Sunday, December 29, 2019

I Picked A Bad Week To Stop Sniffing Glue

Wow, the Rapids go dead quiet after signing Moor in late November and the week I leave for Christmas vacation all kind of news breaks.  Not only do we now have the 2020 schedule but we have solid rumors on not 1, not 2, but 3 different DP signings!  We've got a lot of ground to cover so lets get to it.

We already knew the season was starting in DC on Feb, 29th, followed by Orlando in the home opener a week later.  Now we know that we'll have a fairly balanced schedule all season, with only one stretch of 3 games at home and no more than back-to-back games on the road.  That home stretch from mid-August to mid-September includes a bye week for international play so even that won't feel like a true 3 weeks at home in a row.  With the league expanding again this season teams will no longer play every team in the league,  We won't play Atlanta (probably good), Cincinnati (probably bad), or expansion Miami (unknown) this year, a fairly even group of 3 to miss.

Of the 34 games 5 are midweek between two weekend games.  The worst week is the middle week of September where we host KC, then have to go to Nashville midweek and then out to LA to play the Galaxy on the weekend.  That's a lot of travel in a short time period.  The rest of them are either home-away-home or away-home-away with no travel further east than Minnesota or KC.  That three game home stand finishes with that KC game, and 3 of our last 4 are on the road after that, with our final home game against Seattle before we travel to SJ for the season finale.

Highlights include our trip to Utah for our Rocky Mountain Cup matchup on April 11th, Fraser's/Moor's/Irwin's former TFC side coming here on June 20th, RBNY as the opponent on 4th of July (a game I won't mind missing for my anniversary, plus its Denver Pop Culture Con weekend), expansion side Nashville coming here on Aug 9th, led by Gary Smith and likely with Matt Pickens, Koz Kimura, and Jamie Smith in tow (they all played or worked for Nashville in USL in 2019) for what I expect will be our celebration of the 10th Anniversary of our MLS Cup win, and the home Rocky Mountain Cup match on Aug. 22nd.

Attacking Midfielder DP:
There are multiple reports linking the Rapids with Danish attacking midfielder Younes Namli.  He matches what info I've gotten from sources about who our target is as well.  Namli is of Moroccan decent which explains why some of the reports are coming out of Morocco.  Younes is 25 years old and got his start with a Danish side before playing for two different Dutch teams.  In May he transferred to Russian side FC Krasnodar for $2.25M.  Krasnodar has been playing him in Champions League qualifying and Europa League games this fall as well as Russian Premier League games.  He's largely been used as a winger though, which might explain why he's looking for a move.  His team also seems anxious to move him, again maybe because they aren't using him in his best position.

Winger DP:
Colorado has also been linked with French winger Jimmy Cabot, who also matches info I've gotten from other sources.  He's also 25 years old and is currently playing for Lorient who's on top of the Ligue 2 table.  Before that he played for Ligue 2 side Troyes.  It sounds like he'd be coming on a free transfer in the summer as his contract expires as the end of the Ligue 2 season.  He's a regular starter for Lorient, helping to lead them to their current top-of-the-table position.

Young DP:
Just this weekend the Rapids have been linked with two different young Argentinian midfielders that would qualify as young DPs, winger Valentin Depietri and central mid Emanuel Maciel.  Depietri's current team, Santamaria, has confirmed the approach and sound like they want to cash in on moving him but Depietri has been quoted as saying he's not ready for a big move out of the country.  Again, these details match what I've heard elsewhere.  That leads me to believe that Depietri is our primary target while Maciel is a backup based on Depietri's hesitation.  Maciel is 22, while Depietri is 19 years old.

None of these players are "big names" that would generate a lot of buzz, but I don't think the Rapids are in that market right now.  Tim Howard was that kind of signing and a lot of fans were upset about signing a player for that purpose.  Of course a number of those same fans are now upset we're not making a splashy signing, so there's no pleasing some people.  In the end what matters is the results on the field, not the appeal of the player.

One interesting wrinkle in these signings is that, with possibly the exception of Cabot who would come on a free, these players are DPs only because of their transfer fee, not due to their salaries. MLS announced a couple of years ago that they had changed the DP rules, so that instead of amortizing the transfer fee of a DP over the length of the contract the transfer fee would all count in the first year.  This is how I've been told it still works, hover the current published MLS rules on the league website refers to amortizing the transfer fee over the length of the contract.

If indeed the team can take the transfer fee hit in the first season, that means that Namli and our young DP would likely only be DPs in 2020, when 2021 rolls around their salaries would be low enough that they would just count as a regular international player on the roster.  That would mean than next offseason we could sign another DP and young DP as those slots would be open (Cabot would presumably still be a DP due to salary).  That's some nice flexibility if accurate.

Monday, November 25, 2019

We Want Moor! Moor! Moor!

So we have two actual confirmed moves today and one all but confirmed one.  The two actual moves were the expected re-signings of Mezquida and Rawls, announced today.  Today was the first day teams could sign players who were out of contract and we got these two done right off the bat.  It was also the waiver draft today, which the Rapids passed on.  Tommy Smith was made available for the waiver draft however and that, combined with him not being immediately re-signed liked the other two, is probably a good indicator of Smith either not returning or the Rapids being comfortable letting him play the field to see what he could get before signing our offer.  Either way, we seem to be comfortable with him walking away at this point.

That might be because of the all but confirmed move that broke today.  Rapids legend and future Gallery of honor member Drew Moor is, by all reports, returning to Colorado.  Moor left the Front Range after the 2015 season, becoming the first "free agent" signing in MLS history a he signed with Toronto.  While there he appeared 78 times for TFC and won a MLS Cup and a Supporters Shield.  Since 2016 he was working with Robin Fraser as well.  Of those 78 appearances 55 of them were in his first two seasons north of the border as he's transitioned to a backup role as he nears the end of his career.

On top of the various reports that he's signed from the Denver Post and other sources, the Rapids social media accounts, after announcing the Mezquida and Rawls signings, posted to stay tuned for MORE news this week.  Yes, with MORE capitalized.  Seems a pretty obvious nod to our former captain.

He is expected to fill the same role here, the primary backup CB who can provide veteran leadership to our young back line.  He is also capable of playing outside back in a pinch so he can fill in anywhere along the back 4.  Along with the other moves made in the last week our defense looks pretty set for 2020.  Plus the team gets back a fan favorite and overall good person in Drew.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Rapids Announce Roster Moves, Talk About Offseason Plans

Today was the deadline to decide on player options and the Rapids announced their list of players picked up and players released.  Kofi Opare, Sam Raben, and Dillon Serna have been released or had their options declined.  Andre Rawls and Nicolas Mezquida are also out of contract but our finalizing new deals with the team and will be returning.  Tommy Smith has his option declined and had reported earlier he was in negotiations with the team, but today's announcement from the team does not mention any ongoing negotiations with him.  Along with those moves the contract options on Lewis, Shinyashiki, Jackson, Nicholson, Rwatubyaye, and Wynne were picked up.  Everyone else was already under a guaranteed contract for 2020.

None of these moves are that surprising.  As a homegrown player I wasn't expecting Sam Raben to be cut after one season but we've seen the Rapids move on from HG's recently like Ricardo Perez.  The only other real surprised to me was that Shinyashiki's contract was structured in a way that he's on an option year in year 2.  Look for the Rapids to lock him up more long-term this offseason.

For the other players waived today, we kind of saw it coming.  Opare wasn't a factor at all last season.  Dillon Serna leaving hurts, as our first successful homegrown signing and our longest serving player on the 2019 roster you never want a guy like that to go, but its clear he needs a change of environment as he doesn't have a role here.  If Tommy Smith doesn't come back I don't think that would surprise anyone, he did look better once Hudson left but he's too expensive to bring back on his current contract to be a likely backup and if he's not willing to take backup money I can understand that.

These moves leave us with 21 rostered players, 23 if Rawls and Mezquida do return.  As mentioned yesterday we now have 4 internationals under contract for 6 slots, though Mezquida would be a 5th.  That gives up probably 7 roster slots to fill in the offseason, with 1 open international slot.

Padraig Smith talked to today about those offseason plans.  It sounds like he's pretty satisfied with our starting defense after yesterday's moves but he's looking for some veteran depth.  One interesting name out there is Drew Moor, who ended up in a backup role in Toronto this year and has now been released and is a free agent.  If they can make the money work he's be a great utility backup defender for the Rapids, obviously being familiar with being here but also having worked with Fraser in Toronto the last few years.

Beyond that Smith talked about looking at a DP attacking midfielder, and mentioned he's spent the last week in Argentina.  He also wants to sign another winger and a high-level midfielder with MLS experience.  We'll also need a third goalkeeper.  So that's 5 of the 7 signings right there.  It sounds like we've got a plan for the offseason, now lets see how they execute it.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Rapids Make Moves On The Back Line

Yesterday's expansion draft resulted in no Colorado players being picked, as expected.  Today the Rapids made moves to add two large pieces of the 2020 puzzle.  First they traded to bring Lalas Abubakar back permanently after his loan ended.  They then made a move to bring in the Union's centerback Auston Trusty. 

The trade for Abubakar was $400K in GAM and an international slot for 2020.  Obviously we know how Lalas fits into the team so there's no surprise there.  The good news is the cost, while some sources (mainly in Columbus) were tossing around numbers like $1M in xAM we got him for a much more reasonable $400K.  Some media were rating Abubakar the third best defender in the league in 2019 but we got him for an above-average MLS defender price.  Great move by the Front Office.

For those wondering about the international slot we currently have five internationals (Mezquida, Price, Rwatubyaye, Shinyashiki, and Wilson) and we know we're negotiating with Smith to be the sixth.  With this trade and the Lewis trade earlier this year we've traded away two of our slots for 2020, leaving us with 6.  So we're fine on that front right now, and we can always trade for more or decide to send Rwatubyaye back to the Springs next year to free up a slot.

The second move of the day was the more surprising one.  Auston Trusty wasn't on anyone's radar as a possible pickup.  He was signed as a homegrown player by the Union in 2016, spending the rest of that year and the following on loan to their USL affiliate where he made 31 appearances.  He then started and played every minute of the 2018 season for the Union.  He started the first 22 games of the 2019 season for the Union before being relegated to the bench and not seeing any more playing time, for unknown reasons.  He hinted that he would talk more about what happened next year but clearly whatever it was meant he was unlikely to factor into next year's plans for Philly.

Trusty is a 21 year old center back  who has been capped for the U19 and the U20 U.S. national teams and has received a full National Team camp invite but has not yet been selected for a game roster.  Obviously with 80+ professional appearances he's more experienced than the average 21 year old and right now it seems like he's likely to be expected to start along-side Abubakar in our back line in 2020.

To get Trusty we traded $200K of TAM in 2020 and $300K in GAM in 2021.  Depending on his performance in 2020 the Union could get an additional $150K of GAM in 2021.  If we sell Trusty before the end of 2021 the Union would get 30% of the remaining transfer fee after the Rapids recoup the $600K (or $750K with performance bonus) they paid to get him.  If he's sold after that Philly would get 25%.  As part of the deal Trusty signed a new contract with the Rapids (he was on an option year in 2020 with Philly).

So combined today we spent $1M in xAM and gave up an international spot for next season in exchange for two young starting quality MLS centerbacks.  That's a nice bit of business for the Front Office.  This leaves the team with a starting back four (Rosenberry - Abubakar - Trusty - Vines) with an average age between 22 and 23, all under multiyear deals  That's a young, long-term back line we can build off of.  With Ford and Rwatubyaye as depth and reports that we're still negotiating with Smith we're pretty set at CB for 2020.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Expansion Draft Protected Lists Released

Today the league announced the protected and unprotected lists for Tuesday's expansion draft.  If you remember back in September when the rules were announced I made my predictions.  I got 10 of the 12 right, though with a caveat.  First though, to the list.

Protected automatically as a homegrown player 25 years old or younger:
Kellyn Acosta*, Sebastian Anderson, Cole Bassett, Kortne Ford, Matt Hundley, Sam Raben, Dillon Serna, Sam Vines

* - I predicted we'd protect Acosta because I forgot he was an homegrown player with Dallas and would automatically be protected

Protected by the team:
Clint Irwin, Kei Kamara, Jonathan Lewis, Nicolas Mezquida, Sam Nicholson, Jack Price, Andre Rawls, Keegan Rosenberry, Diego Rubio, Andre Shinyashiki, Tommy Smith, Deklan Wynne

Unprotected and could be selected in the draft:
Johan Blomberg, Tim Howard, Niki Jackson, Kofi Opare, Abdul Rwatubyaye, Axel Sjoberg, Danny Wilson

The two misses I had were protecting Rawls and Wynne, I thought Jackson and Rwatubyaye would be protected in their place.  I kind of understand Rawls, he's cheap and he saves you from having to find a replacement for a position you're satisfied with.  I'm really surprised at Wynne being protected though.  He doesn't seem to be in our plans going forward and while outside back is a hard position to fill he only cost us $100K in TAM to acquire two years ago, I can't imagine his value has changed significantly in that time, likely its gone down.  Its possible that Fraser sees something he can work with in Wynne though.

Otherwise all the other selections are pretty much self-explanatory.  The Rapids can lose at most 1 player from that group of  7, I predict they'll lose none.  If you're wondering why Blomberg and Howard show up on our unprotected list despite being out of contract and clearly done with MLS its because we keep their rights if we offer Blomberg a contract extension (we won't) or if Howard un-retires in a year (he won't) so in theory Miami or Nashivlle could select one of those two players and get their rights from us.  Neither team will do that though, but the possibility has to be accounted for.

Looking at the rest of the league's lists a number of former Rapids were left exposed, including Drew Moor in Toronto who is out of contract.  I'd be very tempted to try to sign him as a veteran leader for the defense if he's not selected by Gary Smith for Nashville in the draft.  Two other names of note are exposed, Edgar Castillo and Kelyn Rowe.  If you remember the Rapids traded Castillo for Rowe and then immediately traded Rose and $300k of funny money for Rubio.  Rowe was traded to FSL mid-season.  The Rapids made a steal in that deal, something they should get credit for.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Silly Season Starts In About Sixteen Hours

Now that MLS Cup has completed, and congrats to Seattle for their win*, the offseason can really get started.  It will kick off tomorrow at 11am MT as rosters are unfrozen for a little over 2 days before the expansion draft next week (the 19th).  Then things come fast and furious through the end of the month, with options having to be decided on by the 21st, waiver draft and free agency opening on the 25th, the first round of the Re-Entry draft on the 26th, then after we all fill up on turkey the second round of the Re-Entry Draft on Dec. 3rd.  Then things ease up until the Superdraft on a yet to be announced date in January, though player deals can happen at any time between Dec. 3rd and the start of the 2020 season.

So lets look at what the Rapids need to do this offseason.  We've got, reportedly, two-thirds of our salary cap freeing up and all our DP slots open.  Technically this means we could sign 3 DPs but remember, the third DP comes at a cost of $250K of GAM and the loss of the Rapids share of the $250K the other teams with 3 DPs pay.  So about $400K right now.  If they sign a youth DP (23 years old or younger) they don't have to pay the $250K but they do lose their cut of everyone else's.

I'm going to break this down by position and include, as much as I can, the roster status of our current players in the position who are likely to see playing time in 2020.  Not all contract lengths are publicly available though, and I will note where that's the case.

Clint Irwin - Likely under contract
Irwin was given a new contract when he was acquired last year.  I wouldn't be surprised if he got a two year deal and is still under contract, but that's just an educated guess.  Regardless with Howard's retirement there's a hole waiting to be filled for a starting keeper.  Safe bet that's not going to be Rawls who spent the season in the Springs.  Irwin is a serviceable MLS keeper and we shouldn't spend too much effort or time looking for an upgrade, but if an opportunity to make a good signing at a decent price presents itself I have no issue with Irwin continuing to be the backup next season.  There is an unsourced rumor on social media that we're showing interest in LAFC keeper Tyler Miller, who LAFC is not likely to re-sign, but Nashville is also looking at him.  Based on this season he'd be an upgrade to Irwin but I don't know how real this interest is.  Regardless look for us to sign another keeper, likely a backup, to get to three.

Outside backs:
Keegan Rosenberry - Under contract through 2022
Sam Vines - Under contract through 2020
Sebastian Anderson - Under contact through 2023
Deklan Wynne - Option year/out of contract
I included Wynne as its pretty clear that he's done here and his contract allows him to be released with no penalty.  As far as starters are concerned, Rosenberry and Vines have locked down the spots.  We should sign a replacement for Wynne as a solid backup, probably ahead of Anderson in the pecking order, but I don't expect any other movement at this position.

Center backs:
Lalas Abubakar - Loan complete
Tommy Smith - Option year
Kortne Ford - Unknown
Axel Sjoberg - Under contract through 2020
Danny Wilson - Under contract through 2020
Yuck.  There's nothing good in that list.  Since we know Smith is already renegotiating with the Rapids we know his option wasn't picked up.  So we don't have a single MLS quality starting CB under contract for 2020 at the moment.  I don't think we can assume Kort is going to bounce back from his injury at a starter level, though I would love it if he did.  Wilson showed better as a d-mid than a CB and while he's fine as a backup in the back line he should not be starting.  Axel's time has come and gone sadly.

So expect significant moves here, likely starting with signing Abubakar permanently from Columbus and bringing Smith back at a lower number.  On top of that I expect us to sign a starting quality CB with the idea that Smith would be the primary backup, not a starter.  It might be a place where we sign a DP, but that could be a stretch.

Defensive/box-to-box midfielders:
Jack Price - Under contract through 2021
Kellyn Acosta - Under contract through 2021
Cole Bassett - Unknown
Dillon Serna - Option year
Bassett has only finished his second season so I'm pretty sure he's still under contract, but I couldn't find any specific length for his deal.  We're actually fairly well off in this position.  Price was the team MVP and Bassett and Acosta can both play the "non-attacking" midfielder position.  We might add a fourth for depth reasons but I don't expect a major move here.  Sadly I think Serna will be let go after this season, he needs a new environment at this point.

Sam Nicholson - Unknown
Jonathan Lewis - Under contract through 2021
Andre Shinyashiki - Unknown
Nicholson has been in MLS for 2.5 years, which likely means he's on an option year for 2020, but there's no reporting of his contract terms.  Shinyashiki is clearly going to be under contract for his second season as a pro, but I don't know how long his first contract is for beyond that.  Overall this position is strong but thin.  We have 3 starting quality players for 2 spots, so I wouldn't be shocked to see Nicholson moved if the right option came up.  Otherwise I expect some sort of depth signing but probably no starter move.

Attacking midfielders:
Nicholas Mezquida - Out of contract
Mezquida was signed to a two year deal with a third option year by Vancouver before the 2017 season.  Unless the Rapids game him a contract extension when they traded for him he's out of contract and there's not much behind him.  I would expect the team to invest heavily in this position this offseason, probably re-signing Mezquida as well as signing a DP in this area.  We could play an 'empty bucket' with two wingers and Price/Acosta at the bottom of the bucket but I find that unlikely.

Kei Kamara - Option year
Diego Rubio - Under contract through 2022
Our top two strikers are back and we have decent depth behind them in that both Lewis and Shinyashiki are comfortable playing forward.  That said, I wouldn't be surprised to see some significant moves here.  There are rumors that there's interest in Rubio from overseas, if the offer is right I can see the Rapids selling and then bringing in a DP striker.  Its even possible that for the right offer Kamara could be let go and replaced the same way.  As good as Kei was last year he is 35 years old and at some point soon his decline is going to hit.  We wouldn't want to let him go for free and without a solid plan to replace him, but if moving his almost million-dollar salary is the difference between signing a good young striker or not I can see us moving on.

So there you go.  Expect heavy investment at center back and attacking mid, and some noticeable work at striker.  Don't be surprised if Irwin doesn't start the season opener in 2020, but be somewhat shocked if our outside players aren't some combination of Rosenberry, Vines, Nicholson, Lewis, or Shinyashiki.

* - Long time readers will know that Seattle is not my favorite team, despite Seattle being my hometown.  Sadly I lost a cousin this week who was a die-hard Seattle sports fan, across all sports.  He would have loved to see the Sounders win MLS Cup at home today and for him I rooted for Seattle while watching the game.  I know his sister and brother-in-law took his nieces to the game today so I'm glad they got to have a good time while they deal with the loss.

Monday, November 4, 2019

A Little News Over The Last Two Weeks

Sorry to go quiet, but there hasn't been much to talk about over the last two weeks.  We do have a couple of things though.

First, Tommy Smith has been training with his old team, Ipswich Town, but only to stay in shape for his New Zealand callup he got today.  The notable thing in that article is that he's in contract negotiations with the Rapids.  That tells us that his option for 2020 was not picked up, and now the team is trying to bring him back at a lower number.  Solid move by the Rapids.

Second, Pablo Mastroeni was named an assistant coach under Tab Ramos in Houston.  Its a good move for him and makes me wonder, if Ramos had been hired for the Rapids job instead of Fraser, would Pablo have returned to the Rapids as an assistant?

Third, the annual Forbes list of team values is out.  I'm not going to link to it because its fundamentally flawed, as it is every year.  They admit to not having access to any financial information and they've never shown an ability to handle a setup like KSE's arrangement of the Rapids.  Since merchandising, tickets, stadium rental, TV, and field rental are all run by separate KSE entities the Rapids look like the have very little income, but KSE is making a lot more money than the money that comes in under the Rapids corporate structure.  This, and other flaws, are pointed out every year the list comes out yet we still see a ton of discussion around the list.  This year the Rapids are the lowest valued MLS team in the list.

Lastly, the U-17 World Cup ended, for the U.S. at least.  They went 0-1-2  in Brazil with 1 goal scored and 8 allowed, finishing 20th of the 24 teams.  Sebastian Anderson was dressed for every game but didn't get any playing time.  Given the defensive disaster the tournament was for the U.S. though, that might have been a good thing.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Roster Analysis 2019

As usual I'm going to break down the roster by player and what I think the team should do with each player/position.  Now the rules have changed from when I first started doing this, back then you could cut players in the offseason with no penalty.  Now any contracts extending into next season can't be cut without taking the cap hot (each team is allowed one buyout without penalty).  So I'll try to take that into account.

Kellyn Acosta - Obviously.
Sebastian Anderson - U-17 World Cup member and an HG.
Cole Bassett - HG.
Kortne Ford - HG, have to see how he comes back.
Kei Kamara - Duh.
Jonathan Lewis - Again, obvious.
Sam Nicholson - Yet another obvious choice (I'm not used to this).
Jack Price - Player of the Year!
Keegan Rosenberry - One of 6 field players in the league to play every minute.
Diego Rubio - Second highest scorer and rumored interest makes him a strong asset.
Andre Shinyashiki - MLS Rookie of the Year!
Sam Vines - Looks like the LB of the future.

Sign, for the right price:
Lalas Abubakar - Up to $500K of xAM, no problem.  Up to $750K, questionable.  Above that?  Hard to justify.

Upgrade if possible, if not stand pat:
Clint Irwin - We can do better but we don't need to.  If we find somebody better then go for it (Clint was on an option year in 2019 so we should be able to release him if we want) if not then Clint being in goal in 2020 should be fine.
Niki Jackson - I'm not sure there's a future in Colorado with Hundley and Shinyashiki ahead of him as young strikers but there's nothing wrong with him being on the roster either.

Depends on contract:
Nicolas Mezquida - I'm not sure what his contract situation is.  I'm also not sure how he's going to fit in 2020.  A lot depends on where we make big signings.  If we bring in a #10 Mezquida is no more than a backup, but if we go for a striker and winger then he has a role to play.
Tommy Smith - He's on an option year, an option we should not pick up.  However if we could bring him back at like half the price or so, that would still be a solid move.

Young kids - Most of these guys are probably worth keeping but limited playing time makes judgement hard:
Matt Hundley
Sam Raben
Andre Rawls
Abdul Rwatubyaye

Kofi Opare - Couldn't help a bad defense, won't have a role on a hopefully better one.
Dillon Serna - Yeah, this hurts, but he needs to go somewhere else and see if he can become a starter either at MLS or USL level.
Axel Sjoberg - Another fan favorite, but clearly has no remaining role here.
Deklan Wynne - See Opare.

Danny Wilson - He's on a large guaranteed contract, that he hasn't justified.  Time to bite the bullet and let him restart somewhere else.

Its a shocking number of players to keep given how the season started.  A real credit to the roster building over the last 12 months, and a real indictment of Hudson's coaching abilities.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Checking My Predictions

Back in March I made 10 predictions for the season.  Well, now its time to face the music and see how I did:

  • The Rapids finish in 8th place, missing the playoffs by 3 points or less, fans see this as progress but not enough progress and call for heads

  • I'm taking half credit for nailing the 8th place prediction.  We missed the playoffs by 6, not 3, points, but I wasn't far off.  If somehow Hudson were still in charge we would be calling for his head.

  • Despite that Hudson does well enough in the FO's eyes to be retained for 2020 but does not get a contract extension

  • Yeah, total miss on this one.

  • Kamara is our Golden Boot winner with 13 goals, Rubio is second with 9

  • I'm counting this one as correct.  Kamara won the golden Boot with 14 goals (missed it by that much) and Rubio was second with 11.

  • Shinyashiki has a good year but is not in the Rookie of the Year conversation, Kamara's and Rubio's good play doesn't give him enough playing time

  • Missed on this as well, as we saw today, Shinyashiki was named Rookie of the Year.

  • Vines has ups and downs but proves that he is the long-term answer at LB, this leaves Serna with nowhere to play and he's released after the season

  • Nailed it.  I do expect Serna to be released here at the end of the season.

  • Rosenberry but not Acosta is chosen for the Gold Cup roster, largely due to the numerous options in midfield while there's a lack of options at RB

  • We did have a Rapid on the Gold Cup squad, but it was Lewis.  Miss.

  • Feilhaber plays well but is a one year and done contract while Kamara is brought back next year

  • Counting this one.  Feilhaber did play well, but clearly won't be back next season.

  • The Rapids bow out early in the USOC, winning at most one game against their USL opponent but falling to any MLS side the might face

  • Sadly correct on this one.

  • Colorado reclaims the Rocky Mountain Cup with a win at home and a draw in Sandy

  • Miss, damn it.

  • The Rapids sign a young DP during the summer window, not a huge name but someone that excites the fans

  • Also a miss.

    4.5 out of 10.  Not my best year.  But then this was an odd season.

    Thursday, October 10, 2019

    2019 Most Valuable Player

    Normally when I choose my MVP I go back through my game reviews and count up the number of Man of the Match awards I gave out to get some kind of indicator of who should be in the running.  This year though I didn't need to do that, and I'm willing to bet that this player wouldn't have shown up with that many MOTM awards.

    The 2019 MVP is Jack Price

    This was really obvious to me as the season drew to a close.  Price set a MLS record for assists in a season from free kicks with 10, beating out the likes of former free kick specialists like Claudio Lopez and David Beckham.  Now to be fair, some of those guys not only totaled a number of assists but they also scored from dead ball situations, which Price didn't do, but as far as putting a set piece into a dangerous area nobody has ever been as dangerous in MLS as Price was this season.

    I was planning to write this column today anyway, but some stats tweeted out by OptaPro reinforces my decision that Price was our most valuable player this year:

    That's Jack Price there in the middle just below 30% of team's chances created, better than players like Vela, Barco, and Rooney.  And then this reiterates the value of his free kicks:

    That's the Rapids in the upper right, way ahead of the rest of the league.

    In a year where we set post-Shootout team records for goals scored a significant part of those records were due to Price.  He did the small things, the quiet things, but the important things.  He was rarely flashy, which is why he didn't win many MOTM awards, but he was consistently the second best Rapid in most games which means over the season he was the best Rapid out there.

    Also in unrelated news defender today Sebastian Anderson was named to the squad for the U-17 World Cup in Brazil next month!

    Monday, October 7, 2019

    That Was That

    Well, we all knew it was a long shot.  Even if Vela hadn't gone off on us KC rolled over for Dallas so a win wouldn't have been enough (seriously, the last time I saw a team roll over like KC did Joe Nasco started in goal).  I didn't expect LAFC and Vela to be that invested in the game, I figured one goal to set the record and they'd conserve energy but instead Vela decided to smash the record.

    Still this season turned out much better than anyone thought back in May.  I won't call it a successful season, bare minimum for a successful MLS season is making the playoffs, but it showed promise.  As we've know for a while this offseason's moves will be critical as this team might be good enough to make the playoffs its probably not good enough to compete for MLS Cup right now.  Our free kick/counter-attacking success of the last five months is likely not sustainable at the current level and we need some top tier signing to bring the level of talent up to one that can compete.

    As we shift into offseason mode we're going to go through our regular end-of-season routine.  I'll review the roster, grade my preseason predictions, pick an MVP, and such over the next week or two, then things will likely go quiet until after MLS Cup.  The offseason will be short, I expect everything to move up by a week or two after the draft in mid January in order for the season to start in late February.  MLS Cup is Nov 10th, the expansion draft is Dec. 11th, then we hit the holiday break but as soon as we get to 2020 things will move quickly.

    Saturday, October 5, 2019

    One Last Time

    While I'm crossing my fingers for a miracle, we have to realize this is probably the final appearance for the GOAT of American keepers, Tim Howard.  We can hope he'll teach LAFC how to say goodbye with a shutout.  As a reminder to make the playoffs the Rapids need to beat LAFC tomorrow and have Portland beat San Jose in Portland and Kansas City beat Dallas in Dallas.  If we beat LAFC by 2 or more Portland and San Jose can end in a draw.  Kickoff for all games on Decision Day is scheduled for 2pm MT but ESPN will have a pregame in Portland and the games will be held until that is over, so all games will actually kick off around 2:25MT.  Altitude is still feuding with the providers, but C38 had found...other...ways to see the game and will be gathering at the Celtic for it.

    On a sadder note, this might also be Richard Fleming's goodbye as his tweets over the last few weeks have pretty clearly suggested that if Altitude doesn't solve their distribution problem ASAP he'll be heading back to England looking for a new job.

    Injury Report:
    OUT: D Kortne Ford; D Dillon Serna; D Deklan Wynne

    The Rapids actually didn't release an injury report this week, playing things close to the vest.  I assume the three that have been out for a while are still going to be out and the two that were questionable last week started so I'm guessing they're good to go.

    If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right?  The only question is Lewis or Shinyashiki on the left side.  I went with Andre but a switch wouldn't surprise me.

    Prediction: 2-1 win, goals by Kamara and Rubio.  Also Portland beats San Jose but Dallas beats KC and we finish in 8th place, 3 points out of the the playoff.  While LAFC has " a lot" to play for in Vela setting the goal scoring record and winning the golden boot and the team setting a points record, when push comes to shove late they're going to pull back to protect themselves for the playoffs while the Rapids are backs to the wall.  Especially if, as i predict, Vela gets a goal to set the record and probably win the Golden Boot.  The Rapids will attack until the end and get the win, but KC going into Frisco undermanned is too big a hill to climb and the Rapids playoff chase comes up just short.

    Tuesday, October 1, 2019

    FC Dallas + Playoff Implications = Win

    I guess we shouldn't be surprised.  When Dallas faces the Rapids with playoffs on the line (or usually, in the playoffs) they choke.  They did it again on Sunday.  An early goal from Jack Price put Dallas in a funk they never got out of.  By early in the second half it appeared Dallas had given up while the Rapids should have won by 4 or 5, not 3.

    With the other results on Sunday somehow the Rapids go into Decision Day still alive for a playoff spot, something in (incorrectly) deemed impossible back in May when we lost to Atlanta.  With a win over LAFC next week and losses by San Jose and Dallas the Rapids would be the 7th seed.  They can also get in if they beat LAFC by two and San Jose draws.

    Random Musings:

    • I like that fake from Price on Rubio's free kick goal.  I wonder if that's new or something they've been saving for the right time all season.
    • Also, for as many set piece goals we've scored this season that was the first goal directly from the free kick.
    • Kamara should not be taking PKs.  He's now missed 3 of them this season and none of them have been amazing saves by the keeper.  Had he hit all 3 we'd have 2 more points and an easier road to the playoffs.
    • That said, he did make up for it by scoring later so its not all bad.
    • Good to see Tim go out with a couple of big saves and a shutout.  Its how the GOAT should finish his home career.
    • Regardless of how it ends next week this has been a much more enjoyable season than it appeared it was going to be when Hudson was still coaching.  Kudos to Casey, Fraser, and Smith for turning it around.
    Man of the Match: Jack Price.  His first goal of the season and an unofficial assist on that free kick goal.  He is our MVP this season and he gets it done quietly every game.

    Saturday, September 28, 2019

    We're Not Dead Yet!

    Believe it or not, the Rapids are still alive in the playoff race.  We're eliminated if we don't win, but assuming we do we're only officially eliminated if San Jose wins and Portland doesn't lose.  Any other results means we'll go into Decision Day technically still alive, something I would not have believed in May.

    FC Dallas is in town and they're still fighting for a playoff spot.  They can't be eliminated this week but a loss would put their chances on life support, depending on the Portland and SJ results.  Of course they're used to the Rapids crushing their playoff hopes.  We've done it 5 times in the actual playoffs so far.  Kickoff is at an odd 5:30pm on Sunday, so the final tailgate of the season will start at 2:30.  Those who can't make it and still have Altitude can watch Tim Howard's final home game of his career there.

    Injury Report:
    OUT: D Kortne Ford; D Dillon Serna; D Deklan Wynne
    QUESTIONABLE: Gk Tim Howard; D Sam Vines

    Disciplinary Report:
    ONE YELLOW FROM SUSPENSION: D Lalas Abubakar; F Kei Kamara; F Diego Rubio

    Anyone think Tim isn't going to play in his last ever home match?  Yeah, me neither, he'll be out there at some point, even if its just for a half or even as a late game sub.  Vines being unavailable could hurt though.

    Howard was reportedly training this week so I think he starts his final home game.  We'll see if he goes all 90 though.  I'm guessing Vines doesn't play, if he's available we revert to our standard back 4 and Wilson is on the bench.

    Prediction: 2-1 win, goals by Kamara and Shinyashiki.  Probably one of them with a set piece assist from Price.  Dallas is going to feel the pressure while the Rapids have been playing with none for months now.  At home, bug crowd, Colorado does its part to stay in the playoff race.

    Thursday, September 26, 2019

    F.C. Brickstand

    Welcome to the intersection of LEGO and the beautiful game.  Chris Smith, a Crystal Palace fan in Manchester, started out with a goal of building all 92 English football stadiums.  After getting partway through the project his goal shifted to doing something new, and F.C. Brickstand was born.

    F.C. Brickstand, aka The Builders, are an all LEGO team that plays in Chris' football pyramid.  This isn't just some fun pictures of some LEGO football players, Chris has a whole ecosystem built around his team.  They play at Brick Lane, a custom built LEGO stadium for the team.  They are currently in the Buildersliga 4 (best team name, F.C. Inter Locking) after winning promotion from the Diorama Conference last season.  They have fans from around the world who show up every week at Brick Lane to root on the Builders.

    After following F.C. Brickstand for a few months on Twitter and not entirely getting it I stumbled into this interview of Chris from last year and everything locked into place (pun intended).  For a while I was wondering how some many people were interested in watching somebody stage LEGO players for whatever results he wanted to show, and why the results mattered since they were all made up.  It seems like I could go do the same thing with my soccer pieces and I didn't understand why that would be at all interesting.

    What I didn't know, and the article clarified, is that the shots and results aren't made up.  During the week Smith secretly picks an upcoming game to represent F.C. Brickstand's next game, with the Builders taking the spot of the home or away team depending on their schedule.  Then the actual events and results of that game on Saturday becomes the F.C. Brickstand game he reports on Twitter on Sunday.  So not even Chris knows how this week's game is going to go until the real-life game is played and the rest of us don't know what to expect, though I see some guesses as the game goes on as to which game it was.

    After seeing the article I shared it with a local Palace fan on Twitter.  Then I decided I needed to jump in as a supporter.  Chris sells annual supporter memberships for 5 pounds (about $7) and for that he'll make a unique minifig of you to place in your choice of seat at Brick Lane every week.  That local fan also joined up along with a couple of other members of Colorado Palace, so now there's going to be a Mile High contingent at Brick Lane every week.  So many people joined that the Builders announced an extension of the supporters stand this week to hold them all!

    After this, and the back and forth on Twitter Chris DM'ed me with a picture of my minifig (below) and we got to talking.  I told him about my current aborted attempt to build DSG Park out of LEGO and he showed me his copy of Ewood Park that he took to Blackburn for pictures of it inside the real Ewood Park (also below).  If you're interested in following the Builders follow them on Twitter here.

     Minifig me.  Seems accurate.
    LEGO Ewood Riverside Stand in front of the Riverside Stand

    LEGO Ewood with the EPL Championship trophy

    Tuesday, September 24, 2019

    Sporting KC Wrap-Up

    Well that was fun, from what I could tell.  A combination of the radio call and posted highlights is all I'm working off of.  Fix this KSE.  Some notes:

    • SKC goal 1 was bad communication between Lewis and Vines on who was going to take the wide man but that wasn't the worst of the issue.  When the cross came in Abubakar was stuck in no-man's land leading to the ball getting through to Rosenberry's man.  Keegan made a good play on the ball and bad luck put the clearance right off of the shin of the KC attacker.
    • SKC goal 2 was just a mess of defending.  Smith and Abubakar let two SKC attackers get behind them unmarked.  Smith scrambled back to make a play but put it in the net himself.
    • A great job getting back into the game led by Price and, surprisingly, Smith.  A Price corner led to what should be (if it weren't for Atlanta ballot box stuffing) the Goal of the Week, a likely Goal of the Year, and the second best bike in Rapids history from Kei Kamara, who was getting mugged on the play.  I saw at least one ref say they would have called a PK had Kei not scored.
    • Smith touched a ball back to Rubio for the second goal, leading to both former SKC strikers scoring against SKC.
    • Then Price hit another great corner into the box for Smith to redeem himself with, giving us the win.
    • With those two corner kick assists Price now has more set-piece assists this year than anyone in league history, with the caveat that Opta has only kept "free-kick assist" stats since 2010.  Still, if you consider the great free kick specialists who have been in the league in that time (Beckham, Lopez, etc.) that's impressive.
    • With Rubio's goal that gives the Rapids two 10-goal scorers for the first year since C+C Goal Factory led us to MLS Cup in 2010.
    • Shockingly this is currently our third best season since we lifted MLS Cup (2016, 2013).  That did not seem possible a few months ago.
    • Robin Fraser now has as many road wins as Rapids manager as Anthony Hudson did.
    • Simple path to the playoffs:
      • We beat Dallas and LAFC
      • SKC beats Dallas and loses another game
      • Houston loses a game
      • Portland or San Jose loses all their games
    • We can be officially eliminated tomorrow night if both Portland and San Jose win.  We can be essentially eliminated if neither one loses as our only hope would be a goal differential tiebreaker that we're at least 6 goals behind on with two games to play

    Saturday, September 21, 2019

    Benny's Back!

    The Mummy (1999)  - Great movie

    That's right, the Rapids are in KC tonight seeing their former teammate Benny Feilhaber.  You know, the one that demanded a trade out of Colorado earlier this season because he wanted to go to a team where they're prepared to win championships or some such?  Let me look at the table...or right, with a win tonight the Rapids would move ahead of SKC into 9th place (admittedly KC would have a game in hand).  Maybe Benny should have watched the Mummy and learned the lesson about how greed led to the death of his namesake.  Anyway, game time is at 6:30pm.  If you still get Altitude you can watch the game there, otherwise there's always the radio call.

    Injury Report:
    OUT: D Kortne Ford, D Kofi Opare, D Dillon Serna, D Deklan Wynne

    Disciplinary Report:

    Nice to have everyone back from international duty and off suspension.  Given his less than stunning behavior last time we were in KC its probably best Irwin gets the start and Howard rests for the home finale.  No defensive depth, but none of those players have had much playtime this season anyway.

    This is fairly obvious, the only question is Shinyashiki over Lewis.  I figure Fraser will ride the hot hand but I wouldn't be shocked if he doesn't.

    Prediction: 2-1 win, goals by Kamara and Rubio.  This is a game where I look at the teams and their recent play and think, maybe for the first time this season on the road, yeah, we're the better team, we should win this.  Our attack is better and our defense is barely worse but that's heavily weighted towards the awful first part of the season.  If we show  up and play like we've played in every other game under Fraser (and many of the Casey games) we should win.

    Thursday, September 19, 2019

    Expansion Draft 2020

    I know we're not through the season yet but the league just announced the rules for this year's expansion draft for Nashville and Miami entering the league next season.  In short:

    • Each expansion team will get 5 picks
    • No team can lose more than one player
    • Teams that lost players to Cincinnati last year can't lose a player this year
    • Teams can protect up to 12 of their players (an increase from the normal 11)
    • Homegrown players 25 years old or younger and Generation Adidas players who have not graduated are automatically protected on top of the 12 protected players
    • Teams must protect at least 3 internationals, unless they have 3 or less, then they have to protect at least all but one
    • All players on the roster at the end of the season count as on the roster, even if they've already been told they're cut for 2020
    • Retired players don't count but if a retired player is not protected the team loses their rights to them should they un-retire
    So, based on that, here's my take on who the Rapids should protect, for a couple of different scenarios:

    Automatically protected as homegrown players 25 years old or younger:

    Anderson, Bassett, Ford, Hundley, Raben, Serna, Vines

    Automatically protected as GA, if he doesn't graduate from the program:


    Required 3 internationals protected:

    Mezquida, Price, Shinyashiki

    Remaining 9 protected slots if we sign Abubakar before the draft:

    Abubakar, Acosta, Irwin, Jackson, Kamara, Nicholson, Rosenberry, Rubio, Smith

    Remaining 9 protected slots if we don't sign Abubakar before the draft:

    Swap out Abubakar for Rwatubyaye

    Remaining 9 protected slots if we sign Abubakar before the draft and Lewis graduates from GA:

    Swap out Jackson for Lewis

    Remaining 9 protected slots if we don't sign Abubakar before the draft and Lewis graduates from GA:

    Swap out Abubakar for Lewis

    This leaves the following players unprotected, and at most we could lose one of them to either Nashville or Miami: Blomberg, Howard, Opare, Rawls, Sjoberg, Wilson, Wynne, plus possibly Jackson and Rwatubyaye

    I would say most of these decisions are self explanatory.  Blomberg is gone and Howard is retiring.  Opare, Rawls, and Wynne are MLS bench fodder where ever they play so there's no point in protecting them.  Sadly at this point Sjoberg falls into that category as well.  Wilson is just far too expensive for what he brings so there's no threat he'll be taken and if he were it would actually help us.

    That leaves Jackson, Rwatubyaye, and, IMO, Smith as the three players fighting for the last 1-3 slots depending on the statuses of Abubakar and Lewis.  I ranked Smith as the most valuable because of a change in the expansion draft rules.  Smith is on a team option for 2020 and in the past if a player on a team option was selected in the expansion draft it meant that the expansion team was automatically exercising the player's option.  This year the rule changes and the expansion team can decline the option and keep the player's rights to renegotiate his contract.  That makes Smith more valuable if an expansion team thinks they can get him to take a lower number.

    Jackson versus Rwatubyaye is a bit of a toss up but I prioritized Jackson as he has shown some ability to play in MLS, Rwatubyaye hasn't gotten a shot yet.

    The expansion draft will be held on November 19th.

    Tuesday, September 17, 2019

    TFC Wrap-Up

    Sadly, due to the fight between KSE and the TV providers, my view of the Toronto game was janky at best.  So its hard for me to draw many conclusions from the match.  It was great to see the fight back from the team, less good to see Kamara missing great chances like the PK.  Altidore should have seen red for taking Abubakar out like that.  You could justify a yellow but given his track record the refs just keep letting him get away with things.  Sam Vines hadn't practiced since Tuesday due to illness and it showed, he was caught out of position more than once.

    On to KC and another game not easily available.  My game recaps are going to be pretty slim the rest of the season unless they solve this, except for the home Dallas game.  If they haven't solved it by next season I'll figure out a more reliable way to watch going forward.

    Rapids To Hold Memorial For Colin Clark Tomorrow Night

    COMMERCE CITY, Colo. (September 16, 2019) – Colorado Rapids will hold a memorial service in honor of former player, Colin Clark on September 18, 2019 at DICK’S Sporting Goods Park.  The service will be open to the public.

    WHAT:  The Colorado Rapids will hold a memorial service for the family, friends, and fans of Colin Clark, a former Rapids player and Colorado native.  Clark passed away on August 26, 2019 at 35 years old.  The midfielder made 138 appearances (97 starts), scored 15 goals, and garnered 13 assists over his eight-year career in Major League Soccer. Clark played for the Colorado Rapids, Houston Dynamo, and LA Galaxy as well as registered one cap with the U.S. Men’s National Team in the 2009 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

    WHO:  The service will be open to the public.

    WHEN:  Wednesday, September 18, 2019
                    Doors open at 6:30PM
    Service at 7:00PM

    WHERE:  DICK’S Sporting Goods Park
                      6000 Victory Way, Commerce City, CO 80022
                      Event Entrance through Eighteen76 on south side of the stadium

                    For those unable to attend, the memorial will be streamed live on

    ATTIRE:  Soccer gear attire; attendees who have Colin Clark jerseys are encouraged to wear them

    CONTACT:  For questions or inquiries, please contact  

    Please Note:  Anyone with still images, footage of Colin Clark are asked to share these pieces with the club to be used in tribute to his memory and career at the Memorial.

    Friday, September 13, 2019

    Rapids In Colorado North, aka Toronto, on Sunday

    There are a lot of links between the Rapids and Toronto.  Obviously it was the sight of our greatest triumph.  Also the only person missing from the Gallery of Honor, Drew Moor, is still playing in Toronto.  Clint Irwin is returning to Toronto after coming back to Colorado this year.  One of the biggest is, of course, our new manager.  Robin Fraser had spent the last few years in the great White North as an assistant before taking the Rapids job 3 weeks ago.  All of that comes together on Sunday as the Rapids travel north for their final trip across the border this season.  Game time is 3pm, and the game is on Altitude, which doesn't mean much for most of us.  There is a rumor that there might be a workaround available at the Celtic for people who want to watch the game, otherwise I'll leave it up to everyone to figure out which solution they like the best.

    Injury Report:
    OUT: D Kortne Ford; D Deklan Wynne
    QUESTIONABLE: GK Tim Howard; M Jon Lewis

    Disciplinary Report:
    SUSPENDED: M Jack Price (yellow card accumulation)
    ONE YELLOW FROM SUSPENSION: D Danny Wilson, F Kei Kamara

    Apparently the Rapids and the Chilean FA arranged it that Rubio could be in Colorado for one of the last two games (I think it was Saturday's) so he could serve his suspension.  Nicely done getting that arranged.  There's been no updated injury report for a week but Ford and Wynne seem to be done for the season and Howard seems to be perpetually questionable at this point so I felt comfortable making my own.  Lewis pulled up with a hamstring injury on Saturday that reportedly wasn't significant but he wasn't in the 18 on Wednesday so I added him as Questionable.

    This seems logical, though asking Smith and Abubakar to go 3 full games this week in the middle might be a bit much.  We might see Wilson instead of Smith or something.

    Prediction: 2-2 draw.  Goals by Kamara and Shinyashiki.  I'm feeling optimistic right now and I think even on the road we can get a point.  Both teams have good offenses and average or worse defenses so I expect a high scoring game.  I think Kamara comes back after a long break and starts scoring again and I'm not sure who can slow Shinyashiki down right now.

    Thursday, September 12, 2019

    Zlatan Who?

    The Rapids finally got a look at Zlatan for the first time in a while and, well, meh.  He certainly didn't look as good as Andre Shinyashiki.  That, combined with some great goalkeeping on both sides and maybe a little of help from the officials got the Rapids their 3rd straight victory, though they did concede their first goal under Fraser in route to the 2-1 win.  That's 9 points and a +5 GD in the 3 games Fraser has been in charge.

    Also this.  In 43 games in charge Hudson earned 33 points.  In the 21 games since then with Casey and Fraser in charge they've earned 34 points.  if you ever doubted the importance of coaching in MLS, don't.

    Random Musings:

    • Both goalkeepers were on fire last night.  On a different day that's a 4-3 game and I'm not sure who wins.
    • With Kamara out the last three games Shinyashiki is making his claim to the Rookie of the Year award.  I still think he comes up a little short but he's looking more mature than his age.
    • Danny Wilson and Tommy Smith as our centerbacks was a recipe for disaster last year.  This year we start them against Ibra and somehow the Lion is more like a mouse.  Again, coaching matters.
    • In 4 games against Zlatan's Galaxy the Rapids have 3 wins and 1 draw
    • Zlatan only played in 2 of those 4 games, in those games he had a combined 8 shots, only 1 on goal.
    • Apparently Fraser called Abubakar into the office yesterday to ask if he had ever played right back.  Lalas said no, and Fraser told him that due to Vines being sick he was playing their last night.  At times he looked more like a winger than a right back but it worked!
    • Price's late yellow means he won't make the trip to Toronto on Sunday.
    • How about Sjoberg getting an appearance just to mark out Ibra for the last part of the game?  That has to be huge for the Swede.
    • Ok, lets talk about the calls.  I think the Rapids got one more beneficial call than the Galaxy.  The Rapids PK, the reversed red card, and the non-LA PK were all on the light side.  I think you call all three or you call none of them.  The ref called one (our PK).  I think, if you set the bar that the touch on Shinyashiki is a foul then the hack on him later is clearly a red and Wilson's boot to the face is a PK.  But if you decide that Andre flopped originally all three fouls get downgraded to no call (or a yellow for the foul in the corner).
    • That said. the Rapids have gotten their fair share of bad calls this season.  Barring a hand of God (or 5th Down for you CU fans) I tend to think calls balance out over the course of a season.  The LA fans who have "lost faith" in the league over last night are a joke and shows just how long the Galaxy have had "favored child" status when it comes to officiating.
    Man of the Match: Clint Irwin.  Had a spectacular night and saved us on more than one occasion.

    Tuesday, September 10, 2019

    Will We See The LA Zlatans?

    Tomorrow night the Galaxy are in town and the big question is, will Zlatan make his first appearance in the Mile High City?  While Sweden appears to be better without the Lion the Galaxy most certainly are not.  Zlatan has been involved in 27 of LA's 41 goals this season (23 goals, 4 assists).  Without him they're a damp squib, though their recent acquisition of Pavon does change that balance somewhat.  Zlatan has been suspended for the last two matches against the Rapids, matches that we won.  Sadly there's no reason to think he won't be in the starting XI tomorrow.  Kickoff is at 7pm so the tailgate starts at 4.  Those who can't make it and still have access to Altitude can watch the match there.

    Injury Report:
    OUT: D Kortne Ford; D Deklan Wynne

    Disciplinary Report:
    SUSPENDED: F Diego Rubio (Yellow card accumulation, must be served when not on international duty)
    ONE YELLOW FROM SUSPENSION: D Danny Wilson, M Jack Price

    International Call-Ups:
    D Seb Anderson (U.S. U-17s); M Cole Bassett (U.S. U-20s); F Kei Kamara (Sierra Leone); F Diego Rubio (Chile)

    Its possible any number of our callups could be back for tomorrow's night, everyone but Rubio finished their games by Monday while Rubio is playing in Honduras tonight.  My bet is that if we see any of them Kamara (who's had since Sunday morning Denver time to get home) might be on the bench.  If the Rapids can get Rubio home from Honduras in time to be in the lineup they can count tomorrow's game as his suspended game, making him available for Saturday's game in Toronto.  Otherwise he'll miss that game as well.  If it weren't for his suspension I'd assume we wouldn't hurry him home and maybe meet up with him in Canada.

    Three game week would normally call for squad rotation but given how many players are unavailable I think we see largely the same lineup as Saturday and we'll see a large number of changes in Toronto.  The two changes I'm expecting are Lewis sitting out after tweaking his hamstring on Saturday and Howard coming back for one of his last two home games, and then possibly not travelling to Toronto.

    Prediction: 2-2 draw, goals by Mezquida and Shinyashiki.  The Rapids actually have a better attack than LA, even with Zlatan, and of course a worse defense.  A draw is a little optimistic as LA is rested after having the weekend off, but at the same time they are missing a couple of big pieces.  I'm having a hard time getting a read on this game though, anything other than a blowout for either team seems possible.

    Monday, September 9, 2019

    Second Verse Same As The First

    In two games Robin Fraser's team has scored two goals in each, with one player getting both goals in each game, and posted shutouts in each game.  I could get used to this pattern.  One of the more dominant wins of the season, though with the caveat that Seattle was missing 10 players to international callups.  Still, you can only play who's on the schedule and the Rapids did what they needed to do.

    Random Musings:

    • This game could have easily been 4-0 or worse except Stefan Frei had a blinder of a game to keep his team in it until late.  Right before our second goal he had was will clearly be a candidate for save of the season.
    • The first goal was some nice ball movement and a great shot from Andre.  It came after some sustained pressure and was a good way for the team to go to the locker room.
    • The second goal was a perfectly executed 3 on 2.  Mezquida held the ball long enough that at least one of the Sounders defenders had to step up on him, at which point he laid it off to Rosenberry.  As the defenders shifted to their right to cover Rosenberry Keegan realized he plays right back for a reason and instead of taking the open look played the ball back across the box to the now unmarked Shinyashiki on the defender's left and Andre had all day to place it past Frei.
    • Seattle had 5 shots, 2 on target.  Colorado had 24 and 8.  The defense didn't have to do much and what they did have to do they didn't struggle with.
    • Seattle did have 57% of the possession though, but they were behind for the whole second half.
    • With the two goals the Rapids have now had their third best offensive season with 47 goals.  They're 3 behind 1998 for second best but the 62 goal record from 1997 is likely out of reach.
    • With 3 more points in the final 5 games Casey and Fraser will have combined for as many points in 2/3rds of a season as Hudson earned in a season and a third.
    • Since Hudson left the Rapids have earned points at 1.55 pts/game.  That would be 5th in the West (barely) over the course of the season. 
    • Right now the playoff line is looking to be about 48 points, which is the max the Rapids could reach this season.  The Bodmer Line is at 2.0 pts/game, but I don't think 43 is going to make the playoffs in the West this year.
    • Our internationals have had good results in the second game of their trips.  Anderson got another start for the U-17, Bassett got another goal in the U-20s win, and Kamara scored for Sierra Leone.  Sadly a last minute penalty that would have sent Sierra Leone into the next round, taken by their captain, was saved and they were eliminated from qualifying for 2022.  Kamara sent out a strong tweet in support of his captain after the game.  That was yesterday, so there's a chance he could be back and available for Wednesday's game against LA.
    Man of the Match: Andre Shinyashiki.  I mean, 2 goals, MLS Team of the Week, MLS Player of the Week, and up for MLS Goal of the Week.  Could it be anyone else?

    Friday, September 6, 2019

    Bomb Cyclone Reschedule

    This is the makeup game that was cancelled due to our bomb cyclone in April.  Much better weather is expected in Commerce City tomorrow night.  We're already hearing some whining from Sounders fans for having to play during an international break with 10 callups, but in reality the number of available dates for a reschedule was fairly low with this compressed season.  The Rapids are going to be missing 5 players to callups themselves, including both starting strikers.

    I'm also expecting a large Seattle travelling presence tomorrow, at least if you go by Sounders Atlantic writer Matt Pentz.  You remember him, he;s the one who called out the Rapids fanbase for not travelling to Seattle for the second game of the season.  Well, now its time for the Seattle fanbase to put up, or for Pentz to shut up.  One person who traveled further than any Sounder for tomorrow's game is long-time Italian Rapids fan Lino de Rosa, who will be attending his first ever Rapids game in person after flying in to Denver this afternoon.  For the last 6+ seasons Lino has been getting up in the early hours in Italy and watching streams of the Rapids game, now he finally gets to see them live.  He'll also be out at the tailgate tomorrow, which starts at 4pm.  The game is on Altitude at 7pm for those of you who can't make it and still get Altitude, but I'm guessing that's a small number at this point.

    Injury Report:
    OUT: D Kortne Ford; D Deklan Wynne

    International Call-Ups:
    D Seb Anderson (U.S. U-17s); M Cole Bassett (U.S. U-20s); F Kei Kamara (Sierra Leone); F Diego Rubio (Chile)

    Tim Howard is currently in New Jersey being honored on his retirement by the U.S. National Team before USA-Mexico tonight, so safe bet he's actually out (or "called up" in some ways) for this one.  All four of our international absences got solid playing time with their teams over the last couple of days, with Anderson and Kamara getting a start, Rubio being a halftime sub, and Bassett scoring for the U-20s (I don't know if he started or subbed in).  Also D Abdul Rwatubyaye, who's been on loan in the Springs all season, was called up for Rwanda and started in their World Cup Qualifier this week (Kamara's game was also a WCQ).

    This assumes we go with the 4-5-1 we used in the second half last week and most of the season.  If we go with the 5-3-2 we started in last week then I see Lewis and Shinyashiki up front and Serna at wingback in place of Wilson.

    Prediction: 1-0 win, goal by Lewis.  I think both teams are going to suffer offensively with their international absences, but the Rapids have their full defense available while the Sounders are signing emergency callups from the USL for their left back.  That will be the difference in what will be a low-scoring game.

    Tuesday, September 3, 2019

    Fraser Starts Off On Right Foot

    A surprising result out of New Jersey on Saturday as a stiff-enough defense and Jon Lewis' shooting gave the Rapids an unexpected 2-0 win over one of the better teams in the league.  The Rapids apparently are getting a second new coach bounce this season.  The night was only marred by DirecTV dropping Altitude just at kickoff instead of the expected 7 hours later.

    Random Musings:

    • At halftime Fraser shifted from the 5-3-2 we started in back to the 4-5-1 the team has been using most of the year.  This was in response to the control RBNY showed over the match late in the first half.  It worked.  RBNy had 12 shots in the first half, only 7 in the second.  Meanwhile Colorado went from 5 shots in the first half to 7 in the second.  Its been a long time since we've seen a coach make a significant in-game adjustment like that, and it was only Fraser's first game.
    • Also I'm not suggesting the 5-3-2 we started in was a mistake.  Given our depleted personnel a formation switch was not that shocking.  We "won" the half 1-0 and it was working, but it was also leaving RBNY in control.  I was a little surprised they didn't score before half.
    • Quite honestly that could have been a 3-2 or 4-3 win with some of the looks both teams got.
    • Late in the second half Cole Bassett had a great chance to put the game away (before Lewis' second) and Badji'ed it.  One on one with the keeper with some time to place his shot and he didn't even make Robles sweat much.
    • That wasn't even the worst miss.  A few minutes later the combined Colorado attackers had Robles beat with the ball behind him, and couldn't get a shot off.  I really thought not capitalizing on one of those two opportunities was going to cost us 2 points.
    • Sam Vines had a hell of a tackle in front of our net at one point.  I wasn't sure about our plan to rely on him all season but at this point I'm feeling fairly confident going into 2020.
    • Tim Howard didn't have to do much in his final game in his hometown but he had one big save late to keep the shutout going.
    • Rubio picked up his 5th yellow, which means we won't see him for a couple of weeks.  He's going to miss the Seattle and LA games while with the Chilean National Team, then will serve his suspension the following game.
    • Robin Fraser already has more points in 2019 than Anthony Hudson.
    Man of the Match: Jonathan Lewis, obviously.

    Friday, August 30, 2019

    Everything Is Legal In New Jersey

    The Rapids will need to do anything they can facing the Red Bulls shorthanded in New Jersey tomorrow night, so lets hope everything is actually legal.  With two players injured and 3 starters suspended it could be a rough night for the burgundy boys.  Robin Fraser's first game in charge is against the team he helped coach to a Supporters Shield so there's probably a bit more in this matchup than usual.  Kickoff is at 5pm tomorrow and the game is on Altitude, for those of us who still get it with their current carriage dispute.

    Injury Report:
    OUT: D Kortne Ford; D Deklan Wynne

    Disciplinary Report:
    SUSPENDED: D Lala Abubakar (yellow card accumulation); M Kellyn Acosta (yellow card accumulation); F Kei Kamara (red card vs. FSL)

    Yeah, that's ugly.  After this game Kamara, Rubio, Anderson, Bassett, and Rwatubyaye all leave for various national team callups so its not going to get better for a few games.  Get used to seeing like likes of Wilson and Sjoberg for a while.

    This is a really hard lineup to predict.  Not only are we missing 5 players but we have a new coach.  Who knows if the formation will even stay the same, much less who Fraser might want to start.  I went in assuming we want to put our best XI out in the formation we've been using all season and I think this is it, but I expect my prediction to be wrong.

    Prediction: 3-1 loss, goal by Shinyashiki.  RBNY has a great offense and a middle of the road defense.  Our defense isn't great when its at full strength, its going to be worse tomorrow.  This game is never really in doubt and while the Rapids keep it looking good for a while the Red Bulls will eventually run away from us.

    Wednesday, August 28, 2019

    Welcome Back Robin Fraser!

    Well after yesterday's sad news, on to something better.  The news was announced on Sunday but yesterday the Rapids officially introduced Robin Fraser as the club's new manager.  Fraser joins the team immediately and will be in charge for the final seven matches of 2019.  Robin has many ties to Colorado, having played here first for the Foxes and then the Rapids.  His daughters still live here and he sounded very happy to be back in a place that holds so much importance to him.

    I've long advocated for Fraser as the manager, going back to before Pablo was hired and again before Hudson was hired.  If we're budget-limited on the manager (and given our recent manager choices, it seems that we are) it's hard to do much better than him.  He's got a long history in MLS, he has experience with being the head coach with Chivas USA, and he was an assistant with successful squads in Toronto and with the New York Red Bulls.  That's a better resume IMO than a Josh Wolff or a Tab Ramos.  About the only other person who wasn't already a head coach that would compete with that was Wilmer Cabrera when he was unemployed for a week earlier this month after being fired by Houston, but Montreal jumped at the chance to hire him (and according to rumors we had already settled on Fraser by that point).

    I hear a lot of fans talking about his lack of success at Chivas, which is fair, his record is not good.  That said, Chivas was a joke of an organization by the time he was in charge.  His leading scorer in his two years in charge was Juan Pablo Angel, with 19 goals.  His second leading scorer, with one goal less than Angel?  Nick LaBrocca.  Yes, that Nick LaBrocca.  There was little talent and little interest from the FO in changing that, unless in involved getting players from the parent Chivas playing time.  Combined with a FO in so much chaos it actually got into legal trouble over employment practices I'm not sure you can take much from his record.  The important thing is that he knows what it means to run a club day in and day out, which is something no Rapids manager could say when they came to Colorado since Fernando Clavijo.

    Now don't get me wrong.  This is still a bit of a risk by the Rapids.  And by the Rapids I really mean KSE.  I think its obvious that KSE has handcuffed Padraig Smith with how much money he can spend on a manager.  Given that, I think Smith made a great choice, but I would have loved the budget to be expanded so Smith could have gone after a real top manager.  A great choice would have been former Rapids Aitor Karanka, who has been an assistant with Real Madrid and the Spanish National Team, and was the manager at Middlesbrough and Nottingham Forest.  But somebody with that resume is going to cost a lot more than Fraser costs and was probably not in our budget.

    The one bit of sad news in all of this is that Rapids legend Conor Casey is leaving the organization.  He was offered the jobs of either lead assistant for Fraser or the manager job for the Switchbacks in the Springs and turned them both down.  I have to assume he thinks he can do better than a top MLS assistant/USL manager role, but I think that's optimistic.  Some fans (and maybe Casey himself) thing Conor should have gotten the full time job and the Rapids "screwed" him by not giving it to him, but the evidence doesn't back that up.

    Casey has the team playing at 1.39 pts/game since he took over.  That's likely not good enough to make the playoffs had he had them at that rate for a full season and it would have only made the playoffs in 3 of the last 9 seasons (in most of the other 6 seasons it would have made the playoffs had there been 7 playoff teams from each conference like there will be this year).  He also had an embarrassing loss to the USL New Mexico United in the Open Cup.  He did that while having a fairly favorable schedule, with 10 of 18 games at home (plus the USOC game) and some weak teams in that time like Montreal, Columbus,  Cincinnati, and Vancouver.  With 4 of the remaining 7 on the road and 6 of the 7 against teams currently in a playoff spot the odds of him keeping up that borderline 1.39 playoff pace was unlikely.  Its hard to claim Casey made a strong play for the job given those results.

    The rest of this year is a wash, especially after yet another debacle in Utah last weekend, so this will be a good time for Fraser to get a feel for what he has on the roster and what he'll be looking for in the offseason.  An offseason where only a third of the salary is on guaranteed contracts for 2020 and all the DP slots will be open, so there will be plenty of flexibility to build the roster as he sees fit.  I'm kind of excited to see what he does.