Friday, July 29, 2016

Rapids In The Big Apple

Statue of  Liberty play?  Wrong football

The Rapids make their first trip ever to New York City (they've played Red Bull in New Jersey many times, obviously) to face NYCFC tomorrow.  City has the second best offense in the league but will be short-handed tomorrow.  An odd start time for this game, 1pm in the afternoon.  My guess is due to Yankee Stadium availability.  Coverage will be on Altitude.

Player Availability:
OUT: D Sean St. Ledger (knee); M Dillon Serna (season ending ACL tear)
QUESTIONABLE: D Mekeil Williams
INELIGIBLE: M Jermaine Jones (after missing All-Star Game)
ONE YELLOW FROM SUSPENSION: D Axel Sjoberg (1 game for good behavior reduction); F Shkelzen Gashi (3 games for good behavior reduction)

Jones is listed as Questionable so odds are he couldn't play even if the new rule making him ineligible wasn't around.  NYCFC is a mess.  They have 4 players suspended, 3 players out injured, another 2 questionable, and their coach is suspended as well.

Starting XI Prediction:

If Burling is ready to go he will hopefully take Watts' spot but my bet is that he gets another week before starting.  I'd prefer to see Pappa starting over Powers but Pablo hasn't been going that way lately.

Prediction: 1-0 win, goal by Gashi.  NYCFC has the worst defense in the league (exacerbated by a 7-0 loss to RBNY) and should be able to score on them.  There's no good reason to expect the Rapids to make it easy but  I think we can get a big road win out of this one with the undermanned opposition.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Back By Popular Demand

So at the end of last year when were were playing out the string I turned my game reviews into giphy reviews.  It was something to keep me entertained during a bad season and apparently it was quite popular as I've been asked to bring them back.  So to knock the rust off I'll try recapping Saturday's 1-1 draw with Dallas.

I've been told I should call this the review for Millennials while those older types with actual attention spans can read my detailed recap from last night. :D

Pregame weather:

Lineup has Watts in, Pappa on the bench

Ok then

Atiba Harris lines up in front of 108

Doyle and Hairston go close

Hairston scores before half by working Harris

Rapids play in the second half

Dallas scores:

Rapids leave 2 points on the field:

So, thoughts?

Monday, July 25, 2016

Rapids Draw, Feels Like A Loss

So in last week's recap I said:
At this point we just have to accept that this Rapids team isn't going to put teams away but they have great confidence in their ability to defend a 1 goal lead late.
Yeah, that confidence was a bit misplaced against the best offense in the league.  They got to within 10 minutes of the final whistle but couldn't complete the job.  A 1-1 draw was predicted (by me!) but felt like a loss after the game we saw.

General Impressions:
  • I really didn't like leaving Pappa on the bench for Hairston.  I got that half wrong.  Pappa should have played in Powers' spot alongside Hairston.
  • It was cathartic after a long week to heckle Harris in the first half.  He's still a hack that shouldn't be in the league.
  • So you can imagine my enjoyment when Hairston took the ball off of him for the goal. :D
  • Powers is where our attack went to die Saturday night.  Far too many bad passes and dribbling into pressure.  I've been a supporter of his but over the last couple of months its clear he needs a change of scenery because there isn't a spot for him on this team.
  • Doyle did a lot of work but there were many times he was pushed off the ball.  A lone striker has to be able to hold the ball up.  If that was a strategic move to get some fouls he needed to adapt to the ref who wasn't going to call it.
  • I hadn't really noticed before but at least Saturday night Sjoberg was playing a lot of balls out of bounds in defense.  I don't know if that was an intentional change based on something they saw in Dallas' attack or if he's done that all along and I never realized it.
  • Watts.  I'm done with Watts.  He's results are such a mixed bag even when he plays well and he can't avoid at least one obvious error a game.  In this one it was going to ground to make a tackle way outside the box and missing.  That gave Dallas the space they needed to get the ball deep on their goal.
  • I'm not saying Watts is solely responsible for the goal.  When the ball took a lucky bounce to Ulloa Cronin or, less likely, Sjoberg could have closed down the space faster.  I'm not sure it would have made a difference with the bomb that was hit but it would have been good to make the attempt.  As we saw a good offense only needs one mistake.
  • We were a bit unlucky not to have another goal.  Ddoyle's spin and shoot had the keeper beat but the defender was in the right position.  Hairston's 1 on 1 also had the keeper beat but the Dalals defender had an inch perfect tackle to deflect it around the post.
  • Pappa should have come on earlier to kill off the game buy finding a second goal or at least forcing Dallas to stay back to prevent that.  I don't think he as going to play at all until Dallas scored.
  • I hope Williams' injury isn't serious.  If it is Miller will have to take his spot which reduces our depth at CB again.
  • With the draw we fail to catch Dallas in points, but we still have 3 games in hand.  LA is coming up fast though, only 3 points back on equal games.
  • Our 1.9 pts/game is still best in the league though.
  • Last April we tied the league record for longest winless streak.  We have now tied the 2nd longest single-season undefeated streak (and 4th overall).  Amazing what the addition of actual talent can get you.
  • The good news is that next week NYCFC will have 4 players, including Villa, and their coach suspended.   
Man of the Match: Tim Howard.  a couple of big saves kept Dallas at just 1 goal and he did get a hand on that one as well.  So far he hasn't given up a "clean" goal which shows that teams are having to hit perfect shots to beat us.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Top Of The Table Clash

Or at least they take the lead

Colorado has their biggest regular season game in years tomorrow night as 2nd placed Dallas comes to town to take on the first-placed Rapids (I'm using pts/game).  The winner will be the clear #1 in the West, #1 in the league, and have a good lead in the the Supporters Shield race.  Kickoff for this battle for the West is at 7pm with the tailgate starting at 4.  If you can't make it the game will be on Altitude.

Player Availability:
OUT: D Sean St. Ledger (knee); M Jermaine Jones; M Dillon Serna (season ending ACL tear)
ONE YELLOW FROM SUSPENSION: D Axel Sjoberg (2 games for good behavior reduction); F Shkelzen Gashi (4 games for good behavior reduction)

That's the official injury report.  The Rapids game preview lists Jones as Questionable and doesn't mention St. Ledger at all.  Dallas is just missing Zach Loyd.

Starting XI Prediction:

If Burling is ready to go he could take Miller's spot and Miller could move out left for Burch.  If Jones can go he's go in for Powers but I don't expect him to be available.  I'd like to see us in a 4-4-2 with Solignac up front with Doyle and Powers out, or if we want to keep the formation Pappa in the middle and Solignac out wide but I think Pablo will stick with Powers.

Prediction: 1-1 draw, goal by Doyle.  Dallas has the best offense in the league (tied) but they have struggled on the road at times.  They also played a USOC game midweek in hot and humid Houston. Their defense can be beat, even by our anemic offense.  I don't think this game will really decide anything and the teams will have to settle it in Dallas on September 10th.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Loan Recap and All-Star Selections

Catching up with some of our loaned players.  First of all its been announced by the Switchbacks but not he Rapids that Conor Doyle is on loan in the Springs.  In total that makes 6 Rapids currently on loan.

Charlotte (USL):
GK John Berner - Berner has started 8 of Charlotte's 17 games but his numbers are slightly worse than their other keeper's.

M Zach Pfeffer - Pfeffer has appeared in 11 of Charlotte's games, starting 3 of them.  He has no goals or assists.

F Caleb Calvert - Calvert has started 15 matches for the Independence and is their co-leading scorer with 4 goals and an assist.

Colorado Springs (USL):
D Joseph Greenspan - Greenspan has started both games he's been eligible for since going down I-25.  In his first game he picked up two yellows and was ejected and suspended for the next match.

F Conor Doyle - Doyle hasn't  played for the Switchbacks yet.

Talleres (Argentina):
M Juan Ramirez - Talleres has not started its season yet.

Also this weekend the rest of the All-Star roster was revealed.  After the top teams had nobody voted into the game Jermaine Jones was named to the team by Dominic Kinnear.  All told the top 3 teams in the league (Colorado, Dallas, and LA) had a total of 3 all-start, 1 each.  Meanwhile Montreal, 7th overall, had 3 all-stars.  In fact the teams that got multiple all-stars are 4th, 6th, 7th, 9th, 10th, and 11th overall which suggests that having stars doesn't actually help you win, which seems puzzling.

The most ridiculous thing is that the Rapids are far and away the best defense in the league (5 goals better than LA, 8 goal better than anyone else) but not a single Rapids defender made the All-Star game.  Axel Sjoberg should be an All_Star and you can make cases for MacMath, Cronin, and Azira.

In the end though I think its actually good for the Rapids.  One less game of wear on legs and one less chance for injury.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Clean Sweep

The game was more open than I predicted but in the end the result was what I expected, a 1-0 win for the good guys.  At this point we just have to accept that this Rapids team isn't going to put teams away but they have great confidence in their ability to defend a 1 goal lead late.  They have done so successfully 9 out off 11 times this season.

General Impressions:
  • I was really surprised KC didn't park the bus more in this game after playing midweek.  You could see it cost them late as they were running on fumes.
  • Most of the game though the Rapids did a good job of forcing KC to make the last-ditch defensive play hoping they would make a mistake.  KC did a good job of not making that mistake.
  • Pappa was called offside early and it got to him.  I'm not sure if the call was wrong but Pappa has to be able to let that go.
  • The other thing he has to let go is the ball.  He was far too in love with his ball-handling skills and instead of making the safe play he put the ball in risky situations that only paid off half the time.
  • Gashi continues to find his rhythm after the Euro break.  He's got a breakout game coming.
  • Axel was the rock in defense again.  Amazing he wasn't an All-Star.
  • With Miller now returned from suspension and Burling getting healthy Watts needs to sit on the bench for a while.  He's had 3 plays that could/should have been called for a PK in 3 games, but only one was called.  He's been very lucky.
  • The late PK shout for KC I thought was actually a good no-call.  It almost any other game that could and should have been called but Fischer was letting contact like that go all night without a whistle.  To call it in stoppage time for a result-changing PK would have been incredibly unfair.
  • I don't know what Williams was doing with that ball on the endline in stoppage time but it was bad.  Good thing it didn't cost us.
  • Howard din't have much to do (only 3 saves, none of them particularly hard) but he'll take the shoutout.
  • When Hairston took his shot I was saying "Hairston has not shot, Hairston has no shot".  Oops
  • With the win we're at 14 games undefeated, tied for 4th longest single-season undefeated streak in league history.  A result next week would tie us for 2nd.  Dallas has the longest at 19 games in 2010 (and we all know how that season ended for them).
  • The Bodmer Line is now down to .67 pts/game the rest of the way.
  • Bring on Dallas for our biggest game of the season so far.
Man of the Match: Marlon Hairston.  For a guy who I've been questioning the last few weeks the offense obviously changed for the better when he came in.  That and the goal was class.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Rapids Try To Sweep KC

Time to clean the spork

Once again we face Sporting KC tomorrow.  After beating them earlier this season both home and away the Rapids are looking to sweep Sporting for the first time since 1999 (when they were the Wizards and we wore green), and some of those wins were via the Shootout.  Kickoff tomorrow is at 7pm with an expected temperature of 91 degrees at that point so anyone coming out to the game remember your sunscreen and stay hydrated!.  The tailgate will start at 4 for C38's annual pig roast!  TV coverage will be on Altitude.

Player Availability:
OUT: D Bobby Burling (knee surgery); D Sean St. Ledger (knee); M Dillon Serna (season ending ACL tear)
SUSPENDED: D Eric Miller (red card vs. Vancouver)
ONE YELLOW FROM SUSPENSION: D Axel Sjoberg (3 games for good behavior reduction); F Shkelzen Gashi (5 games for good behavior reduction)

That's the official injury report.  The Rapids game preview lists Burling and St. Ledger as Questionable and adds Jones as Questionable as well, which isn't good.  KC has one player out and 3 as questionable.

Starting XI Prediction:

This seems obvious.  If Jones can go he takes Powers' place.  If Burling or St. Ledger can go (which I highly doubt) they would take Watts' place.  In fact since Burling and St. Ledger are listed as Out on the official injury report they may not be able to play in the game.

Prediction: 1-0 win, goal by Gashi.  This will probably be a somewhat negative defensive game.  Both teams have above average defenses and below average offenses (Colorado more so than KC in both cases) and KC is on short rest having played on Wednesday.  They'll probably play conservatively hoping to grind out a draw or steal a win on a counter-attack, a strategy the Rapids haven't excelled against this season.  The home altitude and added rest will give the Rapids the advantage they need for another one goal win though.

Looking At The Back Half Of The Season

So far this year has gone almost as well as we could have dreamed.  The only real blemish is that loss to FSL.  That has left many fans talking about what could be this year.  Best ever finish?  Win the conference?  Win the Supporters Shield?  So let’s take a look at some scenarios.

Just to set some parameters:
Current pace: 1.89 pts/game
Current points: 34
Best all-time finish (points): 51
Best all-time finish (pts/game): 1.59 including Shootouts, 1.53 in standard format
Best ever placing: 3rd

So the first challenge, best ever finish, is easy to calculate.  We need 18 points in our last 16 games to set a new point record.  That’s a pace of 1.125 pts/game.  That would tie our best pts/game standard format record as well at 1.53.  To set our overall best we’d need 21 points in 16 games, which is 1.32 pts/game.  For comparison, our pts/game pace over the last two very bad years was 1.02 pts/game.  So we have to play just a bit better than we played in 2014 and 2015 in order to set new team records.  I think it’s safe to say at this point that if do not have our best ever season this year that it’s a pretty massive failure.  We probably need to play at less than a point per game to make the playoffs so failing to do that would be catastrophic.

The next two questions, win the conference and the Shield, are a bit harder to calculate since it not only depends on our play but also the play of other teams.  The additional complication of course is as we do better the other teams (on average) do worse as they lose points to us, and vice versa.  So who’s our real competition?

At this point here are the teams at or above 1.5 pts/game (prior to the 7/13 games):

Dallas – 1.85
FSL – 1.61
LA – 1.61
Philly – 1.53
NYCFC – 1.5

An easy way to look at this is to project out those team’s totals if they maintain their current pace:

Dallas: 63
FSL: 55
LA: 55
Philly: 52

As we discussed above, 54 is in our reach without too much work so we can probably disregard the Eastern teams.  That’s not to say one of them couldn’t get hot but the odds are not in their favor.  These are also worst case scenarios as these teams will beat each other up and they won’t all be able to maintain their current pace.  Also, as mentioned above, if we continue to play well we’ll take points out of them and drop them off their current pace (we have 2 games still to play against Dallas and 1 each against FSL, LA, and NYCFC).  Given all that, breaking 55 looks like a good indicator to finish 2nd in the West, which would be our best ever finish.  That’s 1.375 pts/game the rest of the way, which seems reasonable.  To be sure we probably want to go for 58 points or so, or 1.5 pts/game.  A little harder but still achievable.

That just leaves one team and one challenge left, winning the Shield (and with it, the Western Conference).  It’s looking like the Shield will come down to us and Dallas.  We’ve got a slight edge at the moment with a slim lead and 2 games in hand on them.  They also have some schedule congestion coming up as they’re still in the U.S. Open Cup and they have Champions League play this fall.  Since the Copa break though Dallas has looked like the better team.  On pace for 63 means we need to maintain our current pace to get us to 64 and a win.  The twist is those two head-to-head matches.  If Colorado wins them both then if Dallas maintains its current pace in the other game the Rapids only need to play at 1.43 pts/game in the other matches.  Not an easy run but certainly not overly challenging.  Flipping that around with Dallas winning the 2 head-to-head matches means that Colorado would have to play at 2 pts/game the rest of the way which is very unlikely.

If the Rapids can average 1.5 pts/game the rest of the way they’ll have their best season ever and they’re all but guaranteed a top 2 finish in the West for the first time.  In order to win the conference and the Shield they’ll need to keep their pace from the first half of the season going or sweep Dallas in the 2 games. 

Monday, July 11, 2016


Well, that game was a bit of a roller coaster.  A rough first half led to a great 2nd half offensively combined with a pair of horrible defensive decisions that resulted in a fair 2-2 result.  it was both a point gained with the last second goal and probably 2 points lost through poor decision making.

General Impressions:
  • This game was a perfect example of this team's mentality this season.  Down a goal twice and both times the team came back for the draw.  #KeepFighting
  • Jones being a late injury scratch is a bit concerning.  Still waiting for an update.
  • Williams lost his man (the tallest guy on the field for Vancouver) on the first goal.  Howard was left out to dry and still got his hand on it.
  • The rest of the first half was somewhat dull.  Once again the midfield struggled without all 3 of Jones, Pappa, and Gashi being available.
  • In a scenario such as that I wonder if a 4-4-2 with Solignac moving up front to replace the missing man of the trio wouldn't be more successful.
  • About 7 minutes before the first Rapids goal I posted that one of Pappa/Gashi/Doyle needed to step up and earn their money.  Instead of one of them stepping up Pappa fed Gashi who placed a great pass to Doyle for the goal.  That works. ;)
  • Eric Miller's red card was well earned.  I know Balboa talked about the possibility of overturn on appeal but the teams were informed before the season that the refs would be cracking down on those tackles.
  • Until the red card the Rapids really looked like they had another goal coming and had Vancouver on the back foot.  I think a win was likely without the tackle.
  • Gashi really led the charge in the 2nd half.  He was putting balls into dangerous places and was a bit unlucky not to get another assist or even a goal.
  • The PK was a debacle from Watts.  He poorly heads a ball back but not out of play, was lucky not to be called for handling while trying to recover, then puts himself in position for an easy PK call on a ball going out of play.
  • I don't think Watts really brought the Whitecaps player down, but the attacker knew he had a good shot at a PK when he felt Watts hand on his shoulder and took it.
  • Great move by Pablo to push Sjoberg up front as soon as that PK was scored.  There was nothing to be lost by losing 3-1 and getting a tall guy on a header was our most dangerous play.  And it worked.
  • Actually this is the first time this season where I think we earned points by out-coaching the other team.  All of Pablo's subs were the right ones at the right time and his tactical changes worked  outside of Watts' mistake.
  • The only times the Rapids have allowed more than one goal this season have been the games in Canada.  I don't think that's how the exchange rate is supposed to work...
  • With the draw Colorado maintains its league lead in points per game, but only by .04 over Dallas.
  • The 13 game undefeated streak is tied for the 6th longest single-season undefeated streak in league history.  Two more games without losing would put us in a tie for second. (2010 Dallas went 19 games without losing)
Man of the Match: Kevin Doyle.  A goal and an assist makes this an obvious choice though it could have gone to Howard or Gashi before that late equalizer.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Rapids Go North Of The Wall

He might beat Sjoberg to a header...

Colorado makes its way to to Vancouver for tomorrow's game to kick off the second half of the season.  Vancouver is in a tight group fighting for the last couple of playoff spots.  Kickoff tomorrow is at 8pm with the game on Altitude.

Player Availability:
OUT: D Bobby Burling (knee surgery); D Sean St. Ledger (knee); M Dillon Serna (season ending ACL tear)
ONE YELLOW FROM SUSPENSION: D Axel Sjoberg (4 games for good behavior reduction)

No surprises there, Vancouver has 5 players listed as Out.

Starting XI Prediction:

If they're being extra cautious with Pappa's knee he may not start (or play) on the turf but he handled the turf in Seattle the last couple of years so I think we'll see him.

Prediction: 1-0 win, goal by Jones.  Vancouver has the worst defense in the West so we should get a goal here.  Our defense  is looking good and I expect that to continue.  Time to get back to winning ways.

Two Players Loaned Out

One official and one unofficial loan announcement in the last day or so:

The Rapids announcement doesn't mention a length of loan, just that the Rapids retain the right to recall him.  The Switchbacks' announcement says its for the season.  If I had to bet I'd say that every USL loan is probably written as a full season loan but based on the Rapids thin bench at CB and the comments they made when Greenspan returned he won't be there all season.  I expect him back in Commerce city by August, unless T. Ledger is closer to being the old St.. Ledger than we realize.
No surprise here, as discussed in my prior post we had no room for Ramirez to return and we had no need to bring him back.  Talleres was just promoted to the top flight for the 2016-17 season after winning the lower division.  As a full year loan we won't have to worry about finding a spot for Ramirez until this time next year, at which point we may have an option to sell him.

Update: Talleres has officially announced the loan

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Rapids Fizzle On Fourth

A pretty lackluster game in front of a huge crowd is not what Colorado needed last night but its what they got.  The team looked rusty and out of sorts.  They still came out with a draw which shows how far this team has come since in the last two years this kind of underwhelming performance would have been a loss.  An opportunity missed though both in the standings and to convert new fans.

General Impressions:
  • The midfield was AWOL last night.  No linking play between the back and front and Portland just had free runs to about 30 yards from our goal (especially in the 2nd half).
  • I assume that the team is playing it safe with Pappa's injury but I think a better strategy would have been to start Pappa and then bring Hairston in when Pappa had gone as long as he could.  Our midfield improved as soon as Pappa was subbed in.
  • Hairston shouldn't be playing midfield when Pappa, Solignac, and even Badji is available.
  • Watts was lucky to not give up a PK but other than that he was fairly solid.
  • Sjoberg had a surprisingly off game.  Not badly but he wasn't his normal self.
  • All game Portland was inviting the Rapids to play the ball into the middle where the Timbers could collapse on them and all game the Rapids did it.  We needed to stretch the field more.
  • Generally we were very slow in transition and getting the ball forward.
  • The ref had a bad night as well but it hurt both teams fairly equally.
  • Good to see Pablo use subs early for once.
  • Cronin coming off was the first minutes he's missed all season (in league play).
  • With the results last night Dallas passed Colorado in points but due to the fact that Colorado has two games in hand we still lead on points per game.
  • We extended our team record undefeated streak to 12 games.
  • At the halfway point of the season we lead the league in pts/game and did it without ever putting all four of Doyle, Gashi, Jones, and Pappa on the field at the same time.
Man of the Match: Tim Howard.  I really wanted to pick somebody else because I didn't want to fall into the easy trap but its the right call based on the play.  An off game for most of the team and Tim coming up big when he needed to.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

The Tim Howard Era Begins

Tim Howard at the STH training event today

Monday night the Rapids will host arguably one of the five biggest home games in their history.  The team's inaugural game in 1996, the opener of DSG Park in 2007, the Eastern Conference Final in 2010, and the home opener/MLS Cup celebration in 2011 likely would be the others on that list.  Howard's addition marks the next stage in the growth of this team.  The keey now is to back up the off-field hype with on-field  play.  So far this season the Rapids have done so but they'll have their biggest audience so far for this one.  Ticket prices are high and the secondary market is hopping for this game.

Kickoff is at 7pm with the traditional 4th of July fireworks after the game.  The tailgate will start at 4 and is expected to be crowded.  Made-Rite sandwiches will be the bonus menu item at the tailgate.  For those of us who can't make it the game will be on Altitude and will be streamed free on MLS Live if you live outside the Denver and Portland areas.  I said "those of us" who can't make it because, as always on Independence Day, I have a better offer.  Namely celebrating my (18th this year) anniversary with my wife.

Player Availability:
OUT: D Bobby Burling (knee surgery); D Sean St. Ledger (knee); M Dillon Serna (season ending ACL tear)
ONE YELLOW FROM SUSPENSION: D Axel Sjoberg (5 games for good behavior reduction)

No surprises there but it would be nice for Axel to save his upcoming suspension until Burling or St. Ledger is ready to start.  Portland is only missing their goalkeeper who's recovering from a long term injury.

Starting XI Prediction:

I mean, why wouldn't you use this lineup?

Prediction: 2-1 win, goals by Jones and Kevin Doyle.  Portland's got a decent offense but their defense is a mess.  I could see us getting a shutout given our defensive record but I'm guessing that the transition between MacMath and Howard will result in one goal being given up as everyone settles into the change,  Still we're a better team than Portland this year and with the crowd behind us, we get the win.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Dillon Serna Done For Season

Sad news out of Commerce City.  That yellow card (borderline dirty) tackle Serna took in Wednesday night's USOC match that knocked him out of the game will cost him the rest of the season after having blown his ACL.

Really disappointed for him.  Hopefully he can come back strong next season.  In the meantime the Rapids have another open roster spot and a need for some depth on the wing.