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.