Friday, March 30, 2018

Rapids Try To Bust Union

I don't know if a game in March could be considered a must-win at any time, but tomorrow is probably as close as the Rapids will come.  With trips to Dallas and FSL around a home game against TFC this is probably the Rapids best shot at a win until Orlando comes to town in a month.  Starting the season on a six-game winless streak won't make anyone happy.  Game time tomorrow is 7pm so the tailgate starts at 4.  Fleming and Balboa will have the call on Altitude if you can't make it.

Player Availability:
OUT: D Kortne Ford (L MCL sprain); M Shkelzen Gashi (calf injury)

Boli should be available as he's been practicing with the team, though I don't expect him to start.  Aigner participate in practice this week so hopefully he'll at least make the bench.  Philly has two players out injured, one questionable, and one suspended so they're in worse shape than us.

Considering how well we started last week's game I expect the same XI to start this week.  With Aigner and Boli possibly available though I expect different subs.

Prediction: 2-1 win, goals by Mason and Aigner.  I think we've seen the new defense is unlikely to get a shutout but I think the team builds from last week and does a better job defensively.  They'll have to work at it but I think they can find two goals tomorrow, even against a team that has yet to concede this season.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Rapids Dealing With Reduced Wattage

In a bit of a surprising move the Rapids traded Jared Watts to Houston today in exchange for $100K of Targeted Allocation Money (TAM).  While many fans expected a trade most thought it would be Axel Sjoberg who was moved.  Watts proved himself, after some false starts, to be a capable MLS backup CB so $100K of TAM is probably a reasonable trade for him.

This leaves the Rapids with Smith, Wilson, Ford, Sjoberg, Miller, and (apparently) Wynne as center backs which is still pretty good depth.  This move gives us $100K in TAM and frees up Watts' $75K in salary, which means we should have room for a decent signing.  Since we acquired TAM that may be an indicator that we have a larger target in mind, though it may just be stockpiling it for a future move.

In unrelated news the team announced yesterday that the road trip to play the Galaxy, originally scheduled for Aug. 25th, will now be played on Aug 14th at 8:30pm.  No reason was given for the change.  This will have the Rapids California Dreamin' in August as in two weeks they host the Galaxy and San Jose, then travel out to LA to play both the Galaxy and LAFC in back-to-back games the same week (they finish the month hosting FSL).

Monday, March 26, 2018

Second Game, Same Result

Well that was fun, until it wasn't.  A great 30 minutes to start the game descended slowly (or maybe not so slowly) into a repeat of 2017.  2 goals in the first 8 minutes is the fastest double for the Rapids since the 5-1 beat down of the Sounders in October of 2013 started with 2 goals in the first 10 minutes.  Really though, this graphic is the story of the game:
That's right, after the first 20 minutes the Rapids never had the majority of the possession.  After Mason's goal in the 8th minute we didn't have another shot on target the rest of the night.  Not surprisingly, this team can't sustain a lead with that type of play.

Other observations:
  • Short as it was, the first 20-30 minutes looked like a good team.  Good ball movement, well timed runs, and defenders filling space as needed.
  • Niki Jackson looks like a solid late-round pick.  I'm not expecting him to turn into Omar Cummings, but the next Brown/Badji is not impossible.
  • Joe Mason make the Vancouver GK lay a brick on that goal.  More of that please.
  • BTW, the assist on that goal was a 60 yard bomb from Smith.
  • Good to see Badji back on the score sheet after a rough few games going back to last season.
  • Wynne should not be starting.  He really stands out as a key to our defensive struggles.  He's not comfortable at CB and Smith and Wilson have to adjust to cover, setting the whole formation off-kilter.
  • Not that he's the only issue, clearly the team is still struggling with the formation.  Both goals came from unmarked trailing runners, something KC was getting away with all night.
  • Good, we used all 3 subs.  Bad, our choice of subs, specifically McBean.  He's useless and shouldn't see the field outside the Open Cup.  Serna would have been a better choice.
  • 3 points lost in two games on stoppage time goals.  That's a bad pattern that needs to be broken now.
  • Side note - Apparently nobody told Stadium Ops the season started on Saturday night.  Way to prioritize your team KSE (this is not a knock on the Rapids FO, Stadium Ops are a separate KSE division).

Man of the Match: Tim Howard.  Stood on his head and saved a point out of this game.  If that's the Hwoard we get going forward he's going to be worth every penny.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Hey, Its Soccer Time In Commerce City Again!

The new Gate E entrance graphics

After what feels like a lengthy bye week and a long winter, tomorrow the Rapids are finally back at the Dick for league play!  We've got a new coach, new players, and new food (GB's!) to look forward to.  The key things haven't changed though, the tailgate starts at 4 and kickoff is at 7.  Those who can't make it can watch the game on Altitude.

Player Availability:
OUT: D Kortne Ford (L MCL sprain); M Shkelzen Gashi (calf injury)

F Yannick Boli

KC is down two players to injury as well so the teams will be close to equal, though we are out 3 almost guaranteed starters.

Reports are that Mason and Aigner will be available, but only off the bench, they're not ready to go 90 yet.  I think Jackson gets rewarded for his goal in the opener and starts in the place of McBean.  I really hope Wynne goes to the bench now that Sjoberg is available, he hasn't looked up to the role at this point.

Prediction: 1-0 win, goal by Badji.  I think the home opener boost carries us past SKC.  This is a hopeful prediction though, not one really based on the analysis of the two teams.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Welcome Yannick Boli!

Well this rumor/news has been circulating for a few days (I first got wind of it about a week ago) but today the Rapids made it official.  Ivorian striker Yannick Boli was signed today.  Boli is 30 years old, born in France and came up in PSG's system, but chose to play for Cote' d'Ivorie, though it does not appear he's been officially capped yet.  He spent 11 years at PSG between his youth career and reserve work (including a short loan to Le Havre), eventually making 4 appearances for the senior team, scoring once.

Since leaving PSG after the 2009-2010 season he's been a bit of a journeyman, playing in France, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Russia, and most recently China.  Mainly for second division clubs but some top level clubs.  He helped his last two teams to promotion to the top leagues in their countries.  One constant is that he's scored everywhere he's played (outside of that 13 game Le Havre loan).   Over the last 4 years, in Russia and China, he's scored 42 times in 86 games.

The Rapids gave him a one year deal using TAM to pay for it.  He instantly becomes the best striker on the roster and an automatic starter.  This may not have been the "flashy name" we hoped for but it was a steep increase in quality at the position.  Mason and Badji can fight over the second starter role with Jackson and, if necessary, McBean as backups.

Boli has actually spent about a week here in Denver already, though he reportedly flew to London over the weekend for part of his medical and probably for immigration paperwork.  He'll be available as soon as his paperwork clears and with no game for another week he should have plenty of time to get adjusted to altitude and integrated with the team.  I don't expect his paperwork to be back in time for the home opener next Saturday though.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Not Dead Yet!

Sorry for going AWOL on opening weekend.  I picked up whatever bug was going around and it hit me Saturday night.  Today is the first time I managed to focus enough to write.  I assume everyone's seen the game and/or recaps by now so I won't spend much time reviewing the details.  Instead just some observations I had on the game:

  • We need a real striker like now (more on that later tonight/tomorrow)
  • This new system looks a lot like the old system after one game.  The Rapids played more long balls than any other team in the league this week, by a good deal
  • Jack Price has never scored a PK goal in his career, I'm not sure why he was the first choice to take one in this game
  • Niki Jackson showed the good and bad side of being a rookie.  His first touch was a goal, his last impact on the game was the weak foul that led to the winning goal
  • How about that assist from Blomberg?  If they had an assist of the week award, that would be it
  • Only one sub was used.  We used to give Pablo crap about that so its only fair to call out Hudson for the same thing.  That said, playing for the draw on the road meant that a sub wasn't really necessary, until it was too late
  • The defense on the first NE goal was laughable.  4 different Rapids had a play on the ball and all they managed to do was shield Howard's view of the shot.  Wynne in particular does not appear to be MLS starting caliber based on getting burned on all 3 goals we've given up in CCL/MLS play this season.
  • Some people think the final call was soft, and it was, but it wasn't out of line with what was being called throughout the game.  A good team adapts to the ref and doesn't commit the final foul
  • Howard wasn't to blame on either goal
Man of the Match: Johan Blomberg, for the assist mainly

Friday, March 9, 2018

British Led Rapids Attempt To Quell Revolution

The Rapids head to Boston led by their new British coach, Anthony Hudson, to take on the Revolution and their American coach, Brad Friedel.  Hopefully the Revolution haven't stolen Fort Ticonderoga's cannons this week and surprise us with a better than expected attack in (or near) Boston!  Game time for the season kickoff is an early 11:30am tomorrow.  Fleming and Balboa will have the call on Altitude 2, as the avs start at 1pm on Altitude.  Altitude 2 is channel 900 (sharing with Comcast Entertainment TV) on Comcast in the Denver market.  Centennial 38 is hosting their annual kickoff party at the Celtic for the game tomorrow.  Party starts at 10am at 14th & Market.

Player Availability:
OUT; D Kortne Ford (L MCL sprain)

SUSPENDED: D Axel Sjoberg (red card vs Seattle 2017)

F Joe Mason (he may be cleared by game time but since he just joined the team in Boston I assume he's not ready)

New England had both of their starting central defenders red carded last week and they have one midfielder out and one questionable.

This is a lot of guess work based on what we've seen in preseason and in the CCL.  We could see Wynne in stead of Watts, Boateng instead of Martinez, Gashi instead of McBean, or three or four other changes.

Prediction: 1-0 win, goal by Badji.  The first goal we get this season will be the 900th in team history and I think Badji gets it tomorrow.  This won't be pretty soccer but I like our defense and the Revs lack of the same.  We get a win on the road to get our season off on the right foot.

Final Player Notes Before Season Kickoff

Two pieces of roster news before the season gets rolling tomorrow.  First, the obvious news.  Calvert, Dykstra, Perez, and Vines were loaned to Charlotte yesterday.  The only surprise here was picking which 4 of our reserves would make the trip to the East Coast.  For a while everyone expected Wynne to be one of them, but the news that he has a green card and doesn't count as an international means we didn't need to move him to free up an international spot.

Also yesterday reported that a new TAM striker signing is likely imminent.  This matches with some rumors that I've heard about a possible new player being around this weekend.  It sounds like this will be a significant striker signing but we won't be signing a 3rd DP this year.  We only have one international slot left so the only way to make two major signings is if one of them counts as a domestic and I haven't heard any rumors linking us to a domestic player.

Also one last note, Mason joined up with the team in Boston.  I don't expect him to be dressed tomorrow but with two weeks until our next game he could feature against KC.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

2018 Season Preview & Predictions

On to hopefully happier news, the start of the 2018 season!  Usually I do a preview breaking down what to expect this year but there's so much new about this team I don't really have a good idea of what to expect.  About the only thing I'm sure if is this organization is going to be more professional than perhaps at any point in its history.  That's not a knock on the early years, a startup league trying to establish the first pro league in 10 years in this country had to fly by the seat of its pants before the teams could become fully professional inside and out.  It is, however, a knock on the last 5 years or so.  We should see a huge change in the look and feel of the Rapids, even if the results on the field don't change noticeably.

Which leads me to this.  I don't think this team, as currently constructed, will make the playoffs.  There isn't enough firepower to keep ahead of 6 other teams in the standings.  I don't even think we can stay close and sign somebody midseason to get us over the hump.  I think a 7th/8th place finish is likely, missing the playoffs by 5 points, give or take.

So with that, on to the rest of my predictions:

  • Rapids finish with 43 points
  • The Golden Boot winner is not currently on the roster
  • Beyond a notable striker signing the Rapids make no other major changes to the roster during the season
  • We win the Rocky Mountain Cup in a surprise 2 goal win in the final game at the Dick
  • The USOC is as expected.  Beat our lower-league competition in the first round, then lose to a MLS side
  • The Rapids won't look outclassed for any length of time over the season but they will not look as good as the better teams.
  • Jack Price becomes a fan-favorite and leads MVP voting among the fans
  • Gashi is more 2016 Gashi than 2017 Gashi
  • Edgar Castillo is a one and done player but Joe Mason makes a permanent move to Colorado
  • The FO's decision to focus on lower-leagues in Europe while the rest of the league looked at South America will not be proven to be a bad decision, but it won't be a better decision than South America either
  • Fans will be unsettled, fairly, at the end of the year because we missed the playoffs, despite improvement

Ford Out 8-10 Weeks But More Important Battle To Fight

A 1-2 of really bad news for Kortne Ford this week.  Yesterday he announced his mother's cancer numbers had increased and the doctors have once again given her only 3-6 months.  Today that was compounded by news that he sprained his MCL in a team scrimmage on Saturday and will miss 8-10 weeks.

The only silver lining to the injury is that it will give him more time to spend with his mother.  Three years ago next month we watched my mother-in-law lose her battle with lymphoma.  She had fought it for 11 months and due to our circumstances my wife was able to spend at least 75% of that time in Florida with her parents.  I think it was a great help for all three of them to be together and I hope that the Fords can be helped the same way.

Also I was remiss last week in not posting about the news from Josh Gatt's family.  His 25 year old wife Melissa was diagnosed with a rare cancer.

There are fundraising links in the tweets from both Josh and Kortne.  Everyone in the Rapids family is hoping for the best for both of their families.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

The Offseason That Was

I was approached last week to fill a hole in the Burgundy Wave writing staff.  Below is my first article copied over from there.  I still plan to do most of my writing here but from time to time you may see cross-posts now.

This was certainly one of the more interesting off-seasons for the Colorado Rapids in recent years. The Front Office essentially started with a clean slate, with Pádraig Smith building out his staff after taking over the GM position, new Head Coach Anthony Hudson taking over the reins, and (as of now) 13 new players added to the 30-man roster.
There’s a lot to cover so let’s get to it.
Front Office
Normally I don’t focus much on the FO but they deserve a shout-out after the last 4+ months. Smith identified a coach and a style of play and everything they’ve done has been in furtherance of that goal. It’s a level of professionalism we haven’t seen from the Rapids Front Office before.
Not only did they build out the coaching staff and roster, but we saw additions in technical staff like Fran Taylor and new positions like the Director of Player Personnel, Ena Patel, added.
For the first time ever, I believe, the Rapids are starting the season with all 30 of their roster positions filled (though with Mike da Fonte on loan we could sign another player to fill his spot). They also are pushing green cards, with Stefan Aigner and Deklan Wynne getting theirs faster than I’ve ever seen a Rapids player get one.
I’m not yet convinced that Smith has picked the correct identity for this team, but I am convinced he can build to that identity in a way we’ve never seen before.
Anthony Hudson was probably not a name many—well any—fans thought of when Pablo Mastroeni was fired in August. I’m sure many thought, like I did, we were either going to get a lower-level manager from somewhere in the British Isles or an MLS retread/assistant.
Even at this point, Hudson’s coaching remains a bit of a mystery as he’s never led a first-division professional club before. He does seem to understand the game and know what he wants to do, so I don’t fear him learning on the job like I have our past coaches. I just don’t know if he has the skills to coach at this level yet. It’s one of the intriguing things about the beginning of the season.
Unsurprisingly, there was no major change here. It’s still Tim Howard 1, Zac MacMath 2. The only real surprise was the trade with Sporting Kansas City for Andrew Dykstra—I figured we’d go with a young guy out of the draft to be the 3rd keeper.
The big question going forward is: where is Howard’s play at? He didn’t look great in the 3-degree temps at the CCL game, but nobody was really moving fast in that weather. With grumbles about his play at the end of last season, he’s going to need to show he still deserves that number 1 spot; otherwise, Hudson will have the first big decision of his Rapids tenure on his hands.

Central Defense
The roster currently has 7-8 players who could play on the back line of the 3-5-2, which should be plenty of depth for the season. Big changes in the starters though: it appears regulars from last season like Axel Sjoberg, Eric Miller, and Jared Watts will start the season on the bench and the expected starters will be Kortne FordTommy Smith, and Danny Wilson.
We haven’t seen much of Smith, and even less of Wilson, but the three of them did keep Toronto off the scoreboard on Tuesday night. Their track records before coming to MLS make it appear that both of them will be upgrades, however.
Wing Backs
This is a new position for the Rapids, which has pretty much always played with a flat back four before now. Marlon Hairston was a natural fit on the right and the team’s first big signing of the offseason was former U.S. National Team player Edgar Castillo, who’s a natural on the left. Behind those two, there’s a lot of youth with the likes of New Zealanders Kip Colvey and Deklan Wynne, and new homegrown signing Sam Vines. We could also see Dillon Serna or Eric Miller spend time on the outside.

This has been the core of our off-season rebuild. We’ve seen three signings in this area with the biggest being Jack Price from Wolves. We’ve already seen in the two CCL games that Price is going to be the center of everything that happens in midfield this season and I expect him to quickly become both a fan favorite and indispensable.
Around him will be the likes of Aigner, Shkelzen Gashi, Nana Boateng, Johan BlombergMicheal Azira, and Enzo Martinez but if you ask me who’s going to start on Saturday, I couldn’t tell you.
Gashi missed essentially all of preseason with a calf strain, though by all reports he’s much more ready for the season than he was at this time last year. Aigner didn’t get any time in the CCL matches but that was precautionary to avoid aggravating a slight knock he had. Azira appears to be the odd man out at this point, but he might be the most natural backup to Price as well.
There’s not going to be much playing time available for our young guys like Sam Hamilton and Ricardo Perez, who will likely be loaned out or get their playing time in the Open Cup matches.

Here we get to the elephant in the room. The glaring weakness in 2017 appears to be the glaring weakness at the start of 2018. Who is going to score the goals? The battery of Dominique BadjiCaleb Calvert, Niki Jackson, and Jack McBean doesn’t scare anyone in MLS (with good reason).
The one signing that was made, Joe Mason, happened late in the preseason and he isn’t even in Colorado yet, so he’s a huge question mark. Best case scenario with this group is that Mason puts it together in a way he hasn’t done in a few season and between him and Badji they net 20 goals, supported by Gashi and Aigner getting their fair share. Worst case is that Mason is no better than Badji and we limp to the end of the season with another single-digit Golden Boot winner.
In reality what needs to happen is the Front Office needs to sign a major striker. The window is open in MLS until early May so there’s still a chance to make a move but more likely, the team will need to put together enough points to keep us in the hunt until the summer window opens. As good as this offseason has been it can’t really be considered a success until this hole is filled.

Most Importantly
Of course, the best addition this team made in the offseason was the addition of GB’s Fish & Chips to Eighteen76!

Monday, March 5, 2018

BAM, Rapids trade GAM for TAM

Today the Rapids traded $185K in GAM to Vancouver for $277.5K of TAM.  GAM is generally more valuable than TAM as it has less restrictions and never expires, so this might be an indicator of the Rapids preparing to make a move.  Vancouver needed the GAM to become cap compliant as well. 

Maybe this will burst the DAM and JAM through the a CAM or striker signing we've been waiting for.  Hopefully our target doesn't go on the LAM.  Maybe he'll like HAM and YAMs.  We already have two SAMs but we could sign a KAM.  He could become a fan of the Colorado St. RAMs.

Too much?  :D

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Roster Compliance Data

The Rapids official post-compliance day roster has been posted on  There are a couple of surprises:

  • Stefan Aigner has his green card, Nana Boateng does not yet.  I'm sure its coming shortly though.
  • Deklan Wynne is not listed as an international.  I don't know why this is.  Before signing with the Whitecaps USL side in summer of 2015 he had only ever played in New Zealand.  I assume that, working in Canada, he could not apply for a U.S. green card and I don'rt think there's anyway he could have gotten it in the last 2.5 months since he was traded to the Rapids.  He's not a homegrown player, and presumably he's not a refugee or anything like that.  More investigation needed.
  • Jack McBean is a Homegrown Player.  I was not aware of that (or  I forgot about it).
  • Joe Mason is not yet on the roster, which is an indication that the paperwork is still being finalized.
  • Mike da Fonte is not listed on the roster.  He's been loaned to Phoenix Rising for the whole season but he's still a Rapids player.  I don't know if this is just standard for the roster page (don't list players loaned out for the season), an oversight, or if he's actually been sold and is off the roster.
Once Joe Mason gets added the Rapids will have all 8 international spots filled and all 30 roster spots filled (when you include da Fonte).  I can't remember the Rapids ever starting the season with a completely full roster, another sign of a positive change from the FO.  With Da Fonte on loan, once Boateng gets his green card we'll be able to add another international (or domestic) player into that empty slot.  Hopefully a striker.

Signed Players:
* = international
HG = homegrown
DP = designated player

GK Andrew Dykstra
GK Tm Howard - DP
GK Zac MacMath
D Edgar Castillo
D Kip Colvey
D Kortne Ford - HG
D Marlon Hairston
D Eric Miller
D Axel Sjoberg
D Tommy Smith*
D Sam Vines - HG
D Jared Watts
D Danny Wilson*
D Deklan Wynne
M Bismark Adjei-Boateng
M Stefan Aigner
M Michael Azira
M Johan Blomberg*
M Shkelzen Gashi* - DP
M Sam Hamilton
M Enzo Martinez
M Ricardo Perez - HG
M Jack Price*
M Dillon Serna - HG
F Dominique Badji*
F Caleb Calvert - HG
F Niki Jackson
F Joe Mason*
F Jack McBean - HG