Monday, October 30, 2017

Player Of The Year

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 27, 2017

Rumor Roundup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Well, That Was A Season

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 19, 2017

One Last Time...

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 16, 2017

Rapids Finish Off Home Season By Almost Ending FSL's

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

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

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

Friday, October 13, 2017

One Last Time

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Still Stunned

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 9, 2017

As Expected, Another Draw

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

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

Friday, October 6, 2017

MLS Cup Rematch

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

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

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

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Two Bits Of News

Two pieces of news today.

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

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Another Odd Game Featuring Montreal At DSG

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

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

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