Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Moving On From Minnesota To Salaries


And that's really all we need to say about that game.  It was that bad.  At this point other than Howard, MacMath (who was MOTM), and Sjoberg the Rapids look like a team of replacement-level players with a replacement-level coach.

So we'll move on to something a bit more interesting.  The annual salary release.  Here are the Rapids salaries.  The first number is the base salary, the second number is the 2017 guaranteed compensation.  Neither one are the true "salary cap" number but that number is usually somewhere in-between the two.

Adjei-Boateng Bismark M $300,000.00 $341,246.00
Azira Michael M $110,000.00 $116,625.00
Badji Dominique F $65,000.00 $65,000.00
Berner John GK $66,150.00 $66,150.00
Burling Bobby D $120,000.00 $126,000.00
Calvert Caleb F $100,000.00 $107,500.00
Castillo Dennis D $54,075.00 $54,075.00
Da Fonte Mike D $65,004.00 $65,004.00
Doyle Kevin F $1,000,000.00 $1,045,000.00
Ford Kortne D $69,996.00 $76,996.00
Gashi Shkelzen F $1,575,000.00 $1,668,750.00
Gatt Joshua M $175,008.00 $193,508.00
Gordon Alan F $180,000.00 $180,000.00
Hairston Marlon D-M $110,004.00 $110,004.00
Hamilton Sam M $65,004.00 $65,004.00
Howard Tim GK $2,000,000.00 $2,475,000.00
MacMath Zac GK $150,000.00 $150,000.00
Miller Eric D $75,553.75 $86,553.75
Perez Ricardo M $53,004.00 $54,254.00
Powers Dillon M $295,000.00 $325,000.00
Ramirez Juan Edgardo M $100,000.00 $100,000.00
Saeid Mohammed M $160,000.00 $170,000.00
Serna Dillon M $72,600.00 $85,600.00
Sjoberg Axel D $108,350.00 $123,350.00
Watts Jared D-M $75,000.00 $75,000.00
Williams Mekeil D $110,000.00 $115,000.00

Howard, Gashi, and Doyle only hit the cap at $380K, the rest being covered by TAM and DP money.  There are (at least) two caveats.  One, we know Minnesota is picking up part of Gatt's salary, reportedly a large part.  Second, TAM was used to purchase Boateng so we don't know how much of the $300K plus transfer fee is really hitting the cap.

Assuming Minnesota's contribution cancels out whatever additional Boateng is costing we're at about $3.6M against the salary cap of $3.85M.  So we have a bit of wiggle room after the trade with Minnesota.  All combined the Rapids have the 9th biggest salary total in the league, which is surprising, especially for the (lack of) quality w'ere getting.  Boateng's $300K is higher than I expected, I figured he'd be closer to $200K.  Azira got a deserved bump to 6 figures this year.  No real surprises anywhere else on the roster.

Some notes from the rest of the league.  Burch is making $135K and Cronin $300K this year which makes the trade $100K in our favor plus whatever Minnesota is paying of Gatt's salary.  So it did free up cap room, though we have not used it yet.  Also Jermaine Jones has the same base salary as last year but LA are giving him and addition $75K guaranteed over last year so somehow after only playing 8 games he got a raise.  Its hard to argue with the Rapids not re-signing him given that.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Rapids Face Old Friends

Looney Tunes' Shirley "the Loon" McLoon

Back at it on Sunday with our first ever trip to the state of Minnesota to take on one of the expansion Uniteds.  The news this week was not good with the report that Boateng will miss 8-10 weeks minimum with a back fracture.  Combined with our other injuries and suspensions we'll see a very different lineup this weekend.  Of course, on the other side, we'll see Cronin and Burch again.  Two players we could realy use now.  Kickoff is Sunday at 4 and the game is on Altitude.

Player Availability:
Injury Report:
OUT: GK John Berner (wrist); D Axel Sjoberg (hamstring surgery); M Nana Boateng (back)
DOUBTFUL: M Dillon Serna (calf); F Alan Gordon (hamstring)

Suspensions: GK Tim Howard (2 more games); D Jared Watts (1 game)

This week on the ever changing injury reports shows either 2, 3, or 5 Rapids listed depending on which one you read.  None are a surprise at this point.  Minnesota is missing 4 players it appears.  My guess at the XI:

To be honest though there are very few names on the roster I couldn't create a scenario for Pablo starting.  This seems the most likely but nothing really would surprise me Sunday.  Well, a non 4-2-3-1 formation would surprise me.

Prediction: 2-1 loss, goal by Badji.  Minnesota's defense is awful so we should be able to score, but our defense is a shell of what it was so I doubt our ability to stop much of anything.  Add in travel and the turf field and I don't see any points in this one.

Monday, April 17, 2017

And before you know it, we're flying backwards

Bonus points to anyone who can name the series above (which this post's title comes from)

Yep, another game, another defensive meltdown, another loss.  We've gone from a historic home defense (7 goals allowed in 34 games, a league record) to one that's allowed over half of that in just 3 games.  Meanwhile the defense averages almost a shot on goal per game less than any other team and half of the best team (approx. 2.5 to 5).  This is a team that's gone backwards on defense and offense from last season, which has lead to the worst start of Pablo's tenure with the most goals allowed in the first 5 games since 2007.

This game encapsulated the issues we're seeing this season.  Once again we had multiple chances and couldn't finish more than one of them. Full credit to Doyle for a great header for the goal off of some nice work by Boateng and Hairston.  The lack of an attack allowed FSL to push further and further forward in the last minutes of the game and our weakened defense broke.  A clear handball lead to a PK and red card for Jared Watts, followed by slopping defending from the defensive midfield and FSL waked out as the first regular season road winners at the Dick in about 18 months.

The worst part about it is that this wasn't a poor performance by the team as a whole.  The team played fairly close to their abilities.  They got sloppy late but generally this team isn't built to win in MLS this year, especially after the trade.  Pablo's coaching isn't helping but at this point we just need to accept that's not going to change.  In fact nothing is going to change until the Front Office does.  This team is suffering from the FO's decision to sit on their hands in the offseason, then dismantle the defense just a few games into the season.  Until the FO can come up with a stable long-term plan they are capable of executing this team is going to need moments of fluke runs to have any chance of being anything more than a "squeak into the playoffs" team. 

Man of the Match: Centennial 38.  The fans deserved better in a home Rocky Mountain Cup match than they got.


Friday, April 14, 2017

First Round Of The 2017 Rocky Mountain Cup

FSL, I hate these guys

Well the Howard news certainly puts a damper on this game.  Its pretty much a must win game for the hopes of this season though.  A flat game like we saw in KC and you have to start questioning what our chances really are this season.  At home against our rival I expect to see fire and better play.  Kickoff tomorrow is at 7pm so the tailgate starts at 4.  If you can't make it the game is on Altitude.

Player Availability:
Injury Report:
OUT: GK John Berner (wrist); D Axel Sjoberg (hamstring surgery)
DOUBTFUL: M Dillon Serna (calf); F Alan Gordon (hamstring)

Suspensions: GK Tim Howard (3 games)

The injury report continues to be a joke.  Gordon is on the Rapids report but not MLS's, erner is on MLS's report but not the Rapids.  One uses questionable, one uses doubtful.  Needles to say, I don't think we'll see any of those 4.  I wonder if Mizell is getting an emergency callup for 3 games.  FSL has 8 players questionable or worse.  My guess at the XI:

The only real change I could see would be if Ford gets the start again but after last week I think Pablo will go back to Burling.

Prediction: 1-0 win, goal  by Hairston.  This seems really optimistic but FSL might be worse than us and their banged up and on the road.  Regardless I'm not expecting stunning soccer tomorrow.  This could be very ugly regardless of the score.

Howard Suspended 3 Games

MLS has just announced that Tim Howard has been suspended for 3 games.  The Rapids have issued a statement accepting the decision.  I won't link the video here, but there is footage from the supporters section behind Howard's goal in KC of him telling a fan he had...relations...with the fan's mother.

3 games is in line with MLS's actions in the past around incidents like this.  Colin Clark, while in Houston, got 3 games for swearing at a ball boy.  Alan Gordon, while in LA, got 3 games for a homophobic slur.  I'm sure a number of fans are upset with the league for this but really the only one at fault, and the only one to be upset with, is Howard.  It was unprofessional and stupid and he's cost his team dearly.

UPDATE: Apparently MLS has unreleased footage of Tim getting into a physical altercation with a fan in the tunnel after the game.  So, yeah, really nobody to blame on this except Tim.

Get Better Soon Drew and Marvell!

Sending good thoughts out to Drew Moor today after the news of a cardiac arrhythmia being discovered.  Good thoughts also continue to go out to Marvell Wynne who dealt with something similar a couple of weeks ago. #ForeverRapid
GREAT NEWS-Successful 9 hour open heart surgery for yesterday. Looks fantastic today & plans return next season!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Other Colorado Soccer Teams and the Open Cup

With the release of the first two rounds of Open Cup pairings for 2017 I thought this was a good time to review some other soccer teams in Colorado.  We'll start from the "bottom" and work our way up through the leagues.

Azteca FC - Colorado Premier League - Azteca FC is one of 10 teams in the top level of the CPL.  The league plays their games in Broomfield and Dove Valley.  Azteca beat fellow league sides FC Denver and Harpos FC in qualifying rounds to be one of the local qualifiers in the 1st round of the Open Cup.  They'll travel to Wichita to take on NPSL side FC Wichita in the first round of the Cup.  If they win they'll travel to St. Louis to play USL side St. Louis FC in the second round.

Colorado Rush - Colorado Premier League - The Rush CPL team is the top level of the Colorado Rush club organization.  Rush beat FC Boulder of the 2nd division of the CPL and Oregon side IPS/Marathon Taverna (on the road) to make it to the first round of the Open Cup as a local qualifier.  They'll take on FC Tucson of the PDL in Tucson in the first round of the Open Cup with a trip to Colorado Spring to take on the Switchbacks awaiting the winners.

Colorado Springs Switchbacks - United Soccer League - As a member of the USL the Switchbacks automatically qualify for the Open Cup and get a bye to the second round.  They'll get the winner of the Colorado Rush - FC Tucson first round match.

Colorado Rapids - Major League Soccer - Likewise as a member of MLS the Rapids automatically qualify, and they get a bye to the 4th round.  The last two years they've hosted the Switchbacks in that round and I would expect that to continue should the Switchbacks (or any of the Colorado teams) make it to that round.

Veering away from the Open Cup for a sec I wanted to give a shout out to one other lower league team.  Kingston Stockade FC is based in Kingston NY in the Hudson River Valley.  They play in the North Atlantic conference of the Northeast region of the National Premier Soccer League.  The NPSL is roughly equiavlent to the PDL and unofficially they both kind of fill the 4th level of the U.S. soccer pyramid.  The reason I wanted to mention them that this season (their second) they're coached by former Rapids media director David Lindholm.  Stockade FC didn't qualify for the Open Cup this year sadly but there's always 2018.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Game One Of Our Rebuilding


We're not going to spend a whole lot of time talking about last night's game.  Pretty much everybody sucked and the 3-1 scoreline probably flattered us.  Our offense consisted of a good header from Badji followed by a weak roller from him in the second half, before he finally drew the PK that Doyle scored at the end of the game.  On the defensive side the loss of Cronin and Burch was seen in the disorganization of the back line.  This was compounded by the decision to start Ford over Burling, leaving Watts as possibly the most "experienced" defender.  Ford showed some good play but got burned on a couple of the goals and showed that he's still a very raw rookie.  Miller and Williams were over-matched on the wings and Howard made an uncharacteristic mistake on the second goal getting beat near post.

Instead I want to focus on something that announcers John Strong and Alexi Lalas said about their discussions with Pablo.  Paraphrasing they said that Pablo told them his new offensive scheme could take up to a year to implement.

What?  Are you kidding me?  How can Pablo think that's an acceptable thing to say at this point, and how can the organization think that's an acceptable thing to allow him to say without cleaning it up? After what the fanbase has gone through with Pablo in charge we're supposed to accept another year of "rebuilding"? Not to mention we're 6 months removed from almost winning the Shield but now we need to change our system, in a way that could take up to a year? Oh, and if we're going to change to a more offensive system, shouldn't we have, you know, signed some offensive players?

At this point it feels  like Smith and/or Pablo (more likely  Smith) wants to change the roster.  From Smith's POV it makes sense as he was working with the now-departed Bravo and didn't have full control.  He probably has a different player type in mind than Bravo did.  However this team isn't in position for another rebuild, and certainly not in the middle of a season.  We had a great (historic in some ways) defense last year.  The next step was to cement that defense and build on it, not break it up by trading off two components for the hope of young players in future years and the possibility of another signing.

Based on last night's game this team is a long ways from contending.  Great youth prospects but not a team that's going to contend this year.  For the 3rd time in Pablo's 4 years it appears the organization is playing the fans for suckers and I (and many others) fell for it.

Man of the Match: Micheal Azira.  No major mistakes, good play, and looked like he belonged on the field.  The only other placer that came close was Badji, because he actually tried to take a shot.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Border War Week Starts Sunday

Kansas to the East, Utah to the West

Hey, we're actually playing soccer again.  Its been so long I almost forgot the season started.  Its a par of border clashes in 7 days.  First on Sunday we invade Kansas, then on the following Saturday we defend our turf from Utah.  Game time on Sunday is 5pm, with the Rapids getting national exposure against Sporting on FS1.  Centennial 38 is celebrating the reopening of the Celtic at their new location (14th & Market) for their watch party.

Player Availability:
Injury Report:
OUT: GK John Berner (wrist); D Axel Sjoberg (hamstring surgery)
QUESTIONABLE: F Alan Gordon (hamstring)

This is the (now) "unofficial" injury report from the league's site.  It could be updated when the Rapids release their game preview tomorrow.  Gordon is the only surprise on this report.  The SporKCs have one player out and one questionable.

Predicting the starting XI after the Burch/Cronin trade will be a little difficult but here's my take:

I don't expect either of our new acquisitions to start but I wouldn't be surprised to see them on the bench.  There was a rumor floating around that Boateng was nursing an injury, if so Saeid could step into that role.

Prediction: 0-0 draw.  KC has only allowed 1 goal this year and we've only allowed 3, 1 by PK.  This has the makings of a very boring, defensive battle.  If I'm going to predict one team scoring its more likely KC.

Monday, April 3, 2017

DSG Park To Host USA-T&T World Cup Qualifier

After being long-rumored the USSF made it official today.  DSG Park will host the 5th round World Cup Qualifier between the U.S. and Trinidad & Tobago on Thursday June 8th.  Kickoff will be at 5:50pm.  This will be a long trip for Mekeil Williams who will have to walk to the visitor locker room instead of the Rapids locker room.  Tim Howard just gets to show up like its a normal day of work. :D

This game is on Thursday and not Friday because Round 6 game where the U.S. will go to the Azteca to face Mexico is on the following Sunday to allow Mexico to travel to the Confederations Cup that starts on June 17th in Russia.  The other two Round 6 games will take place on Tuesday June 13th like normal.

 Of course the last time the Nats were in Denver was the now-famous Snow Clasico in March of 2013.  Unlike the 30,000 other  people who in 20 years will claim they were there, I was actually there in section 108.  I have every intention of being at this one as well.

Ticket prices have not been announced yet but the presale for American Outlaws members will be on Wednesday while Rapids season ticket holders will have a presale on Thursday.  Tickets that are left at that point will go on sale to the general public at 10am Friday morning.

EDIT: General public sale is 10am Friday the 14th, not the 7th.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Colorado Makes Significant Roster Moves


A surprising set of moves from the FO today.  So surprising that at first many fans thought it was an early April Fool's Day prank.  It turned out to be real though.  Let me break down the actual transactions, then we'll get into the analysis.

Transaction 1:
  • Colorado sends D Marc Burch to Minnesota in exchange for M Josh Gatt, M Mohammed Saied, and an international slot
Gatt is a 25 year old attacking midfielder who started his career on fire, getting 2 caps for the u.S. by age 22 while playing for Molde FK in Sweden.  In mid-2013 he blew his ACL out, costing him his spot on the 2013 Gold cup roster.  It eventually took 3 operations (apparently one was botched) to fix.  and by the time he recovered he had missed about 3 years of first-team action.  He was signed by Minnesota this past offseason after 6 appearances for Molde but concerns about playing on the artificial turf has kept him on the bench.  When healthy he's a speedy winger who can also play striker.

Saied is a 26 year old defensive midfielder.  He's a Swedish born Eritrean who played his first 6 years in Sweden before the Crew signed him before the 2015 season.  He made 50 appearances for the crew before moving to Minnesota this last offseason, where he had yet to get off the bench.  He does require an international slot (which we got in the trade).

Transaction 2:
  • Colorado waives M Sam Cronin.  Minnesota claims Cronin off waivers.
At first this looks really strange.  Why waive the team captain instead of trading him.  This is due to the current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) rules around Free Agents.  Since Cronin was a free agent at the end of last year, re-signed with his current team, and did so at a salary higher than the allowed bump for a free agent signing with another team, he could not be traded until the end of the 2017 season (this is to prevent teams/players doing an end run around the rules).  Instead he was waived an Minnesota was at the top of the waiver list.

Now I'm sure the Burch trade was made with full knowledge from both sides of what was going to happen with Cronin.  So for all intents and purposes we can really consider this one transaction, we traded Burch and Cronin for Gatt, Saied, and an international slot.

One last piece pf this puzzle, Jeff Carlisle is reporting that Minnesota will be picking up part of Gatt's salary, which is reportedly just under 200K.  Since Cronin was waived Minnesota gets to pick how much of his salary they'll cover, but if a team below them in waiver order would be willing to pick up more they would get Cronin.  That, combined with them picking up some of Gatt's salary, leads me to believe Minnesota is picking up pretty much all of Cronin's salary.


Ok, now that we've covered what happened, lets talk about why and if its a good thing.

To me, there's only one way this move makes sense.  As a salary dump to free up space to bring in a significant attacking option.  Burch and Cronin made $345K combined last year and we know Cronin got a bump in salary, odds are Burch's option had at least a bit of a raise as well.  Let's call it $400K total just for estimation.  Saeid was at $120K last year, with Minnesota picking up some of Gatt's 200K lets use 200K as the estimate for those two.  That means we probably freed up at least $200K in cap room.  With some GAM/TAM and maybe some extra room left under the cap that can get us pretty close to a max salary player.

The Denver Post article on the trade says as much.
“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.”
The concerning thing about that article is that it makes it sound like they don't have a specific target they're looking at, they just wanted the freedom to sign somebody either in the current window or in July.  That's a problem, because trading two starters for two bench players without a plan on how to use that cap room right away really hamstrings us.  At the same time though, this is the same group that pulled Gashi out of nowhere with no rumors so hopefully they're just  playing their cards close to the vest and the have a move in the works.

Without a major signing before the window closes in May this is a bad trade.  A signing in the July window would redeem it somewhat, but  only if the team can stay in contention until then.  No signing in 2017 makes this trade a disaster on the scale of Beckerman for Ballouchy.  While Boateng can (hopefully) take Cronin's spot alongside Azira that's still putting a lot of pressure on a young player.  Cronin was a lynch pin to our success in 2016 and his leadership and stability is hard to replace.  I have no faith right now that Williams can fill Burch's shoes, and we have no other real option.

Also I assume that Tim Howard will take over the armband from Cronin.  That, at least, might be an upgrade.  That's no knock on Cronin's leadership, just acknowledging how good a job Howard can do in that role.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

International Duty Report

Three Rapids were out on international duty over the break:

  • Tim Howard - USA: Howard started both World Cup qualifiers for the U.S.  After not being particularly challenged in a shutout against Honduras he had more to do against Panama last night.  While he did allow one goal there wasn't much he could do about it and otherwise he put in a man of the match contending performance the rest of the way.  With the 4 points the Yanks are in 4th place in the Hex. 
  • Mekeil Williams - Trinidad & Tobago:  Williams also started both qualifiers for T&T.  Reportedly he had a solid performance in both games.  With the 1-0 win over Panama and the 1-0 loss to Mexico T&T is currently in last place in the Hex.  Next up, T&T will travel to the U.S. to face the Americans in a game that is highly rumored to be held at the Dick.  Easy travel for Howard and Williams.
  • Kevin Doyle - Ireland: Doyle was an unused sub in Ireland's scoreless qualifier against Wales.  He then started their friendly against Ireland where he had a good 90 minutes.  Ireland loss 1-0.

Monday, March 27, 2017

AWOL Offense

Let's talk about the elephant in the room (or on the field).  The complete lack of offensive attack from the Rapids.  Under Pablo Colorado has never been an offensive juggernaut, with the worst 3 year total of goals scored in team history and 2 of the 3 worst individual seasons (in goals/game).  At least last year that was buttressed by one of the best defensive seasons in league history which made for good results if not exciting play.

So far this year though we're reaching a new low in offensive output.  This is best seen by looking at our last game against the woeful Minnesota United.  In their 3 MLS games against teams other than the Rapids they've allowed 16 goals (5, 6, and 5) and 20 shots on target.  The Rapids managed 2 goals and 3 shots on target.  That includes the last 20 minutes of the game where the Rapids were playing up a man, at home, and manged a single shot right at the goalkeeper.

Lest you think this was just a bad game look at the combined stats so far this season.  We are averaging 7.3 shots and 2 shots on target per game.  Last year, where we averaged barely over a goal a game, we averaged 12.7 shots and 4.4 shots on goal per game.  Essentially our already anemic offense has dropped by 50% this season.  As you can figure out yourself, this is not a recipe for success.

This isn't much of a surprise.  In the offseason we let 6 goals, 8 assists, and 23 shots on target, approximately 6 games of offense, go and replaced it with Alan Gordon who averaged half a goal and a shot on goal every 90 minutes last year,  Pablo talked a lot in preseason about changing the team's attacking mentality this year so that must of been the plan for this season.  He seems frustrated its not working yet.

Barring this being an unexpectedly bad run of play (and I  don't think it is) there is really only one solution in my opinion.  Adding offensive talent.  Inside MLS that would require a trade and I'm not sue we have a player that would bring us starting attacking talent that we can afford to spare, other than MacMath.  The window for outside talent is still open for a few weeks but being realistic there's probably not a lot of talent willing to move at this point in the season.  We're probably going to have to ride this out until the summer window and expect the Front Office to have seen the issue and have a major signing lined up for July.  Otherwise this appears like its going to be a very long season.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

I've Been A Wild Rover For Many A Year...

...And I've spent all my money on this seat right here
There's no point in saving for a rainy day
Cause I'll be a wild Rover till my dying day
And it's no nay never
No nay never no more
Cause I'll stay a wild Rover forever and more
(sung to Wild Rover)

Sorry for the silence but I've been out of the country for most  of the last two weeks.  On Saturday I was at Ewood Park in Blackburn to see Blackburn Rovers in person for the first time.  The opponent for this Championship match was another Lancashire team, Preston North End.  While not Rovers dreaded rival Burnley it was a local derby and the travelling fans were there in force as well.

Sadly Blackburn gave up the equalizer in the last minute of stoppage for a 2-2 draw (the same score the Rapids game would have later that day).  I'm really glad I made the trip to northwest England for this game.  Not only because I'm a Rovers fan but I enjoyed seeing what most people think of as the roots of the game.

Despite Rovers' historic success Ewood Park is no DSG Park and Blackburn is never going to be Arsenal or Chelsea.  Blackburn is a town of about 100K somewhat out of the way in England.  For the most part the supporters of Rovers are local fans or fans who have some ties to the local area (though the season ticket holder sitting next to me told me there was a Norwegian sitting in my seat a few weeks earlier).  I saw a very loud five to six thousand Preston fans filling up the Darwen end and I heard the Blackburn supporters overcome them after a rough start.

Ewood Park has one large video screen in the corner between the Riverside Stand and the Darwen End that showed the lineups and the score.  Occasionally it would show a replay but only on goals, close misses, and the very occasional foul.  Other than that the stadium has a small board on the Darwen End that showed the current score and minute (no seconds, just the minute).  That was it for displays.  Much different than the Dick that has the electronic board around the top of the whole stadium along with the video board on one end and the score/time board on the other.  Also my seat was literally an arm's length from the Preston subs.  I can't imagine ever getting that close to players in-game in the U.S.  Of course when the team has played home games on the same spot for 135 years like Blackburn has, some things are done because they've always been done that way.

I've included some more  pictures from the game below.  I'll get back to some commentary on the hot mess that is the Rapids right now in the next few days.  With the international break and the rescheduled Dallas match we have more than two weeks until our next game action so there's plenty of time to talk about what's working and what really isn't.

The River Darwen and the Riverside Stand

The Jack Walker statue, Blackburn's greatest supporter

The Blackburn End stand and the pregame festivities

Not exactly a C38 tailgate

 Panoramic from my seat

Preston's subs and assistant coaches

The Darwen End stand showing the two electronic boards in the stadium 

Both managers on the touchline

On Sunday we went to the National Football Museum in Manchester where I got my picture with the FA Cup and the EPL Trophy.  You're not allowed to lift the FA Cup but you can lift the EPL trophy.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Roster Status

MLS has posted a nice roster summary page that fills out the final details of our roster.  The main thing it answers is that we only have 6 international slots after our offseason trades.  This has led to the Rapids loaning Dennis Castillo out as he would be our seventh international player.  There's been no announcement beyond his status on that page as to where he's going, but I would assume Charlotte.  Apparently he hasn't left yet though, as Daniel Boniface tweeted that he was at practice yesterday.

Also over the weekend the Rapids announced they signed first round draft pick Sam Hamilton.  The only unsigned player at practice yesterday according to Boniface was draftee Jamie Siaj who's still recovering from his injury.  If/when he signs he would take one of the two remaining reserve roster spots.  There was also rumors late last week of defender Mike da Fonte of the Sacramento Republic moving to the Rapids.  He wasn't with the Republic this past weekend but he's not yet in Colorado.  If accurate he would presumably fill the other remaining reserve roster spot.

That leaves the two senior roster spots to fill.  With no international slot at the moment they would have to be filled with domestic players, but that could be changed with a trade (or if Sjoberg or Badji get their rumored green cards).  The most likely way of filling them right now then is a trade within the league.  There are no rumors of trades at the moment though.

Coverage will be a bit lighter for the next couple of weeks.  More details after that but I'll keep the blog updated as best I can with any news and results.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Rapids Start Ahead Of 2016 Pace


A very 2016 look brought a very 2016 result, a grinder kind of game for the 1-0 win and 3 points to start the season.  Last year Colorado opened the season in San Jose and lost by that same scoreline, so we're ahead of last year's pace at this point.

General Impressions:
  • This was a very 2016 game.  The starting 11 was straight out of 2016, the style was 2016, and the result was 2016.  But it was 3 points so I'm not going to complain (this week). :D
  • That said, there were a few tweaks.  Namely that the outside backs (Burch and Miller) were more involved in the attack than last year.  I'm not sure Miller particularly added much to the attack though.
  • Interesting goal by Badji.  After a Doyle shot off the post from a Powers free kick Watts tried(?) to put the ball back on net but ended up popping it straight up.  Badji was the first to rise and head it home.
  • Powers. is. not. a. #10.  He just isn't.  Quit putting him in a position he fails at.
  • Great to see Dillon Serna back already.  He got a deserved ovation from the crowd when he came in.
  • We've quietly got quite a youth movement going on.  5 of our starters were recent draftees plus MacMath, Miller, Serna, and Azira.  Add in Boateng, Ford, Perez, Hamilton, etc. and this team might be very good in a couple more seasons.
  • I'm a little surprised Boateng didn't get any time, just to get his first game out of the way.
  • It didn't feel like it but New England actually outshot us by one.  I think we were the more dangerous team though.
  • Other than on corners.  Those were...not good.
  • Couldn't ask for a better day for a home opener in March.  Of course we'll probably have another Mother's Day blizzard type game to make up for it.

Man of the Match: Axel Sjoberg.  I'm not going to disagree with MLS who put him on their Team of the Week today.  Any cross that came into the box from NE was cleared by Axel.  He completely removed their aerial game.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Starting With Jameson Night

If its Jameson it must be New England

Welcome back everyone, the 2017 season is here!  We start off with the New England Revolution, which means its Jameson Night (or Afternoon) at the tailgate.  Now in its 15th year (with a couple of gaps due to the unbalanced schedule) the Rapids are 7-4-1 all-time against the Revs when Jameson Night is held, but the one loss was the most recent edition in 2015.  We need to get back to our winning tradition tomorrow.  Kickoff is at 4pm so as always the tailgate starts 3 hours earlier at 1.  Same bat time, same bat place as last year.  Those who can't make it can watch it with Fleming and 'Celo on Altitude.

Player Availability:
Injury Report:
OUT: GK John Berner (wrist)
QUESTIONABLE: GK Tim Howard (right abductor); M Dillon Serna (knee)

No surprises here.  Because of the double GK injury the Independence's goalkeeper Cody Mizell has been loan to the Rapids for short-term cover.  While Howard and Serna are listed as questionable there's no chance we see them tomorrow.  Surprisingly Gashi is not on this list despite taking precautions with his Achilles this week.  NEw England is missing one midfielder due to injury.

Predicting the starting XI on opening day is always tricky, but here's my shot:

This seems to be pretty much what we were seeing in Arizona.  If Gashi can't go I expect we'll see Powers in his place.  The other question mark is Watts/Burling but Watts got more time with the "first team" in preseason so I'm going with him.  I think we'll see both Boateng and Gordon off the bench in this one.

Prediction: 1-0 win, goal by Gashi.  Season opener so I have to be positive but I wouldn't be shocked by a 0-0 draw.  I'm not concerned by New England's attack but I'm hopeful the home opener bounce and the power of Jameson will get us the three points.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Play It Again Sam - 2017 Season Preview

We're 72 hours from the first game being in the books so it much be season preview/prediction time.

The team hasn't changed much since 2016 and not at all since I wrote this a week and a half ago.  I won't repeat what I wrote there as far as our new additions.  It seems the plan this year is to repeat 2016 with an increased focus on attack.  The hope appears to be that Gashi, Doyle, Badji, Hairston, and company will step up another level and produce the missing goals from last year while the defense stays focused on repeating last year.

I think that's overly optimistic.  Last year we had a very good defense on the road and a historic defense at home.  That's hard to repeat even for a team with top players.  Our defense last year was greater than the sum of its parts.  We had career years from Burch, Azira, and Sjoberg (as short as his career has been so far) and one of Cronin's best seasons.  all that combined with GK of the year play from the combination of MacMath and Howard.  Add to that surprise early int eh year where I think a lot of teams overlooked us and momentum later in the year where we were flying high.  Those aren't pieces that come together in back to back years.

So I expect our defense to take a step back this season.  Not greatly, it should still be one of the tougher defenses in the league, but I don't expect to be setting records.  I don't expect an equal improvement form the offense to compensate though.  There's still nobody with that spark of creativity we can cont on game after game to generate opportunities.  I feel we're in for another season of low-scoring games but I fear that a number of those 1-0 wins will be 1-1 draws this year

With that, on to the annual predictions!

  • The Rapids will finish about 4th in the West with a point total around 50
  • We'll win the one-off playoff game at home but lose in the conference semifinals
  • Gashi will win the team Golden Boot with double-digit goals (barely)
  • We win the Rocky Mountain Cup
  • The Rapids make a move in the early season to add some offense, either a trade or a low-key signing
  • In the summer transfer window the team makes a bigger splash with a signing, possibly DP level
  • The Open Cup goes like the last couple of years where we beat a lower-league team (probably the Switchbacks) but lose when we face MLS competition
  • We're going to have one lousy stretch during the year.  Nothing like the end of 2014 but 4-5 games where the season appears to go south.  We recover in time to save our playoff spot though

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Roster Rule Changes and Camp Departures

The league announced new roster rules today.  The big change is an expansion of the roster from 28 to 30 players, with the two new slots specifically for Homegrown Players.  This allows the Rapids to move Ford and Perez into those slots (or Serna) and sign two other players in their place.  Teams can also use TAM now to sign Homegrown Players to their first contact.

There were a few other minor changes but those two are the big news.

Also today Dan Bonficae of the Post tweeted that Liam Callahan has left Rapids camp and Tony Cascio didn't come north with the team.  That leaves the other two draftees (Hamilton and Siaj) and GK Cody Mizell as the only unsigned players in camp.

Signing those three would put us at a total of 26 signed players, with 4 goalkeepers.  Depth is going to be a problem with only 22 field players, we need to fill those extra 4 roster spots ASAP.  There are probably 5 spots available as I expect Mizell to be a short-term signing until Berner or Howard are healthy.  No team needs to carry 4 keepers for a season.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Rapids Lose Diamond Cup Final to Dynamo

In a game very reminiscent of 2016 Colorado fell to Houston 2-0 in the Desert Diamond Cup final, the second time they've lost the last game of the tournament.  The lineup:

MacMath
Miller - Watts - Sjoberg - Burch
Azira - Cronin
Hairston - Powers - Badji
Doyle

The starting XI was also the finish XI as no subs were made in the 90 minutes and the team was dragging by the end.  Earlier in the day the second team scrimmaged Houston (losing by the same score) which meant that by the end of both games almost everyone had gone 90 minutes.  That's probably why their was no subs.

The game itself was very 2016.  Good defense, decent possession, no creativity on offense.  Eventually the defense broke down and conceded and then we were chasing the game.  Powers is clearly not a #10 and Badji is still Badji.  Expect a repeat in playing style from 2016 this year if this game is anything to go by.  The Rapids finish preseason 4-1-1.

Now, onto the regular season.  Its game week!  Midweek I'll have my season preview and predictions before we get ready for opening night (day) on Saturday.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Rapids Beat NYCFC, Qualify For Diamond Cup Final

Yesterday was the third of the four matches we'll play in Arizona, this time against NYCFC.  I didn't get to see the game so I'm basing this recap on reports from others.  The starting XI:

MacMath
Miller - Watts - Sjoberg - Burch
Azira - Cronin
Hairston - Powers - Badji
Doyle

Minus the recovering Gashi and maybe Nana that looks like the opening day lineup (and if we're lucky Howard).  Its also probably an actual starting lineup from sometime last year and the play reflected that.  Solid defense, decent possession, but not a lot of creativity in attack.  Shortly before half Cronin got on the end of a clearance from the box and hit a sidewinder through a crowd for a 1-0 lead.

A full team substitution at half left us with the following lineup:

(T) = Unsigned trialist
(D) = Unsigned draftee

Mizell(T)
Castillo - Ford - Burling - Williams
Hamilton(D) - Boateng
Cascio - Perez - Callahan(D)
Calvert

This team looked more ragged, as you would expect.  Largely the same results, good defense but quiet offense.  NYCFC has a couple of good looks and the Rapids batten down the hatches late to defend the 1-0 lead and continue their undefeated preseason.

They'll play for the Desert Diamond Cup in the final on Saturday against Houston.  Game time is 6pm MT and the game will be streamed in the same places as the other games.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Time Is Running Out If there's To Be Another Significant Signing

We are now 12 days from the season opener.  The team seems to be coming together in Phoenix with the addition of Nana and Gashi returning from injury.  There hasn't been much addition to this team from 2016 however.  Two new homegrown players, Gordon who's likely to be a super-sub, and Nana along with some draftees (probably, no signings yet).  There's been hope that the FO will unveil another signing out of nowhere like they did with Gashi last season but with 12 days to go it seems to be getting close to too late, at least for being ready and in sync with the team on opening day.

After the disastrous 2015 season the Rapids let 10 players go and then traded Irwin and Sarvas and loaned out Ramirez.  2015 was a bad team so there needed to be a lot of turnover..  That said, they signed every non-rookie player available on opening day by February 14th last year (with the trade to acquire Miller).  That was Azira, Pappa, Pfeffer, Gashi, Williams, C. Doyle, and Miller.  7 players with profession experience to replace 13.  Then later on we added three draftees, Jones, and eventually Howard.

After the great 2016 season the Rapids let 6 players go and then traded Greenspan.  So 7 total players out.  So far we have had 2 players with professional experience added, 2 homegrowns, and probably a draftee or two.  So we're likely to fill the empty spots though we finished 2016 without a full roster and the rosters have been expanded with a couple of homegrown roster spots so there's still room to sign more.

So from a quantity perspective we're probably fine depending on the number of draftees that get offer.  From a quality perspective though things seem more tenuous.  Last offseason we replaced 13 players with 8 (9 once Howard got here midseason) non-rookies.  About 2/3rds of the open slots.  This year with 7 players to replace from last year we've signed 2 experienced players, less than 1/3rd.  Obviously the quality of the remaining players is significantly improved from the remaining 2015 players so you could make the case we don't need as much help and I'd agree with you...on defense.

Its no secret that our offense last year was horrible.  A great (historic at home) defense combined with just enough well-timed goals got us to the 2nd best record and the conference finals but just a few more goals would have gotten us the Supporters Shield or a MLS Cup spot.  So far this offseason our purely offensive additions have been Alan Gordon, who's best use is a super-sub off the bench late in games.

Nana is somebody who could control the midfield and give us some momentum going forward but he's not a true attacker and will most likely play out of one of the defensive midfield spots in the 4-2-3-1.  Ford is a central defender and while Perez is a more attacking mid relying on him to kick start the offense is asking a lot of a rookie.

Looking at this I think we need another signing.  Somebody who can fill the hole left by Jones or who can take over the right wing spot (something we were looking for last offseason as well).  Without it I fear we will struggle in attack again this season, regardless of the focus the team us putting on it this preseason.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Desert Diamond Cup Game 2 - Including Blast From the Past

Colorado lined up for the second of their four Desert Diamond Cup games this afternoon.  I only saw the second half, but here's the lineup for kickoff:

(D) = Unsigned draftee

MacMath
Miller - Ford - Sjoberg - Williams
Azira - Cronin
Callahan(D) - Powers - Badji
Calvert

This lineup gave up a goal 19 minutes in from a corner that managed to fall uncleared in the box.

After 30 minutes Callahan was subbed out for former Rapid Tony Cascio.  He's currently signed with Phoenix Rising FC (formerly Arizona United SC) of the USL but has been recovering from injury and this was his first real game minutes in 6 months.  Officially he was listed as a guest player, not a trialist, but everyone who gets game minutes for a team is on trial, officially or otherwise.  If he impresses the Rapids would probably be able to buy him out of his USL contract.

He got off to a good start with back-to-back assists just as the stroke of halftime, first to Calvert, then to Badji.  After the break the same 11 took the field and Calvert made it a brace with a goal in the 60th minute.  Right after all 10 field players were subbed for the last 30 minutes:

MacMath
Castillo - Watts - Burling - Burch
Hamilton(D) - Nana
Hairston - Perez - Gashi
Doyle

This was Gashi's first action of the preseason, so his recovery from the Achilles issue must be going well.  Not a whole lot of action after the subs and the game finished 3-1.

Next up is NYCFC on Wednesday night at 5pm MT.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Jersey Release and Desert Diamond Cup Game 1


The big news today, as you see above, is the release of our new road/alternate jersey.  This replaces the yellow flag kit we've had for the last two seasons.  There's not much that has changed though, blue sleeves instead of yellow, a red C instead of the state flag on the base, and removal of some blue edging.  Oh, and the addition of a red button.  Because why not?  I was never a fan of the yellow kit the last two years so this gets the same meh reaction from me.  Nothing wrong with it, just not my thing.  As BigSoccer poster wormhole put it: "it aptly sums up the off-season: "Let's keep doing what we're doing - with a couple of unnecessary tweaks thrown in just because." "

Also today was the first game of he Desert Diamond Cup against SKC.  Our starting lineup:

(D) - Unsigned draftee
(T) - Unsigned trialist

MacMath
Miller - Burling - Ford - Burch
Hamilton(D) - Cronin
Hairston - Adjei-Boateng - Callahan(D)
Doyle

Good to see Adjei-Boateng getting minute right away and he had the only notable event for the Rapids in the first half, a yellow card.  For the most part KC had the better play in the first half but they arguably had a stronger lineup on the field.

A full team replacement for the second half left us with this XI:

Mizell(T)
Castillo - Watts - Sjoberg - Williams
Perez - Azira
Siaj(D) - Powers - Badji
Calvert

Shortly after the second half kickoff SKC scored.  A cross from KC's left was redirected past Mizell for the lead.  In the 81st minute Siaj had to come off due to a high ankle sprain and Callahan was reinserted (preseason rules) in his place.  In the 87th minute the Rapids appealed to center ref Allen Champan for a handball in the box that wasn't given.  About 2 minutes later, at the next break in action, Chapman was called to the sideline by the Video Assistant Ref and we got our first look at replay.

This preseason MLS is testing the FIFA approved replay system in preseason games (along with some other leagues) with the hopes of rolling in out at some point in the regular season.  It can be used on goalline decisions, penalties, red cards, and mistaken identity.  The video assistant ref makes the determination on if a play should be reviewed but the center ref is the one that reviews the footage and makes the call.  In this case Chapman reviewed the play in the box and awarded the Rapids a PK for the handball.  Powers converted the kick for the 1-1 draw.

The announcers (KC's I believe) got a key point about replay wrong.  They stated that a replay could not be initiated until a natural stoppage in play but the rules state that the ref can stop play to go to a replay, though they are encouraged to wait until the ball is not in a dangerous position.  I think Chapman pushed it in today's game, allowing almost 2 minutes of play to go by before the ball naturally went out of play.

All three draftees got time in today's game, as did our one real trialist (Mizell).  Kai Likewise, who's a high school player on the Academy team, was also listed as a trialist for this game but didn't play.  I'm assuming the Rapids brought him with them for the experience but he's not in the running for a first team spot at this point.  A good sign for the future though!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Welcome Nana!


That's Bismark "Nana" Adjei-Boatang getting ready to board the bus to the airport with the team this morning (and Tim Howard, obviously).  He got into Denver last night and flew out to Tucson with the rest of the team for the Desert Diamond Cup.  I expect him t get a lot of playing time in Arizona.

Daniel Boniface reported some roster news over the weekend.  Our final draft pick, Peguy Ngatcha has been released and trialist Jun Marques Davidson has returned to Charlotte.  No word on the other Charlotte trialist, GK Cody Mizell.  Our other 3 draft picks are still with the team.  The Academy goalkeepers are likely not travelling with the team.

Gashi is also dealing with an Achilles injury which is a little concerning given how critical he's going to be to our offense this year.  The team has created a 2.5 week program to get him healthy and ready to go for the opener.

There was a rumor this weekend that U.S. Nat Aron Johannsson is looking to leave Werder Bremen this summer and come to MLS with the Rapids one of three teams listed as having interest.  His name was floating around last season too, so the idea of us having interest would seem to be accurate.  It would take some work as Johannsson is subject to allocation order and the Rapids are currently 18th in the order (Minnesota is first) so we'd have to trade up to claim him, then pay him.

Last, but hardly least, in tonight's season preview show on Altitude the team announced that Conor Casey will be inducted into the Gallery of Honor on June 3rd at halftime against the Crew (his final MLS team).  A well-deserved honor.

(The graphic also listed a Transamerica Cup on July 1st when we're scheduled  to play the Dynamo so ???)

Updated camp roster as we head to Tucson:

Signed Players:
GK John Berner
GK Tim Howard - Designated Player
GK Zac MacMath
D Marc Burch
D Bobby Burling
D Dennis Castillo - International
D Kortne Ford - Homegrown
D Eric Miller
D Axel Sjoberg - International
D Jared Watts
D Mekeil Williams - International
M Bismark Adjei-Boateng - International
M Micheal Azira
M Sam Cronin
M Marlon Hairston
M Ricardo Perez - Homegrown
M Dillon Powers
M Juan Ramirez - Designated Player, International, On Loan
M Dillon Serna - Homegrown
F Dominique Badji - International
F Caleb Calvert - Homegrown
F Kevin Doyle - International
F Shkelzen Gashi - Designated Player, International
F Alan Gordon

Unsigned Draftees:
D Liam Callahan
M Sam Hamilton
F Jaime Siaj

Unsigned Trialists
GK Cody Mizell (?)

Friday, February 10, 2017

Rapids Make A Resource Trade

Today the Rapids traded an international slot for the 2017 season to NYCFC for $75K in General Allocation Money.

This is an interesting trade only in that the Rapids currently have seven international players and somewhere between 6 and 8 international slots after this trade.  Its been rumored that Badji and Sjoberg are pursuing green cards (which would make them domestic players under MLS roster rules), this trade is probably a good sign that they are close to getting them.

The $75K isn't much but it will help us land another player either before the season or in the summer window.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Preseason Blowout

After 24 hours offline thanks to my Comcast cable being cut I'm back.  Yesterday the Rapids had their second scrimmage against the Ventura County Fusion.  This one went much better than Saturday, resulting in a 6-1 win.  First the starting lineup:

(D) = Unsigned draftee
(T) = Unsigned trialist

MacMath
Castillo - Watts - Burling - Burch
Azira - Perez
Badji - Powers - Doyle
Ngatcha (D)

Interesting lineup with Doyle on the outside and the 2nd to last pick in the draft the  only unsigned player.  At the half it was 1-0 Colorado, Doyle with a nice cross that Badji finished off.  After half the lineup was:

Mizell (T)
Miller - Ford - Davidson (T) - Williams
Cronin - Hamilton (D)
Siaj (D) - Hairston - Calvert
Callahan (D)

Yes, that's defender Callahan apparently starting up front.  This lineup went crazy.  In the first 15 minutes Hairston set up Calvert twice to make the score 3-0.  Then Hairston got one for himself before Calvert set up Callahan making it 5-0 with 15 minutes to play.  Finally Miller was taken down in the box and Siaj converted the penalty for the last of the Rapids goals.  The Fusion got on the board in the final moments to break the shutout.

Davidson, Hamilton, Callahan, and Ngatcha got 45 minutes in each game against the Fusion.  Mizell got 45 in game 2 and Siaj got 90 in game 1 and 45 in game 2.  Other than the two academy keepers who were training with the team in Boulder last week that's all the unsigned players in camp getting at least a half.  Still no sign of our new guys, Gordon and Adjei-Boateng.  Gordon was in California but there's no report that Adjei-Boateng has arrived yet.

The team is back in Colorado for a few days before heading to Tucson for the Desert Diamond Cup.  They'll play SKC on the 15th, NE, on the 18th, NYCFC on the 22, and a 4th opponent based on the standings on the 25th.  If its like prior years the games will be streamed live on YouTube.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

First Scrimmage!

Yesterday the Rapids played their fist scrimmage out in LA against the Ventura County Fusion of the PDL.  There was no stream and not much of a twitter commentary from the team.  Here's the lineups for each half:

(D) = Unsigned draftee
(T) = Unsigned trialist

MacMath
Castillo - Watts - Burling - Callahan(D)
Cronin - Perez
Siaj(D) - Doyle - Hairston
Ngatcha(D)

and for the second half:

MacMath
Miller - Ford - Sjoberg - Williams
Davidson(T) - Hamilton(D)
Siaj(D) - Powers - Calvert
Badji

So Siaj takes the early lead of the draftee most likely to be signed.  Either that or he's the most on the bubble and got the most playing time so the coaches could figure him out.

Final score was 1-1 with the Rapids conceding late and then Badji scoring an even later equalizer.  Hard to draw many conclusions with no real data but a 1-1 draw with out-of-season PDL is not exactly encouraging.  The teams will scrimmage again on Tuesday.

Monday, January 30, 2017

All Quiet

I know with the season starting that its usually time to ramp up Rapids coverage.  So far this year though there's been nothing to talk about.  No rumors, no interesting trialists, nothing.

If and/or when there's news we'll talk about it but I'm not going to just churn out posts with no real news.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Update On Camp Trialists

Daniel Boniface came through with the info on the 4 trialists in camp.  I was wrong in my earlier post tonight, Epstein is not one of the Academy goalkeepers.  In short (see Boniface's article for the full details):

GK Cody Mizell (Charlotte, played with Atlanta and Tampa in NASL)
GK Connor Gavigan (Creighton, played in the Rapids Academy)
GK Kai Likewise (Rapids U-18 Academy team)
M Jun Marques Davidson (Charlotte, spent time in MLS with Vancouver)

The fact that we have 3 extra keepers in camp makes me wonder if there's a possible GK deal int he works for Berner or (more likely) MacMath.

Here's the updated roster:

Signed Players:
GK John Berner
GK Tim Howard - Designated Player
GK Zac MacMath
D Marc Burch
D Bobby Burling
D Dennis Castillo - International
D Kortne Ford - Homegrown
D Eric Miller
D Axel Sjoberg - International
D Jared Watts
D Mekeil Williams - International
M Bismark Adjei-Boateng - International
M Micheal Azira
M Sam Cronin
M Marlon Hairston
M Ricardo Perez - Homegrown
M Dillon Powers
M Juan Ramirez - Designated Player, International, On Loan
M Dillon Serna - Homegrown
F Dominique Badji - International
F Caleb Calvert - Homegrown
F Kevin Doyle - International
F Shkelzen Gashi - Designated Player, International
F Alan Gordon

Unsigned Draftees:
D Liam Callahan
M Sam Hamilton
F Peguy Ngatcha
F Jaime Siaj

Unsigned Trialists/Academy Players:
GK Connor Gavigan
GK Kai Likewise
GK Cody Mizell
M Jun Marques Davidson

Conor Casey, Rapids Assistant Coach!


The Rapids made it official today, announcing Conor Casey as their new assistant coach.  Casey is, quite simply, the best striker to ever play for Colorado and hopefully some of that success will rub off on the team's attack next season.  He joins Mullan, Smith, and (obviously) Pablo as players from the MLS Cup winning team who have been hired as coaches by the Rapids.

In other news the Denver Post''s Daniel Boniface was out at camp today and reported everyone was present except Azira (with Uganda at the African Cup of Nations) and Adjei-Boateng (hasn't arrived yet).  He also said there were two trialists from the Charlotte Independence and two goalkeepers from the Academy training with the team.  I'm assuming one of the keepers was Andrew Epstein, currently a junior and starter for the national champion Stanford Cardinal.  He's expected to get a homegrown player offer from the Rapids after he graduates.  The other three are unknown but Boniface hopes to get names soon.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Rapids Sign Adjei-Boateng From Manchester City


The long rumored deal to bring Bismarck "Nana" Adjei-Boateng to Colorado is done.  Nana was signed using TAM which means he's making DP money and/or his transfer fee puts him in the DP range but his salary cap hit is bought down to standard max salary levels.  One report out of Norway has it as a 4 year deal with a team held 5th year option.

Adjei-Boateng came out of Ghana's Right to Dream Academy where he was signed to Man City's youth squad at 17.  When he turned 18 he was loaned to Norway's Stromgodset where he's played since 2012.  In that time he made 86 appearances, scoring 16 times and getting the assist on 6 other goals.  Primarily used as a central midfielder at 22 he's a great signing for the future.

That said, I don't see him as this year's replacement for Jermaine Jones like many other Rapids fans.  The Norwegian league is seen as a lower league than MLS and his goal and assist to game ratio is almost identical to Badji's in MLS.  While I'm really excited to see what kind of player he'll be in 2019 I'm not expecting huge numbers out of him this year.  We're gong to need to find an offensive spark for 2017 still.

Here's the updated roster:

Signed Players:
GK John Berner
GK Tim Howard - Designated Player
GK Zac MacMath
D Marc Burch
D Bobby Burling
D Dennis Castillo - International
D Kortne Ford - Homegrown
D Eric Miller
D Axel Sjoberg - International
D Jared Watts
D Mekeil Williams - International
M Bismark Adjei-Boateng - International
M Micheal Azira
M Sam Cronin
M Marlon Hairston
M Ricardo Perez - Homegrown
M Dillon Powers
M Juan Ramirez - Designated Player, International, On Loan
M Dillon Serna - Homegrown
F Dominique Badji - International
F Caleb Calvert - Homegrown
F Kevin Doyle - International
F Shkelzen Gashi - Designated Player, International
F Alan Gordon

Unsigned Draftees:
D Liam Callahan
M Sam Hamilton
F Peguy Ngatcha
F Jaime Siaj

Monday, January 23, 2017

CONCACAF Champions League Changes

Today CONCACAF announced changes in the Champions League format starting with the 2017-18 cycle the Rapids have qualified for.  Instead of playing in a group stage this fall, MLS teams will move right to a 16-team knockout tournament held in Feb-May of 2018.  The 4 MLS qualifiers will be joined in the tournament by 4 Mexican teams, the Canadian champion, the 5 major Central American league champs (all but Belize and Nicaragua), the Caribbean Club Champion, and the winner of the fall 2017 CCL tournament.  That tournament will now be contested by the 2 best teams from Nicaragua, the champion of Belize, the 2nd and 3rd placed teams from the other 5 Central American countries, and 3 Caribbean teams.

Essentially this changes the CCL into a small countries tournament and large countries tournament.  The results of each year's tournaments will be factored in to seeding for future years so countries can move up to the large tournament or down to the small one depending on results.  The benefit of this is to reduce schedule crowding for bigger teams who are playing games against minnows that they are (largely) winning easily.  It also allows those smaller clubs to play reasonable competition and not get blown out regularly.

As noted both in the CONCACAF and MLS releases, these changes do not effect which teams have qualified for the next cycle, despite the MLS teams not starting play until after the 2017 qualifiers would be decided.  Instead of playing a 3 team group stage this fall with two home and two road games between August and October the Rapids will play their first CCL game as a home-and-home knockout in February of 2018.  That will actually help our schedule congestion this fall and hopefully, with a good draw, we'll see a beatable team in preseason next year.

This leaves MLS in an odd place though as teams who qualify for the CCL won't start playing in it for over a year.  I expect we'll see an announcement before the season starts that there will be no teams that qualify for CCL in 2017.  Then the qualifiers will return in 2018.  That will mean that the teams that were already announced as having qualified will play in in 2018 and thee teams that qualify will play in 2019 and so on.  This allows MLS to "catch up" while not pulling a CCL spot from an already qualified team.

Unrelated, we got confirmation of Alan Gordon's signing today.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Alan Gordon Signs With Colorado

No official announcement from the team but an official announcement from Gordon himself through Instagram
...But With every ending is a new beginning. I'm excited and thankful for the opportunity the @coloradorapidshave given me and hope to contribute to the successes of both the team and organization. Much love, Gordo
So that's one more signing before camp opens tomorrow.  I expect/hope Gordon will have a super-sub role, coming inf or the last 10-20 minutes of matches where we need a goal and starting USOC and CCL matches.  He shouldn't be looked at as a starter for league matches at this point in his career.

Here's the roster as camp opens tomorrow:

Signed Players:
GK John Berner
GK Tim Howard - Designated Player
GK Zac MacMath
D Marc Burch
D Bobby Burling
D Dennis Castillo - International
D Kortne Ford - Homegrown
D Eric Miller
D Axel Sjoberg - International
D Jared Watts
D Mekeil Williams - International
M Micheal Azira
M Sam Cronin
M Marlon Hairston
M Ricardo Perez - Homegrown
M Dillon Powers
M Juan Ramirez - Designated Player, International, On Loan
M Dillon Serna - Homegrown
F Dominique Badji - International
F Caleb Calvert - Homegrown
F Kevin Doyle - International
F Shkelzen Gashi - Designated Player, International
F Alan Gordon

Unsigned Draftees:
D Liam Callahan
M Sam Hamilton
F Peguy Ngatcha
F Jaime Siaj

Friday, January 20, 2017

Offseason Ends Not With A Bang But A Whimper

There were rumors going around a week ago that we could see up to 3 signings this week.  In the end we saw none.  As we saw yesterday the Koomson deal is at last in trouble if not dead.  Rumor has it that Adjel-Boateng is signed but they're waiting for his visa paperwork to be complete before they announce it.  There's been no update on Gordon since the initial report.

And that's it.  There has been literally no other rumors of signings this offseason.  Camp opens on Monday do the last business day of the offseason is complete and our total additions amount to 2 homgrown signings in Ford and Perez.  No slight intended on those guys but I'm not impressed.  We let 7 players go from last season and we're entering camp with 2 new homegrown signings, 4 draftees, and no other additions.

Sadly while I'm not impressed I'm also not surprised.  This is the MO for the Rapids in recent years.  They appear to do no work in the offseason (not that they aren't working, just that there are no public moves), camp opens, we sign players and get them into camp late, and then we hope they can figure out how to play together before the regular season starts.  On average over the last 6 seasons we start camp with less than 4 new non-draftees.  In 2012 we had none, in 2015 we had a high of seven.  Last year we had three (Azira, Pappa, and Pfeffer).

Last season we heard a lot about "having the team together to start camp" from Paul Bravo and in the past we heard talk about getting difference-makers in the offseason.  This offseason the Front Office has been very quiet and didn't set any unrealistic expectations or goals they didn't meet.  That said, we need players and we need them soon.  I think we need more than Adjel-Boateng and Gordon.

Adjel-Boateng looks like a good long-term project but expecting him to be the necessary difference maker this year is asking a lot.  He's had 16 goals in 85 appearances in Norway, which is a league I think most would agree is a bit below MLS at this point.  For comparison that's almost exactly the same ratio as Badji's in MLS (8 goals in 42 appearances).  Adjel-Boateng is two years younger so I think he can be better than Badji, but I don't expect a great improvement this season.  Gordon is a great supersub for 15 minutes at the end of games and his poacher's mentality will steal us points 2-3 times this season but he's not going to fix our fundamental scoring problem,

The Front Office needs to sign somebody that's going to add 10 goals this season, either by scoring themselves or setting up Gashi & Doyle to score more goals.  Without that we're looking at another year of grinding out 1-0 wins and I don't think our success from last season is sustainable.