Wednesday, July 28, 2021

More Rumors

Combining the article Sam Skejskal wrote in the Athletic on the Kaye trade, this report from Inside Rapids, and some things I've heard we have some things to talk about today.

Lets start with that report from Inside Rapids of Lucas Esteves signing for Colorado.  He's a 21 year old Brazilian LB who currently plays for Palmeiras.  He's made 2 appearances for the first team, having come up through tier youth system.  Transfermarkt currently lists him with a valuation of just under a million dollars.  I've heard this may not be our only move at LB either, so we'll have to see what happens in the next 8 days (the window closes at end of business/end of day next Thursday).

Sam's article in the Athletic mentions that the Rapids were working on a LB move, which syncs up with the Inside Rapids report.  Later in the comments Sam also states that Acosta is not expected to leave any time soon and there aren't any offers on the table for him.  While he has played really well this season and stood out in the Gold Cup, he is a 26 year old American.  European teams aren't usually looking for that.  That doesn't mean his window is closed, but its going to take the right team to make the right offer at the right time to get a deal done.  That could come tomorrow, or it could come at the end of the 2022 season.  Given that the Rapids have to plan for him to be here long-term.  Which makes the Kaye addition even more exciting as its an addition to what we have now, not a replacement for something we're losing.

It really means though that once everyone gets back from the Gold Cup that Bassett is going to have a hard time finding starts.  Kaye, Acosta, and Price are the obvious 3 in the midfield.  Acosta may need to split time at LB, depending on Wilson's injury forcing Trusty to move back inside and how ready Esteves is, but eventually Namli will likely return as well.  With Barrios on one side and Namli and Galvan pushing for time on the other Bassett doesn't have a spot.

One other thing to watch, if we sign a Brazilian we need an international slot we don't have.  We can use Namli's while he's on the Injured List but eventually we need to make a hole.  Do we trade for a slot?  Or will we be forced to release somebody?  Clearly Namli, Price, Wilson, and Galvan aren't going anywhere.  I doubt Shinyashiki is either.  That leaves Mezquida and Benezet.  I can't see either one going to the Springs for the rest of the season unless its a "finish out your contract down there and we'll release you" type of move, which might be what's necessary.  If so I think Mezquida may or may not have a future here, Benezet doesn't, so that would be my choice.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Welcome Mark-Anthony Kaye!

The Rapids made a big move today, sending $1 million in GAM and an international slot for next year to LAFC for Canadian midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye and LAFC's first round pick next season.  There are incentives in the deal that could raise the final amount of GAM LAFC gets but from what I'm hearing its not much or its based on the Rapids doing so good we won't care about paying them.  LAFC also retains 10% of any transfer fee the Rapids get after the Rapids get their initial payment back (so 10% of the fee after the first $1M+incentive payments).

Needless to say this is a significant outlay for a player.  Kaye is 26 years old (birthday in December) and is a regular callup for the Canadian National Team.  He's been part of LAFC since they signed him before their inaugural season in 2018, appearing 77 times in 3.5 seasons for them.  Before that he played for Louisville City in the USL and TFC II and TFC III before that.  Coming up through TFC's Academy means he counts as a domestic player even though he's Canadian so he doesn't need an international slot.

This season he's lost playing time as LAFC has shifted formation and his skills have been squeezed out of their midfield.  He's also seems to be making a few more mistakes in defense lately and some LAFC commentators suggested that he needed a change of scenery.  Of course we heard the same thing about Keegan Rosenberry.  And Kellyn Acosta.  And Auston Trusty.  And Michael Barrios.  We aren't becoming known as Distressed Assets FC for nothing.  I have faith that if there are any issues along those lines that Padraig Smith and Robin Fraser know how to get a player back to playing at their best.

IMO this is a real solid move by the club.  It seems to be seen as a very positive move for both teams by neutral fans and commentators around MLS.  There are a number of Rapids fans who are still, somewhat fairly, gun shy after seeing so many deals blow up in our face but the track record of the current FO is one that doesn't make the same mistake twice and one that has a pretty good read on MLS-based players.  (International signings, well, there's still work to do).  

Plus look at how this deal breaks down.  $1M of GAM is the same amount of GAM we're going to get from the Vines sale.  100% of the proceeds from a homegrown player being sold go back to the club, with the first $1M going back to the club as GAM, and the rest going back as funds that have to be reinvested in the club outside of salary/transfer fees (it can't be pocketed.  We're essentially buying Kaye with house money, which is exactly how the youth system is supposed to work.  The international slot in 2022 is meaningless as we have no idea what kind of green cards will be acquired by then, so we can easily work around that.  The 10% sell on clause is nothing.  If we sell Kaye for $2M we'd get $1.9M (our initial cost of $1M plus 90% of everything else) and LAFC would get $100K.  Whatever.

In exchange we get a midfield of Jack Price, possibly the most underrated midfielder in the league, Canadian Nat Mark-Anthony Kaye, and American Nat Kellyn Acosta.  Its hard to say there's a better 3-man midfield in the league.  It gives us some of that bite we've been missing and another threat to score.

You noticed I included Acosta.  My first reaction to this move was that this screamed that we were about to sell him but after some thought and talking to some contacts I think that's less likely.  As well as Acosta has been playing we haven't heard any rumors about offers for him.  This improves the team even if he doesn't get sold in a year where we have a chance to really make some noise.  I think the odd man out here is Bassett.  Its going to be hard to displace those three from the starting lineup.  He's going to have to force Fraser to play a 4-man midfield or hope Acosta spends more time at LB than I expect.  With only 18 months left on his contract this feels more like a plan for him leaving, one way or the other, than Acosta.

Monday, July 26, 2021

Same As It Ever Was

The Rapids, once again, played their worst game of the season in Sandy as the evil empire blew the doors off the burgundy boys en route to a 3-0 win.  Really the scoreline flatters FSL as the wounds were largely self-inflected, at least up to the point where it didn't matter.  That starts with one of the worst own goals in Rapids history as a simple pass from Abubakar back to Yarbrough was misplayed by the keeper and rolled into the goal.  Will just took his eyes off of it and let it get under his feet.  Inexcusable.  

That was followed by a not great turnover by Shinyashiki in the attacking third that turned into a fast break down the field for FSL.  Rosenberry, inexplicably, kept ceding ground to bobby Wood, from the mdifield strip to the midpoint of the box before he tried to make a play.  By that point Wood had created separation enough that Rosenberry couldn't block the shot.  Keegan did, correctly, push him to the outside but then Yarbrough committed another cardinal sin for a keeper and got beat near post.  As a keeper, especially with a defender pushing the attacker outside, you have to make the attacker beat you with the hard shot to the far post, not the easy one near post.

After half the Rapids tried to rally to get back into it, but after an initial burst in the first 15 minutes, capped off by a good clearance off the line of a Abubakar header by a FSL defender, but after that it was fairly clear how this game was going to end.  FSL get one more after Rubin found space between Abubakar and Trusty with neither closing him down, an easy pass put him in on goal and there was nothing Yarbrough could do.

This was a bad week for Colorado.  Coming into it 7 points was a reasonable goal and 9 points was not our of the question.  Instead we got 4 points and played maybe 15 minutes of good soccer in 270 minutes of game time (the 15 minutes after half in the Dallas game).  This stretch really shows how important Vines and particularly Acosta are to this team.  Without Kellyn dictating play in the middle there's nothing to stop teams from running right at our back line.  Bobby Wood's goal was the 3rd or 4th long run he took at the defense with the ball to get into a dangerous spot.  Acosta's played lights out for the Nats at the Gold Cup, which will probably get him the European deal he's been looking for.  We just have to hope that its this winter and not in August, because without him we're sunk for 2021.

Yarbrough had the worst performance by a Rapids keeper since probably the infamous Joe Nasco game.  In 16 minutes he essentially gave FSL a 2 goal lead.  This comes on the heels of a shaky effort against Dallas.  Its not time to make a change. but he's lost any "lead" he had over Irwin for the #1 spot.  Another bad game in the next few matches and it would be good to see what Irwin could do.

Yarbrough's own goal really shook this team, and they never got their heads back in the game.  This was something that was foreseen (by me, among others) in the preseason as a weakness in this squad.  So much youth is great but the lack of veteran leadership makes it hard to get out of a bad spiral when the team gets into one, especially when its one of the senior leaders that made the mistake.

All we can do now is put it behind us and move forward.  Its important that the team bounces back from the poor performance and heads down to Austin with something to prove.  This will be the last match without Acosta and Lewis, but I expect Vines' transfer to be announced as soon as the Gold Cup is over.  Luckily most of the teams around us in the standings also dropped points so the loss didn't hurt us too much, outside of the Rocky Mountain Cup.

Man of the Match: Ollie Larraz.  Given how poorly the team played, his 4 minutes (plus stoppage) of play showed at least a spark that the team was missing.

Friday, July 23, 2021

Rocky. Mountain. Cup.

No need to explain how important this one is.  Tomorrow, 8pm, Sandy, Utah.  The rightful Rocky Mountain Cup holders take on the pretenders from the west side of the Divide.  C38 has a contingent heading out on a bus in the morning.  KSL, Salt Lake's TV affiliate, streams the game online for free so even if you live in Denver and are blacked out by Altitude you should be able to watch it there (FSL announcers though).  to remind everyone, last year's decision to only count certain games towards the Cup was a exception due to COVID.  This year we're back to all 3 games counting towards the Cup.  Total points over the 3 games wins it.  If tied then its total goals.  If still tied the current (and rightful) holders would retain the Cup.

Injury Report:
OUT: M Younes Namli

International Callups:
USA: D Sam Vines, M Kellyn Acosta, M Jonathan Lewis

Disciplinary Report:

Exactly the same player availability as Wednesday.  Really happy Price and Wilson were able to avoid yellows long enough to get to this game.

I think Fraser is going to ask some guys to dig deep and go for their second start in just over 72 hours, and for a lot of them their 3rd start in just over 7 days.  We get a week off after this and its a big match.  This is probably our best XI with the 4 guys that are missing and I think we'll see it start tomorrow night.

Prediction: 1-1 draw, goal by Galvan.  Both teams have equal offenses but the Rapids have a slightly better defense.  FSL is in a bit of a tailspin right now but I'm very hesitant to predict any kind of result in Sandy given our record there.  We are on a two game win streak with a win there over Vancouver earlier this season and the 5-0 beat down we put on FSL to win the Cup last season, but I think 3 games in a week is going to be asking a lot with our depth issues.  Getting out with a draw would be a solid, if maybe not hoped for, result.

And a reminder of what we're playing for:

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Expected 3 Points, Got 3 Points

A workman's-like effort from the Rapids last night in a workman's-like game.  This was a game where the Rapids were better than the other team, put out enough effort to get the lead, and then just killed the game and claimed the 3points.  No big highlights, no stress, just get out there and get the job done for a warm mid-week game.  That said, the first half looked a lot like the San Jose game with both teams not doing a whole lot.  Dallas actually put it in the back of the net in the 29th minute but it was correctly waved off due to an offside in the build up.  That was the only real highlight going into the break.

Fraser clearly told the team to start shooing in the locker room, because we spent far too much of the first half trying to walk it into the goal.  We came out of the break and scored twice in the first 10 minutes.  The first off another set piece setup from Captain Jack, firing in a corner for Abubakar to get his head on, and the second another revenge goal from Barrios against his old team.  He got a bit of a lucky bounce that fooled the keeper but that's what happens when things are going your way.  After that we were able to throttle back, sub liberally, and try to conserve energy for our Rocky Mountain Cup match on Saturday.

Random Thoughts:

  • Another game, another successful outing for Trusy at LB.  His next test is really when we play a quality side who might be able to exploit any weaknesses he has in that role.
  • Yarbrough had a bit of an off-night, but Dallas wasn't able to capitalize on it.  He had a bad distribution right to a Dallas attacker that forced him into an immediate save, he went walkabout at one point and Drew Moor had to make an emergency clearance, and he had one cross go right through his hands and would have been easy pickings had Dallas had anyone within attacking distance.  Everyone has a bad night though so I'm not worried.
  • Speaking of Drew Moor, his perfect record this season continues.  He's only been subbed in to close out wins so far.
  • The Rapids are also the only team in MLS to have not conceded a goal in the last 15 minutes of a game this season.
  • The ongoing rotation in midfield is really showing us who should be the starters and who should be the backups.  Price, Acosta, Bassett, Barrios, and Galvan are clearly the best of the bunch, with Rubio in front of them.
  • Saturday Benezet got his chance to move into a starter's role and last night it was Shinyashiki.  Much like Benezet, Shinyashiki did not impress.  his touch and timing are off and he's best served in a sub role once the Gold Cup trio return.
  • Mezquida is doing well enough, which is what we expect from a clear backup.
  • Rubio had a solid game, but he was oddly quiet in his normal expressiveness.  I don't know if he's decided that its not working or he was just taking it easy.
  • The Bodmer Line is down to 0.952 pts/game.
  • in 2016 we had 27 points after 13 games, so we're 3 points off that pace.  The big difference is that the 2016 team didn't lose a 3rd game until the 21st match.  We already have 3 losses.
  • While we're off to a great season, the one caveat is that in our 13 games we've only played 5 teams currently in a playoff position.  In those games we're 2-1-2 (W-D-L).  The last 10 games of the season we'll play 7 matches against teams likely in a playoff position.  So its good we're banking points now.
  • Next up, its Rocky Mountain Cup week as we head to Sandy.
Not directly related to the game, but The Athletic had a report tonight that a MLS team reached out to the Rapids to ask permission to talk to Robin Fraser about their head coaching position.  Because of that the Rapids and Fraser are now talking about a contract extension.

That's the extent of the report.  Reading between the lines though I'm 909% sure the unnamed MLS team is Toronto FC, who recently fired head coach Chris Armas.  I'm also pretty sure Toronto asked because they had to, knowing Robin's ties to the team, but they also knew they weren't going to get permission and that Fraser probably wasn't interested in leaving so soon into his tenure.  I'm also thinking that Padraig Smith knows he's got a good thing going and decided this gave him a good reason to lock Fraser down for a longer stretch.  Something his predecessors failed to do when Dallas came sniffing after Pareja.

Man of the Match: Michael Barrios.  He was dangerous all night, even if his touch failed him a couple of times, and god a goal against his old team (again).  He's been the best of our offseason pickups by a good deal and shows it night after night.