Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Niko traded

(Sorry about the lack of updates, a long weekend of travel combined with a week of training at work has diminished my blogging time recently)

The Rapids made a move today, sending Niko Hernandez to Columbus for Tim Ward and a 3rd round pick in the '09 Supplimental Draft.

This was a solid move by the Rapids. Niko showed nothing last year and for the amount of money he is going to get in 2008 he would have been a very expensive bench player. Tim Ward is a left back, a position we're already quite deep at, but he's Generation Adidas which means his salary does not count against the cap and he doesn't take up a roster spot. This gives us some freedom to either trade one of our left backs or try one of them out on the right side as both Ihemelu and Gargan are recovering from injury and may not be ready for Opening Day.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Rapids Simultaniously Defeat and Draw the U-17's

Tonight the Rapids played two simultaneous games against the U.S. U-17 team. Both games were played in three 30 minute periods and teams apparently switched players between games between periods. The Rapids defense in both games was perfect while one set of attackers managed to put a brace on the board while the others were held scoreless. Niko and Harvey got the goals with assists from Hilgenbrinck and Cummings.

Expected starters that played in either game consisted of Bouna, Erpen, Burciaga Jr., Cooke, and Clark, plus whomever ends up winning the battle for the forward positions.

The bad news is that Petke and Pablo have returned to Denver for further treatment of their injuries.

Tomorrow night the Rapids take on Rocky Mountain Cup rivals FSL in their final match before leaving Florida and stopping at home before heading to London to train with Arsenal. Hopefully Christian Gomez and Ugo Ihemelu will be good enough to get some time against FSL, they need to get integrated into the team as soon as possible.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Weekend Roundup

Queen of the South - Another week, another 3-1 win for Queens. This time the opponent was Stirling, currently sitting at the bottom of the table and looking at a future in the 2nd Division. Queens extended their winning streak to 7 games and 9 of the last 10. Queens started out quickly with 3threegreat chances, but only converting one of them. Stirling would get that one back, but right before half Queens took the lead for good on a Paul Burns strike. The second half was much quieter with Stirling never turely threatening and Queens getting the insurance goal midway through the period. QoS is still in 4th place in the table, 3 points back of St. Jonhstone in 3rd. They are now closer to the top than the relegation zone which I believe is a first for Queens in their current stay in the 1st Division.

Blackburn Rovers - Blackburn Rovers had the week off and the team travelled to Florida for a mid-season break.

Tenerife - Tenerife missed a great chance to move up in the standings against another team in the promotion hunt. Hercules proved too much for them as CDT gave up a goal midway through bolth halves, managing to equalize for a time right after the break but it wasn't enough. A win would have put CDT within 3 points of the last promotion spot, but with the loss they stay in 9th, 6 points from promotion.

Ebbsfleet United - Ebbsfleet faced Crawley Town in midweek play. It was a quick start to the match with both sides scoring in the first 15 minutes. This was followed partway through the first half by an own goal by Crawley Town. The own goal would probve to be the winner as both teams had numerous chances but couldn't convert.

43 hours later Ebbsfleet faced Torquay, again on the road. The short rest time between two road games proved to be too much for Ebbsfleet as they fell to a dominant performance by Torquay. One goal in the first half and a second soon after the break had Ebbsfleet back on their heels. The 'Fleet got one back, but in pushing for the equalizer Torquay got behind the defense to score the third 5 minutes before the end and stop any hopes of a comeback. With the split decisions this week Ebbsfleet remain in 9th in the table, 6 points from a playoff spot.

Next up is the FA Trophy Quarterfinal at Burton Albion on Saturday. This will be the first game with MyFC officially in charge as the handover was completed today.

Rapids Odds and Ends

We've got some player rumors and preseason results since last I updated.

  • The Rapids are pursuing Brazilian forward Reinaldo from the Austrlian A-League. Reports are that they've filed a discovery claim on him, which would give them first shot at signing the target man. FSL is also pursuing the striker (and sorry about linking to an FSL news story ;) ). I'm all for a new target man who's good with his head, we need somebody to latch on to Cookie's crosses.
  • Also from that same link the Rapids have former U-17 player Fernando Ayala in camp. He's been playing in South America and Croatia since his time with the U-17's in 2003. His agent says he's confident Ayala will make the squad. given the amount of crap that agents say and the ups and downs of Clavijo's personnel moves that probably means the odds are 50/50 at best. ;)
  • The Rapids faced Florida Atlantic on Friday night, playing to a 0-0 draw over 3 30 minute periods. The only expected starters for Opening Day in the starting 11 were Erpen, Burciaga Jr., Cooke, and Clark. Peterson and Cummings played up front and with the fluidity of our forward situation they may or may not be opening day starters. Niko and Kirovski played the middle 30 minutes up front, otherwise it was a mixture of reserves and trialists that made up the lineup. Hard to take much away from this game.
  • On Saturday the Rapids faced Honduran club Marathon in a 40 minute scrimmage, winning 3-0 on a Cummings goal and two own goals by Marathon. The starting 11 featured the same 4 expected Opening Day starters, with Peterson and Cummings up front. Again, not much to be drawn from this match.

Friday, February 15, 2008

News From Training Camp

The Rapids are in south Florida for preseason training this week. The newest journal shows the lineups from today's squad scrimmage. It looks like first team vs. second team, with some players held out for injury reasons. Looking at the first team squad gives us a good indication of what Clavijo is thinking at the moment;

Kimura - Keel - Erpen - Burciaga Jr.
Cooke - Ballouchy - C. Gomez - Clark
Kirovski - Cummings

The players that didn't participate in the scrimmage due to injury were Petke, Pablo, H. Gomez, and Ihemelu, among others. Bouna Time! was also absent as he isn't expected to return from his national team duties (and hopefully some time off to see his family while he's in Africa) until this weekend.

I think its safe to assume that Pablo, Petke, and Bouna will be part of the starting 11, most likely taking the places of Ballouchy, Keel, and Hughes in this lineup. That gives us the look of a traditional 4-4-2 diamond formation, with the expectation that our outside backs will have to be focused on defending as Clark and cooke are almost purely attack-minded players.

It appears that the forwards and the outside backs are the most unsettled of the positions. Kimura showed well for his age at the end of last season and could challenge Ihemelu for the right back slot, while both Burciaga and Hilgenbrink are fighting for the open left back position. Up front nobody stood out last season, though H.Gomez looked the best before his season was cut short with an ACL injury. With Casey out for at least the first couple of months of the season H.Gomez, Kirovski, Cummings, Peterson, and Hernandez all have a shot at the opening day lineup. I think the most likely duo is H.Gomez and Kirovski. The first because he was the most dangerous player we had at forward last season, and the second because regardless of his play Clavijo seems to believe he brings something to the team.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Why Colorado?

So I've been asked a number of times why a guy from Seattle supports Colorado or Queen of the South or Tenerife. Every so often (usually when the Rapids news is quiet for a few days) I'll pick one of my teams and tell you why I support them.

Naturally I thought I should start with the Colorado Rapids, since they are the primary subject of View From The Couch. I started following the Rapids in 1998 in the run up to the World Cup in France. In fact, my whole soccer interest restarted at that time. I played in city leagues growing up, and my sister was getting ready to try out for her high school team in the summer of 1994 so the two of us followed the World Cup here in the U.S. but it wasn't until I got out of college and the 1998 World Cup came around that I really got into the game.

I was working with a number of soccer fans at the time and as I started looking at MLS teams I looked for Chris Henderson. At the time he and Kasey Keller were probably the best known Seattle-area soccer players, having been involved in the National Team for years. Henderson led me to Colorado and as I started looking at the roster Marcus Hahnemann was pointed out to me by one of my coworkers as the son of one of the managers in my division. The combination of the two were enough to get me to start following the team.

Since that time I've ridden the highs and lows but I've never been tempted to change teams. Hopefully the introduction of Seattle into MLS next year won't prove too much to resist. ;)

Monday, February 11, 2008

Weekend Roundup

Queen of the South - Queens faced St. Johnstone at home, the club that was sitting right in front of them in the table. A win would keep their escape from the relegation spots going and close the gap on St. Johnstone who were 6 points ahead of them going into the weekend. An early first half goal and a pair of goals in the second bracketed around the lone St. Johnstone tally was enough for Queens to get a commanding win and continue their push up the table. They are now 11 points clear of the reglation places and within 3 points of 3rd place in the table.

Blackburn Rovers - Blackburn Rovers were up against it in this road match. Arsenal struck early and late, scoring in the 4th minute and in 2nd half stoppage time to seal the victory. The loss doesn't hurt their European hopes significantly, as they have a game in hand to be played against Liverpool, currently 5 points ahead and sitting in the one and only guarenteed UEFA Cup spot. A win in that game would vault them to within 2 points, with Manchester City and Aston Villa between them and Liverpool.

Tenerife - Tenerife left it until late to wrap up the victory over recently-moved Granada 74. A strike just before half led to some nervous defending until they were able to add a second in stoppage time and seal the deal. This win pushed them past Granada into 9th place in the table, and with most of the teams above them losing they are 4 points out of the final promotion spot at 3rd place. There are 6 teams to pass to get there though, so there is plenty of work to do.

Ebbsfleet United - In a match that could have helped both side's promotion hopes Ebbsfleet and Exeter had to settle for a 1-1 draw. It was Ebbsfleet taking the lead eraly, only to give it back 3 minutes after the break. Neither team was able to get the final shot they needed to grab the full 3 points and had to settle for the draw. This leaves Ebbsfleet in 8th place, 9 points out of the last promotion playoff spot with a game in hand.

Clavijo shuffles the deck, again

Soccer America has a report from Rapids training camp detailing some of Clavijo's plans for the starting 11.

Clavijo expects the new Gomez to play up front as a second forward, which probably means one or two members of a forward brigade that also includes Conor Casey can't be retained. He's lined up a Brazilian defensive midfielder - name not yet known - to play alongside Pablo Mastroeni in central midfield, and the flanks are more or less secure with Terry Cooke on the right and Colin Clark on the left.

That's right, not 3 days into his official time with the Rapids and Gomez has already been moved out of his "natural" position by Clavijo. Meanwhile Clavijo's plan is to move back to the so-called 'empty bucket' formation that didn't succeed when it was Pablo and Beckerman in the formation for Tim Hankinson, and frustrated Beckerman to the point that Clavijo traded him when the Rapids tried to use it last season.

Time will tell if Clavijo has finally hit on the winning formation, but early indications aren't good.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Christian Gomez a Rapid

The announcement is now official. From the Rapids website:

In order to sign the playmaker, Colorado had to complete a trade with DC United for his rights. In that deal the Rapids sent their first round pick in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft and future considerations to the nation’s capital.

Usually future considerations are more or higher draft picks, based on statistics the player puts up for his new teams (Games played, goals scored, etc.). If that's the case the Rapids got a steal on this one. Gomex is instantly the best player on the Rapids roster and gives the Rapids a true goal-scoring threat out of the midfield, something the team hasn't had in years, if ever. In trade we give up a few draft picks, and if you look at the Rapids draft history, and the odds of finding a quality MLS player in the draft, that's not a significant loss.

Even if the future considerations turn out to be an allocation I still think it was a good deal, though at that point its a more even trade for DC. gomez is still an allocation-level player, even at his age, and the increase in offensive firepower is something the team desperately needs.

With Gomez on the roster an no major rumored moves coming before the end of the season, I expect a lineup along the following lines.


Ugo - Erpen - Petke - Burciaga


Cooke - Gomez - Clark

Herc - Kirovski

My choice would be Peterson or Cummings up front in place of Kirovski, at least until Casey has recovered from his knee injury, but Clavijo seems to be obsessed with Jovan in the starting 11 so I expect him there. I could also see Nico in place of Clark and/or Hilgenbrink in place of Burciaga based on preseason training.

UPDATE: Well it looks like the trade is turning sour. Steven Goff is reporting that the "future considerations" is the right for D.C. to use our DP slot for the next 3 years. Its unclear if that means we've traded the slot or if they just have the right of first refusal to the use of our slot, but either way involving our DP slot in the Gomez trades takes this trade from a steal for the Rapids all the way to a steal for DC. Consider the following:
  • Chivas traded their DP slot for 5 years for the under contract Guevara
  • We've (apparently) traded our DP slot for 3 years AND a first round draft pick for the rights to Gomez. We then had to sign him to a contract or give him up.

Not only that, but we've also made DC much better in the process. They can now go out and sign Veron or Schevcheko, both of which have been rumored. Either one of those two would probably be an upgarde for Gomez for the Rapids. Now admittedly, I don't think that the Rapids FO would spend the cash to sign one of the, and I'm not sure they would come here if they did, but that doesn't make the trade to give up our DP into a good move.

Schedule Analysis

Now that we've had time to look over the schedule, let's see what kind of hurdles to the Rapids face this season.
  • There's only one short week for the Rapids. They are at Houston on Saturday May 10th then home for game one of the Rocky Mountain Cup on Thursday May 15th. Other than that they have at least 5 full days off between every league match this season.
  • This year everyone plays everyone else twice, then each team plays 4 other teams 1 extra time to get to 30 games. Our extra games are against Houston and FSL at home and Dallas and LA on the road.
  • The team's longest offtime is over the weekend of Aug. 2nd. They play Columbus at home on July 27th, then don't play again until they take their one trip North of the border on Aug. 9th.
  • May 15th also kicks off the Rapids longest homestand, 3 games in 17 days against FSL, Chivas, and Dallas. 2 of those 3 teams feature in the team's longest road trip, 3 games in 12 days against DC, FSL and Dallas starting in D.C. on Aug. 23rd.
  • The schedule is top heavy with home games. 9 of the first 15 at home, leaving 6 home games in the last half of the season.
  • Based on last year's results, the Rapids end the season running the gauntlet. In the final 6 games they play both 2007 MLS Cup finalists at home, go on the road to play both teams that call the HDC home, and have to go out to NY to face the Red Bulls. The only relief they get is their final game of the season at home against FSL.
  • The closest thing to an "easy" stretch of games for Colorado is right after the All-Star break. We face Columbus at home, have the previously mentioned bye week, go to Toronto, then get KC at home.

And as requested, a breakdown of games by night/day, day of week, and TV coverage (all times MT):

  • Afternoon starts, between 1pm and 2pm: 3 home. 3 away
  • Evening starts between 5:30pm and 7:30pm: 12 home, 12 away
  • Saturday games: 9 home, 11 away
  • Sunday games: 4 home, 2 away
  • Thursday games: 1 home, 1 away
  • Friday games: 1 home, 1 away
  • ESPN2 games: 1 home, 1 away
  • FSC games: 1 home, 2 away
  • HDNet games: 1 home, 2 away
  • Telefutura games: 3 home, 1 away
  • MLS Direct Kick games: 9 home, 9 away

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Rapids Schedule Announced

The 2008 Schedule was just announced. Here are some of the higlights:
  • Mar. 29th - The opening match against Old Spice and the rest of the Galaxy
  • Apr. 19th - The return of the Earthquakes to Colorado
  • May 4th - Christian Gomez faces off against his old teammates on DC United for the first time
  • May 15th - The first of 3 games in the Rocky Mountain Cup
  • July 4th - RBNY is the opponent for the traditional 4th of July game
  • Aug 29th - Our only road trip to SLC to take on FSL this season. Game two of the Rocky Mountain Cup
  • Sept 20th - New England comes to town, hopefully bringing the second best set of fans in MLS
  • Oct. 25th - The season wraps up with the third and final game of the Rocky Mountain Cup

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Christian Gomez, finally?

The Rapids have called a press conference for noon on Friday to announce a major player acquisition. With no other rumors of note it would seem that the Christian Gomez saga is at an end.

Ft. Lauderdale, London...Jackson, Mississippi?!?!

The Rapids preseason schedule is out. Alternating between training at The Dick and road trips its highlighted by 10 days in London training with Arsenal. The team's first trip will be to Ft. Lauderdale, which will include a "friendly" against Rocky Mountain Cup rivals FaKe SaLt LaKe. After the team's return from England their final trip will be to Jackson, Mississippi for 4 days including a match against Chicago.

Jackson, Mississippi?!?!?

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Weekend Roundup and Gomez Update

Sorry for the lack of news the last couple of days. I was hoping we'd have more solid information on the Christian Gomez saga before I posted. Instead I'll start what I hope to be a regular Monday or Tuesday feature for View From the Couch, a weekend roundup of the games involving my teams.

Queen of the South - Queens faced Morton in the Scottish Cup Round of 16, and eased by with a 2 goal victory on the road. Both goals came in the second half as the Doonhamers locked up their spot in the quarter-finals. They'll face the winner of the Motherwell - Dundee matchup at Palmerston Park in the next round.

Blackburn Rovers - A scoreless draw with Everton was played at Ewood Park. A win would have kept Blackburn on pace with Man City and Aston Villa in the race to catch Liverpool for the one guarenteed UEFA Cup spot. Rovers are now 4 points back from the 'Pool (who has a game in hand) with 2 other teams to pass.

The big news for Blackburn is that they locked up Big Bad Brad Friedel through 2010 this week.

Tenerife - CDT also played to a scoreless draw with Cadiz, this time on the road. It was a blow for CDT's promotion hopes, as they are now 4 points off the last promotion spot with 7 teams between them and 3rd place. The top 2 teams in the league, Malaga and Numancia are pulling away from the pack, so its really a dogfight for that third place. A big match next week against the brand new Granada squad who sit directly above Tenerife in the table.

Ebbsfleet United - Ebbsfleet defeated Wymouth 1-0 in the Round of 16 of the FA Trophy. The FA Trophy is a Cup competition for the non-league clubs of the English pyramid. The 'Fleet waited until the second half to get their goal, but one was all it took. With the win Ebbsfleet moves on to the quarterfinals where they will go on the road to either Histon or Burton Albion.

And in Rapids news the Christian Gomez saga may be nearing an end. Reports from the last couple of days stated that Gomez and the Rapids had reached a deal and they expect to announce the trade sometime this week.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Christian Gomez update and Bouna Time! highlights

Steven Goff reports that the Rapids and Christian Gomez have almost reached a deal.
The latest in the Christian Gomez saga is that Colorado has offered him a two-year, guaranteed contract with a base salary of at least $400,000 and bonuses/incentives that could bring his total compensation close to the $500,000 figure per season that he has desired all along. Gomez is apparently close to agreeing to the deal. If that happens, the Rapids will formally acquire his rights from D.C. United. The consensus among MLS folks is that, in exchange, United will receive significant financial considerations and perhaps draft picks.
This would be a good deal for the Rapids IF Gomez does not count as a DP. I'm not sure what "significant financial considerations" means, but I don't think the Rapids have that many resources to give away in that department. Draft picks are always a crap shoot, so I don't mind losing them.

Some of Bouna's highlight saves from yesterday's Senegal - South Africa match are now available on YouTube.