Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Rapids Sign Stefan Aigner

Colorado announced the signing of German midfielder Stefan Aigner today (pending medical and P-1 visa).  This had been rumored since the weekend.  Aigner is 29 years old and has signed through the 2020 season.  He is similar to Gashi in that his preferred role is a winger but he can also play striker (though Ainger prefers the right while Gashi prefers the left).  He comes to Colorado from Bundesliga 2 side 1860 Munich.  From 2012 to 2016 he played for Bundesliga side Eintracht Frankfurt, scoring 22 times in 95 appearances.  He only had 3 goals in 24 appearances for Munich last year but 1860 was a chaotic mess as their majority owner and the club administration spent more time fighting than improving the team.  They were relegated to the 3rd division at the end of the season but the owner refused to pay the fees to play in that division so they've been relegated a second time and will play in the 4th division regional league this year.

I don't see Aigner as a difference maker based on his background, but I don't hate the signing either.  He's already in Colorado but it will take a couple of weeks before I expect to see any significant minutes from him.  I'm guessing he might suit up but only get a token appearance in San Jose on Saturday at best, he'll come off then bench in our next home game against Vancouver, and then maybe he'll be ready to start in Dallas on the 12th, though I wouldn't be shocked if its not until the home game against Dc on the 19th that he gets his first start.  My hope is (assuming everyone is healthy) we would see a lineup something like this:

Hairston - Ford - Sjoberg - Da Fonte/Miller
Azira - Boateng
Badji                 Aigner

Freeing up Gashi to play as a withdrawn striker under Doyle will hopefully generate more offense and more targets to feed off of Aigner's service.  In theory Aigner could be the withdrawn forward and Gashi the winger as well.

I can see what the Rapids strategy/goals are this window with this move and the rumor that they're in the conversations around Kamara being traded.  An addition to the midfield and a striker would certainly increase the offense.  I'd like to see Colorado land a MLS quality starting striker to build around.  That would allow both Gashi and Aigner to play as wingers and Badji to be a solid sub off the bench going forward.  If that gets done we're really only an outside back away from where I hoped we'd be at the end of the window.

There will be at least one additional move coming as Aigner does need an international slot and we don't have one open.  That means either trading for a slot, trading away an international, or cutting/loaning somebody.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

New Leadership But No New Players

Today the Rapids announced some promotions in the Front Office to fill the hole left by Tim Hinchey's departure.  Padraig Smith has been named interim General Manager while Wayne Brant has been named interim Chief Business Officer.  Along with this the Rapids website now lists Jim Martin as the Governor of the Rapids and Matt Hutchings as the Alternate Governor.  Apparently the Governor roles were added shortly before Hinchey left but nobody noticed until last week.

Martin is the President and CEO of KSE and Hutchings is the COO, so I think those Governor titles are largely honorary and they will have little or nothing to do with the day-to-day operations of the team.  At most they would get involved next time we want to do a Howard/Gashi type deal where KSE would have to cover part of the salary or for any major events like an All-Star Game or World
Cup Qualifier.

We know Smith's background.  Brant joined KSE in 2007, served as Senior Director of Fan Development in 2014 and 15, then joined the Rapids directly as VP of Business Operations.  This seems to indicate that the Rapids are splitting the on-field and off-field responsibilities into two different spheres headed up by different people.  I'm fully in support of that move, I think its something they should have done long ago.  I'm not convinced that Smith is the right man for he job but he's got some time to convince everyone.  I know nothing about business or Brant so I'm going to assume he's going to do a good job. ;)

Of course the real issue is that in this transfer window we've had 3 "official" comments from the Rapids (outside of stuff around Saturday's game) and they've mentioned as many Rapids executives as possible player signings.  In the least week there have been official comments saying that despite rumors the Rapids have not been in talks with Michael Carrick and we are in talks with German midfielder Stefan Aigner.  That's two executives (Smith, Brant) and two players and we're through day 16 of 31 in this transfer window.  Not good enough.  We need help, we need it now, and it probably needs to be new blood.  I mean, like Hamilton says:

Thanks Omar!

On Sunday Omar Cummings announced that FC Cincinnati's friendly against Valencia CF last night would be his final game as a professional.  He will immediately transition to teh front office working with Cinci's youth club.

Omar was one half of the C+C Goal Factory that combined for 89 goals for the Rapids between 2007 and 2012 (39 for Omar, 50 for Casey) and was one of the starters for the Rapids in MLS Cup 2010.  After that 2010 season (where he led the team in scoring) he got a look from Aston Villa but work permit issues prevented him from more than just a few training sessions in England.  After leaving the Rapids he spent two years in Houston and a year in San Antonio before being part of the inaugural Cincinnati FC squad last year.  He played in 17 games in 2016, scoring 3 times, but this year he only got 37 minutes in 3 substitute appearances in their first 20 games.

Cummings will always be part of the Rapids family and I wish him luck in his future plans.

With this retirement, half the Rapids who saw the field in the 2010 MLS Cup have now retired.  Moor, Larentowicz, and Wynne are still in MLS, Pickens, Kimura, Wallace are in the USL, and Kandji is playing in Finland.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Colorado Cramps Toronto's Style

In an ugly, ugly match somehow the Rapids actually got out with the point (and scoreline) I predicted.  Its a point hey had no business earning and TFC must be kicking themselves over the 2 points lost but at this point in the season a point is a point and you take what you can get.

  • A whole lot of chaos led to the early goal by TFC.  A bad read by MacMath to try to beat Giovinco to the ball started it, then I don't know what da Fonte the defense was doing in the box, and MacMath could only recover so much.
  • After that the fist half was ugly, from both teams.  Combined here was 1 shot on target after the goal (by Toronto).  TFC pretty much dictated the game but the Rapids D kept them from getting any good looks.
  • After half Toronto still had the run of play for the first 15 minutes but the balanced switched when Gordon came in for Miller.  Not so much because of anything Gordon did particularly but just because the team in general got more offensive.
  • About the 75th minute I posted in the Rapids forum that TFC had to be pretty upset they hadn't scored a second and let the Rapids stay in this game.  One mistake could cost them 2 points.
  • In the 76th minute the TFC midfield made a mistake and the Rapids pounced.  Azira stole a ball in midfield, sent it forward to Gordon, who played a through ball to Badji that he managed to sneak by Clint Irwin to level the game.
  • After that the Rapids killed the game off.  And by killed I mean took every chance to go down needing help from the trainer.  It was embarrassing a s Rapids fan to watch.  I understand some time-wasting gamesmanship at the end of the game but this was on another level.  Either that or our fitness regimen during the Gold Cup break sucked as we were cramping up left and right.
  • The teams on the field may have played to a draw but Colorado's social meeting team put a beating on TFC's post game:
  • Our first point on the road this season was a good start but its not enough to get us into a playoff position.  We actually moved further away with the result, now needing 1.73 pts/game to get to the Bodmer Line.
Man of the Match: Dominique Badji.  Scored the goal which was the only highlight in an ugly game.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Can Colorado Fight To A Result?

Battle of Lundy's Lane/Niagara Falls

Tuesday is the 203rd anniversary of the Battle  of Lundy's Lane, also know as the Battle of Niagara Falls in the War of 1812.  Tactically the battle was a draw, which is probably the best the Rapids can hope for in their invasion of Canada tomorrow.  Strategically the British stopping the American invasion of Canada was a loss for the overall ambitions of the Americans, which is probably the case as well with the Rapids tomorrow if they fail to win.  kickoff is at 5pm and the game is on Altitude, which means it will finish before the USA-Costa Rica Gold Cup Semifinal at 8pm on FS1.

Lots of missing players for this one:
Colorado: GK Tom Howard (USA), D Mekeil Williams (yellow card accumulation suspension), D Bobby Burling (injury)
Toronto: Jozy Altidore (USA); Michael Bradley (USA), Justin Morrow (USA); Steven Beitashour (injury), Nick Hagglund (injury)

Along with that Toronto has Panamanian Armando Cooper and three Canadians who were called up for the Gold Cup but their teams were eliminated midweek in the quarterfinals and they may or may not be available to TFC tomorrow.  also their head coach, ex-Rapid Greg Vanney, is suspended after being ejected on Wednesday so another ex-Rapid, Robin Fraser, will be coaching this one.

The questionable injuries for Colorado are Gashi, Sjoberg, and Gatt, I don't know if any of them traveled to Toronto.  A big question mark for Toronto is Giovinco who left Wednesday's game with a bad back injury.

After 18 days off and everyone getting rested and mostly healthy Pablo has a lot of choices for the lineup.  I'm assuming we'll stick with the 4-4-2 but if the 4-5-1 returns I won't be shocked.  The backline is still going to be a mess though with Burling and probably Sjoberg out, we'll be looking at Ford and Miller likely at CB.

Prediction: 1-1 draw, goal by Doyle.  We couldn't ask for a better time to play Toronto with them coming off a midweek game and down 5-10 players plus their coach.  If we can't get a result here then we're never going to win on the road.  The Rapids channel some of that MLS Cup history and get a draw, but that's all.