Monday, April 30, 2018

Rapids Lose Heads, and Points, Again

Once again the Rapids lost focus for 15 minutes of the game.  Once again this cost them points.  Once again we're talking about the mental fortitude of this team.  This week the "lose our focus" minutes were the 60th through the 75th where we picked up 4 (count them, 4!) yellow cards and gave up the winning PK.  Until Hudson can get this team to play focused for 90 minutes we're just a more entertaining version of the same old Rapids.

Other observations:

  • That ref was brutal.  Reportedly he was a last minute swap for the ref originally assigned the game and you can tell he hadn't done his "leg work" to prepare for the last minute assignment.  The first half he let them play, the second half he started cracking down after things got out of control.
  • Credit to Orlando, they figured out the ref's change and took full advantage while the Rapids didn't.  I had no issue with any individual call but the ref really should have looked for a way to balance out the scales a bit before things got out of hand.
  • Ok, one issue I had was the foul call on Boateng on the play he got knocked out on.  In a regularly controlled game that's probably a good no call.  In this game with the tenor of things it was really unfair to call it on a player who just hit the ground lights out.
  • Not to pile on, but Boateng did not have a great game.  Combined with Aigner apparently being in Hudson's doghouse it appears both or major 2017 signings are now busts.
  • Good to see Gashi start.  Bad to see Gashi go off injured, again.
  • Serna, I love you kid but ouch, bad game.  A choice to clear a header to the middle of the box led to Martinez's failed bicycle kick and the first Orlando goal.  Then he game up the PK for the second.
  • On that first goal MacMath's lack of effort is the exact same thing some fans have been criticizing Howard for over the last 9 months or so.
  • Badji was the well places shot again!  Clearly the most improved from 2017 to 2018 so far.
  • Mason and Boli were both in this game, they combined for as many shots and shots on goal as Tommy Smith.  Not good.
  • 7 points dropped this season with goals allowed after the 75th minute.  That will come back to bite us.
Man of the Match: Edgar Castillo.  He is quietly putting together one of those seasons where he's rarely the best player in a given match but is clearly the best player on the team.  The quality and effort were there all 90 minutes on Sunday, which is more than you can say for most of the guys wearing burgundy.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Rapids Face Mickey Mouse Team On Sunday

After the disaster ins Sandy last week we're back in Commerce City on Sunday facing Orlando and former Rapids draft pick Dillon Powers.  We're actually on national television this week (ESPN) so kickoff is at 2pm.  A nice 77 degree day is forecast so those of us on the East side will get some nice sun while watching this one.  The tailgate will start at 11am, with some brunch items to celebrate.

Player Availability:
OUT: D Kortne Ford (L MCL sprain); D Marlon Hairston (right knee surgery)
QUESTIONABLE: D Danny Wilson (undisclosed)


As we found out last week the injury report (which is the same this week) that we see at this time is largely meaningless.  Given Wilson was on the bench last week, but didn't play, I assume he'll at least make the 18 this week.  He may start as reports from practice had Sjoberg back with the second team.  Those reports also said that Blomberg was nursing an injury so I wouldn't be surprised to see him start on the bench.  The Rapids made a move today, bringing back Dykstra from Charlotte for a week (presumably) to back up MacMath while Howard is suspended.  OCSC has three players out injured and one questionable.

Mason was reportedly back and practice so I think he goes in for McBean.  If Blomberg is on the bench as I expect Boateng will likely be his replacement, unless Aigner or Gashi is ready to start.  Hudson confirmed this week Aigner's absence is by coach;s choice so I doubt we'll see him.  With Boateng moved up to midfield, Serna likely gets the right wingback spot again.

Prediction: 2-1 win, goals by Mason and Badji.  Orlando is allowing about 2 and scoring 2 a game while Colorado is allowing and scoring about half that.  So its the more open play of the visitor versus the tighter play of the burgundy boys.  I think the home edge give us the difference in this one, though a draw would not be shocking.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Rapids Lose Focus, Face Plant In SLC (again)

Sorry for the lateness of this recap.  It took some extra time to calm down after the debacle on Saturday (combined with the time spent on my job search).  Fans and the Front Office can talk all they want about the new "Rapids Way" and how the team looks different and is playing better.  Until we can play a full 90 minutes without mental lapses, especially in Utah, this is the same old Rapids.

Other observations:

  • The first 20 minutes the Rapids controlled the game in a way I haven't seen at the start of a game in a long time.  It really looked like we were going to run FSL off the field.
  • A key, (almost the key) rule for goalkeepers is that if you come out you must get the ball.  Howard wasn't even close.  He made a poor choice and paid the price, along with the rest of the team.
  • In that first 20 minutes where we had almost total domination the Rapids had 6 shots, none on target.  FSL had 1, the one that led to the red card.  The rest of the game FSL outshot us 28-6 (and we still didn't get one on target).  Its great to dominate play, but if we can't turn it into scores its meaningless.
  • Up until the penalty you could easily argue that the Rapids were playing above expectation down a man more than FSL was up a man.  FSL looks bad right now and, to quote Dennis Green, we let them off the hook!
  • No idea what Tommie Smith was thinking on the PK.  A second stupid mental blunder.
  • Once the PK was conceded the gates opened.  Disappointing that the team couldn't see the game through.  Losing by 1 or 3 won't matter much for league standing but its critical for the Rocky Mountain Cup.
  • Quite frankly, we've already lost the RMC this season.  The only way for the Rapids to win it now is to go back to Utah in July and win and then win in Denver in August, or get a draw in Utah and win in Denver by 4 goals.  This team is clearly snakebit in Utah and will not win in July, and there's almost no chance we beat them by 4 goals at home (we've never beat FSL by 4).
  • I appreciate Hudson's attacking attitude, but I question the idea of going for the win in this one by subbing in Gashi and Boli instead of somebody like Azira or Serna.  On the road, in a rivalry match, down a man, play for the scoreless draw.
  • That said, this loss is completely on the players being unable to stay mentally focused, not on Hudson.
  • The Rapids have now dropped 6 points by giving up goals in the 82nd minute or later this season.  Obviously this game was a bit different than the prior ones but its still evidence that this team is not mentally strong.  That has to be fixed starting with Orlando on Sunday.
  • No Aigner, again.  We're up to 23 competitive matches with the club with 5 starts and 5 other appearances.  I think he's now solidly in the bust category.
  • Also its clear the injury report is meaningless.  The "official" report in the game preview did not include Mason or Miller but included Wilson.  The lineup report list released an hour before game-time with the eighteen man roster included Mason and Miller but not Wilson under the injured category.
  • Neither of them included Serna, who apparently had a knock as well.
Man of the Match: Zac MacMath.  Called off the bench due to Howard's blunder, immediately made a first save on the first kick of the ball, and came up big the rest of the way.  He shares some blame on the third goal for setting a bad wall but that was hardly the only mistake made by a Rapid on Saturday.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Bring On The Rocky Mountain Cup!

The first of three matches (with the first two in Sandy this year) in the 2018 Rocky Mountain Cup is upon us.  The trip out to 3.2 beer land is a highlight(?) of the season, and this might be the year we have a chance to get a win, something we haven't done since 2006.  Kickoff tomorrow is 7pm and for those of us who haven't made the trip 'Celo and Fleming have the call on Altitude.  C38 will be gathering in a few places on the Front Range but the major watch party will be at the Celtic.

Player Availability: 
OUT: D Kortne Ford (L MCL sprain); D Marlon Hairston (right knee surgery)
QUESTIONABLE: D Danny Wilson (undisclosed)

Also Nikki Jackson has been loaned to the Switchbacks so he'll be staying in Colorado for their game tomorrow night.  FSL has 3 players out and 4 questionable.

Hudson hasn't shown much desire to tinker with what's worked so I think it might take a while before Boli, Aigner, and Gashi get into the starting XI.  I'm hopeful that the Colvey/Serna swap in the first half last week showed that Serna needs to start in Hairston's absence.  The rest is the same as we've seen for a few games.

Prediction: 2-1 win, goals by Badji and Gashi.  Honestly, as long as we don't drop the points in stoppage time, I won't be too upset with a draw as it guarantees that the Cup will be up for grabs at the home game in August.  That said, if we're going to get a win at Rio Tinto, this might be our best chance so far.  FSL is giving up 2 goals a game while barely scoring over 1, while the Rapids are averaging just under 2 a game while giving up 1.  Even with being the road team those stats are solidly in our favor.

And a reminder of what we're playing for:

Monday, April 16, 2018

B Team Rapids Handle B Team TFC

The Rapids did what they were supposed to do and beat a weakened TFC side on Saturday.  A number of people are discrediting the win because we were facing TFC's B team while they rested for the CCL.  Its true, they didn't have many regular starters (other than Drew Moor!) but many of these analysts are ignoring what the Rapids were missing, upwards of 7 starters weren't in the starting XI.  Ford, Wilson, Hairston. Gashi, Aigner, and one of Boli/Mason (and arguably both of them) were expected to be pat of our best eleven but didn't start the game.  Really it was our B+ team against the B- team of the "best team in MLS history" and the Rapids got the job done.

Other Observations:

  • Gotta love starting with a goal before half the fans have sat down.  Great shot from Price and its the only goal this season not from a striker.
  • Colvey started again, which seemed a poor choice early as TFC relentlessly attacked his side of the defense.  Kudos to Hudson for seeing the problem and making a first half tactical sub to bring in Serna.  That shut down TFC's hope of going up that side.
  • The Rapids could have, and probably should have, had a multi-goal lead at half as only some great defense and a big save kept them off the board.
  • Meanwhile TFC only had 2 good looks at goal until late in the game and things were pretty much wrapped up.
  • Badji's PK call is one I'm happy to see called.  If he went down on first contact its a no-brainer PK but he tried to fight through it and didn't fully go down for a couple of steps, making it look more like a dive.  By rewarding him for trying to fight through it, even though he failed, it sets a good standard to avoid diving on easy contact instead of staying alive to take the shot.
  • We had a Gashi sighting!  Great PK, good goal celebration, and wicked shot that looked like a certain 3rd goal late until Irwin came out of nowhere to save it.  Reminded everyone of what we've been missing.
  • Also Boli made his debut!  Up 2-0 and just trying to kill the game off he didn't have to do much but good to see him get minutes.
  • Sjoberg looked good again as a starter.  There's no reason he shouldn't be starting in Ford's place over Wynne.
  • Castillo is having a very-quiet very-high quality start to this season.  Probably the most consistent player we have.
  • McBean made a good run on the first goal.  Other than that he was largely quiet.  He's at best 4th in the pecking order now and I'd rather see Jackson and make McBean 5th.
  • Price's yellow late was dumb.  There's no reason to go into that tackle up 2-0.  As good of a game as he had that was a blemish and I'm guessing, with the high intensity FSL game this weekend, he'll pick up a 5th and miss the next home game.
  • This was probably the most complete game the Rapids have played this season.  They've been better in spurts but not for the full 90.
  • Despite that we still lost the possession battle.  I think we just have to get used to that.  
  • Great to see Irwin and Moor back at DSG.  Moor is one of the all-time greats and we'll see his name in the Gallery of Honor once he retires.
  • The Rapids have 9 goals in their first 5 games.  The last time we did that was 2006!
  • Next up, Rocky Mountain Cup Part 1.  All I ask is that we get a least a point (though I think FSL is beatable) to make sure the final game in Colorado is meaningful.
Man of the Match: Dominque Badji.  He didn't show up on the score sheet in this one but he had a hell of a game.  He's turned into a complete player over the last few months and this game really showed how dangerous he can be.  He was causing trouble for the TFC defense all day and was heavily involved the whole game.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Deja Vu At The Dick

Stop me if you've seen this before...

For the 3rd time in 7 games the Rapids face Toronto FC tomorrow out in Commerce City.  It will be warmer (but not much) than the 3 degree kickoff we had in February at least.  Toronto has been preoccupied with their success in the CCL (which started on that cold night by beating us 2-0) and faces Chivas in the first leg of the final next week.  Because of that TFC coach Greg Vanney said this about the Rapids game:
It’s very simple: We’re not prioritizing the Colorado game, there’s no sense even saying we are. Anyone who is healthy and hasn’t been playing a ton will find their way onto the field. I don’t know what my lineup will be. I don’t know what my shape will be.
 So, we have that going for us at least.  Because of Canadian TV kickoff is an odd 1pm tomorrow so the tailgate starts at 10am.  Come join us for brunch!  Those who can't make it can catch 'Celo and Fleming on Altitude as usual.

Player Availability:
OUT: D Kortne Ford (L MCL sprain); D Marlon Hairston (right knee surgery)
QUESTIONABLE: D Eric Miller (calf); D Danny Wilson (undisclosed); M Shkelzen Gashi (calf injury); M Enzo Martinez (undisclosed)

So, yeah, that's not great.  Essentially we're as limited as we were last week in Dallas.  I'd look at TFC's availability but from Vanney's comments it sounds like he's just going to run the second team out there anyway (they even made 3 signings from their USL team this week to fill out the roster for this match).

That selection of Serna is largely wishful thinking from me.  Colvey did not look good last week so I really hope we see Serna getting a chance.  Otherwise I don't think there's going to be any changes from what we saw last week unless Gashi, Martinez, or Wilson are a lot closer to being healthy than it appears.  I do think we see Boli as a sub this week though.

Prediction: 1-1 draw, goal by Mason.  Despite the talk of "the greatest team of all time" (which, to be fair, they appear to be backing up in their CCL play) TFC hasn't beaten us in a game we wanted to win since 2015.  They haven't beaten us in Colorado in almost 10 years (Aug of '08).  I don't see those streaks ending tomorrow with a makeshift Toronto lineup.  Toledo is the ref, which means something crazy is likely to happen, and we haven't played 90 minutes of soccer yet this season so I doubt either side gets a clean sheet.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Rapids Drop Points At The End...Again

For the third game (out of four) this season the Rapids dropped points by conceding a goal in the 89th minute or later.  Colorado has now dropped as many points this way as they've gained this season, 5.  Its an unacceptable pattern.  Seeing it happen 3 times during a season would be border line unacceptable, to see it in 75% of a team's games is atrocious.  Until Hudson and the players can solve this problem this team is going nowhere.  Last year 5 points was the difference between 8th place (missing the playoffs) and 4th place (hosting the wild-card game).  There's a very good chance that this year we'll see a similar difference and we really don't want to be on the wrong side of that.

Other observations:

  • The second big takeaway from this match is that our big offensive signings can't get on the field.  Of the 21 competitive matches the team has played since Aigner was signed, he's started 5 and came off the bench in 5 others.  I understand the club is trying to let him feel physically comfortable with playing but at some point he either needs to start earning his salary or get out.
  • For Gashi its not much better, 41 starts and 6 sub appearances in 74 possible matches.  So combined for those two that's 46 starts and 11 sub appearances out of 95 matches.  That's a horrible rate for a DP and a TAM attacker.
  • Similarly I think it might be time to call the Boateng signing a bust.  He looked ineffectual in this one as a starter and he hasn't looked good in any match since his injury.
  • Price is a card magnet, with 3 straight yellow cards now.  I like what he brings but we have to expect he's going to miss 2-3 matches this season due to discipline.
  • Gotta love Badji and Mason running towards goal like they did on the score.  That's going to make some defenses play back this season.
  • Its also going to make it hard for Boli to get on the field, a nice problem to have.
  • Our midfield is non-existent this season.  We have yet to break 46% possession in a game and our midfield's inability to hold the ball is largely why.
  • Wynne was beat on the goal, again.  He's just not MLS starter quality.  I understand we were limited in choices for this one due to injury but Miller would be a better choice.  And once Wilson is healthy Sjoberg should take Ford's spot.
  • Colvey was,,,not good.  The kid got a chance but he's not ready.  Serna should play the next couple of weeks while Hairston heals.
  • Howard did not look good on the goal.  Could he have saved it?  Probably not.  Should he have at least made an attempt?  Yeah.  His habit of standing there watching goals go bye this season is not exactly confidence-building.
  • But hey, he got us some national media coverage after the game!
  • Odd subs in this one, bringing Azira in after the tying goal had been scored.  Glad to see him finally but we needed him before the goal.
  • I love the fact that we've scored every game but the stats don't back up us being that dangerous.  We rarely get corner kicks and as mentioned, we aren't controlling the ball.  I'm afraid a reversion to the mean is coming.
Man of the Match: Joe Mason.  Yeah, I went the easy route and chose the goal scorer.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Rapids Head To Their Favorite Playoff Stadium

In case you missed it :D

We're off to see our old friends in Dallas tomorrow.  Sadly its a regular season game where we're hit and miss in Texas, unlike our general success in the playoffs.  Of course Oscar 'traitor' Pareja is still in charge of F*C* Dallas though most of the former Rapids have moved on from the roster (Figueroa is still there).  Game time tomorrow is 6pm and the game is on Altitude 2 (channel 900 on Denver Comcast systems).  C38 will be at Celtic, which has been announced as the permanent home for C38 this season, with the exception of some special occasions.

Player Availability:
OUT: D Kortne Ford (L MCL sprain); M Shkelzen Gashi (calf injury)
QUESTIONABLE: D Marlon Hairston; D Danny Wilson

Dallas has 4 players out and another two questionable, so both teams are hurting.  Losing two key components of our defense hurts.  I feel confident with our backups for Wilson, less so with Hairston.

We could also see Wynne pushed out to Hairston's position and Miller playing in the middle but I'm guessing Hudson will want to minimize changes on the back line.  The forwards are a toss up but I expect Boli to come off the bench before he gets a start.

Prediction: 2-1 loss, goal by Mason.  The Rapids have not been a good road team for a while (one win in the last 19 road games, with never more than a single goal scored) and the Dallas is finishing a 4 game homestand to start the season.  Odds are not good for Colorado to break its road woes tomorrow.  I think we continue to improve and we don't look outmatched, but Dallas gets the result.

In The Market

Excuse a little shameless self-promotion, we'll return to our Rapids coverage later tonight with the Dallas game preview. I've found myself back in the job market recently.  If anyone in the Denver area is looking for a good technology leader with a strong QA background, feel free to drop me a line.

Monday, April 2, 2018


That was certainly unexpected.  The Rapids played probably their worst half of the season on Saturday night.  Luckily it was the first half and they followed it up with their best half since maybe the 3-1 win over FSL in July of 2015 (where we scored 3 in the last ~12 minutes of the game).  Of course the accolades are rightfully going to Badji but there were a lot of contributors to that hat trick.  Blomberg, Smith, and Aigner were all key to the goals as well.  This was a nice boost heading into a rough part of the schedule.

Other observations:
  • That was the first hat-trick for the team in almost 7 years.  That was a long drought.
  • If anyone told you a month ago we'd have 6 goals in our first 3 games, all from our strikers, you wouldn't have believed them.
  • The team looked awful through the first 30 minutes or so, vintage 2017 stuff.  They picked it up a bit near the end of the half and turned it on in the second.  That's a step up from last week when it was 20-30 minutes of good play and 60+ minutes of 2017.  Baby steps I guess.
  • Howard didn't have to do much but when he did, he was there.
  • Discipline are becoming an issue quickly.  Price already has two cards in three games.  I expect him to miss at least two games this year for caution accumulation.   Overall we're getting a bit of a rep.
  • Seeing Hairston and Wilson go down was not good.  Hairston in particular looked bad.  The silver lining is that we got our first look of the season at Sjoberg and Serna and they looked up to the challenge.  Axel in particular stood out, taking his place in the back 3 like it was no big deal.
  • Mason was quiet in this one, but when your strike partner puts up a hat-trick you don't need to do much.
  • Blomberg is quietly turning into a key part of the offense.  Its going to be hard to pull him out as Aigner and Gashi get healthy.
  • Up 2-0 late with a hat-trick on the line I have no problem with Badji being selfish and getting the third goal,  If we're losing or tied though he needs to pass that ball to the wide open Aigner.
  • Speaking of, Aigner!  He made some good runs and looked dangerous in his short time on the field.
  • It was quite cold out there, much cooler than was expected.  I'd be happy for a warm game soon.
  • Up next, our old friends down in Dallas.
Man of the Match: Dominique Badji.  Duh.