Thursday, December 28, 2017

Christmas News Recap

Sorry for the silence over the last two weeks, I was visiting my father-in-law in Florida for the holidays.  A recap of what happened in Rapids-land while I was gone, roughly in chronological order.

* Rapids pick Mike Grella in Re-Entry Draft, immediately trade him to Columbus for a 2019 2nd round draft pick
  • As the Rapids Media Director later confirmed on Twitter this was a quick way to get a free draft pick.  The Rapids had no intention of taking anyone but the Crew approached them about making this move  (they couldn't trade the pick due to the blackout period pre-draft) so Colorado got a draft pick for nothing.  Why not?
* Steve Cooke takes over the USL's Oklahoma City Energy
  • Not a real surprise except maybe the timing.  Cooke has put in his time and showed a bit of what he could do as the head coach when taking over Pablo's spot this past season.  The Rapids made keeping him a condition of any new coaching hire so I thought he'd be around at least until the midseason coaching moves in the lower leagues happened but either way he was going to get a chance sooner or later.  Good luck to him!  I don't think this is a huge loss for Colorado.  While I'm sure Hudson would have been happy to work with Cooke giving him more freedom to set up his own staff is probably a good thing.
* Rapids will open with the Fire at home on March 3rd at 7pm then head to New England for their home opener on March 10th at 11:30am (MT).
  • Good to open at home though a night game in early March might be chilly.  And we always seem to get a road game in New England early in the season.
* Colorado draws Toronto in the CONCACAF Champions League.  Home game Feb. 20th at 8pm, road leg Feb. 27th at 6pm (MT).  Season ticket holders will get a ticket to the home match as part of their ticket package.
  • All good news except that date/kickoff time.  Can you say brrr?  Its likely going to be quite cold by the final whistle at 10pm.  I'm much happier drawing a equally-in-preseason Toronto than a in-midseasonn-form Mexican side in the first round.  Our odds are better against TFC, even if they are the GOAT MLS team.  I mean, they hosted us last season when we were awful and they couldn't beat us.
* Colorado trades $100K of TAM to Vancouver for New Zealand outside back Deklan Wynne.
  • No surprise that Hudson is grabbing up his former New Zealand players that are in MLS.  Much like McBean, Wynne has spent most his career on Vancouver's USL side, and I would expect that he continues to see time in Charlotte.  $100K in TAM sounds like a lot but with the amount of TAM more than doubling this season that's only worth about half as much as it used to be.
That's it for the news over the last couple of weeks.  To do a quick review of our offseason so far we've acquired one likely starter (Blomberg) and 3 young players unlikely to contribute in a meaningful way to a successful 2018 season (Colvey, McBean, Wynne).  There's nothing bad about any of those moves they're just fairly meaningless, outside of Blomberg.  We have a little over 3 weeks before camp opens, I expect the Rapids to be very busy stocking up the actual first team roster in that time if we hope to be successful in the CCL and league this season.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Rapids Trade For McBean

Today the Rapids traded their 4th round pick in the 2019 draft to LA for forward  Jack McBean.  He was originally signed by LA in 2011 as a homegrown player at age 16.  He's averaged 5 appearances a season for the Galaxy during his career there and the last 4 years made himself a regular starter and scorer for LA Galaxy II in the USL.

Much like Colvey yesterday McBean is brought in for depth and the possibility that he'll improve into a regular MLS-caliber player.  I expect to see him in USOC play and a possible inclusion in the gameday 18 due to injury.  I'd be surprised if he got any league starts this season, at least not before we clinch or are eliminated from the playoffs.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Drafts: Zero Lost, One Added

As expected no Rapids were selected in the LAFC expansion draft yesterday.  In today's waiver draft only two selections were made, one by the Rapids with the #3 pick.  Kip Colvey was claimed from San Jose.  This is not a surprise as Colvey is a New Zealand international who most recently played in both legs of the World Cup playoff against Peru.  He obviously knows Hudson and his system.  Colvey is a wingback who can play on either side.  He was drafted by SJ in the 2016 draft and spent most of the last two years on loan to SJ's USL affiliates.  Despite playing for New Zealand Colvey was born in Hawai'i so he doesn't take up an international slot.

Colvey is essentially Dennis Castillo without the need for an international spot.  Good chance he gets some time in Charlotte this season while being available for USOC games and emergency backup for the first team.  At 23 years old he doesn't have much time left to improve into a MLS player but its not unheard of.  Its a solid move for depth with little down side or cost.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

TAM, Affiliation, and Expansion Draft

There's been a few stories of note since Friday, so we'll go through them all in one post.

First, the league announced $1.2 million in Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) each of the next two years.  They also announced that each team could self-fund an additional $2.8 million in TAM each of the next two years.  Essentially they said that teams could spend up to $4 million on TAM players each of the next two years, and the league will cover the first $1.2 million of it.  To remind everyone, TAM is used to sign players that would normally be Designated Players but the TAM brings their salary below the salary max for a standard player.  Players signed with TAM have to have a total cost (salary+transfer fee) of $1.5 million or less and you can convert a DP to a TAM player but you must sign a new DP player to replace him.

This is not great news for traditionally low-spending/small-market teams, like the Rapids.  This will quickly split teams into haves and have nots as those owners who are comfortable spending will spend all $4 million and those who aren't will just spend the league covered $1.2 million.  That $2.8 million difference could have a huge effect on rosters.  I guess now we'll know how interested KSE is in being competitive versus just existing.

The silver lining though is that now that we know the number we might start to see some movement in player signings.  A number of Front Offices have complained to reporters that the question about how much TAM would be available was causing them to delay signings.  Maybe we'll get a signing (or 2?) before Christmas?

Secondly the Rapids announced that the affiliation with the USL Charlotte Independence will be extended though the 2018 season.  The fact that this is just a one year deal leads me to believe that the Front Office has bigger long-term plans than affiliating with Charlotte but they have enough to deal with this offseason with all the new leadership so its easier to just extend it for another year and deal with the long-term plans next offseason.  The relationship with Charlotte came out of the time that Hinchey spent there working with the Bobcats along-side some of the Independence owners so I'm not surprised that with his departure that relationship may be reexamined.

Lastly the available players for Tuesday's expansion draft have been announced.  We can then extrapolate who's on the Rapids protection list, and there's really no surprises.  When I made my forecast a little over a month ago I picked 10 names and left the last spot open to be based on the best info the coaches had.  That was before we knew Saeid asked for his release, but the other 9 names on my list were protected, along with Miller and Watts.  (and of course, our four homegrown players were automatically protected).  In fact, the only exposed players the Rapids have under contract next season are Mike da Fonte (no way he gets chosen, and no loss if he does) and Sam Hamilton (he won't get chosen with the other options out there).  So the Rapids should come through this unscathed and with no surprises.

Also, shout-out to Rapids legend and all around fan favorite Drew Moor for picking up his second ring last night!  He's 2-1 now in MLS Cups, all played in Toronto.  Clint Irwin gets his first ring as well.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Give Junior Agogo Some Love

This is copied from Centennial 38's page but I'm helping organize this effort (I actually wrote this for them).  Show Junior some love this holiday season.

Any long-time fans might remember striker Junior Agogo, who played for the Rapids in 2000 and the first half of 2001 before being traded to San Jose. Junior was a fan favorite while here and after leaving MLS he spent a lot of time in England before finishing his career in Egypt, Cyprus, and Scotland. In January of 2015 Junior had a stroke. Recently he was interviewed as part of the BBC4 documentary ‘Speechless’ where he discussed the aphasia he’s dealt with since the stroke and how the difficulty in communicating has made him anxious and less outgoing. If you remember watching him play, being outgoing was never a difficulty for him. During the interview he mentioned that he doesn’t hear from any of his former teammates, specifically from his other Ghanaian national team teammates.
Some clips from the documentary can be found in the following link:
Upon hearing this news, Centennial 38 reached out and made contact with Junior to extend our well-wishes. We are also working with the Rapids to put together a care package to send to him in London that will let him know that his fans in Colorado are thinking about him as he copes with his circumstances. We’d like to give fans a chance to send him messages of support. Please leave your message to him here and we’ll print them out and include them with the care package.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

CCL Draw, Preseason Plans, and Castillo Incoming?

Lots of news aside from Hudson today.  Taking it roughly in order.

CONCACAF announced the draw for the 2018 CCL today.  Colorado will be the one MLS/Liga MX team in Pot B, the other 8 teams will be in Pot 1.  Under the competition rules we can't be drawn against an American team in the first round so we know our opponent will be one of Toronto, Chivas, Club America, Tigres, or Tijuana.  Colorado will host the first leg as the Pot B. team.

The seeding were based on the results of the teams in each slot over the last 5 CCL competitions.  So as the team in the USA4 slot our pot placement was based on the CCL results of the last 5 teams in the USA4 slot.  That results in us being in a tie with Dallas, the USA2 slot holder, for the final spot in Pot A but presumably, since USA2 is a "higher" spot than USA4, they got the final pot A spot.

The draw will be on Dec. 18th with the games in late February.  I don't love our chances but a home snowstorm at altitude might be a nice equalizer.

That was followed by this tweet from Spanish sports reporter John E. Rojas that the rumor linking U.S. Nat Edgar Castillo to the Rapids will be come a reality in the next few days.  Castillo is a 31 year old left back who has played his whole career in Mexico and played for the Mexican Nats before making a one time switch to the U.S. in 2009.  He played somewhat regularly for the Nats between 2009-2013 (but not in the World Cup) including in the 1-0 win at the Azteca.  He appeared once in 2014 and then in both qualifiers against Guatemala in 2016.

This would be a huge upgrade at left back, one of the biggest holes the Rapids have.  At 31 he's not a long-term prospect but he still should have 3 or so good seasons in him.  This would be a solid move for the FO and a good sign that they are addressing areas of need.

Finally the end of the Denver Post article about the Hudson signing had some information about our preseason plans.  Camp will open on Jan. 22nd, the earliest day allowed by the CBA, and on the 24th the team will head to Casa Grande for an intense preseason camp to prepare for the CCL.  The team will participate in the Desert Diamond Cup but depending on the CCL schedule it may be a split squad that gets left behind in Tucson while the first team returns to Denver and/or goes on the road for the legs of the CCL.

I'm glad to see the team has a plan already in place to deal with the tight time window between the allowed start of preseason and the CCL.  Its not much, you think every team would have this figured out, but in the past the Rapids FO, at least publicly, hasn't always seemed that organized about preseason matters.

That's all for today, which is plenty.  I love having an active FO in the offseason, its a nice change, but a little more spacing of the major announcements  would be appreciated.  :D

Rapids Finally Make Hudson Official

What we hope the rest of the league is thinking right now

Fair warning, you're going to have to get used to Bill Paxton from Aliens gifs for a while as there's enough quotable Hudson lines to keep me entertained for at least the offseason.  Today Colorado announced what we all knew was coming, Anthony Hudson is the new head coach.  We've talked plenty about his background in past posts so there's not much more to say about him.

My reaction is a bit of "eh, we'll see if this works".  He talks the talk and his players and other people associated with him all speak highly of him.  I like his reported attention to detail and willingness to accept some newer coaching methods and statistical analysis.  His lack of fully professional club coaching experience is still a big weakness though and I wasn't overly impressed with his coaching decisions in the recent Peru playoff series.  This isn't a horrible hire but its not one that's got me super excited for next season either.  Certainly he's a better hire at the time than Pablo was and arguably Smith.  Those two both came with more knowledge of the organization but significantly less experience.

There was news today as well on the CCL draw, a player rumor, and preseason plans.  I'll cover that in another update either tonight or tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

News On Mohammed Saeid

Yesterday's roster moves contained only one real surprise, the Rapids not picking up Mo Saeid's option.  Today the Rapids media director tweeted the following:
We would have loved to keep Mo. A great player and even better person. Unfortunately, due to some personal circumstances, Mo asked for his option not to be picked up. We respected those wishes and will very much miss having him around. Wish him the best.
Obviously this was the right move by the team and I think I speak for all Rapids fans when I say that I hope whatever Mo is dealing with works out for the better and wish him luck on his next step.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Roster Cut Day And Hudson "News"

Big day today as the Rapids announced their option pickups and roster cuts going into the offseason.  Lets break them down:

  • Sam Hamilton's option picked up - Easy decision, first round draft pick, cheap, still has time to develop
  • Eric Miller's option picked up - Meh.  He is versatile, being able to play anywhere on the back line, but he's not particularly good at any of those positions.  Hopefully this is due to interest in trading for him.
  • Jared Watts option picked up - Watts is a sold MLS-quality backup CB.  If that's how we're going to use him, great.  He should not be in the running as a starting CB.
  • John Berner's option declined - No surprise, he's clearly plateaued and we could draft somebody as good as him with a possible higher ceiling.
  • Dennis Castillo's option declined - If he had a green card I think he'd still be on the roster, but international spots are too valuable.
  • Josh Gatt's option declined - Too expensive for what he brought (which wasn't much).  That was fine last year when Minnesota reportedly ate most of his contract but not when we're eating it.
  • Alan Gordon's option declined - We always knew that was likely a one year move.  We could bring him back at a lower number but I bet he holds off to hope for a contract from LAFC.
  • Mohammed Saeid's option declined - This is the real surprise move to me.  I thought he had done enough ton  stay with the team.  I expect they're trying to offer him a contract at a lower number.
  • Mekeil Williams option declined - Duh.
  • Luis Gil option to buy declined - Also duh.
  • Bobby Burling out of contract and released - At his age and injury history and with Ford coming on there was no real future for him there.
The rest of the roster is under contract for next year which includes, surprisingly, Mike da Fonte.  However there are already multiple reports that the plan for da Fonte is for him to play out the rest of his contract on loan in the USL.  Clearly its cheaper to do that then to eat his contract.  If they are able to send him on season-long loans with no recall option then he wouldn't take up a roster spot and as a young, low-paid player he's not on the senior roster and doesn't take up any cap room.  We'll call that being Ramirez'ed.

That leaves 18 players on the roster (including Blomberg) going into the offseason and up to 12 open slots.  Plenty of room for the new manager to work with.

And speaking of that new manager, we have all but official confirmation that its Hudson.  A report from this weekend said that he was en route to Colorado to sign a 3 year deal.  If accurate we should expect an announcement sometime this week,

There were some positive words about Hudson in an interview of Andrew Durante, who announced his retirement from the New Zealand National Team last week.
With a "wider range" of talented players coming through, Durante said he believed the future was bright for the All Whites and he urged New Zealand Football to find someone who could "equal the passion and drive" of outgoing coach Anthony Hudson.
"I can't speak for the general public but I know within the group he was an awesome coach and a really detailed coach. Every camp was very intense and very detailed and structured. You just knew going into every game that you would be prepared. You knew exactly what the other team's strengths and weaknesses were, the training sessions were always challenging and he always pushed us," he said.
"In terms of the playing group, I think he will be very fondly remembered."
Generally there's been a lot of talk about how he brought a level of professionalism and preparation to the NZ team that was very lacking prior to his arrival.  Those are positive attributes to bring to the Rapids.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Hudson Watch 2017 Part 2

The New Zealand Herald has had two articles in the last 3 days reporting that Hudson is on his way to Colorado.  The first says the deal is not yet complete but there's nothing that's going to prevent it.  The second says that Hudson's assistant and NZ U-20 coach Darren Bazeley is expected to join Hudson in Colorado as his assistant.  At this point it would be astonishing if anyone but Hudson was the coach next season.

I took a look at New Zealand's record in competitive matches over the last few managers to see if Hudon had a notable effect (W-D-L):

Hudson (2014-2017): 8-4-1 - 2.15 pts/game
Emblen (2005-2013): 16-9-6 - 1.84 pts/game
Herbert (2002-2004): 8-0-6 - 1.71 pts/game
Waitt (1998-2001): 11-0-6 - 1.94 pts/game

So a small sample size (Hudson had less competitive games than any manager since 1998) but he was obviously the best record in the last 20 years.  Of course Herbert did take the team to the World Cup and got 3 draws despite having the worst record, so its hard to say that Hudson was the best manager.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Hudson Watch 2017

The newest twist in the Hudson/Rapids saga hit tonight as Hudson officially stepped down as the New Zealand coach.  There's no news as to his next move but all signs continue to point to Colorado as his next stop.  I've also heard secondhand that the new manager, whomever he is, was involved in the decision to sign Blomberg.

Obviously with the holiday we won't hear anything official the rest of this week but I assume if it is Hudson that we'll start getting some leaks by early next week,

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Rapids Make An Announcement...But Its Not The Coach

Its our first offseason player signing! Swedish attacking midfielder Johan Blomberg joins the Rapids on a free transfer from Swedish side AIK.  Blomberg is 30 years old and until now has played his whole career in Sweden.  Blomberg can play centrally or on either wing though reports are he favors the right side.  Blomberg has had 6 assists and 3 goals which isn't outstanding but its something.  AIK has been the runner-up in the top Swedish league the last two seasons and they've played in Europa League qualifying regularly, usually getting knocked out in the 3rd qualification round

I'm neither enthused nor disappointed in this signing.  Blomberg has the makings of a solid signing that can play a lot of minutes in midfield and keep the likes of Gatt and Ramirez from getting more playing time than they deserve.  Based on what I've seen today a team full of Blomberg's could probably make the playoffs but wouldn't make a deep run.

It is interesting that the Rapids are making a player signing without a managerial announcement.  This leads us to two likely scenarios, one good and one bad.  The good scenario is that the future coach (almost certainly Hudson in this scenario) has already agreed to a contract, maybe even signed it, and the Rapids are just waiting for the appropriate time to make the announcement.  In that case he's probably giving input on this signing and is in full agreement.  The bad scenario is that whatever plan the Rapids had for their manager has fallen apart, they're no announcement planned in the near future, and Smith is making the moves that need to be made for next season and hopefully whomever we hire will be able to work with the decisions.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Clock's ticking

Barring a miracle in the next 25 minutes Peru is going to eliminate New Zealand and Anthony Hudson will be able to take the Rapids job.  Given that we've heard no other rumors for a couple of weeks all signs point to Hudson being the man.  Now the clock starts ticking,  The Rapids needs to get the deal done, announce him this week, have a press availability early next week, and have him get right into it as soon as the holiday is over.  Any delay at this point in announcing Hudson (or whomever) is inexcusable.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Lopez Out As FO Shakeups Continue

The Denver Post reports that Claudio Lopez will not return to the Front Office next year.  Smith told the Post that Lopez's contract was up and it was decided to not offer him a new one.  This isn't a huge shock.  Over the last couple of years Lopez has either been blamed for poor signings or for not convincing the Front Office to make good signings.  Its never been clear, for obvious reasons, what players Lopez was actively involved in recruiting, successfully or not, but he was brought in for his South American knowledge and connections.  Since he joined in 2015 the Rapids haven't had a successful notable signing from South America.

That, combined with the general (much needed) shake-up the whole organization is going through makes it an understandable choice to part ways.  Lopez was an amazing player, great to the fans, and by all reports is a good person, its just time for a change.

Also in that article Smith talks about the new structure of the FO and his plans to add an assistant GM, a director of player personnel, and a head of sport science.  These all sounds like good steps though I'd like to see the goal for these signings (especially the new director of player personnel) be more aggressive than the start of preseason.  He also says that the team is in the final stages of the new coach but would not name any names.  Reading between the lines though it screams to me that the target is Hudson but nothing will happen until after the Peru-New Zealand playoff series.

On the player front Smith talked about two positions he wants to fill quickly, left wingback and attacking mid.  The first would be a much needed replacement for Williams, the second would be something this team desperately needs.  I'm not sure how he's going to fit on the field unless the play is to go back to a 4-5-1/4-2-3-1 but maybe sticking with a 4-4-2 with a more traditional diamond midfield of Gashi and Aigner on the wings, Boateng at the back, and this new signing up front.  Smith also mentioned Tim Hoard by name as the building black of the team, so its even more clear that Howard still has more in the tank.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Expansion Draft Coming, Maybe?

Next year LAFC becomes team #23 in MLS.  From all expectations there will be an expansion draft sometime in December for them, but oddly there's been no announcement of the timing or rules for that draft.  Maybe MLS is going to do something different this time?

For now I'm going to assume its coming and I'm going to assume its going to use essentially the same rules as last year's draft for Atlanta and Minnesota used.  With those assumptions, here's who I'd protect on the Rapids.  A quick recap of the rules:

  • Teams protect 11 players
  • All homegrown and Generation Adidas players are automatically protected on top of the 11
  • All players with a no-trade clause must be protected
  • DP's are not automatically protected
  • At least 3 internationals must be protected
Auto-protected homegrown players: Calvert, Ford, Perez, Serna
Auto-protected Generation Adidas players: None (I'm assuming Hairston and Miller have both graduated from the program)

* = Protected in 2016 expansion draft

International minimum:
Aigner - Obvious choice, I think he'll be a key part of the squad next year
Badji* - His somewhat surprising run to the Golden Boot means he's now a key part of the team
Gashi* - Based on Smith's radio interview it sounds like he's learned what he needs to do to contribute

Azira* - Struggled in 2017 without a consistent partner in midfield but still the best dmid we have
Boateng - His broken back made this season a wash but I expect Smith sees him a a key building block going forward
Hairston* - Has things to work on but brings a sense of urgency and attitude the rest of the team lacks
Howard* - Even without the no-trade clause I'm sure he has he would be an obvious choice.  Too good to let walk away for nothing
MacMath* - Too valuable to let get away, and his time is coming
Saied - Not blown away buy him but better quality than most
Sjoberg* - The big Swede is a good foundation for this rebuilding team

That's 10 obvious choices.  The 11th is really dependent on what the FO thinks LAFC is looking for and what player has the most value going forward.  If Gatt or Williams has trade value, protect them.  if Castillo has a future here, protect him.  If Gordon can be re-signed for a lower number, he might be worth protecting as he would be an obvious LAFC target.  My recommendation from the outside would be Gordon as I think he's the valuable player most likely to be selected by LAFC.

Usually at the end of a season I do a roster review, separating players into keep, keep unless upgrade possible, cut, etc.  This year though this post pretty much does that.  Quite simply this roster isn't good enough to compete in MLS as built and most of the players on it will need to be replaced in order to win anything it this league.  If they're not listed above assume they're only worth keeping because you can't swap out 13-16 players in one season so some of them will have to stay.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

November 1st, No Manager Yet

For the last 6 weeks or so the Rapids have talked about their goal of having a manager in place by November 1st.  Well the 1st has come and gone and no manager and only one real rumor (we'll get to that in a moment).

Now I don't think missing this date is a big deal yet.  There's really not a ton a manager could do for the next couple of weeks.  Obviously every minute of time the manager can spend in the job is a good thing, but until after MLS Cup all the new guy can do is evaluate the current roster, tell Smith what type of players to look for, and generally put dominoes in place for when the season ends and moves can be made.    All of that is obviously important, if this new "Rapids Way" is as coordinated as Smith is portraying it he can do a lot of that initial work himself while he negotiates with the targeted candidate.

That only gets us so far though.  MLS Cup is scheduled for Dec. 9th.  With Thanksgiving week generally being useless for getting work done in any office anywhere (not just soccer) the new manager needs to be in place in the next two weeks, give or take.  Which brings us to the one solid rumor we've seen about the position, New Zealand Nats coach Anthony Hudson.  Coincidentally, the Peru-New Zealand playoff for the final World Cup spot is on November 11th (in NZ) and Nov 15th (in Peru).  Just about the time the Rapids really need to have a manager...

I've dug around a little bit looking at Anthony Hudson.  What I've found hasn't made me jump off a cliff, but I'm also not floored by him as a candidate either.  Hudson was born in Seattle (fellow Seattleite!) but grew up in England as he's the son of Chelsea great Alan Hudson.  He was in West Ham's youth system to start but after bouncing around England and the Netherlands for a couple of years he got his only senior appearances (all 10 of them) as a midfielder with the Wilmington Hammerheads between 2006 and 2008.  This is hardly a knock against him though as some of the best coaches (Wegner for example) had minimal playing careers.

What is a bit of a concerning knock is his coaching career.  After retiring as a player to go into coaching he immediately took over the PDL Real Maryland Monarchs for 3 seasons.  He then jumped over to England to be a coach for Tottenham's reserve team and then coached non-league side Newport County from April to September when he got bounced after getting one win in the first twelve games of the season.

It was at that point he was tapped to take over Bahrain's U23/Olympic team and then a year later the full national side.  During this year he spent time with Mourinho at Real Madrid and Bielsa at Bilbao.  He coached the U23's to the win at the 2013 U23 Gulf of Nations tournament, the first tournament win in Bahrain's U23's history.  He was rumored to take over Denmark in October of 2013 but eventually took over as New Zealand manager in 2014.  While manager of the All Whites he reportedly turned down the MK Dons job in England and was linked with jobs at Norwich City and Derby County (he denied ever being approached by Derby).

When you add all that up you would see a significant hole in his resume.  For all his experience he's never managed a full professional club side.  The Monarchs were an amateur side, Newport was a semi-pro side and National sides are very different entities than club teams.  One thing I said going into this search was that I didn't want a 4th straight coach learning how to do the job.  This would be a bit different than Pablo/Pareja/Smith in that he has been the "top man" at a number of places dealing with professional players but its still not the same as running a pro club day in and day out for a 34 game season.

The good news is that his players for New Zealand praise him for bringing a new level of professionalism and advances to the team.  He also holds a UEFA Pro coaching license which is no easy thing to get.  He seems passionate and dedicated not only to his teams but also to improving himself in whatever way possible.  I think if he really is the leading candidate, as I'm hearing from secondary sources, its his focus on the system and process that won over Smith and co. even if his experience doesn't quite map to the hope the fans had.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Player Of The Year

Usually to pick my player of the year I go back through my game recaps to total up Man of the Match awards, look at the stats, think about the season to consider if there were any lynch pins that don't show up in the numbers, etc.  This year though it was a no-brainer.  The player of the year was clearly Dominique Badji.

Badji had 9 goals and 6 assists this year, the team leader in both categories.  He came up a few inches short of hitting double-digit goals in Seattle and it also would have given him 16 combined goals and assists which means he would have contributed directly to 50% of the goals the team scored this season.  Doyle was second in all those categories with 5 goals and 4 assists.  He was also second in games played and started, playing in all but one game and starting all but 5, and fifth in total minutes.  Miller, Hairston, Azira, and Howard are the other players near him in those categories.

Badji took a big step forward  this year, going from the frustrating forward who could score the hard goals and miss the easy ones of past years to a dangerous striker on the break.  Ok, his penalty taking apparently needs work but I feel much more confident when I see Badji get a look at the goal after this season.

Dominque got a new contract near the end of the season and we can expect him to be part of the plan going forward.  Personally I'd like to see him still as the 3rd striker that's used as a sub, change of pace, or to fill in when one of the starting two is unavailable but we'll be well off if he's our second striker next year.  He shouldn't be called on to carry the team like he did (as much as he could) this season.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Rumor Roundup

A bit of news and rumor from the first week of the offseason.  The primary source is from Padraig Smith's interview on the Vic Lombardi radio show on Wednesday morning.

Most notable, to me, was Smith's talk about how Gashi's play was disappointing this year and how it stemmed from him not following the offseason plan laid out for him after the 2016 season.  He also said they had had conversations with Gashi about it and he has accepted responsibility and pledged to do better this offseason.  So it sounds like Gashi is in the plans for next season and we should see a better Gashi than we dd this year.

He also said he had a talk with Howard after the game on Sunday and Tim is already ready to get back at it.  There was concern that after the World Cup Qualification failure Howard would decide to retire (or maybe want to end up at LAFC) but Smith made it clear that Tim was excited to lead the team in 2018.

Finally there was a good deal of talk about the new coach, what they're looking for, etc.  Smith said they're in final talks now and expect to have an announcement in the next couple of weeks.  He wouldn't name names (obviously) but talked about looking in the U.S. Europe, Oceania, and other locations.

Oceania stands out because of the rumor reported by Steven Goff yesterday:
Today Ives is "reporting" that Hudson is the lead candidate but given his article just cites unnamed sources and otherwise just repeats what we've already seen from Goff and the Denver Post about the Rapids coaching search I'm taking that with a large grain of salt.

New Zealand is currently preparing for a playoff with Peru for a World Cup spot next month.  I can't image Hudson leaving New Zealand if somehow they upset Peru so I can't see how this is Plan A for the Rapids.  Add to that that Hudson's coaching career isn't all that impressive.  3 years with a PDL team in Maryland, 1 year in non-league football in England, and 7 years coaching for the Bahrain U23s and then the full Bahrain national team before making the same jump from U23s to full team with New Zealand.  I would hope our sights are bit higher, even though I appreciate the Rapids going outside the box to look a a candidate like this.

So the tl;dr version of this week:; Gashi and Howard back in 2018, coach announced in the next couple of weeks, New Zealand coach Anthony Hudson was discussed for the role at some point.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Well, That Was A Season

That's all it was though, a season, and it finished in an appropriate way.  The Rapids were a man up for 38 minutes, got a PK call in their favor, and still came out with no goals and less shots on target than the Sounders had goals.  Pretty much par for the course for a season where Colorado finished last in the league in goals, shots on goal, and shots (but oddly, not assists).  The lone bright spot in the game was da Fonte standing up to Dempsey after Deuce got red carded and was trying to intimidate the rookie.

The good news is that LA lost, keeping us out of last place overall, and San Jose won, eliminating FSL and Dallas from the playoffs by a point.  Two weeks ago Dallas came to Commerce City and got a draw and last week FSL came to down and left with nothing.  At least we drug them down with us.

This was also my first chance to see a MLS game in Seattle (I saw the National Team play at Century Link against Venezuela in 2003).  I was underwhelmed (that's no knock on my family members I got to see).  It felt like Seattle's atmosphere was built on quantity, not quality.  There was nothing that the Rapids fanbase couldn't replicate if we had 40K+ at game.  Now I don't want to undersell getting 40K+ to a game, that's impressive, but I was expecting something that was notably above what I've seen from C38 and I didn't see it.  I will say that the fanbase wasn't as engaged at this game as I've seen even on TV though, which given that it was the final game before a playoff run with very little on the line and a very meh opponent maybe everyone was just saving themselves for the playoff match next week.

(But other than the size the stadium allows, Seattle's tifo game has nothing on C38)

That's it for our 3rd worst season.  Obviously a big offseason is coming up, starting with Smith being on 950 Altitude radio tomorrow morning at 9:30.  Then comes the coach decision, expansion draft, and player contracts.  I'll have some opinions on all of this as we move through the postseason and offseason.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

One Last Time...

The Rapids finally finish this season with a game in Seattle on Sunday.  At this point all they can do is try to deny Seattle a chance at a bye and avoid finishing in last place and winning the Wooden Spoon.  I'll actually be at the game with some family as I'll be spending the weekend back home in my old haunting grounds.  Somehow this idea sounded a lot better at the start of the season than it does now (solely because of how the Rapids are playing, I still want to see my family).  Game time on Sunday is 2pm as all 11 MLS games kickoff simultaneously for the last weekend.  The Rapids will be on Altitude while ESPN will be broadcasting a "whip-around" show showing highlights from all the games, like NFL RedZone or NBC's Goal Zone does for the EPL.

Azira and Watts are Out for this one due to injury and Williams is Questionable.  Seattle will be down 4 players due to injury.  This may also be the last time to see some Rapids wear the burgundy, though which ones those might be aren't immediately obvious (Burling?  Gordon?).

The Rapids avoid last place with a win or either LA or DC not winning.

Prediction: 2-1 loss, goal by Badji.  I'm really only predicting the goal because I want to see Badji get to double-digits.  Otherwise Seattle is a house of horrors for us, we have nothing to play for other than pride, and I have a feeling the team pretty much just wants to get the season over.  Our "big" stand was last week at home against our rivals, this game is meaningless.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Rapids Finish Off Home Season By Almost Ending FSL's

Well, that was a nice way to end a bad season.  A 4th minute goal by Josh Gatt (with a great celebration in front of the visiting FSL fans) somehow held up under a barrage of shots from FSL and Colorado got the 1-0 win.  With the result FSL's post season hopes are on life support, now needing a win next week and needing San Jose and Dallas to drop points.  Unlikely.  The 3 points for the home side also assures the team of finishing above its 2014 and 2001 pts/game total, avoiding the worst season ever that this was looking like for most of the year (a win in Seattle on Sunday would push them above the 1996 season as well).

Gatt had the goal but Hairston was the man of the match.  He had a goal-line clearance midway through the first half and generally killed FSL's attacking momentum every time they got near him.  Howard came up with a few big saves as well to preserve the shutout.

One more game on Sunday before this long season is over.  A win will keep us from finishing last in the league but anything else opens the door for LA and DC to pass us.  Looking at the matchups I think LA is most likely to end up with the spoon, but we have a better chance than DC of ending up with it (for better or worse, depending on your POV).

Friday, October 13, 2017

One Last Time

One last trip to Commerce City to see the Rapids on Sunday.  The end of a very long home season is on us but at least we finish on a high note with a chance to return the favors FSL paid us in years past.  Namely all-but eliminating them from the playoff run.  That and avoiding our worst season ever is about all we have left to play for.  Kickoff for this one is an odd 5:30pm on Sunday as all Western Conference games kick off at the same time.

Watts is still suspended for this one while Azira is questionable.  Howard and Williams are back and there's an open question if this will be our last chance to see Howard in Colorado.  We'll discuss that more after the season.  FSL is down 5 players to injury and suspension with another two questionable.

Prediction: 2-1 win, goals by Badji and Aigner.  FSL has already won the Rocky Mountain Cup so this one is just about pride.  Time to give the fans something to root for to end the season.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Still Stunned

24 hours later and I'm still stunned at what happened in World Cup Qualifying last night.  I had no thought that the 4th, 5th, and 6th placed teams would all win.  I figured the absolute worst case was that we'd stumble and either Panama or Honduras would pull a major upset and we'd have to beat the Aussies for our trip too Russia.  More likely I figured we'd play a boring draw and just squeak into the 3rd spot.

There's a lot of hot takes out there right now about who to blame and what the U.S. should do next.  Personally, I think the players take the majority of the blame for only playing a complete game about 3 times in the 10 game hex.  Last night, especially in the first half, we looked like a team that assumed we were going to Russia and didn't have to make an effort.  Outside of Pulisic and maybe Yedlin I don't think anyone on that field deserves to continue as a Nats member, and that includes Howard.

As for what we do from here, I don't know.  There is no easy answer.  Pundits have talked about what Germany did after their failures in 1998 and 2000 and I think the general idea is the right one.  The USSF, MLS, the USL (I'd say the NASL but they're going to be out of business in a few months) and the USSDA need to get together, figure out what the long-term plan is, and all commit to that plan.  That will require some give and take from all parties, and most likely new leadership at the USSF, but its time to examine everything in the U.S. soccer sphere, from the Nats to the Rapids Academy.

Next June/July is going to be very different for American fans.  For the first time in most of our lifetimes, or at least in the part of our lifetimes when we've been soccer fans, the Yanks won't be at the World Cup.  I'm going to be watching the UEFA playoffs next month to see if either of my ancestral sides, Ireland and Sweden, get through to Russia.  If they're both eliminated I'm not sure who I'll back next year, maybe Colombia.

Monday, October 9, 2017

As Expected, Another Draw

As I predicted Friday, Colorado and Dallas played to a 1-1 draw.  A GK mistake that allowed Aigner his second goal was cancelled out by a solid header for Dallas in the second half.  The most interesting thing in the game was Atiba Harris being yellow carded for a tackle on Aigner and then having that yellow card waved off after discussions with the 4th official.  Right call as Harris never made contact, though I think Aigner might have admitted it to the ref as well.  Otherwise it was more of the same from this season. though I think at times we had a more organized strategy than we've seen in the past.

The Rapids now need 2 points in the final 2 games on the next 2 Sundays to avoid the worst season ever.

Friday, October 6, 2017

MLS Cup Rematch

Break out your scudetto jerseys and party like its 2010.  Dallas is in town makes their only trip to Commerce City tomorrow night and the Rapids have a chance to Burn their playoff chances to the ground.  Their 2-0 win over us last week is their only win in the last twelve games and they've tumbled from the top of the table to holding on to the last playoff spot by .04 pts/game. A loss tomorrow would drop them into a 3-way tie with San Jose and (sadly) FSL for the last playoff spot.  Kickoff is at 7pm and Fleming and Balboa will have the call on Altitude while Kevin Doyle will join Conor McGahey on the radio call.

The Rapids will be without Howard (who had a shutout against Panama tonight), Williams (who traveled with T&T but didn't suit up due to injury), and Watts, who got a 2 game suspension today for his red card last week.  Azira is also questionable due to the ankle injury he picked up last week.  Dallas is down Acosta and Figueroa to international duty.

Prediction: 1-1 draw, goal by Badji.  I want to predict a win because I want to see us kill Dallas' playoff hopes but after they easily handled us last week so I think that's a step too far.  We get 1 point, Badji gets his 10th goal, and Dallas' playoff hopes are on life support but not dead.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Two Bits Of News

Two pieces of news today.

  • The players union's salary guide was updated today.  We know that Aigner is making $425K in base salary per year, with guarantees he's at $470 which is just over max salary range, making him a TAM player.  I assume he has an escalation clause for next season.
  • Badji signs a new contract through 2019 with team options for 2020 and 2021.  Good move and well deserved.  He's clearly the team MVP this year.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Another Odd Game Featuring Montreal At DSG

Weird things happen when Montreal comes to town.  Four years ago the Rapids won on a wind-blown ball that was whistled out for a corner before it went in the goal but the goal stood.  This year it was two VARS, two red cards, the first goal from our new summer signing, and Alan Gordon's 3rd game winning goal of the season.  While I wouldn't go so far as to call the game quality or maybe even entertaining it certainly was interesting.

After reviewing the highlights on all the various calls I have to say the ref team largely got it right.  Certainly all the major calls were correct (or at least defend-able).  While the ref had some questionable restarts both reds were justifiable and the PK was correctly called off after VAR.

With the win the Rapids got out of last place, now ahead of LA on tiebreakers.  They also need just 3 more points in the last 3 games to avoid their worst season ever.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

First Of Three At Home

The Rapids finish with the next 3 games at homed followed by a final trip to Seattle.  Tonight we have Montreal in Commerce City.  With Wednesday's result we're officially eliminated from the playoffs and we're now two points behind LA (with a game in hand) in last place.  Two years ago when we were eliminated from playoff contention MacMath got the rest of the starts while Irwin backed him up, will we see the same thing tonight with MacMath and Howard?  Game time is 7pm with the game being on Altitude.

With Doyle's retirement on Thursday the only player not available for either team is Montreal's Oyongo which honestly is a bit surprising at this late state of the season.  Its unusual to have two healthy teams not deal with suspensions after 30 games.  Right now the Impact are 4 points behind NYRB for the last playoff spot in the East and NYRB have a game in hand.  They are going to be pretty desperate for a result.

Prediction: 1-1 draw, goal by Badji.  Montreal has a horrible defense and an above average offense.  Combined with the Rapids decent defense and horrible offense, plus the fact that I expect the Rapids to experiment even more with the lineup now that we're officially eliminated, makes a draw likely.  Both teams can score but neither team is really going to control the game.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Doyle Retires

To quickly dispense with the mess from last night Dallas beat us in the first 10 minutes and then just ran the remaining 80 minutes off the clock with no threat they would ever lose.  The Rapids are now officially eliminated from the playoffs.

Moving on to more important news, Kevin Doyle announced his retirement today, effective immediately.  Continuing issues from his second concussion of the year combined with what we now know about CTE and the effects of on-going concussions has made him realize its time to step away before permanent damage is done.

Doyle was possibly the most professional player the Rapids have had the last couple of years.  Regardless of what was asked of him or what he felt about it he showed up and put in 100% effort to do what was needed.  He was probably a better player than anyone gave him credit for, stuck in a system that revealed his weaknesses without ever playing to his strengths.

Doyle was also a member of the Irish National Team up until the moment he retired as he was called in for Ireland's qualifiers next week.  National team manager Martin O'Neill has already said he wants to honor Doyle at a match in Ireland when the time is right, if that's not in next week's games I'm sure it will be in the near future.  Hopefully Doyle feels up to coming out to the Dick on Saturday so us fans can give him the send-off he deserves.

As far as what this does for the Rapids its not that much different than what was expected.  Most people (me included) felt that Doyle wouldn't be back next season or if he was it would be at a significantly reduced number.  Obviously now we know he won't be back so that frees up abput $450k in cap room for next season.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Rapids Start Final Run In Dallas

5 games in the next 25 days to finish the season.  Officially the Rapids haven't been eliminated from playoff contention yet but a loss tomorrow night would do it.  Even a draw would do it if San Jose wins tomorrow.  San Jose winning either game this week and FSL not losing on Saturday will eliminate us regardless of our result.  No surprise, its been over for a while, but it will actually be nice to make it official.  Game time tomorrow in Dallas is 6pm with the game on Altitude.

The Rapids will be missing Doyle, due to his ongoing concussion symptoms, while School of Mines grad Tesho Akendele is suspended for Dallas.  Otherwise both teams are at full strength.  While the Rapids have nothing to play for Dallas is trying to stop a 10 game skid and save their playoff chances.  Right now they're barely on the outside looking in at FSL by .01 pts/game.

Most likely we'll see some changes tomorrow due to the 3 games in a week schedule we have.  I doubt Aigner will start but we might see Gashi and/or Boateng.  Really the only question left though is if Badji will get to 10 goals or not.

Prediction: 1-1 draw, goal by Badji.  Dallas is a mess right now but we're still not good.  Ttheir slide continues and they'll be ripe for an upset in a week and a half here in Colorado but for now we get a point and keep our hopes of beating our worst ever season going.  Badji gets his surprising 10th goal.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Rapids Lose North Of The Border

My Friday prediction:
2-1 loss, goal by Aigner.  Vancouver has a much better offense but a pretty similar defense to us.  I think both team can score but Vancouver will control the game and with the home field advantage, get the win.
Ok, Badji had the goal and not Aigner but otherwise this was fairly accurate, for the  second straight week.  I'll be honest.  With the UW win over CU on Saturday night and the NFL yesterday I've only seen the first 50 minutes or so (up to Vancouver's second goal) but by all reports there wasn't much different in the second half.  This team just isn't good enough and that's not going to change this season.

Nice job by Badji poaching the goal on a bad defensive effort.  For as bad as the team has been this year you can see real growth in his game and he's rightfully going to be the Golden Boot winner with probably double-digit goals, not something I would have expected at the start of the year.

On the other side, what does it take to get Aigner a start.  Planning for next year or not this is ridiculous.  A mid-season signing should not be waiting until the final month of the season to get his first start.  He might be great in 2018 but he (along with Boateng) is a bust for 2017.

The Rapids still need 6 points in the final 5 games to avoid their worst season ever.  Next up, a trip to Dallas on Wednesday.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Wet Night Tomorrow

Colorado is in Vancouver tomorrow night.  Not only is this the wettest fixture in MLS (Rapids and Whitecaps both being water features) but I'll be missing it as I sit int he forecast rain at Folsom Field as I watch my Washington Huskies hopefully repeat their performance against CU in the Pac-12 Championship Game last season.  Either way, its going to be wet.  Kickoff tomorrow (for both games) is at 8pm and the Rapids game is on Altitude (UW-CU is on FS1).

Kevin Doyle is out for this one due to his ongoing concussion symptoms.  Otherwise the Rapids are at full strength.  Of course that doesn't mean our best XI will start as Smith and Cooke try to figure out who's going to be around next season.  The turf at BC Place may also throw a wrench into who starts.  Vancouver has two players out injured, one questionable, and one player suspended.

If you remember, Vancouver was the site of Gashi's Goal of the Year last season.  Axel Sjoberg has also scored twice against Vancouver (once with a broken wrist), so we tend to have some luck against them.

Prediction: 2-1 loss, goal by Aigner.  Vancouver has a much better offense but a pretty similar defense to us.  I think both team can score but Vancouver will control the game and with the home field advantage, get the win.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Coaching Update

We got our first coaching news today from a variety of sources.  I think this article covers it all.  4 people have been talked to about the job but likely they aren't the short list of candidates.  This is a good thing because 3 of the 4 names make me sign and think "same old Rapids" and the fourth, while interesting, doesn't seem like a home run hire.  Lets go through these names:

Cesar Farias - The most interesting name of the bunch.  He was the Venezuela National Team coach for 6 years and got them to the Copa America semifinals for the first and only time.  He also coached in Mexico and most recently in Bolivia.  He's certainly got a wide range of experience and is used to "punching above his weight" like he would need to do here.

Henning Berg - No.  Just no.  As a Blackburn fan I watched him come in and take the team from a playoff position to 17th place in the Championship in 10 games, winning once and losing six.  He hasn't made it through 2 full seasons at any of his last 3 jobs (including Rovers where he lasted a team-record low 57 days) before being sacked.

Josh Wolff and Jeremy Gunn - I grouped these two together because they have the same issue.  They would be getting their first professional managerial experience if the team hired them.  After three straight coaches getting their first pro experience (Pablo, Pareja, Smith) the last thing we need is another "learning on the job" manager.

The good news from the article is that the team has a goal of hiring a manager by November 1st.  That's a big change from last time where Pablo was signed on the opening day of the season.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Rapids Continue Non-Losing Ways

My Friday prediction:
1-1 draw, goal by Badji.  The altitude and missing players will weaken NYCFC just enough for us to snag a point but it won't be pretty.
And that's exactly what happened.  NYCFC went up early after Watts fell and Ford and Azira didn't close in on McNamara which let him get a long-distance strike off.  Howard got a hand to it but could only push it into the bottom of the crossbar where it bounced in.  After that it was pretty bleh soccer, though surprisingly at half the Rapids had to shots on target to NYCFC's 1 (I'm not sure when the last time the Rapids had more shots on goal at half than the opponent).  The second half was more of the same until very late when Badji got behind the defense on a long run and slotted it him home for his team-leading 8th goal of the season.  Credit to Dom, in past years he would have screwed the chance up and its another example of his improvement this season.

The game really changed for the Rapids around the 65th minute when Gashi and Aigner were both subbed in.  Aigner has yet to start and Gashi has not been starting much lately.  I realize that the focus in these last 6 games will be on evaluating players for next season but we shouldn't completely throw away results (especially since the fans are still paying for the tickets) so seeing our best players start more often than not should be the expectation.

The rapids now need 6 points in the last 6 games to avoid their worst ever pts/game total.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Tonight's Rapids Game A New First For Me

Tonight the Rapids host the second best team in the league, NYCFC.  Last time we saw them was in Yankee stadium last year where they put a 5-1 beat down on us.  That was almost a sixth of all the goal we allowed last season and by far our worst performance.  NYCFC is right where they were last year, 2nd place in the East, while the Rapids are on the other end of the table.  Tonight's game is at 7pm with the call on Altitude.

I'll be watching on Altitude, not at the game.  For the first time since 2008 (before I first got season tickets) the Rapids are playing at home, I don't have plans, and I'm not going.  This season has beaten my interest out of me.  Some friends will also not be there tonight and I had a choice between staying home and listening to Bob Rondeau's final season calling the Washington Huskies as they host Fresno State or watching the Rapids play ineffective soccer against a good team and hoping to eek out a draw.  I'm going with the former and I'll multi-task to watch both the Huskies and Rapids at the same time.

Bobby Burling is questionable for the Rapids but everyone else is available.  The big question is will Aigner finally start a game?  NYCFC is down 7 players, including David Villa, with an 8th questionable.  If we're going to take on a good team, now's the time to take them on.

Prediction: 1-1 draw, goal by Badji.  The altitude and missing players will weaken NYCFCc just enough for us to snag a point but it won't be pretty.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Rapids Snap Winless Streak With Surprise Win

The Rapids last road win?  Houston (last year).  The Rapids last home win? Houston (in July).  So of course we should have seen this surprise win coming.  Colorado seems to have Houston's number but it wasn't exactly exciting soccer.  We saw our first real glimpse of what Aigner can bring to this team, his perfect cross to Badji to set up the winning (and only) goal is a pass we haven't seen often as Rapids fans.  That was only the 3rd shot on goal of the night though and Houston also only had 3.  Kortne Ford had a good game on defense.

While the win is always welcome and needed, the main difference between this game and the last couple is that Houston played no better than us, which at least kept it competitive.  Offensively there was no difference this week, other than Aignr's pass, to what we've been seeing.

The Rapids now need 7 points in the last 7 games to avoid their worst pts/game ever.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Colorado @ Houston Tomorrow Night

The Rapids finish their road trip in Houston tomorrow night.  A tough matchup against an team undefeated at home while the Rapids are still winless on the road.  Game time tomorrow is 6:30pm on Altitude.  Since the Huskies take on Montana at 6 I'll watch that live and catch up with the Rapids, if its worth it, afterwards.

Burling and Doyle are both questionable for this one.  Burling from his continuing foot injury and Doyle from the head knock he took last week.  I assume neither will suit up tomorrow.  Maybe Aigner will start for this one?  Houston has two players out injured.

Prediction: 2-0 loss.  Houston has a top 5 offense and a average defense, both of which are better than the Rapids.  With how the team has apparently given upon the season this won't take long for Houston to run us over.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Rapids Lost Again

Another game, another loss.  Another time when the players didn't even try.  The Rapids were down 2 in under 30 minutes and never looked like they belonged on the field with what was (at the time) the second worst team in the league.  Their first shot wasn't until just before halftime, their first shot on target wasn't until the last 5 minutes of the game.

Honestly, I don't think we win another game this season.  Our best chance might be this weekend in Houston only because the Dynamo are a mid-tier team and who knows where their heads are with the hurricane (not to make light of the tragedy).  After that there's 3 road games, none of which I see us winning, and home games against NYCFC (loss), Montreal (a chance), Dallas (loss), and FSL.  That home finale could be a good chance since both teams will be eliminated by then, but if we're on a 15 game winless streak at that point I see no reason to expect it would change.

Next up, @Houston at 6:30pm on Saturday.  I'll watch that game on delay after watching Washington-Montana live.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Colorado @ LA Tomorrow Night

Even though its a World Cup break the Rapids have a game tomorrow night.  This was rescheduled from May when both teams decided playing without a couple of called-up players was better than playing a midweek game between two weekend games.  Kickoff is 9pm and the game  is on Altitude.

MacMath is expected back for this one to start.  Everyone should be available except for Howard and Williams, who are on international duty, and Gordon, who's suspended.  Aigner is expected to be in uniform.  Still with the players on loan that only leaves 19 players to choose from for the 18 man gameday roster.  I'm going to guess Burling or Da Fonte will be the odd man out.  LA will be missing 8 players between callups, injuries, and suspensions, including the Dos Santos brothers.

Interesting note, LA has won one home game this year, Colorado hasn't won a road game yet.

Prediction: 0-0 draw.  Bad teams missing players means bad soccer.

Monday, August 28, 2017

I'm Done

That's it, I'm done with this team, at least for this year.  That was a shameful performance from the organization on Saturday night.  It started with a pregame show that featured a 4.5 minute segment on how well FSL is fitting into the community in SLC for no reason other than what, to shove it in the fans faces that their rival is doing so much better than them?  It continued into a game where pretty much the whole team gave up on that rivalry match after FSL scored a goal.  Slight credit to Cooke, the team did come out of the halftime locker room with a bit more fight but that dissipated quickly, leading to the worst loss of the season and putting us firmly in last place in the league.  Then it ended with a post-game where everyone wishes they had done better but no real acknowledgement of how they didn't live up to the standards of a professional team.

I waited until tonight to write this hoping that as everyone got back to Denver and we got into a normal "work day" we might see something out of the Front Office to address the fact we hit rock bottom on Saturday but other than an appreciative nod to the travelling supporters we haven't seen anything.

Clearly at this point this team doesn't value anything but getting this season over with, so fine, its over for me.  I'm strongly considering skipping the next home game to stay home and watch Washington-Fresno State.  As far as this blog I'll probably still do the basics (game previews, game reviews, etc.) but with only basic info, not much more than that.

We'll see how the final 9 games go and the offseason.  Based on that we'll see how much I want to write, or even follow this team.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Only Thing Left To Play For; The Rocky Mountain Cup

The season is over so we have one thing to play for and it continues tomorrow, the Rocky Mountain Cup.  FSL won the first game earlier this year in Colorado 2-1.  The third game will be at the Dick on October so this is the only visit to Utah this year.  FSL wins the Cup with a win tomorrow.  With a draw the Rapids will have to win the final game by 2 or more.  With a win by the Rapids tomorrow they'll still have to win the final game, but if they win by 2 or more tomorrow they'll claim the Cup with a draw in the final game.  Its a late 8pm start tomorrow night on Altitude and about 150 Rapids fans will be in Sandy to support the burgundy boys.

Colorado will still be missing MacMath and Burling will be questionable but everyone else is available.  FSL has 4 players out, 3 questionable. and Kyle Beckerman is suspended for yellow card accumulation.  The Rapids rested the big guns on Wednesday for this one so I expect to see the likes of Sjoberg, Gashi, Hairston, Doyle, and hopefully Aigner, in the lineup tomorrow.

Prediction: 2-1 win, goals by Gashi and Badji.  Yes I'm being unreasonably optimistic with this prediction, I figure this is the last chance this season to do so and I'm taking it.  If there's any pride left in this team we'll see it tomorrow.  If we don't it will just be 9 long games to suffer through until the end of the year.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Juan Ramirez Officially Off The Roster

As expected, the Rapids announced today that they and Juan Ramirez mutually agreed to a contract termination.  That's one more player off the roster as we rebuild this offseason and we now have an open DP slot.

Rapids Continue To Sink

Not going to spend too long on this game review.  It was just more of the same.  This team is just not very good and that's not going to change in 2017.  Defensive breakdowns and a hell of a goal from Nagbe led to the 2-1 loss I predicted.  Saeid slipped a goal past the Portland defense to avoid the shutout.

  • Last night's starting XI showed we were going for it...on Saturday.  I have no problem with that decision.  The only thing for the fans to look forward to this season is maybe winning the Rocky Mountain Cup so I was glad to see the team use a test lineup last night and save the best options for Saturday in Sandy.
  • Mike da Fonte is not a MLS caliber player.  VAR got that call correct.
  • A number of players (Williams, Serna, Gatt) had a chance to make a statement last night.  They were very quiet instead.
Man of the Match: Mohammed Saeid.  Yeah, I took the easy way out.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Short turnaround as Rapids head for Portland

Colorado is in Portland for a midweek game tomorrow night.  Portland is flying high with a shot at going to the top of the table with the right results tomorrow.  We all know the Rapids are looking towards 2018 already.  This would appear to be a mismatched battle but that's why they play the games.  Its not even the most mismatched battle I'll watch tomorrow as at 12:45 tomorrow on ESPN3 the East Lancashire Derby is renewed as Blackburn hosts Burnley in the League Cup.  Just because Burnley thinks they're all that now that they're in the EPL doesn't mean they aren't going down tomorrow to a League One side.  Kickoff for the Rapids game is at 8:30 tomorrow night with the game on Altitude.

The Rapids are still missing MacMath and Burling is questionable but everyone else should be available, though Aigner's fitness status is up in the air.  Portland has 1 player suspended, 2 out to injury, and 3 more questionable.

I expect much the same in the lineup, with some players like Gashi rotated out for rest before the Rocky Mountain Cup match on Saturday.  Honestly given where we are this season I'd be happy to see a lot of young players get some time tomorrow and rest the big guns for the one important match we have left (if we lose on Saturday FSL wins the Cup, a draw means we'd need to win the final home game by 2, a win means we'd need to win by 1).  its time to see what the kids can do and this game has loss written all over it anyway.

Prediction: 2-1 loss, goal by Badji.  Portland has a top 5 offense and a bottom 5 defense.  The short rest will keep this game closer than it probably should be but Portland will build up a 2 goal lead before the Rapids get one late to avoid a shutout.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Is This Rock Bottom?

I was hoping this was a new dawn for the Rapids.  I was wrong.

Well, that game was one serious injury away from begin a complete cluster.  Hard to think of a worse way for the post-Pablo era to start.  Those were the two worst non-expansion clubs in the league and they played like it.  Ugly all the way around.
  • While Watts will rightfully get the flak for the own goal Howard was not being alert for the possible pass back.  Either he wasn't paying attention or didn't expect it, and after playing for this team for a year he should have expected it.
  • Really disappointed that Aigner couldn't make the 18.  I realize he was in his offseason before signing but that was 3.5 weks ago.  I would hope a professional athlete would be able to get into shape enough to be available for 15-20 minutes in that time.
  • 3 subs all before the 70th minute and none due to injury is something we haven't seen in a long time.
  • The Rapids were a bit unlucky to not score.  They had multiple good chances but didn't get the bounce they needed.
  • Overall though, bad soccer.  The 4 on 2 DC had early int he second half where they didn't even get a shot off was a good example.
  • Its obviously going to take some time to get Pablo's system out and something more attacking in place.  Credit to the team though, they looked like they were going for it in the 2nd half.
  • Two road games this week.  Portland on Wednesday night and an RMC match in Utah on Saturday.
Man of the Match: Dominique Badji.  In another game he would have had multiple goals with the chances he had in this one.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

A New Rapids Era Starts Tonight

The Post-Pablo/Steve Cooke era starts tonight with a battle with a wooden spoon battle.  DC is last in the league with .79 pts/game, Colorado is second-to-last at 1 point/game.  Both teams made major changes in the last month, DC in acquiring new players, Colorado in changing coaches.  Nobody really knows what we're going to see tonight but it should be interesting, if not good, soccer.  Game time is the normal 7pm so the tailgate starts at 4 and those who can't make it can watch on Altitude.

The Rapid will be without the injured MacMath and the suspended (for yellow card accumulation) Da Fonte.  Burling is also Questionable for this one.  Otherwise the whole roster, including Aigner, s available for section for Cooke's first game in charge.  I expect Aigner will be on the bench but not start.  DC is missing 5 players to injure including former Rapid Deshorn Brown, who's currently undergoing the league's concussion protocol.

I have no idea what to expect from the lineup under a new manager, other than Howard will start in goal.  Assuming we're going to stay with something like the 4-4-2 I think we can assume the backline will include Miller and Sjoberg and Azira will probably be in midfield.  Beyond that though, you're guess is as good as mine.

Prediction: 2-1 win, goals by Doyle and Gashi.  I think the Rapids come out more energized with a more attacking focus.  This hurts them a bit in the back but the team doesn't feel constrained to win 1-0 so they go out and outplay DC to get the win.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

New Direction From New Leadership

Over the last two days we've heard from the Front Office about their plans in two different ways.  First,, in a Op-Ed published by the Denver Post yesterday.  Second, in a YouTube Twon Hall held this afternoon that can be rewatched here (starts at the 11:10 mark).

I was going to do a rough transcript of the Town Hall but I gave up after a few minutes as I realized most answers where just going to be talking points from the editorial the day before.  I did get the second question of the Town Hall, asking for a realistic time frame to see actions that match the goals set out in the op-ed but Smith said he wasn't willing to set an unrealistic deadline or artificial time frame.  Really not the answer I was looking for.

The more concrete items I took from the Town Hall:
  • The Juan Ramirez "situation" will be resolved shortly.  Somebody on Facebook pointed out that he's no longer listed on the Rapids roster on  My bet is that they are crossing the t's and dotting the i's on a mutual termination contract that was agreed to ad submitted before the window closed.  That would allow Ramirez to join any team outside the window (as he was a free agent before the window closed) and would get him off the Rapids books, probably for a lower number than keeping him around to the end of the season.
  • Smith said the decision to remove Pablo was his, with the support of the rest of management.  No surprise but its always good to hear somebody tep up and take responsibility for a major decision.
  • They expect to be a playoff team next year.  That's the minimum I think we should expect but at least they aren't selling us a line about next year being a rebuilding year.
  • They are looking forward to the CCL and are going in with the intent to win it.  I mean, yeah, they pretty much weren't going to say anything else but there was no hedging of the goal or skirting around the issue, so I assume we're at least going to take it seriously.
Overall for both of these events I was more impressed with the delivery than the message.  We've never seen the FO come out with an Op-Ed in the Post to reach out to fans.  The Town Hall has been done before but given the short time frame and the fact that this was new leadership getting their plan out to the fans and not existing leadership doing damage control the fact that they had a Town Hall is a positive sign.

The message itself is nothing more than we've heard in the past.  Smith has talked a lot in the last 48 hours or so about the "Rapids Way" but we heard a lot from Hinchey about "OneClub" in the past.  We've heard the Rapids say they want to play dynamic, attacking soccer, and then roll out Pablo-ball.  Its hard to put much stock into anything the Front Office says without seeing actions to back it up.

Smith did make it clear that the next "big" step will be the hiring of the new coach.  That will really tell us if what Smith has been saying is talk or a true new direction for this club.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Pablo Removed

Interim head coach Steve Cooke

Well I can't say I saw this coming.  About 7 hours ago the Rapids announced Pablo Mastroeni has been removed as head coach.  Assistant coach Steve Cooke will be the interim head coach with Chris Sharpe and Conor Casey staying in their current assistant coach roles.

This move has been a long time coming.  Only his status as the greatest player to wear the badge and his unwavering loyalty to this club kept him in the role after the 2014 and 2015 seasons, and it seemed his wonderful season last year had bought him at least 2017 and probably into 2018.  Everyone was wrong on that assumption.  With a career average of 1.2 pts/game, barely better than Fernando Clavijo, this couldn't last.  Despite that he was just 4 games from Mooch's all-time team record for games managed.

After all that, I still feel bad for how this happened.  Pablo is and will always be a club legend and he was tossed into teh deep end of a sink or swim operation.  We can talk about what support he did or did not get but this isn't how you want to see the Rapids GOAT leave the club for (likely) the final time.  He didn't deserve to remain coach, but he didn't deserve to get into the situation he was in.

The timing of this move is quite odd.  Right after the transfer window closed and without a major incident precipitating it.  There have been a number of theories floated already and I think they all have a piece of the truth.  The first one is that the season ticket opt-out window is closing and they're seeing a higher than expected number of opt outs, so they felt they had to do something.  While this is probably true, I'm not sure this move changes anything since it comes so late in the opt-out window.  Second (and my contribution), is the changes in the front office over the last 6 weeks.  Hinchey left, the window opened, Smith became interim GM, the window closed last week, and Smith has now been able to turn his attention from deal-making int he window to other parts of the GM job, such as Pablo's tenure.  The third is that they have more moves coming and they waited until those were in place.  We'll see what happens in the next couple of weeks but there's some rumors something might happen.

Looking forward from here, Steve Cooke takes over for some amount  if interim time.  Reports are that Cooke has been the one putting in the work for years, running practices, etc. so it sounds like he's certainly earned this opportunity.  I know nothing about his style or what to expect so its going to be interesting to see what changes are made..  Sometime between now and next March the team will sign a new head coach.  The question is, will they have a real budget and do a real coaching search for the first time in KSE history or will we continue getting the MLS retreads and rookie coaches that the last 4 hires under KSE have been?  If its the latter, I suggest Robin Fraser.

As part of this news the Rapids have also announced that there will be a town hall on YouTube after practice on Thursday at 12:30.  More details to come but I've heard that this will be a true open forum and questions will not be pre-screened or otherwise eliminated.  I will have a recap of the forum Thursday night.

For more discussion on today's news check out the Voice of C38 podcast when it gets posted tomorrow.  The reason this blog entry is so late is that I was already scheduled as a guest on the podcast and had a good time recording it with the Voice gang.

Monday, August 14, 2017

So...That Happened

So I did something this game that I don't think I've ever done.  Since I was at my company picnic when the game started I couldn't watch from the beginning.  In the past that's meant avoiding any spoilers and starting the game from the beginning as soon as I got home.  (Or, if I was travelling, just watching the highlights post-game) This game, I didn't really care.  So when I left I put the radio broadcast on in the car (around thee 35th minute) and watched the second half live when I got to where I was watching the game.

Based on the play I saw, it seems the team didn't really care.  A meaningless point from a 0-0 draw leaves very little to write about.  Right now its really hard to get excited about the last 12 games of this season so don't be shocked if my game reviews are light unless something of note happens.  The most interesting thing on Saturday night was the lightning delay followed by a team that according to Pablo needed to treat every game as a must-win playing for the draw, including the subs from Pablo.

There was one other thing to note, the first significant use of VAR in a Rapids game.  They got the call exactly right under the rules VAR is used in.  Also to be clear, its FIFA and the International Football Association Board (IFAB) that set those rules, not MLS.  Lots of complaints about MLS being a Mickey Mouse league or Americanizing the game after the VAR call but it wasn't MLS's rules that allowed it, it was the same rules the Bundesliga and Serie A will be using this year.

Man of the Match: Kortne Ford.  Since I only saw half the game I don't know if he was the best player out there but he made a notable difference when he came in.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Rapids Start Building For 2018 In Dallas

No, referencing this is never going to get old

With Colorado all but mathematically eliminated for 2017 its time to start looking at 2018.  I'm sure the roster we see tomorrow night won't reflect that fact yet but truthfully, its where we are.  Luis Gil is in Dallas and is available for selection.  Stefan Aigner is in Denver waiting to join training when the team returns.  Kickoff tomorrow is at 6pm on Altitude.

Burling and MacMath are out for this one still but everyone else should be available for the Rapids.  Dallas is just missing a suspended Gruezo.  For game #22 both teams are remarkably close to full strength.  With no time to practice with the team I assume Gil will take Powers' spot on the bench in this game, we may see him as a sub.  Otherwise I expect very little change from the last couple of weeks, sad as that sounds.

Prediction: 2-0 loss.  Dallas has a better offense, a better defense, a top-4 team, and home field advantage (though Dallas is our second home).  This is an easy pick of what will be an ugly game.

Two Loans This Week

The Rapids have loaned out two players this week, Sam Hamilton to Drogba's Phoenix Rising and Castillo to Charlotte.  That last frees up the international spot we need to add Aigner who returned to town today and will start training with the team when they return from Dallas.

Still no word on the status of Juan Ramirez who is no longer on loan but we don't have an international spot to put him on our roster again.

When we started this transfer window we had 5 open roster spots.  After these loans we have 6.  SMH.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Rapids Power Down In The Transfer WIndow

Well, that was anti-climatic.  After multiple published statements about improving the team in this window we got a new German winger who hasn't even started training with the team yet and at essentially literately at the deadline last night we swapped unwanted players with Orlando.  We'll start with last night's trade then look at the (lack of) activity int he window as a whole.

The basics of this trade is that we sent Dillon Powers,, who's contract is reported to be up at the end of the season, to Orlando for Luis Gil, who's on-loan from Queretaro of Liga MX until the end of the season.

That's the short answer, if you don't care about the gory details of MLS roster rules skip this paragraph.  Orlando also sent $100K in Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) along with Gil and both teams agreed to keep the cap hit for their original player (Powers' cap hit is about double Gil's).  The reason for the TAM is that Gil was originally a FSL player and they retained his MLS rights when he left.  As part of the deal loaning Gil to Orlando, Orlando had to acquire his rights from FSL.  They agreed to a minimum of $50K in TAM.  Also with every loan deal into MLS there's an option to buy the player.  The loan deal stipulated that if Orlando bought Gil at the end of the season the deal for Gil's rights from FSL would go up to $100K in TAM.  Colorado has taken over Orlando's place in the contract with this trade so we will pay $50K of TAM if we don't keep him and $100K of TAM if we do to FSL at the end of the year.  The reason the teams didn't trade cap hits is that with the window closed it really doesn't matter since any cap relief either team might have gotten couldn't be used until the offseason window, at which point both players would be out of contract anyway.

This is a pretty meh trade for the Rapids.  Gil and Powers are players with similar skills and similar difficulty finding their place on their old teams.  Gil is a bit more offensively minded than Powers, which the Rapids need, but I still where he'll play under Pablo.  Overall this is really an extended loan for both players with the teams having the ability to walk away at the end of the season if it doesn't work out.

Overall this was a wasted transfer window where the Rapids didn't finish the job they promised had started with the Cronin/Burch trade.  Remember the quote at the time of the trade was that it gave them the financial flexibility to target an offense threat and the rumors going into the window were a midfielder, a forward, and an outside back was the plan.  Even when the window opened Pablo told the Post that the plan was two players, one that would "raise the level of play".  Well, we got two players, barely, but not without having to give something up to do it, which doesn't scream "financial flexibility".

As one commentator on the league tweeted today, the Rapids have traded Cronin, Burch, and Powers for Saied, Gatt, and Gil.  That's amazingly bad by the Front Office.  Two of three players would be likely starters on many MLS teams and while I think Powers needed a change of scenery I think he can become a starter, elsewhere.  In return we got 3 players who would be unlikely to start for most MLS teams and who don't fix our core problem, our inability to score.

Since the end of last season we've now added a total of 3 experienced players without giving anyone up.  Boateng, who's spending more time on the bench than the field,  Gordon, who's good for 20 minutes a game, tops, and now Aigner, who won't even start training with the team until next week.  combined they've played 775 of a possible 3780 minutes, just over 20%.

Shockingly, a team that got rid of players like Jermaine Jones, Marco Pappa, and Sebastian Le Toux and replaced them with experience that only plays 20% of their possible minutes has gotten significantly worse.  Even worse than that, the Front Office has given no indication that they realize this is a problem or care about fixing it.  They are just stringing the fans along like suckers, now talking about the next transfer window in the winter and hoping we forget about their comments about the window that just closed.

The Rapids failed this transfer window, possibly the biggest failure they've had since they did nothing in the 2014 summer window.  There's a term for doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.  The Rapids should learn it.