Howard shows up in July and immediately becomes the best keeper in MLS but its not what the team needs to make a playoff push
  • Gashi scores 11 to become team MVP and Golden Boot winner
  • Ramirez never returns to Colorado
  • The Rapids make one more notable signing (name player, not necessarily DP) this season
  • Spencer retains coaching position into 2017 even though results after taking over for Pablo don't really deserve it
  • Bravo keeps his job into next year

Time's Up

On January 4th I posted about how we had 9 open roster spots.  On February 9th it was 7 open roster spots.  On February 23rd it was 6 spots.  On March 1st (Tuesday) it was 6.  Today its still 6.

In 2 months the end result is that we filled 3 open roster spots.  Time's up as the team left for San Jose and the opening game today.  While its possible that somebody like Keel or Castillo traveled with the team and will sign before Sunday there's no significant signing coming this week that will be available for Opening Day.

How does that fit with the stated goals for this offseason.  Going back to the interview on draft day:
According to Bravo, the Rapids still plan to use the top allocation spot to sign someone this winter, though he would not say who the Rapids are targeting.
While technically winter continues for another 2.5 weeks I think its safe to say that by "winter" Bravo meant "preseason".  We have not yet used that allocation spot and all signs point to using it on a player that won't arrive until July.  I would call that a failed goal.
"Our goal is to have our team together for the start of training camp, to have all the pieces together for Pablo to start the season," Bravo told Goal USA.
We're missing over 21% of our roster not at the start of training camp but at the start of the season.  We're also missing possibly our biggest signing (whomever we use that allocation spot on).  I would call this goal completely failed.

Maybe we're not being fair, let's look at what other teams are at:

Chicago: 23 players listed on roster
5 teams: 26 players
9 teams: 27 players
4 teams: 28 players (full roster)

So with the exception of Chicago, the rest of the league is a signing or two away from having full rosters if they aren't already full.  Its not uncommon for a team to leave an open roster spot to have some flexibility but needless to say having six empty spots is ridiculous.

While we made significant improvements in some of our starting XI the lack of depth at this point is ridiculous.  With no strong rumors outside of Howard right now (and we're already good on GK depth) this apparently won't be solved by Sunday.  What happens if Sjoberg pulls up lame in pre-game warm-ups?  With St. Ledger injured our CB backup is who, Watts?  Who will play d-mid in that scenario with Cronin suspended, Powers?  So then with Pappa injured Gashi becomes the center-mid and Solignac or Badji starts?  You can see how quickly our lack of depth cascades throughout the team.

We're starting the season with a weakened team for no good reason other than not getting the job done.  For such a crucial offseason, that's a massive failure.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Roster Compliance Day

Today was the day that MLS teams had to meet roster requirements.  Without getting too technical these are the requirements:

  • 18-20 senior roster players
  • No more international players than international slots
  • Salary cap compliance
We can't do analysis about the last one of those but we can look at the first 2.  Let's take the second first as its the easiest.  Thanks to a helpful post on Facebook from Post reporter Daniel Boniface we know that the Rapids have 8 international slots.  That means the slot we traded for as part of the Sarvas trade from LA last offseason has returned to LA.  Current internationals on the roster:
  • Dominique Badji
  • Kevin Doyle
  • S. Gashi
  • Sean St. Ledger
  • Axel Sjoberg
  • Luis Solignac
  • Mekeil Williams
That leaves one spot unfilled.  Most likely this will go to draftee Dennis Castillo who has gotten the most playing time in the preseason.  That means there's no room for any other international signings (or for Juan Ramirez to return) but that can be solved by sending players to Charlotte on loan.  Badji and Castillo would be obvious choices.

As far as the 18 senior roster players go the Rapids seem to be a bit short.  Looking at players like Berner, Azira, Pfeffer, Watts, Badji, and Calvert you would expect them to not be senior roster players but that only puts the Rapids at 16 senior players.  Now it could be some signings are essentially done but not announced (Keel, Howard) or some players are more senior than I thought.  MLS also is less than clear about the ability to move players between the two classifications during the year.

The fact that we only have 22 players signed 100 hours (by 9am tomorrow) before the season starts is very concerning though.  I really hope we get a run of player signing announcements tomorrow than are more than just a couple of draftees and trialists.  Right now the C38 kegs after a tailgate are deeper than this team.