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.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Last Spark Of Playoff Hope Crushed

I felt the season was pretty much over before this weekend, but dropping 2 points to the team you're trying to catch really shuts the door on the playoffs.  BigSoccer has even done the math, for at least the last 10 years anyone who gets this far behind has failed to make the postseason.

The game was really a tale of two strategies for the Rapids, one that worked and got us the lead, and one that failed and lot us the lead.  Up until we got the 2-1 lead we had a majority off the possession and were taking the game to Vancouver.  Once we got he league we dropped into a defensive shell, played hoof and run ball, and let Vancouver come at us over and over again.  The goal was coming and it was not a surprise when they finally scored.

I'm sure the team will keep playing like there's a playoff shot for a few more games but in reality its over.  So really the last 13 games are about playing for 2018 (and the Rocky Mountain Cup).  Its time now to see what players who have a chance to be here next year have and players who are likely gone to take a seat.

Man of the Match: Axel Sjoberg.  A goal and a good defensive effort..  He was the only defender making an effort on Vancouver's tying goal.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

River Versus Ocean In The High Plains

Where the river meets the sea

Rapids - a rough section of a river or stream which is difficult to navigate due to the swift and turbulent motion of the water
Whitecaps - Ocean surface waves, which create "whitecaps" of bubbles and streaks on their breaking crests

So of course these two teams will meet on the high plains of Commerce City tonight.  Its about time the Rapids got home after being off or on the road for the last 31 days.  Its feels like longer than that.  Kickoff is an odd 8pm tonight, probably for Canadian TV, so the tailgate won't start at 5.  If you can't make it to the game, or understandably don't want to waste your time, the game is on Altitude.

Burling and MacMath are out for this one, while Gashi and Gatt are still questionable.  Aigner is not yet back with his visa (expected to return next week) so we won't be seeing him either.  Vancouver is down 3 players to injury.

I'm not sure we'll see much of a change in the lineups.  I hope Ford gets the start finally and obviously Howard will be back in the net.  Other than that I expect something very similar to what we've seen the past couple of games.

Prediction: 1-1 draw, goal by Badji.  These two defenses are pretty much identical while Colorado has the home advantage and Tim Howard and Vancouver has a better offense.  Those cancel out leading to 1 point and putting Rapids fans ever closer to the end of this long season.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Odds and Ends As the Transfer Window Starts To Close

A few pieces of news from this week.
  • The biggest is that MacMath had knee surgery on Monday and will miss 4-6 weeks.  We play in LA in just over 4 weeks the same weekend that World Cup Qualifying resumes.  There's a pretty good chance that Howard will be with the Nats and MacMath won't be available, so we'll get a look at John Berner (presumably).
  • Kortne Ford ties the homegrown game at the death:
  • Howard also had a scoreless half against Real Madrid in the All-Star Game last night
  • Western Union coming on as a team (not jersey) sponsor next year by way of the Nuggets
  • Aigner is still the only move made in the transfer window with less than a week left.  Which is ridiculous given that this team is horrible and desperately needs help. 

Monday, July 31, 2017

Rock Bottom?

Really all I need to say about Saturday's game is shown in this quote of Pablo's to the Post:
"After the match, Mastroeni voiced his displeasure with the refereeing.
“Two stonewall penalties in the second half that would have changed the game for the good and they weren’t called and that’s how it goes,” Mastroeni said. “When you’re on the road, 1-0 late in the game like that, the chance to get a couple PKs is what you’re kind of playing for. In the end, it wasn’t the case.”"
 "the chance to get a couple of PKs is what you're kind of playing for"

Seriously?  SERIOUSLY?

You know, screw this team.  We've got a coach that has no interest in scoring apparently, a FO who's stringing the fans along from transfer window to transfer window with the continuing promise that the "next" window will be where we make our big moves, and a ownership group that can barely remember the name of the team, much less care about where we finish.

Somehow we're playing game 20 and are 10 points out of a playoff spot but we're playing for the chance to get a couple of PKs and maybe walk away with a draw.  All of last season we had 3 penalties called in our favor.  That's not a winning strategy.

Meanwhile after signing the underwhelming (but I am honestly hopeful) Aigner that plays the same position as Gashi the the next target is rumored to be George Fochive from Danish side Viborg.  I know, you're saying who?  Fochive is a 3rd round 2014 draft pick by the Timbers who made 15 appearances with them between being loaned out to USL sides.  He was then sold to Viborg before last season for $100K and he's made 25 appearances in his year and a half in Denmark.  He's a central/holding mid, another position the Rapids have in some abundance.  So at best a depth signing but also the type of player that 12 months from now will likely be playing in the USL.

Hey, there are still 9 whole days for the Rapids to do something, never mind that getting at best 13 games from whomever they pick up is going to be too little too late.

Man of the Match: Any ticket rep that can sell 500 non-C38 season tickets for 2018.  That's better performance than anything we're likely to see on the field in 2017.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Suckers Again

Recap of that ugly match tonight and the newest less than exciting transfer rumor (an American in Denmark who had a cup of coffee in MLS) coming tomorrow or Monday.  This is about where this season has gone.

Realistically 2017 has been a lost cause since mid-June. And honestly, I’m not so sure Pablo wasn’t telling the truth in that interview in May(?) about a process that was going to take until 2018 to develop. The FO’s actions all season have screamed "we don’t care about 2017".

The problem with that is that we were 2nd last year after two of the worst seasons in team history. You can’t ask the fans to hang with you through another rebuilding season and you sure as hell can’t not ask them and just do it. They spent the offseason talking about trophies and unfinished business but they’ve delivered nothing.

If they had come out in January and said "Here’s what’s going to happen. We’re going to need to rebuild with plan X to deliver in time Y. Our moves are going to be focused on that and because of it 2017 may suffer. We understand that’s not what you expected when you renewed/bought your season tickets so we’re going to do A, B, and C as we value you as a loyal fan and want you to stick with us through this process." I probably would have signed on, especially if A, B, and C were discounts, lowered prices, real rewards, not a plastic water bottle or an discount ticket to Elitch's or an Avs game.

Instead I’m feeling insulted and played for a sucker right now. This isn’t the first time the Rapids have screwed up a season from start to finish but in the past they’ve made an effort until it was clearly a lost cause for even the most die-hard fans. Right now it feels like they gave up on this season around game 4.

Do It Now

The Clash's final studio album

Do It Now.  As in, win on the road now.  We can't wait any longer to start putting points on the board if we have any hopes of making the playoffs.  It starts tonight in San Jose against the team formerly know as the Clash.  Game time is an odd 6pm kickoff in Denver with the game on Altitude.

Burling is still out for this one while Gashi, Gatt, and Sjoberg are listed as questionable.  Pablo has already announced that MacMath will start this one in the nets while Howard rests from him Gold Cup games earlier this week.  San Jose has 5 players out injured or suspended so we're hitting them at a good time.

I'm going to assume a continuation of the 4-4-2 we've been seeing from the Rapids, with Doyle and Badji starting up top.  As far as I know Aigner doesn't have his paperwork yet (he may even be back in Germany dealing with it right now) so we won't see him tonight.  It will be interesting to see if Boateng starts tonight or we stick with the lineup from Toronto.  Pablo tends to like to stick to identical lineups after a good result.

Prediction: 0-0 draw.  The two worst offenses in the Western Conference means this isn't going to be high scoring.  This is a game the Rapids could steal though with San Jose's defense being in the bottom third of the league.  The problem is we're a lousy road team.  So I expect lots of bad soccer and no scoring.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Sjoberg Re-Signed, More On Aigner

Our second piece of good news in as many days as the team announced that Axel Sjoberg has signed a new deal that will keep him at the club at least through 2020 with a club option for 2021.  This is a great building block for the next few years with the only possible concern being that Sjoberg seems a bit injury-prone.

Two other pieces of information about Aigner came out today as well.  First, according to Jeff Carlisle Aigner will be a TAM-level player after this season.  This gives up an idea of what his contract will be as his pro-rated salary for this year is apparently not at TAM level.  That probably means Aigner is going to be getting 500K-750K a year.  This is a big number to commit to for 3.5 years at a position where you have somebody a year younger already under a DP contract (Gashi).

This is offset by this article buy Bundesliga reporter Manuel Veth who goes into what happened last year at 1860 Munich.  It explains why Aigner moved from the Bundesliga to the 2nd Bundesliga before last season as a way to help the club that he played at as a youth and why he now wants to leave not only the club but the Bundesliga all-together.  Obviously this is all talk and what matters is how he plays on the field for the Rapids but this at least allays some of my concerns about his level and what he's trying to accomplish with his career.  If he can play like he did in the Bundesliga with Eintracht Frankfurt we may have gotten a steal.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Rapids Sign Stefan Aigner

Colorado announced the signing of German midfielder Stefan Aigner today (pending medical and P-1 visa).  This had been rumored since the weekend.  Aigner is 29 years old and has signed through the 2020 season.  He is similar to Gashi in that his preferred role is a winger but he can also play striker (though Ainger prefers the right while Gashi prefers the left).  He comes to Colorado from Bundesliga 2 side 1860 Munich.  From 2012 to 2016 he played for Bundesliga side Eintracht Frankfurt, scoring 22 times in 95 appearances.  He only had 3 goals in 24 appearances for Munich last year but 1860 was a chaotic mess as their majority owner and the club administration spent more time fighting than improving the team.  They were relegated to the 3rd division at the end of the season but the owner refused to pay the fees to play in that division so they've been relegated a second time and will play in the 4th division regional league this year.

I don't see Aigner as a difference maker based on his background, but I don't hate the signing either.  He's already in Colorado but it will take a couple of weeks before I expect to see any significant minutes from him.  I'm guessing he might suit up but only get a token appearance in San Jose on Saturday at best, he'll come off then bench in our next home game against Vancouver, and then maybe he'll be ready to start in Dallas on the 12th, though I wouldn't be shocked if its not until the home game against Dc on the 19th that he gets his first start.  My hope is (assuming everyone is healthy) we would see a lineup something like this:

Hairston - Ford - Sjoberg - Da Fonte/Miller
Azira - Boateng
Badji                 Aigner

Freeing up Gashi to play as a withdrawn striker under Doyle will hopefully generate more offense and more targets to feed off of Aigner's service.  In theory Aigner could be the withdrawn forward and Gashi the winger as well.

I can see what the Rapids strategy/goals are this window with this move and the rumor that they're in the conversations around Kamara being traded.  An addition to the midfield and a striker would certainly increase the offense.  I'd like to see Colorado land a MLS quality starting striker to build around.  That would allow both Gashi and Aigner to play as wingers and Badji to be a solid sub off the bench going forward.  If that gets done we're really only an outside back away from where I hoped we'd be at the end of the window.

There will be at least one additional move coming as Aigner does need an international slot and we don't have one open.  That means either trading for a slot, trading away an international, or cutting/loaning somebody.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

New Leadership But No New Players

Today the Rapids announced some promotions in the Front Office to fill the hole left by Tim Hinchey's departure.  Padraig Smith has been named interim General Manager while Wayne Brant has been named interim Chief Business Officer.  Along with this the Rapids website now lists Jim Martin as the Governor of the Rapids and Matt Hutchings as the Alternate Governor.  Apparently the Governor roles were added shortly before Hinchey left but nobody noticed until last week.

Martin is the President and CEO of KSE and Hutchings is the COO, so I think those Governor titles are largely honorary and they will have little or nothing to do with the day-to-day operations of the team.  At most they would get involved next time we want to do a Howard/Gashi type deal where KSE would have to cover part of the salary or for any major events like an All-Star Game or World
Cup Qualifier.

We know Smith's background.  Brant joined KSE in 2007, served as Senior Director of Fan Development in 2014 and 15, then joined the Rapids directly as VP of Business Operations.  This seems to indicate that the Rapids are splitting the on-field and off-field responsibilities into two different spheres headed up by different people.  I'm fully in support of that move, I think its something they should have done long ago.  I'm not convinced that Smith is the right man for he job but he's got some time to convince everyone.  I know nothing about business or Brant so I'm going to assume he's going to do a good job. ;)

Of course the real issue is that in this transfer window we've had 3 "official" comments from the Rapids (outside of stuff around Saturday's game) and they've mentioned as many Rapids executives as possible player signings.  In the least week there have been official comments saying that despite rumors the Rapids have not been in talks with Michael Carrick and we are in talks with German midfielder Stefan Aigner.  That's two executives (Smith, Brant) and two players and we're through day 16 of 31 in this transfer window.  Not good enough.  We need help, we need it now, and it probably needs to be new blood.  I mean, like Hamilton says:

Thanks Omar!

On Sunday Omar Cummings announced that FC Cincinnati's friendly against Valencia CF last night would be his final game as a professional.  He will immediately transition to teh front office working with Cinci's youth club.

Omar was one half of the C+C Goal Factory that combined for 89 goals for the Rapids between 2007 and 2012 (39 for Omar, 50 for Casey) and was one of the starters for the Rapids in MLS Cup 2010.  After that 2010 season (where he led the team in scoring) he got a look from Aston Villa but work permit issues prevented him from more than just a few training sessions in England.  After leaving the Rapids he spent two years in Houston and a year in San Antonio before being part of the inaugural Cincinnati FC squad last year.  He played in 17 games in 2016, scoring 3 times, but this year he only got 37 minutes in 3 substitute appearances in their first 20 games.

Cummings will always be part of the Rapids family and I wish him luck in his future plans.

With this retirement, half the Rapids who saw the field in the 2010 MLS Cup have now retired.  Moor, Larentowicz, and Wynne are still in MLS, Pickens, Kimura, Wallace are in the USL, and Kandji is playing in Finland.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Colorado Cramps Toronto's Style

In an ugly, ugly match somehow the Rapids actually got out with the point (and scoreline) I predicted.  Its a point hey had no business earning and TFC must be kicking themselves over the 2 points lost but at this point in the season a point is a point and you take what you can get.

  • A whole lot of chaos led to the early goal by TFC.  A bad read by MacMath to try to beat Giovinco to the ball started it, then I don't know what da Fonte the defense was doing in the box, and MacMath could only recover so much.
  • After that the fist half was ugly, from both teams.  Combined here was 1 shot on target after the goal (by Toronto).  TFC pretty much dictated the game but the Rapids D kept them from getting any good looks.
  • After half Toronto still had the run of play for the first 15 minutes but the balanced switched when Gordon came in for Miller.  Not so much because of anything Gordon did particularly but just because the team in general got more offensive.
  • About the 75th minute I posted in the Rapids forum that TFC had to be pretty upset they hadn't scored a second and let the Rapids stay in this game.  One mistake could cost them 2 points.
  • In the 76th minute the TFC midfield made a mistake and the Rapids pounced.  Azira stole a ball in midfield, sent it forward to Gordon, who played a through ball to Badji that he managed to sneak by Clint Irwin to level the game.
  • After that the Rapids killed the game off.  And by killed I mean took every chance to go down needing help from the trainer.  It was embarrassing a s Rapids fan to watch.  I understand some time-wasting gamesmanship at the end of the game but this was on another level.  Either that or our fitness regimen during the Gold Cup break sucked as we were cramping up left and right.
  • The teams on the field may have played to a draw but Colorado's social meeting team put a beating on TFC's post game:
  • Our first point on the road this season was a good start but its not enough to get us into a playoff position.  We actually moved further away with the result, now needing 1.73 pts/game to get to the Bodmer Line.
Man of the Match: Dominique Badji.  Scored the goal which was the only highlight in an ugly game.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Can Colorado Fight To A Result?

Battle of Lundy's Lane/Niagara Falls

Tuesday is the 203rd anniversary of the Battle  of Lundy's Lane, also know as the Battle of Niagara Falls in the War of 1812.  Tactically the battle was a draw, which is probably the best the Rapids can hope for in their invasion of Canada tomorrow.  Strategically the British stopping the American invasion of Canada was a loss for the overall ambitions of the Americans, which is probably the case as well with the Rapids tomorrow if they fail to win.  kickoff is at 5pm and the game is on Altitude, which means it will finish before the USA-Costa Rica Gold Cup Semifinal at 8pm on FS1.

Lots of missing players for this one:
Colorado: GK Tom Howard (USA), D Mekeil Williams (yellow card accumulation suspension), D Bobby Burling (injury)
Toronto: Jozy Altidore (USA); Michael Bradley (USA), Justin Morrow (USA); Steven Beitashour (injury), Nick Hagglund (injury)

Along with that Toronto has Panamanian Armando Cooper and three Canadians who were called up for the Gold Cup but their teams were eliminated midweek in the quarterfinals and they may or may not be available to TFC tomorrow.  also their head coach, ex-Rapid Greg Vanney, is suspended after being ejected on Wednesday so another ex-Rapid, Robin Fraser, will be coaching this one.

The questionable injuries for Colorado are Gashi, Sjoberg, and Gatt, I don't know if any of them traveled to Toronto.  A big question mark for Toronto is Giovinco who left Wednesday's game with a bad back injury.

After 18 days off and everyone getting rested and mostly healthy Pablo has a lot of choices for the lineup.  I'm assuming we'll stick with the 4-4-2 but if the 4-5-1 returns I won't be shocked.  The backline is still going to be a mess though with Burling and probably Sjoberg out, we'll be looking at Ford and Miller likely at CB.

Prediction: 1-1 draw, goal by Doyle.  We couldn't ask for a better time to play Toronto with them coming off a midweek game and down 5-10 players plus their coach.  If we can't get a result here then we're never going to win on the road.  The Rapids channel some of that MLS Cup history and get a draw, but that's all.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Front Office Apparently Took A Gold Cup Vacation

We are now 11 days into the 31 day summer transfer window.  So far the only thing approaching a valid rumor was a brief blip around Michael Carrick last night which the Front Office dispelled this morning by saying there have been no discussions with him.  Squashing that story is the ONLY thing we've heard out of the front office in regards to player movement during the transfer window.

This is more than just disappointing, its insulting to the fans.  When the team move Cronin and Burch they asked the fans to be patient as this allowed them the freedom to make a big move.  When the winter transfer window closed they asked the fans to be patient as they had plans for the summer window.  Well the summer window is here and a third of the way in we're done being patient.  The time for action was last week.  To remind readers of the statements from the Rapids:

Denver Post on the Burch/Cronin/Gatt/Saied swap:
Rapids sporting director Padraig Smith said.  “We feel like the upside of what we’ve brought in and the financial flexibility it gives us on the cap to continue to target an offensive threat is going to be a positive for the club in the future.”
With a significant amount of cap space cleared, Smith said Colorado is now free to chase its main attacking targets. He said the club hopes to do something before the transfer window closes May 8, but could strike a deal during the summer window that opens July 10 when European teams are in their offseason. 
“We’ve identified a number of key targets and the additional financial flexibility this deal gives us will put us in a position to execute on those plans,” Smith said. 
 Colorado Rapids podcast with Smith after the winter window closed:
We were doing this with an eye on what the future would bring – making us better immediately in terms of Nana Boateng, and also the future in terms of building increased cap space which would allow us to turn around and get the attacking assets we need to help us become a more balanced team. 
I think the window opens on July 10th. We’ve been over in Europe scouting quite extensively on a number of our targets making sure we watch them on multiple occasions so we have a sense of who and what they are. That’s a crucial thing, because one of the things Pablo and the players have done very well is built a strong locker room mentality down there. It’s important that we bring people in with the right mentality to fit in, so they can contribute right from the start. That’s hugely important for us. What we’re looking to do is obviously improve on the attacking side. We always want to make our team better in every area of the field, and we continuously look at that, but there’s no doubt we haven’t scored enough goals and we haven’t been good enough on the attacking side where we want to improve.
We want to be a playoff team year-in and year-out and that’s what we’re trying to build here.
Well we expect to compete in 2017. I mean that’s the bottom line here...So that was a challenge but we’re only eight games in, there’s no reason why with this group of players and with some of the additions we’re looking at in the July window that we can’t put ourselves in a position to be competitive this year. And that’s our aim, to be competitive year-in and year-out.  
And from the Denver Post last week:
Mastroeni has said he expects the club to add two players in the coming weeks, including one who “will definitely raise the level of the group.”
So the club has absolutely set the expectation that we will add talent in this window and compete for the playoffs.  Despite that, from all appearances to the fans the club is doing nothing, and this team is not competitive as its currently built.  Taking their time would be understandable as the 2nd best team (as they were last year at this point) and they're trying to make the right news to get that last piece of the puzzle without disturbing whats working.  When your the 2nd worst team you can't take your time.  You need to fix the problems immediately.

Lets say the Rapids sign somebody by tomorrow. Unless its a trade within the league its probably going to be somebody who hasn’t played since their season ended in May (slight chance its from another summer league). That means at least a couple weeks of conditioning before their ready to start. At best they’re ready for our next home game the first weekend of August, and that’s if they’re ready to handle the altitude. Of course by then two more games will have gone by which means at best this new player is available to start 14 games. And we gave up Cronin and Burch after game 3 for this move.

At the same time they are doing nothing to improve the team they're sending out season ticket renewals with their new "system" that automatically renews your ticket unless you opt-out int he next 3 weeks.  Also any payments you make are non-refundable if you don't realize for a couple of months that you're paying for next year, but they'll apply the money you've paid to single-game tickets if you want to cancel your season tickets after the 21 day window.

I feel like the Front Office are playing the fans for suckers (again) but this time they're not even trying to hide it.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Why Go To DSG Park?

Sorry to be so quiet, there's just nothing going on with this team.  I assumed that in the first 9 days the window was open we would make a move of some sort but not only have we not made a move, we haven't even heard any good rumors.

So we're going to move on to another discussion.  I was at the Vancouver game in May and after getting to my seat I looked around, thought about the experience getting to my seat, and wondered "why would anyone come to a Rapids game?".

Two things as we get into this discussion.  This is really focused on the experience outside the play on the field.  Yes, the play this year has been ugly at times and that certainly doesn't help but all teams have to deal with bad seasons.  That's the risk when you buy tickets (unless your a Yankees or Man U fan) but that doesn't mean you can't have a good time while watching a bad team.  Secondly many of these complaints are things that I know the Rapids Front Office also feel but KSE doesn't.  Because of the nature of the hierarchy in KSE and the way stadium operations are set up the Rapids have less control in their own stadium than many (most?) teams do.  So while this is a critique of the experience that critique is mostly directed at KSE not at the Rapids FO.

Obviously the first issue is that the Victory Crossing development plan never came into being.  For readers who were not around in the mid-2000s the original announcement was that the area outside the field complex was going to be developed into light commercial use including bars, restaurants. a Dicks Sporting Goods, etc.  The drive up past City Hall to the main entrance on the West side was supposed to be retail and food all the way to the entrance.  For many reasons that didn't happen.

Because of that there is nothing to do out at the stadium other than the stadium itself.  Centennial 38 does a wonderful job of compensating for that with the best tailgate in the league (something that would not be possible with many of the "dream" ideas of having a stadium downtown).  Outside of that though the pre-game options are hit and miss (more miss).  Off and on the Rapids have tried to run their own tailgate, had Burgundy Boulevard, had concerts with local groups, but in general if you're not going to the C38 tailgate or doing your own your plan is to show up about 20 minutes before kickoff and go straight to your seats.

Of course, that process takes much longer thee days with the new security rules.  I have no problem with security if security is needed and in this day and age with what we've seen in places like Manchester I think its right to be concerned.  That doesn't matter though if your security isn't trained and ready to handle the crowds.

At one point last year I ended up getting into the stadium without anyone checking my ticket (and I wasn't trying to avoid a ticket check).  This year I got to the security line only for the Argus security guard to say out loud as she picked up the metal detector wand "now if I can remember what they taught us on how to use these" (and she wasn't making a joke) and afterwards she thanked me for being her guinea pig.  This combined with the fact that security is significantly slowing down the lines to the point that they recommended to fans that they be at the World cup Qualifier an hour before kickoff to make sure you got to your seat on time.  As a fan you start to wonder where the value is in the security process, all that seems to be coming out of it is annoyance for the ticket holders.

One you get into the stadium your food options are...not good.  I'm not much of a drinker and certainly not at stadium prices so I can't comment on the alcohol options but food-wise you have Aramark catering, which sucks, Famous Dave's BBQ which is passable outside the stadium but looks gourmet compared to the other options inside the gates, and individual carts contracted with the stadium like Jake's Baby D's mini-donuts (the best option in the stadium by far).  Again C38 does a great job compensating for this in their pre-game tailgate but that only goes so far.

Once you head to your seats you have one more hurdle to cross.  As of this year they've stared checking tickets every time you enter a section.  This isn't unusual at sporting events but it is a bit insulting when long-tome season ticket holders who have been sitting in the same seat for 10 years have to show their ticket multiple times per game.  It makes sense for big games (like the 4th of July) when the stadium is expected to be packed and you want to make sure there are no issues but does it really matter who's sitting where during a mid-week game in June where the stadium isn't even half full?  Its particularly annoying that C38 has an agreement with the Rapids FO that ticket holders in the two C38 sections (108 and 117) can move back and forth between the sections assuming there are no capacity issues, yet the stewards have been instructed by Argus not to allow it.

Great.  You've gotten to the game early, visited the C38 tailgate, gotten through security, showed your ticket to get into your section, and are in your seat.  Kickoff, first half, halftime.  The play has been bad but maybe halftime will have something to entertain you.  Probably not.  There seems to be less effort put into the halftime shows than at many minor league baseball games.  Its probably great fun for the kids who are playing on the field and their parents but for the rest of us, meh.  The halftime games with fans are great, for those fans, ,but not much for the rest of the stadium.  At least C38 is (usually) entertaining during play.  Even the mascots (not that I love the mascots) have dwindled in recent years.

So given all that, what's the appeal to go to a game?  Outside of what C38 does I have a hard time "selling" the idea of coming to a game to friends and coworkers.  Obviously winning solves everything (as we saw last year) but the team needs to be able to sustain a fan base through lean years.

I've done a lot of critiquing (or to be fair, complaining) in this post so far so thanks for sticking with me.  I don't want this to be just a list of complaints though.  As i said at the start, a lot of this isn't the fault of the Rapids FO.  I know that they are actively trying to solve some of these problems but are being stymied.  My guess is that they're being stopped because they don't have the power to make sweeping changes to the contracts that are in place with Argus Security, Aramark Catering, DSG Stadium Ops, etc.  Given that we see almost identical setups in security, food, etc. at both the Pepsi Center and DSG Park (and I would guess the Paramount as well) I'm assuming the contracts are negotiated as a group, not at the individual location or event level.  That doesn't give the Rapids FO much to work with when they want one of these groups to make changes.

That's just the Rapids FO though.  KSE has the big stick in this scenario and they could use it, if they cared about the experience at DSG and not just about the $$$.  Obviously contracts are contracts, I'm not suggesting KSE unilaterally break the contract.  But as the entity who's making the decisions on these contracts they have a lot of power to go back to Aramark and say "we want to renegotiate to allow more food options at DSG.  If you're not interested fine, but when we consider renewing your contract next time we have a chance we will be considering what other options we have".  You could repeat that for whatever contract is involved.  For intra-KSE contracts like between the Rapids FO and DSG Stadium Ops that should be even easier to sort out, but KSE has shown a long history of not caring (see the reason Richard Fleming was finally hired by the Rapids instead of relying on whatever yahoo Altitude decided to throw in the booth after Marc Stout left).

Specifically here's some of the stuff I would like to see changed:

  • Start bringing in food trucks outside the stadium for pregame eats.  If you can work out how to bring some in to the stadium itself (like on either level on the north end) that would be great too.  Long-term work the Aramark contract to allow more local places similar to Famous Dave's in.
  • Get fully staffed competent security checkpoints.  Better yet if this is going to be a long term thing (and I think it will be) invest in permanently installed metal detectors.  The StubHub Center has had them since it opened in 2002.  This will make the experience consistent for the fans and I have to believe its faster than a wand scan.
  • Stop checking tickets in the sections unless the game is close to a sellout.  Trust me, unless you've bought a table or a field side seat the seats aren't different enough to make a real difference in people moving around.
  • Start improving the halftime show.  One thing they had early in the stadium's life is Frisbee dogs.  I know many fans enjoyed seeing them.  Its not something you see every day (unlike U-8 soccer which you can go to any park on the weekend and see) and its entertaining.  Other things like that would be good.  Mascots doing t-shirt tosses, use the video board for fun games (the "find the soccer ball" challenge or even the races were good things in the past), get the fans more involved.
In general the experience needs to significantly improve and with a team that appears its going to be pretty bad the rest of this season it needs to improve quickly because the play is not likely to get fans to come out.

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Window Is Open

As of this morning the summer transfer window for MLS has opened.  It will stay open for just over 4 weeks (through Aug. 9th).  This is the last opportunity this season for the Rapids to add international players or make trades with in the league and the team desperately needs to add talent.

Let's break the team down by position and see where they need to add talent and, possibly, where they can afford to give up talent (or  lack of talent).  This doesn't mean that talent couldn't be added almost everywhere but some areas need to be the focus right now and others don't.

Goalkeeper: Clearly the team is set here.  The only reason to make a move is if a great offer for MacMath comes in.  At that point the Rapids should take the offer and sign a backup GK that's better than Berner.  Otherwise no change.

Center Back: Between Sjoberg, Burling, Ford, and even Watts the Rapids have enough cover here for 2017.  There's some talk that Sjoberg might be a trade candidate.  That makes sense if the Rapids think they are selling high (aka, he doesn't have much more room for improvement) but no sense if he still has room to grow.  I expect this to be Burling's last season so the team will need of fill a hole in the offseason but for now focus can be placed elsewhere.

Outside Back: Like here.  Between Castillo, Hariston, Miller, and Serna there's enough talent to handle one starting position and depth for both positions.  There are not two starters in that group though.  da Fonte and Williams aren't ready for this level and Williams will probably never be, so moving him somehow and freeing up his international spot would be a benefit.  The Rapids need to go shopping in this window and find a starter-quality outside back.

Defensive/Center Mid: Right now it looks like the Rapids have 3 starters at this position with Azira, Boateng, and Saied.  Between injuries and callups (Azira) they need 3 starters so there's not reason to move any of them.  With the overlap from other players (Powers, Watts, Hamilton) there's enough coverage to get us through the year.

Wingers: Lots of options here.  Badji, Gashi, Gatt, Hairston, Perez, and Serna could all play here.  I heard a unconfirmed rumor today that the Rapids offered a contract to an over-30 English winger who turned them down to go to a League One side.  I really hope that's inaccurate because that's not the type of player we need right now.

Attack/Center Mid: Powers? Doyle? Hamilton?  A #10 type player is priority 1a for this window.  The Front Office should already have a player lined up to dot the i's and cross the t's this week.  Without a player that can create chances being added this window (and honestly, really this week) this season really is over.  Powers can, and should, be moved if the opportunity presents itself.

Striker: Doyle is a good enough striker for MLS if the rest of the team can get him service and there's somebody else dangerous on the field.  Playing the 4-5-1 killed Doyle's value because the defense just marked him out of the game and the Rapids had no answer.  We've seen the change to the 4-4-2 along with the increased production out of Badji give Doyle a chance and he's stepped up.  What he needs is a strike partner that can score in MLS.  This is priority 1b this window.  Finding a MLS striker might be easier in the form of a trade than a signing but one needs to be found.  Badji is fine as a backup but he's not good enough to be starting, neither is Calvert.  Gordon is a late game super-sub only.

Juan Ramirez:  A special category for our wayward DP.  His loan to Talleres expired on June 20th.  He only appeared 11 times for them so it wasn't a particularly successful loan.  He's under contract with the Rapids through the end of this season, so the Rapids have a few options.  First, bring him back.  I don't see that happening as obviously him being in Colorado didn't work out.  Second, find him another loan for 6 months and let him go on a free when his contract expires.  This is what I expect to happen and just write off the signing as a bad move.  Third, sell/trade him.  I can't imagine anyone wants to buy him.  Fourth, cut him.  Under MLS rules this would be essentially no different than loaning him out so it might be a backup plan.

So the Rapids need 3 big signings.  A #10, a striker, and a bit less importantly, an outside back.  They have some pieces to work with and some cap room after the Burch/Cronin/Gatt/Saied move at the beginning of the season.  Whatever they do they need to do now as in tomorrow or at least by the end of the week.  Anyone they sign will need time to integrate into the team and get used to the altitude.  If they're being signed from a team that just ended their season they've also been off for up to two months and we'll need to get back in shape.  We have almost two weeks until our next game which is a perfect time for a new player to get used to being here.  If we wait until the end of the window we'll have let 3 more games go by, plus whatever it takes for the player to get game ready.  By that point he season will be over.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Rapids Continue Being Consistently Inconsistent

Well, that was ugly.  The confident, organized, well-passing team we saw on Saturday was not present last night, despite the same starting XI.  Instead the defensive effort most of us expected with a backline of Castillo - Da Fonte - Miller - Williams was produced and the Rapids had no chance, losing 3-1.

One of Pablo's problems reared its head again last night. He is apparently incapable of determining if something was successful due to luck and/or poor play from the opposition or if it worked because of good play/good tactics. Because the lineup worked on Saturday he rolled out the same lineup last night, but it wasn't like he made some great tactical change on Saturday that he was repeating last night. He got away with it on Saturday because Houston is a lousy road team and the lineup he put out there was (somewhat) rested. Seattle isn't a great road team but they're better than Houston and we were much more tired than Seattle.
  • Once again we saw Miller was incapable of playing center back.  Really starting 4 fullbacks on the backline was bound to bite us eventually, even if Williams does have CB experience.  Ford has been on the bench the last two games and reports are Sjoberg was ready to go last night but was not in the 18.  Added rest or not, the decisions not to use them probably cost us.
  • For example, on Seattle's first goal I'm pretty sure those two know to mark the (almost) leading scorer in U.S. Nats history instead of leaving him unmarked in the box.  SMH
  • We were very lucky to finish with 11 on the field.  Da Fonte should ahve seen a second yellow and Castillo could have gotten one as well.
  • That said, poor yellow on Boateng.  After review what looked questionable at first was clean.
  • That's about the only positive thing I can say about Boateng's play.  Awful game.  So far our one notable offseason signing appears to be a bust.
  • The team didn't have a shot on goal until the middle of the second half.  Not the thrilling attacking soccer you want to see in front of a sellout 4th of July crowd.
  • The Bodmer line is up to 1.69 pts/game after this loss.  The playoffs are all but out of reach.
  • Our only hope is for the Rapids to be very active improving the team int he window that opens on Monday.  Given the dearth of rumors out there and the Front Office's general track record on scouting new acquisitions from outside the league I'm not holding my breath.
  • The team now has a 2.5 week break for the Gold Cup.  They need it to rest and get healthy.  Last time the Rapids had 7 games in 22 days was September of 2011 where they played 4 MLS and 3 CONCACAF Champions League games between Sept. 9th and Oct 1st.
  • With the break I'm going to take one as well for a couple of days.  Then we'll talk about what the team needs in the window and a couple of other articles I've been thinking about.
Man of theMatch: Dominique Badji.  I took the the easy way out and went with the goal scorer.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Rapids Hope To Send Sounders Home With A Bang!

The final game of this 7 games in 22 days is tonight, and none too soon.  Everyone is going to need a rest after this one and it will start with the annual fireworks show at the Dick after the game.  Expect a massive crowd tonight because of that.  Kickoff is at 7 like normal so the tailgate will start at 4.  As always I have a better offer as I celebrate my 19th wedding anniversary so I'll be joining the rest of you Altitude watchers for this one.

We know Burling will miss this one with his injury.  The good news is that there's a rumor that SJoberg will be available.  Powers, Gashi, and Gatt are also questionable but I wouldn't be surprised to see some of them in the 18.  The Sounders are down at leasst 6 players between suspensions, injuries, and national team callups, including Jordan Morris and Cristian Roldan.  Harry Shipp is also questionable for them.

Presumably Pablo will rollout the 4-4-2 again with likely Doyle and Badji up top like Saturday.  Short rest but when things are clicking like they were against Houston you don't want to make any changes.  The interesting thing will be to see which two of Boateng, Saied, and Azira are in the center of midfield.  I'm guessing Boateng gets a rest since he's returning from injury still.  If Sjoberg can start he'll take Miller's place in the center allowing some more flexibility on the wings.

Prediction: 2-1 win, goals by Doyle and Saied.  I'm feeling optimistic with our normal 4th of July bump.  Seattle has more rest than we do but they're at altitude and are not a good road team.  With their absences I think we can pull what some would see as an upset.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Rapids Make Dynamo Look Comical

Wow, for maybe the first time this year the Rapids looked like a team with a plan that was better than their opponent and wanted to take full advantage of it.  Colorado out-passed, out-hustled, and certainly out-shot the Dynamo on their way to a 3-1 victory.  Completely worth leaving the Greg Grunberg session at Comic-Con a bit early to make ti to the game.

  • All three Rapids goals were nice team goals with good passing.  No lucky or ugly shots.
  • Doyle was a beast.  He's really finding himself now that there is more than one striker on the field.
  • Hairston scores twice and doesn't get MotM.  That doesn't happen often (to be fair, it would have been hard to miss that first one).
  • If anyone had a bad game though, it was da Fonte.  Picked up a yellow in the first 5 minutes and then let Cubo Torres get goal side of him fairly easy on Houston's goal.
  • Of course, DeLaGarza had all day to send that cross in, not good.
  • And to complete the trio of mistakes, Howard being nutmeged for the goal is not a good look for him.
  • Hat-tip to 108 for giving some old-school heckling to Adolph Joseph DeLaGarza.  You know you've done good when he turns to the section on the kickoff after his assist to give some back to us.
  • Great to see the Rapids come out strong in both halves, its been a long time since we've seen that.
  • The key now is consistency.  Is this just a flash in the pan or as we get healthy (and rested!) can we replicate this?  And can we figure out how to do it on the road?
  • The Bodmer Line is at 1.59 pts/game the rest of the way.  Tough but not impossible.
  • With this result the Rapids have hit the midpoint of the season.  After tomorrow's game (preview coming in the morning) they get a 2.5 week break and the transfer window opens.  Its a great time to jump start the season.

Man of the Match: Dominique Badji.  A hat-trick of assists would see to make this an easy choice but Hairston gave him a run for his money.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Quick Rapids-Dynamo Preview

Short and sweet this week as I just got back from day 1 of Denver Comic-Con and have to be up early for day 2.  BTW, seeing Gaten Matarazzo and Caleb McLaughlin from Stranger Things was awesome.  Anyway, on to the game.  Kickoff tomorrow is 7pm, tailgate at 4.  I am hoping to make it by 6:30 if the Mike Coulter/Finn Jones and Greg Grunberg sessions don't run late. :D  Fireworks post game so expect a sold out crowd and a long wait getting out of the parking lot if you stay for the late show.

Burling is out for this one, with a long list of questionables including Gashi, Gatt, Powers, Sjoberg, and Saied.  Azira is suspended for yellow card accumulation for this one.  Boateng should be good to go, which is a plus.  Howard was not called up for the Gold Cup (this was expected as Bruce gives some younger options a try) so he'll be in the nets.  Houston has two players out and a third questionable.

Prediction: 1-1 draw, goal by Hairston.  Midweek games from both teams, altitude, heat, and travel will make this a sluggish affair.  Because of that Houston's top 5 defense will not be as proficient as it could be.  That will lead to a draw.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

A Microcosm Of Almost Everything That's Wrong

This game was a microcosm of almost everything that's wrong with this team.

  • No depth as we're only using 25 of our 30 roster spots, so tired players have to play and players have to be played out of position.  This leads to injuries like we saw with Sjoberg and Gashi, who were just coming back from injury.
  • Players being coached into the wrong position. We're using Eric Miller at CB and Williams at LB. Williams plays CB for T&T and Miller has played wing pretty much his whole career. The last two games goals have been scored with the ball going past Miller on the assist who's guarding space and not a man.
  • Powers as a #10 failed, again.  If you're going to play Hamilton, why not use him at the #10 and play Azira behind him?
  • The only thing we have to play for, realistically, this season is the USOC, so we run out Castillo, Hamilton, and Perez. Why?  Azira is suspended on Saturday so use him in this match. 
  • Everyone but MacMath quit at the end. Its honestly hard to blame them though given the state of things.  Reportedly Pablo had a shouting mach in the locker room post-game but I'm not sure that means anything at this point.
This team needs blowing up, from top to bottom, again. And yet I'm sure they'll raise our ticket prices for us to watch them do it.

Oh, and the Rapids lost 3-1, just to record the details.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Deja Vu In Dallas

This week last year (the 29th to be exact) the Rapids were in Dallas for their U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 match.  Tomorrow the Rapids are in Dallas for their U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 match.  Yeah, seems familiar.  Last year this fixture went to extra time before Colorado lost 2-1.  They also lost Dillon Serna  for the year after a rash tackle.  Lets hope for better results all around tomorrow.

Traditionally under Pablo this is where the Rapids bow out of the USOC, losing in this round each of the last 3 years.  In fact only 5 times in the prior 21 years have Colorado made it past this point, the last time being 2006.  Given our road form this year its hard to predict otherwise.

The good news is that should we want to take this round more seriously than in the past we rested players on Saturday to allow u to do that.  We could roll out Sjoberg, Ford, Hairston, Watts, Boateng, Doyle, and possibly even Gashi if we wanted to.  This is our 5th game of this 7 games in 22 game stretch so we'll be making some changes no matter what.

Even with that I expect a loss tomorrow.  Dallas is really good and we aren't.

New Road Trip, Same Road Result

Really there's not much to talk about for this one.  If you've seen most road matches this year (Philly being the exception) you've seen this one.  The strategy was clearly bunker, be happy if we score on the counter, otherwise get out with a 0-0 draw.  Of course that fails, as it has failed every road game this season, when the Rapids give up a goal.  We're going to have to find another strategy (or a better defense) in order to get road results the rest of the season.

The only real notable event this game was an early tackle by Castillo which resulted in a yellow card but that everyone involved other than the center ref, including the Rapids announcers and fans, thought should have been red.  Expect the DisCo to suspend Castillo for Saturday's game.  Azira will also be gone through yellow card accumulation.

Man of the Match: Tim Howard.  Lesser of 11 evils.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Rapids Hope To Survive Terminus

Luis Suarez is probably the closest thing to a walker in football

Colorado breaks new ground tomorrow, taking their first ever trip to Atlanta to face expansion side United.  The game is at Georgia Tech's Bobby Dodd stadium, probably the only time the Rapids will play there as Atlanta will move into the new Falcons stadium in August.  This will not be a battle of U.S. goalkeepers though as Guzan is not eligible to play for Atlanta until the window opens in two week.  Game time tomorrow is 5pm and the game is on Altitude.  C38 is running a bus up to Fort Collins for a brewery tour and then a watch party up there.

Burling is certainly out for this one.  Boateng, Saied, Doyle, and Gashi are listed as questionable.  I expect we may see Baoteng coming off the bench as the Rapids posted a video of him participating in 5 on 2 drills in Atlanta today.  I doubt we see the other three unless Doyle's hand issue can be padded in a way to allow him to play through it.  Atlanta will be missing 3 players including former Rapids forward Jacob Peterson.

Obviously with our 3rd game in a week and the 4th game of 7 in a 22 game run we're going to see some lineup rotation.  Combined with our injuries we'll probably see some combination of Miller, Williams, Powers, Watts, and Calvert getting the start to replace some of our more tired players.

Prediction: 2-1 loss, goal by Gatt.  Atlanta has the best offense in the league but one of the worst defenses.  That won't be enough help to the Rapids offense though.  Given our patchwork lineup due to injury and our busy schedule I don't see getting a result here.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Rapids Lose Game And Players

Well, that couldn't have gone much worse.  The Rapids were fighting a uphill battle from 5 minutes in and after a disastrous performance from their back line a 3-1 loss was probably fair.  On top of that they may have lost Saied to a serious knee injury and Doyle may have broken his hand.  Not a good night.

  • If Gatt had scored that shot in the opening minute the game might have been very different.  He didn't even get it on target though (a theme that would continue for him the rest of the night)
  • Horrible touch from Sjoberg put him under pressure and then a lucky bounce as Axel desperately tried to clear it set LA up for their first goal
  • The Rapids were a little unlucky not to be leading at half as they had the better of the play and a number of good chances.  They just, once again, couldn't finish
  • After halftime, unlike the last couple of games, the team was flat and lifeless.  I don't know if it was the heat or the short rest but we looked much like the team that started the season, which isn't a good thing
  • da Fonte got worked by Joao Pedro on the second LA goal.  I don't know if he thought the ball was going out of play or what but it shows he has a lot to learn at this level still.  Ford did his best to stay with McBean but it was too much to ask
  • Ford made his own error on the PK, making it 3 of the 4 members of the backline making critical mistakes that led to LA goals
  • Pablo's 3 at once sub was a "why not" moment.  Down a goal with Saied injured they had to try something to get back into the game
  • I don't know why the Rapids  have instituted ticket checks entering and leaving the section every time, especially on nights like last night.  Are they really worried that everyone is sitting in the right spot in a half empty stadium?
  • The Bodmer Line is now at 1.58 pts/game the rest of the way.  Doable, but difficult
Man of the Match: Dillon Serna.  Yeah, I took the easy way out and picked the goal-scorer.  Mainly because nobody stood out last night.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Rapids Host Galaxy On Pride Night

Its a busy time for the Rapids with their 3rd of 5 games in a two week span tomorrow night.  Colorado's long-time rivals (at one point a few years ago this was the most played competitive fixture between MLS teams) LA are in town and both teams will be celebrating Pride Month.  LA will be wearing rainbow warm-up jerseys and the Rapids will have the scarf shown above for sale (LA will have a scarf at their next home game).  They actually had it for sale on Saturday as well and I picked one up.  On the backside is an image of Denver's skyline in rainbow colors on a night sky.  Kickoff tomorrow is 7pm so the tailgate starts at 4.  The game is on Altitude for those who can't make it.

The Rapids will be missing Burling and Boateng tomorrow and Gashi is questionable.  Nobody else is listed on an injury report anywhere, for what that's worth.  LA is down 6 players to injury including Jermaine Jones, though he is rumored to be back this weekend so he could make an appearance.

My guess is that we see some rotation in the lineup due to the busy schedule.  Miller and Williams may show up in the wingback positions, Powers may get a start next to Azira, and Calvert might be an option up front.

Prediction: 1-1 draw, goal by Doyle.  Yeah, same prediction as last Saturday.  LA has a better offense and a slightly worse defense,, but we have the home field advantage and the benefit of no travel.  Those all cancel out into a draw.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Rapids Leave It Late In Toppling Timbers

Well, the Rapids have figured out how to win, just not how to win easily.  For the third game in a row Colorado had to come from behind to get the three points.  Just like the Columbus game, Gordon scored a late header for a 2-1 win.  It may not be the prettiest way but it is exciting and gets us 3 points!
  • This is the first time since 1999 that the Rapids have won 3 games in a row when the opponent also scored
  • Surprisingly Colorado is only 3 points off the playoff pace at this point.  If they win both games this week they'll be ahead of the average pts/game for the 6th placed team
  • The first half was a mess.  The defense was constantly pulled out of shape, largely due to the ineffective midfield
  • I'm not sure what Azira was doing on Portland's goal.  He correctly backs up Hairston, allowing Marlon to switch off to the overlapping run but instead of forcing Blanco outside towards Hairston and the worse angle he overruns the play giving Blanco the full use of his dangerous right foot and he made us pay
  • Pablo came out of the locker room significantly before the players for the second half.  Best guess is that there was a player-led discussion going on about getting things straightened out
  • I'll be honest, I thought that through ball from Doyle on Badjji's goal was too close to the defender.  Talk about inch perfect placement
  • Badji may be learning, in the past he would have blasted that ball instead of chipping it
  • The sub of Wats for Serna and moving Saied inside changed the game.  It settled down the midfield and gave Saied a chance to control the game
  • Pablo made a second good change when he went for the win by putting 3 up front.  It paid off in the Gordon goal
  • That's why we brought Gordon in and he's gotten us 4 points in the last 2 league games with last-minute headers.  He's almost paid for his salary already
  • Credit to Pablo for the coaching on this one.  Its  one of the few games where he out-coached the  opposition to get a result
  • Ford was a beat the whole game.  He's still relying on athleticism over reading the game but he's learning quickly
  • Great atmosphere in the second half at DSG
Man of the Match: Kevin Doyle.  Putting hi behind two (not one) forward really let him hold and distribute, as we saw on the assist.  He also did a lot of work tracking down balls and generating the attack.  Maybe his best "quiet" game as a Rapid.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Rapids Look to Break The Timbers

Back to league action after the break.  The Timbers are in town tonight for the 4th straight home game (including the USOC) for the Rapids.  Its a 3 game week with LA coming here on Wednesday and a trip to expansion Atlanta next weekend so how Pablo uses his lineup will be interesting to watch.  Unusual start time of 7:30pm this one as this game was originally scheduled for national tV on FS1 tomorrow but after it was dropped it was moved to tonight and presumably either Altitude or Root Sports (Portland's affiliate) has something scheduled at the more usual 7pm start time.  Tailgate will start at 4:30.

Burling is certainly not available for the Rapids.  Boateng and Gashi are both questionable but I doubt we see them.  Supposedly Sjoberg and Ford are recovered from their injuries but I have my doubts they'll start.  Watts played in the USOC game so I expect to see him at CB tonight.Portland has two out and a number of questionable players so both teams will be running out patchwork back lines tonight.

Portland has a top 5 offense and a middle of the road defense that's banged up.  Colorado, as we all know, has a bad offense and a top 5 defense.  So we can expect most of the action to be in the Rapids defensive half.

Prediction: 1-1 draw, goal by Doyle.  This won't be pretty for the Rapids but they'll get the point.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Open Cup Draw & Injury News

The draw for the 16 team bracket that remains in the Open Cup was held today.  It didn't do us any favors.  Our regional pod was as expected, Houston, Dallas, and KC.  Houston was drawn into the #1 spot, which meant home field advantage for both rounds if they survive.  Dallas got the #2 spot, which means they host the next round and go on the road for the quarter-final if they win.  KC got the #3 spot, which means they travel to Houston for the next round but would host the quarter-final if they get through.  That left the #4 spot for the Rapids, which means we go on the road to Dallas and if we win we go on the road to the Houston/KC winner for the quarter-final.  Should we survive past that we would get the winner of the West Coast pod in the semi-final, made up of Seattle, San Jose, LA, and the Sacramento Republic.  Home field has not been determined yet for that possible matchup or the final.

This is a replay of last year, where we beat Colorado Springs at home and then went to Dallas and lost.  The most notable incident from that match was the season-ending injury to Dillon Serna.  Let's hope history does not continue to repeat itself.

Besides, we already got a significant injury from the Open Cup.  Burling went down right before halftime and was clearly unhappy about what happened.  He went straight into the locker room.  Today we found out its a left foot strain and he'll be out 4-6 weeks.  Our center back options for this upcoming 3 games in 8 days are looking very slim.  da Fonte and Watts look likely to start Saturday night, or Miller pushing in from the wing.  Sjoberg, Ford, and now Burling are all banged up.  Castillo would be an option if we could free up an international slot but that seems unlikely.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Rapids Play For 45 Minutes, Win 3-2

Colorado started the game apparently thinking this was a scrimmage.  Despite the Rapids dominating possession it was Oklahoma City that had the dangerous chances in the first half and the Energy took advantage, going into the locker rooms with a 2-0 lead after shoddy defending.

I'm not sure what Pablo said to the team at half but in the second the Rapids looked like a MLS team playing a USL team.  Goals from Badji, Miller, and Castillo, the last just two minutes from full time, got Colorado through to the 5th Round.

  • This was the first time the Rapids scored 3 second half goals since 2012!
  • Good to see Serna playing,, but I don't think left back is his spot.  We need to be using him as a super sub in the midfield.
  • Powers.  *sigh*
  • Badji apparently forgot the offside rule last night,
  • Or maybe he just figured that since the AR on the near side was getting it wrong often he'd take his chances.
  • 2 female refs on the game, I think that's the first time we've seen that at DSG for a Rapids game.
  • The Rapids will learn their 5th round opponent tomorrow.  The 16 remaining teams will be separated into regional pods of 4 teams and draw against another team in their pod, winner of that game will play against the winner of the other game in the pod in the quarter-finals..  Tomorrow the pods will be drawn against each other for the semifinal round as well so we'll know our exact bracket to the final.
  • My guess is that there will be a West Coast pod of Seattle, the Sacramento/FSL winner, the San Jose.San Francisco winner and the LA/Orange County winner.  That will leave us in a group with teams like Dallas, KC, and either the Chicago/St. Louis winner or Houston if they beat North Carolina.  Maybe Cincinnati depending if they try to make the break East-West or North-South.
Man of the Match: Dennis Castillo, easy.  An assist and the game winning goal (his first as a Rapid).

Monday, June 12, 2017

Rapids Look To Short Out Energy In USOC

Tomorrow night the Rapids get their start in the U.S. Open Cup and for the first time in 3 year it won't be against the Colorado Springs Switchbacks.  Instead the Oklahoma City Energy will be in town as the opposition.  The most notable name on the Energy roster, for Rapids fans, is Anthony Wallace who was a starter for the MLS Cup winning team.  Game time tomorrow is 7pm.  Tickets are $15, $10 for season-ticket holders.  No tailgate for this one.

I generally don't make predictions for the USOC as there's no way to predict how seriously, or not, the club plans to take it in a given year.  The team has recalled Dennis Castillo and Ricardo Perez from their loans so it seems safe to say they'll get playing time tomorrow, which is indicative of a young lineup.  Names like da Fonte, Serna, Hamilton, and Calvert are likely to feature.  Even if Howard wasn't just getting back from Nats duty I would expect MacMath to start this one.

Boateng is still recovering from his injury and we received word that both Ford and Gashi were injured in the Crew game so I doubt we'll see any of them.

This is a game we can and should win.  But its really up to the players being focused and wanting it.  If this is more a burden than an opportunity in their minds then PKC could pull off the upset.