Saturday, January 20, 2018

Rapids Take 2 Forwards In Draft

The Rapids made no trades yesterday, leaving them with the 2 picks they had going into the day, the 2nd and 4th in the second round.  They took a forward with both picks, first Alan Winn out of UNC followed by Frantzy Perroit out of Coastal Carolina U.  Rounds 3 & 4 are via conference call tomorrow at noon, Colorado has the 4th pick in the third round and the 3rd and 4th picks in the fourth round.

Winn is a wide player that scored 11 times for UNC last season.  Perroit is more of a traditional #9 who put up 10 goals last season for Coastal Carolina.  He is Haitian by birth but has an American passport so he won't count as an international.

Also yesterday American center back Cameron Carter-Vickers was loaned from Tottenham to Ipswich Town, freeing up Tommy Smith to make a move.  No word yet about a signing here but all the pieces are in place.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Tommy Smith Incoming and Superdraft "Preview"

So those posts last week where I downplayed the likelihood of Tommy Smith joining the Rapids?  Oops.  Its looking like he'll be in camp at least in time to go to Arizona with the team next Wednesday.  At least, if the reporting from his current team is to be believed.  This morning we woke up to a report from an Ipswich paper that the deal to sell Smith to Colorado was done pending Ipswich Town singing a replacement.  Tonight there's a report from the same source that Ipswich is expected to announced a defender joining on loan tomorrow.  That would leave Smith free to come to Colorado and go through the formalities to be announced early next week before the team goes to Arizona.

So what do we know about Tommy Smith?  He's a 27 year old New Zealand center back that has spent his whole career with Ipswich Town (he has 29 appearances with 3 different teams on loan).  He's made 245 appearances for The Tractor Boys since he joined the squad in 2007.  Hes also a New Zealand international and he has been capped 32 times for the All-Whites including playing for Anthony Hudson a few times though most of his callups were before Hudson took charge.

Smith has dealt with a back injury recently and has only appeared 13 times for Ipswich over the last season and a half as he's fallen out of favor.  Transfermarkt lists his value as $2 million but hopefully with him being out of favor we could get him for a lower number than that.  Obviously he is an international so acquiring him will require us to make another move before the roster deadline day to free up an international slot.  He would fill a the hole at CB, leaving us a back 3 likely of Ford-Smith-Sjoberg, but there's a rumor that Sjoberg might be on the trading block so there may be more changes to come.

We could see those changes tomorrow as Superdraft day always ends up with wheeling and dealing around the league.  There isn't much to preview for the Rapids as they have two second round picks tomorrow, the 2nd and 4th picks of the round, having traded their first round pick for Eric Miller.  Over the last few years any pick outside the first round has been a crap shoot, the last player to be picked outside the first round and notably more than an average MLS player was Joao Plata who was drafted in the second round in 2011 by Toronto.  Other than that there are some decent MLS players who have been drafted in later rounds but nobody who's become a leading player for their club.  With our current picks I expect Colorado to draft somebody who sticks with the team out of camp tomorrow (like Sam Hamilton has from last year's draft) and a goalkeeper on Sunday the be the 3rd keeper on the roster, but nobody who's going to make a significant difference to this team.

Monday, January 15, 2018

The USSF Election, Can We Talk Realistically?

What I'm feeling making this post

Many readers (if I have enough readers to be considers "many") are aware that next month the U.S. Soccer Federation will be electing a new President to replace the outgoing Sunil Gulati.  Familiar names such as Eric Wynalda, Hope Solo, and Kyle Martino and less familiar names such as Kathy Carter, Carlos Cordiero, and Michael Winograd have thrown their names into the ring for the position.  The voters in the election are representatives from each state association, each professional organization, and the commissioners of the Youth and Adult councils.  I'm not going to get into details of who these various people are other than to point out the general fanbase is not directly represented and this is essentially an internal election (and that's not meant as a criticism).  I'm also not going to directly endorse a candidate (not that my endorsement is in anyway meaningful but I want to clarify this post is not in direct support of anyone).  In fact I wasn't even going to discuss this election here but I reached a breaking point tonight (thus the image to start this post).

What I do want to talk about is the level of unbelievably misinformed discussion going on in the fanbase about this election.  There's a large segment of fans, on both sides, that have decided this is where the various pro/rel, schedule, and gender equity battles will be won or loss, with no understanding of how the President will be elected and what power they actually have.  For example, the NY Cosmos (a theoretically professional organization who has been the loudest voice in pushing for pro/rel and other changes) tweeted this today.  They immediately deleted it but not before it was screen capped:

Seriously?  Are you f-ing kidding me?  Quoting Martin Luther King to advance a debate on the structure of soccer leagues?  Get you're priorities in order Cosmos!

This is just the worst example (because it came from a professional organization and not a random fan) of some of the discussion you see on social media about these issues.  Clearly many of these "fans" don't actually understand how little power the USSF President has.  I have news for them.  Any USSF President (and largely its Wynalda and Martino pushing major changes) who comes to the MLS Board of Directors with an ultimatum about pro/rel or changing the schedule is (rightfully) going to get laughed out of the room.  They will not have the power to dictate the change to the leagues, at best they can make a recommendation to the USSF board that MLS (and presumably, USL) have their licensing revoked which would make the leagues rogue and unrecognized by FIFA.  Of course that board includes representatives from those leagues, not to mention many other people, most of whom will need more reasoning than the platitudes being thrown out by these candidates in order to gain "grass roots" support, in order to support forcing such a radical change and the idea will go nowhere.

All that said, that doesn't mean the "status quo" side of this debate has clean hands either.  Changes do need to happen.  I mean, the men missed the World Cup for the first time in 32 years and the women are losing the general lead they had over most of the rest of the world, to say nothing of the youth teams results over the last few years.  We need some significant changes, but those changes aren't "change the schedule" or "add pro/rel", things largely outside the USSF's purview.  The changes are "in house" at the USSF, changing how they run their teams, how they do outreach to youth players, how they spend their money, etc.  Going out their as the candidate supported by Don Garber (even if officially that hasn't been stated) isn't a sustainable platform either.

If fans really want the sport to grow in this country we owe it to ourselves to look for options in the middle, because they're the only thing that will work.  Taking up positions at the extreme edges and driving the candidates there means we're either going to get the status quo, or a USSF President that has no ability to work with the professional leagues.  Both will be failures on some level.

And now to clarify my own positions:
1. Pro/rel won't be workable and won't be instituted in any time frame anyone can reasonably project (~20 years).  Beyond that the sporting landscape is too unknown to make a projection meaningful.
2. Anyone who wants to consider a fall-spring schedule is welcome to go sit out at the Dick for 2 hours tonight.  Assuming you don't die of frostbite you can tell us how you plan to sell tickets to fans to do that.  If the solution is "a winter break" any winter break that would avoid the problem would essentially encompass the same time frame as our current winter break, so you wouldn't actually be making any schedule changes.
3. The USSF Presidents first task, whomever they are, should be to hire a TD/GM position for all the national teams and give them the job of improving the on-field results of all the teams.  The President should be responsible for all off-field/business decisions.
4. That new position should look at Germany's plan that brought them back from their low point ~15 years ago.  It involved getting a group of all the stakeholders together from the Federation, the leagues, etc. and setting goals that all could agree to work towards.  The USSF needs some sore of coordination like that.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

New Staff, Player Rumors, and Superdraft Week

I know I've been quiet this past week but in terms of actual news, not rumors, not much has happened.

Starting with the notable news, both Edgar Castillo and Jack Price were officially announced on Tuesday and Friday respectfully.  Castillo is here on a one year loan with an option to buy.  Price's length of contract was not announced but multiple sources in the UK have reported its a 4 year deal.

That leaves us with 23 of 30 roster spots filled and all 7 international slots used.

Padraig Smith and Wayne Brant had their interim tags removed this week.  Smith is now the Gm and executive VP and will oversee all soccer-related activities while Brant is the senior Vp of business operations and will oversee all business and other non-soccer related activities.

There were two new Front Office additions this week.  Fran Taylor was named assistant GM, coming over from stat DNA and shows additional commitment to the stats/numbers based approach to the game that the Front Office has talked about since Smith arrived.  Chad Kolarcik joins the Rapids as the head of sports science & performance, coming over from the Sounders where he was the head strength & conditioning coach.  He'll be expected to revamp the conditioning aspects of the team with the newest findings.  There was a murmur of discontent from the Front Office last season about how the team's health and conditioning were handled and this seems to indicate that the new leadership has different ideas about how it should be handled.

We also had a couple of big player rumors this week, neither one appears to have panned out.  I had heard that Colorado had been perusing Mexican center back Oswaldo Alanis who's currently at Chivas but it appears he's going to wait for the summer window and try to move to Europe.  It sounds like he'd consider Colorado then if Europe doesn't work out.  It was also reported that the Rapids had taken the lead in acquiring Ola Kamara but yesterday the reports were that he's looking for something more coastal with more opportunity and the Rapids are moving on.  That's toom bad as Kamara is exactly the type of player we need.  The last rumor is that we're interested in New England's Lee Nguyen which has potential but it would be a move away from the 3-5-2 we have apparently been planning for this offseason as the planned formation doesn't really have a spot for a #10 like Nguyen.

Finally the combine has started in Orlando in preparation for the SuperDraft on Friday and Sunday.  Rounds 1 and 2 are Friday in Philly at the national coaches convention, 3 and 4 are by teleconference on Sunday.  Colorado traded their first round pick to Montreal two years ago for Eric Miller.  We hold two picks in the 2nd round, the 2nd pick from LA in the Jermaine Jones trade and our natural pick, the 4th of the round.  We have our natural (4th) picks in rounds 3 and 4 and we also have the 3rd pick in the 4th Round as part of the Marcelo Sarvas trade to DC.

While I wouldn't be shocked to see us move around in the draft I'm not expecting any major moves.  We don't hold any high enough picks to trade for quality players and I don't think the current leadership is interested enough in the draft to try to move up to make a major pick.  I expect we'll end up picking one player that will make the roster out of preseason and a young GK that will spend the season on loan somewhere.

So far the Front Office has talked the talk but not walked the walk this offseason as once again Rapids fans are wondering where the major attacking signings are.  Training camp opens a week from tomorrow, so about 190 hours from now.  The Front Office has talked multiple times about having all the key pieces in places by then so the team can hit the ground running.  There's a lot of work to be done in that time as this team needs a major DP/TAM striker signing, another center back, and probably a second starting-quality striker signing to push Badji and to allow for rotation.  Now's when the rubber meets the road.

Monday, January 8, 2018

New Players...Almost Official, A Callup, and a Negotiating Tactic?

Bunch of news today.  We'll begin with the big stuff.  At 4pm today fans were invited to RiNo for a chance to meet Jack Price and Edgar Castillo.  There has yet to be an official announcement of the details of their signings but clearly they've joined the team.  The Denver Post article confirms what most fans had inferred from Hudson's interviews, we'll be playing a 3-5-2/5-2-3 this season with 3 CBs and Hairston and Castillo as wingbacks.

It also talks about how Hudson sees Price anchoring the midfield in this formation.  I don't  know if this is just talking up the new signings or if the plan is really for Price to be a starter.  The midfield is a bit crowded at this point with Aigner, Azira, Blomberg, Boateng, Gashi, and Price for 3 spots so it will be interesting to see if anyone is heading out and who wins the starting spots.

With these moves we are at 23 of 30 roster spots filled and all 7 international spots filled.  In order to bring in any more international spots there will need to be some moves to free up an international slot.  The obvious choices are sending Wynne to Charlotte for the season and Badji getting a green card.  After that its either trading for a spot or moving somebody out.  Either way, the next couple of weeks could be interesting.

In other news today Marlon Hairston got a callup to the U.S. National Team camp in LA later this month.  Its his first ever invite to the Nats.  The roster for the Bosnia & Herzegovina friendly on the 28th will be taken from the camp.

Finally, following up on Saturday's rumor of Tommy Smith being linked to the Rapids, this appears to be a rumor started by Smith or his agent, if this BBC article is anything to go by.  His current manager says Ipswich Town has received no contact from the Rapids about Smith.  If nothing comes of this it won't be the first time that a European player has used the threat of moving to MLS as a negotiating tactic.