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


TylerPlush said...

I'd like to think Powers was playing out of position in preseason because he's the backup CAM when Pappa is out. Pappa was out the whole preseason so naturally Powers played there and probably will in the season opener too. Midfield for season opener will be Gashi, Badji, Powers, Azira, and Watts. Ideally it would be Gashi, Pappa, Powers, Serna, and Cronin. So we are a long way off from our optimal starting fields for our first match or two.

Throw Watts, Keel, and Cochrane in there as backup CB's and it's not so paper thin. 2 of those 3 guys aren't signed but at least one of them will be you'd think. Burling and Sjoberg will start at San Jose with Miller on the right and Burch at left. Williams has been garbage in preseason.

Striker is Doyle and.....nothing else.

I don't know where Connor Doyle and Pfeffer fit in. Maybe 3rd string striker and 3rd string CAM? Would be nice if Pfeffer could play when Pappa is out, so that Powers could play where he's supposed to.

I don't know I think if the ball bounces our way we could sniff the 6th seed. Need to be 4th or higher for a home playoff match that seems unlikely. All we can hope for as fans is that we are competitive for a playoff spot until the final day of the season. That's the life of a Rapids fan. We've always been at least that until 3 of the last 4 years. Oscar's first year and Pablo's first 2 years. I'll be happy if on the last day we aren't mathematically eliminated.

Jester said...

Jason, I think your confusing the word "prediction" for "pattern" ;-)

jimluk said...

Thank you for being a realist, way way too many fans and media are buying this flaming garbage. I think I have heard or read that this is the best Rapids team ever assembled from multiple sources in the last few days. Some of these assertions are just ridiculous.

I am skeptical at best, yet another offseason of failed promises and platitudes. The Rapids never tell the truth but they are so incredibly bad at PR that it is always just beneath the surface for those willing to look.

But not one single article I've read mentions Pablo's interview on ExtraTime Radio where he flat out deny's having any knowledge of any Tim Howard negotiations. Sadly I think this was the truth, Pablo usually sticks to the company line but occasionally slips out the truth. The Rapids FO never comments on players under contract with another team, never. Pablo even said as much in the same interview, but then he denys any knowledge of any team contact with Tim Howard. Two scenarios are possible, neither are good. The FO is negotiating and signing players without consulting the head coach(contrary to everything they say about team decision making processes) or they burned an entire draft for a useless allocation slot.

Per the same interview(ETR) Pablo promises that he will play Powers in his "best" position, but immediately hedges, saying that Powers is useful because of his ability to play anywhere in midfield, specifically mentioning the Euros(Doyle, Gashi) Olympics(Serna), in other words expect more of the same.

If the desert Diamond cup is anything to go on the defense is in shambles(No St. Leger, three PK's, goals in under a minute, long balls played in right between the centerbacks.
If Mekeil Williams from the Guatemalan league is a savior what does that say about or inability to do anything with Hairston over the last two years(same could be said for Serna at fullback) Erik Miller played 9 games last year for Montreal and was loaned to the USL for 1, he has looked good so far but again we are picking up bench players from other teams and calling them key signings. All of our fullback signings plus Tim Howard are likely to equal what we left on the table in Brandon Vincent. So very much energy burned in all the wrong places.

At least the embarrassment of preseason optics is over, one again zero homegrown signings (we get more news from the Special Olympics team than from the academy), no Vela, Pulido, Bedoya. Tim Howard debacle(so we will have 4 keepers?). More confusion added to a crowded front office(Spencer). Arsenal connection amounts to Pablo spending twice as much time as Tottenham, Arsenal snub us for the all star game last year and come to SJ this year(ironically Tottenham are supposed to be the Quakes partner. Drew Moor. No place to stash Charles Eloundou, I mean couldn't we have left him in Charlotte. Picking up half Sarvas salary. Harrington out but Burch stays for some reason? Ramirez loan. The fact that Gaby Torres is leading golden boot race in Venezuela after 3 years of futility. No kit release until after the season starts(18 other teams managed it), you know except the mistaken twitter leak, and then ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I don't know what we'll do at that party?

Edit: I wrote 95% of this Thursday before getting pulled away from the computer, all hail the return of the Sno-fro(sort of, cause you know suspensions and the like). Though in my extreme skepticism of the Rapids FO I suspect that the Jermaine Jones move involved the invisible hand of league office(comes 3 days after roster freeze would seem to imply some blessing from the higher ups).

But now the season starts, up the Rapids

P.S. I was a little harsh, just trying to voice some of the things that struck me this offseason that seemed to get little play elsewhere. Some good signings this year as well.

Jason Maxwell said...

jimluk, lots to agree with, some to disagree with. To save time I'll just list the latter. ;)

I did hear that Tim Howard line from Pablo. Either he's a great liar or he's not in the loop on the negotiations. I think its the latter. Honestly I think Pablo needs a great start to the year to not be replaced by Spencer and the FO knows it, so they're moving on without him.

Miller only played 9 last year, but he played in 20+ the year before. Montreal just brought in a significantly better player that ate his minutes last year.

Interesting news about Torres, that's damming

We essentially traded Vincent and our #1 pick in 2018 for Miller and Pfeffer. We won't know until 2018 who got the better of those deals but right now I think the (slight) experience of both players we got might serve better than the two rookies we would have got.

The jersey release isn't worth worrying about. Based on their past track record they believe (for better or worse) that saving it for the home opener helps with their promotion. They aren't unable to do it earlier than that, they just feel it works better. I don't agree but I understand their logic.

The big one I wanted to comment on was your Jones statement. Tuesday was NOT a roster freeze day. It was roster compliance day. All that means is that each team had to be under the cap, have the minimum number of players signed, and have enough international slots for all their international players. Many teams continued to sign players throughout this week. I don't think the league had much, if anything, to do with the Jones deal.