Monday, June 30, 2008

"But, if I was not in this situation, and I was objectively watching what just happened this week, I would probably be drinking a lot of beers."

Once again we look to the quote able Ichiro for today's title. He said it a month ago about the Mariners, but it applies just as well to the current Rapids.

Yet again the Rapids played flat in the first half, only this time they continued it into the second half, eventually losing to the Village People 2-1.

Despite what the Post said on Friday Christian Gomez was not available for this game, leading Clavijo to use the 4-4-2 'empty bucket' formation we saw much of last year. Much like last year, it wasn't successful. After a PK goal by Columbus the Rapids came back quickly on a great shot from outside the box by Nick LaBrocca that Hesmer could not deflect far enough. The Rapids looked like they might get out of Columbus with a point, but then Ekpo made a 50-yard unchallenged run with the ball that ended with a shot that Bouna Time! got a hand on, but couldn't push wide. The Rapids pressed for the tying goal late, but would come up short.

Keys to the Game review:

  • Has Clavijo lost the team? At this point last year as we descended into our 10-game win less streak it was obvious that nobody cared about playing for him any more. Has that happened again?
    I hate to say it, but it looks like the team has given up on Clavijo again. Outside of the midfield duo of DiRaimondo and LaBrocca, nobody looked good in this game.

Critical Matchup: Cooke vs. the Crew's left back. - Cooke looked pretty bad this game. Admittedly the team didn't feed him the ball enough, but when he did get it his first touch was ugly and his passes weren't the crisp ones we've come to expect. Hopefully he's just got to get used to playing again.

Fact of the Match: We still have 0 points when giving up the first goal.

Random Observations:

  • Erpen and Harvey were involved in giving up both goals. On the first Harvey was out of position, Erpen made one of his trademark diving lunges that completely missed and took him out of the play, and Harvey came flying back and tripped up the Crew player, giving up the PK. On the second Harvey was caught upfield, Ekpo was allowed to make an uncontested run, then Pablo and Erpen did not communicate and each one decided to shut down the passing lanes, leaving nobody to step up and challenge Ekpo before the shot.

  • Casey got the assist on the lone Rapids goal, but other than that he was invisible on Saturday. Won't somebody step up and make a claim to being the go-to guy up front?

  • I have to say that the combination of DiRaimondo and LaBrocca in the midfield seems to be working. Pablo needs to get used to playing on the back line, and work on his communication with the other defenders.

  • If the Rapids don't get a win in the next 2 weeks, they probably won't get one until they host KC on August 16th. We play well on the 4th and we're going to the expansion team, both games we can win. After that its at Dallas, and Toronto and Columbus at home. I don't see a win in those 3 games.

  • Standings: The Rapids are 6th in the 7 team Western Conference, and tied with KC for 12th overall in MLS. They are tied with Chivas and Chicago for the 5th best offense and tied with San Jose and Chivas for the 9th best defense.

    Man of the Match: Nick LaBrocca - It was between him and DiRaimondo, but the pretty goal gives it to Nick.

    Sunday, June 29, 2008

    Response from Jeff Plush

    I've already received a response from Jeff Plush, GM of the Rapids, to my email I posted below.

    I don't want to post a private email without permission, but to paraphrase he said that he had just gotten back from Columbus and had not yet seen the interview I referred to. He will review it though and make sure he's aware of what was said. He said the Rapids are going through a tough time at the moment but feels confident the team will turn it around.

    I have to say that I'm impressed with the quick response on a Sunday morning after travelling back for a road game. I may not always see eye to eye with his decisions or his handling of the team, but I have to respect somebody that's willing to take time out in this circumstance to respond personally to a fan.

    Today I'm embarrassed to be a Rapids fan

    A full game review will be up later today or tomorrow. Below is a copy of an email I sent Rapids GM Jeff Plush this morning about the embarrassing comments Fernando Clavijo made last night in his post-game interview on FOX Soccer Channel.

    Mr. Plush,

    I have been a Rapids fan for over 10 years. For most of that time I have been a long distance fan, following the Rapids while living in Seattle and Phoenix via Direct Kick, match trackers, streaming video, and even at times text updates from other fans at the game. I regularly travelled to Denver for home games as well as going to Salt Lake City and LA for road games. Earlier this year I moved to the Denver area and have been able to see more games live this season than in any other season. I've been a member of the River Ratz and Class VI, helped organize the Rocky Mountain Cup, been a writer for, and currently run the View From the Couch Rapids blog. Until last night though, regardless of the team's highs and lows, I have never been embarrassed to be a Rapids fan.

    Fernando Clavijo's comments in the Fox Soccer Channel post game interview were classless and misdirected. He openly questioned the coaching staffs of every African and European National Team when he stated that he didn't know what kind of training players get when they leave MLS for those teams, and he felt that the players needed to stay in contact with the coaches in MLS to make sure of their training. He said this in reaction to Bouna Coundoul returning to the team from his time with the Senegal National Team. I have no direct knowledge of their training methods, but I find it hard to question what kind of experience Coundoul got while backing up Tony Sylva, a player who has more Champion's League experience than the four best American keepers (Keller, Friedel, Howard, Hahnemann) combined. In the pregame interview with Coundoul FSC host Mark Rogandio talked about how everything "goes up a notch" when training with National Teams, and I'm sure that's true when training with one of the best African teams. It appears, however, that Clavijo feels that Coundoul might have done better by staying with Colorado and working with what appears to be his third goalkeeping coach in 9 months, as David Kramer takes over for John Murphy, who filled the hole left when Leo Percovich was let go. It was embarrassing for me as a Rapids fan to see our coach be so clueless as to actually think that the training and playing for the 13th placed MLS team would be better for Coundoul than the honor of training with his National Team and being ready to come off the bench at a moment's notice in a World Cup Qualifier.

    I don't claim to understand all the factors that go into the decision to keep or remove a coach at a high level like MLS. I do see comments like these, along with his comments last year question "how true fans" the die hard fans of the Rapids are, along with the poor performance on the field and I have to wonder what he is contributing to the success of the organization. From the perspective of a fan he is making it almost impossible to continue to support this team. With my hometown of Seattle getting a team next season I will have to seriously consider switching allegiances if the team and the organization continues this downwards trend.

    Jason Maxwell

    Friday, June 27, 2008

    "If I ever saw myself saying I’m excited going to Columbus, I’d punch myself in the face, because I’m lying.”

    Paraphrasing the always quotable Ichiro (He originally said it about Cleveland, Columbus is close enough) I don't think the Rapids are looking forward to this trip to Cow-town to play the Village People. The game is at 5:30 MDT, and as always the fans will be gathering at the British Bulldog to watch the game.

    Here's the injury report:

    OUT: Justin Hughes (L groin); DOUBTFUL: MF Jacob Peterson (L knee); QUESTIONABLE: MF Christian Gomez (R leg), DF Rafael Gomes (R knee); PROBABLE: DF Mike Petke (R foot), MF Nico Colaluca (L groin), DF Jose Burciaga Jr. (L groin), MF Pablo Mastroeni (back)

    My lineup best guess:

    Bouna Time!
    Ihemelu - Pablo - Harvey
    DiRaimondo - LaBrocca
    Cooke - C.Gomez - Clark
    McManus - Casey

    From the sounds of today's article in the Post we'll be going with a 4 man back line, but I'm guessing we'll actually see 3 so that FC can get both DiRaimondo and LaBrocca on the field. Also in the article Gomez is expected to be able to play. With Peterson out I assume Cookie will finally get back into the starting 11. Gomes is no longer an option, having been waived today to make room for Greg Dalby once the transfer window opens on the 15th.

    Critical Matchup: Cooke vs. the Crew's left back.

    Honestly I've seen so little of the Crew this year that I don't know who they have at the left back, but I think Cooke's crosses will be our best line of attack. Having a dangerous player out on the wing will free up space for Gomez to work in the center, and crosses into the box have seemed to be our most dangerous option in recent weeks.

    Keys To Look For:

    • Has Clavijo lost the team? At this point last year as we descended into our 10-game winless streak it was obvious that nobody cared about playing for him any more. Has that happened again?

    • Honestly I had written another couple of Keys, but the first one is all that matters at this point. Do we show up to play like a real MLS team, or is this another Rapids mid-season swoon. Without that a player could have the game of their career and it probably won't matter.

    Prediction: 1-0 loss. Given our recent play I don't have any faith in predicting any points on the road. The team will have to show me something before I believe in them away from the Dick again.

    Wednesday, June 25, 2008

    News and Notes

    OK, back from my trip out of town, but down with a cold. So just a quick wrapup of some of the goings-on in the last week.

    • Rapids hold Houston to a 0-0 draw at home. With only 1 shot on goal it doesn't sound like there was any real chance to win the game.
    • More lineup craziness with Pablo on the backline for the first time this season as we revert to a 3-5-2. Somebody tell me why we're not using Pablo at his natural d-mid position?
    • Both Peterson and Gomez go down with injury. No real loss on Peterson, Cooke should be starting anyway, but if Christian is down for any length of time we're in real trouble.
    • WeWantRapidman is reporting that Clavijo is upset that Bouna Time! hasn't called him while he was in Senegal and is considering giving Justin Hughes a start even after Bouna gets back. If this happens it would be a new low for Clavijo. This is the exact thing that U.S. players were (and are) forced to go through when playing for European teams, and a former U.S. player is going to turn around and do it himself? Bush league.
    • Speaking of bush league, sprinklers going off on players warming off after half? 17 minute lighting delay? Not the best of days for the DSG Park Operations Team.
    • John Murphy has been removed as assistant coach by Fernando Clavijo, who was complaining about the amount of time he missed while travelling to become the first born American to get his UEFA pro badge. As we saw with FC's complaints about Pablo and Bouna missing time with their National Teams this is something that was foreseeable, planned for, but suddenly Clavijo can't handle. Me thinks he's getting a little desperate. I also wonder if he feels threatened by Murphy getting his UEFA badge, given Clavijo's less than stellar track record.
    • I was way off on my Euro 2008 semi predictions last week. The only team I had right was Spain. Mt final prediction is Germany beating Spain, we'll see if I'm any closer with this one.

    Thursday, June 19, 2008

    If a game is played and nobody sees it, does it really happen?

    The Rapids are back in the friendly confines of The Dick on Saturday at 7:30 facing the Dynamo. The game is on HDNet, which almost nobody gets. Thanks to that fact and a family wedding I will not be able to see this game, the only 1 of the 30 league games I'll miss this season. So don't expect a significant game review article next week. ;)

    Here's the injury report:

    OUT: DF Mike Petke (R foot); GK Justin Hughes (L groin); QUESTIONABLE: DF Jose Burciaga Jr. (L groin); MF Nico Colaluca (L groin); MF Pablo Mastroeni (back)

    INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: Bouna Condoul - Senegal

    My lineup recommendation:

    Ihemelu - Erpen - Harvey
    Pablo/DiRaimondo - LaBrocca
    Cooke - C.Gomez - Clark
    McManus - Casey

    You'll noticed I've changed this section from a lineup prediction to a lineup recommendation. After last week's unexplainable benching of Gomez for a half I've realized there's no predicting a Clavijo lineup. So instead I'll just discuss who I think we should be starting.

    In the back Kimura has shown that he may need a bit more seasoning. I think its time to give Harvey a chance to partner with Ihemelu and Erpen. Pablo may or may not be able to go, if he can't we can go back to the defensive pairing of LaBrocca and Ihemelu. Cooke is clearly the best player we have to play on the right as Peterson has been worthless so far this season. If you have Cooke sending crosses in you need to have a bog guy like Casey up front to receive them.

    Critical Matchup: Ching vs. the Rapids defense

    Brian Ching has been allowed to return to the Dynamo, being seen as unnecessary to defend our 8-0 lead in Barbados this weekend. Dwayne DeRosario and Pat Onstad's ability to return from the Canadian team to play is still unknown. Assuming no DeRo Ching is the most dangerous player Houston has. The back line will need to take him out of the game and force somebody else to beat us.

    Keys To Look For:

    • Do we use our midfield, or to we continue to skip them by playing long ball?

    • Another week to harp on our lack of first half performance etc. etc. etc.

    • Christian Gomez. Does he start, and if he does can he make an impact on the game?

    • Is there any desire in this team. So far most of the players don;t seem to care until we're 2 or 3 goals down, and which point its too late.

    • The real key to this game, and the near future, is getting a stable starting 11 and game plan. Do we stick with something for a while, or does Clavijo start making changes as soon as his newest strategy doesn't amount to 3 goals in the first 15 minutes?

    Prediction: 2-0 loss. Given our recent play vs. the way Houston has woken up I can't see us winning this one, even being at home. I think we may be in the midst of a bad run of games that won't really turn around until near the All-Star break.

    Working Again

    Those of you who have been reading for a while will remember my post in late March that my job was being off shored to India at the end of June. I'm glad to report that I've just accepted a new position with PaySimple as their Senior Software Quality Assurance Engineer. I start the first Monday of July at their office down in LoDo.

    This will probably mean you won't see as many updates here and the updates will only happen in the evenings. The plus side is that I can afford to go to the Rapids games the rest of the season. ;)

    Wednesday, June 18, 2008

    40% of the way there, where are we?

    We're 40% of the way through the season, so I thought it was time for an update to my last review. We're right in the middle of things now and we'll be able to get a good feel for what's working and not working.

    I've gone back and looked at the first 6 games for the last 3 seasons. I chose 2005 as a starting point because it was the first year of the Clavijo era and because the only player remaining with the team from prior to that is Pablo Mastroeni. It should be noted that in 2005 and 2006 MLS played a 32 game season, so these numbers aren't quite at the 40% mark, but I didn't think that adding in the stats for the first 72 minutes of game 13 made much sense. ;)

    The Rapids have regressed to the mean under Clavijo. We're right in the middle in points and defense, however we do have the best offense in the Clavijo era. This is largely because 3 of our wins were by multiple goals, while only 2 of our losses were by more than 1. We're tied with 2004 and 2007 for our 4th best start, behind 23 points in 1999 (25 with current rules), 19 points in 2002 (17 with current rules), and 18 points in 2006.

    Looking at the team position by position:

    Goalkeepers: Preston Burpo has been a stock MLS keeper in filling in for Bouna time! He's made the expected saves but hasn't done anything outstanding. At the same time the defense has fallen apart, so this has resulted in the Rapids needing an outstanding keeper and not having one. Getting Bouna back after thee next game should shore up our defense, but there are two more Senegal WCQ's late in the season.

    Defenders: The Jekyll and Hyde nature of our back line has continued. Some games, like when we faced FSL, we looked solid, while toher games like this past weekend in Toronto you wonder if anyone knows the meaning of the word defense. The biggest problem has been the number of different lineups we've used. We've varied between a 4 back and 3 back setup using 8 different players. Mental mistakes haven't helped, with Ihemelu giving up a PK and a point with a stupid handball and Erpen earning a red for kicking LA's Alan Gordon. The team needs to settle on a set back line and allow them to work together to build up a relationship. At this point I suggest Ihemelu - Erpen - Harvey.

    Midfield: Midfield started out being our strong point, as most would have assumed at the beginning of the season. Clavijo's random lineup generator has played havoc with this group though, and there are serious questions now about what the midfield is supposed to be doing and who the starters are. Terry Cooke has been mysteriously benched in favor of Jacob Peterson, though Cooke has been the much better of the two this season. Clark and LaBrocca have split time at the left midfield spot, with neither one of them really nailing down what Claivjo wants out of that position. DiRaimondo's injury took him out of most of the season until this last game, as he works back into the lineup we can expect more of the time splitting between Clark and LaBrocca. Finally Christian Gomez was inexplicably benched for the first half in Toronto. While Gomez hasn't been the star player we were all hoping for, he's clearly the best player on the team and should be going for 90 minutes every game. Gomez is on pace to set a personal record for assists, but his shots, shots on goal, and goals average are way down from his prior full seasons in MLS. He'll need to start putting the ball on frame more if he's going to earn his status as unofficial DP.

    Forwards: Tom McManus has emerged as the lead striker for the team. His stats aren't all that impressive, but he's shown himself to be dangerous any time he gets the ball within 40 yards of goal, including a Goal of the Year candidate from 35 yards into the upper corner. His ability around goal is better than anyone else on the team. Omar Cummings is proving to have some good skills but hasn't put them all together as a starter, and appears to be better used as a sub off the bench late in games. This has left the second starter spot open for Conor Casey, who's just returning from injury. After a big splash in his first week back he's gone quiet the last couple of weeks, but the spot is his for the taking. The odd man out in all of this has been Herculez Gomez, who hasn't impressed in his limited playing time.

    Bench/Reserves: The rapids have played 22 filed players and 2 keepers so far this season, which has given our reserve players some important experience. We have solid, if not great, backups at every position at this point, with our weakest area being keeper and defense. This will help us as we move into CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying and we lose the services of Pablo Mastroeni and possibly Omar Cummings to their national teams.

    Coaching: When I wrote the review at the 1/5th point I was praising Clavijo for being patient with his starting 11 and giving them time to gel. Unfortunately he couldn't resist his habit of tinkering and in the last 6 games he's thrown the roster up and reorganized it multiple times. This has led to inconsistent play, players like terry Cooke ending up in the doghouse for no reason, and a continual inability to get into the game until after halftime, where more often than not we've been too far behind to come back. This has been Clavijo's pattern over the course of his career, so there's no reason to think it will get any better until KSE makes a coaching change.

    Overall the Rapids are on pace for 38 points this season, which for the last 3 years would be good enough for between 4th and last place in the West. 38 points would not have made the playoffs in any of those seasons.

    Clavijo has called Saturday's game against Houston a must win for our playoff hopes, and looking at the numbers its hard to disagree with him. If the Rapids put up a 3rd straight loss, plunging us further down the table you have to wonder if Clavijo's job will be in jeopardy.

    Weekend Roundup 6/14-6/15 & Euro 2008 comments

    This will be the last Weekend Update for a few weeks. With only the Rapids in season for the next month or so I'll put the Update on hiatus until other teams start playing competitive games again.

    Colorado Rapids - My game wrapup is here. The Rapids fell to a fourth place tie with FSL with the loss, points behind LA. We're tied with New York and FSL for 9th in the league overall. We're tied with New England for the 4th best offense and we're tied with Houston for the 9th best defense.

    Tenerife - Tenerife finished the season in Malaga trying to spoil their promotion chances. Malaga proved to be too much for CDT and Tenerife ended on a down note. Tenerife finished 11th out of 22 in the Spanish Segunda with 53 points. 3 points from a regulation spot and 19 points from a promotion spot.

    *****EURO 2008 SPOILERS AHEAD*****

    • Things have picked up here at the end of the group stage.

    • What happened to Peter Cheh? 15 minutes from advancement and he falls apart?

    • The Turkey - Czech Republic game was the best of the tournament so far.

    • Wow, where has this Dutch team been the last 10 years? They look like the favorites right now.

    • France goes out scoring one goal and not winning a single game. Reminds me of the U.S. in WC '98.

    • Greece, Austria, and the Swiss were obviously outclassed in this tournament.

    • I'm seeing Portugal - Croatia and Spain - Netherlands in the semis, with the Dutch winning it all, probably over Portugal. My initial prediction of a Germany-Italy final doesn't look likely, even if they get to the semis I don't see them winning.

    Tuesday, June 17, 2008

    Clavijo - Clueless

    Class VI has posted their questions with Clavijo after the loss in Toronto. His responses make him see even more clueless than normal.

    (On why he didn't start Gomez)
    "I was certain that Christian Gomez would help us close the game down after going a goal up early on the game, missing the chances we had early on changed some of the outcome of our plans. Having a lot of young players on the field you open yourself for mistakes and inconsistency."

    So the master plan was to somehow get a goal without Gomez on the field, then throw him on to kill the game? Really?

    (On Zambrano's play in his first MLS start)
    "I felt that Zambrano did very well for his first game, and was punished in his mistake"

    The defender you threw into the fire gave up at least one goal, but somehow played "very well".

    (On why the Rapids don't show up in the first half)
    "We are moving into a second pace in our season in which young players need to produce every game, the learning curve is over, and results are a must"

    Or you could, you know, start the veterans instead of the young players if you want more consistency. Just a thought

    (From a question about addressing concerns through player acquisition)
    "We need to be realistic here, we are not going to address any foreign player because we do not have allocation money or designated player slot, so we can only dream."

    Wait, I thought making Gomez our DP (essentially) was supposed to solve the problems. Now he;s complaining we don't have a DP? And what did we spend our allocation money on?

    "I believe that the biggest factor we need to address today is keeping our players in town and healthy, Bouna with national team but has not play one minute Pablo out with an injury in last US game vs. ??? Ihemelu missing the game vs. Toronto to play for Canada and later finding out that he may not be eligible to play for Canada,"

    I'll give him the point on Ihemelu, but he really couldn't come up with Barbados as the opponent for the Nats on Sunday? A head coach in MLS is so disinterested in the U.S. team that he forgets who we're playing in a World Cup Qualifier? He's complaining that Pablo was gone with the Nats, something he's been doing for longer than Clavijo's been in Colorado? Yeah, Bouna's been riding the bench but considering he's come from a low draft pick out of college to the backup National Team goalkeeper for his country that's actually a positive for the Rapids.

    So in Clavijo's world, if the rookies had played like veterans, except for the veterans that were with National Teams had also played and our lineup of 6 defenders and 4 attackers had scored a goal with the 2006 MVP sitting on the bench then we would have been fine. Really, what could have gone wrong with that plan?

    Sunday, June 15, 2008

    "Don't make me steamroll you. Steamroller!"

    First, go read last week's game review of the LA game then come back here. Everything I said last week pretty much applies this week, and I don't feel like rewriting it.

    Fact of the Match: Fact is, we suck.

    Random Observations:

  • I hope Cooke is enjoying his stay in Clavijo's doghouse, because if he isn't I expect he'll be leaving in the offseason.

  • We spend our DP slot for Christian Gomez, then leave him off the bench for the first 45, only bringing him on once we're down 1-0. WTF???

  • Omar Cummings continues to prove he's not starter material. Right before being subbed out he was 1v1 with the keeper and hit it right to him. I can understand resting Casey due to his knee and the turf in Toronto, but why start Cummings over Herculez?

  • Zambrano? Really? Gomes hasn't played well in central defense, but he had to be a better choice than Zambrano.

  • I hope McManus is OK after taking that ball off the ankle. It seemed to take him out of his normal style for the rest of the game.

  • The Altitude announcers were just as horrible this week. They can't identify players, but this week they couldn't identify teams, calling Toronto as Dallas on multiple occasions, and repeatedly calling Toronto players by their Rapids counterparts' names, and vice versa.

  • Horrible, horrible game. This looks like the beginning of a long slide for the Rapids. The only bright points I see between now and the All-Star Game are the annual offensive explosion we usually see at the 4th of July game and maybe the game at San Jose the week after.

  • Man of the Match: Christian Gomez - Plays a half, gets a goal. He did pretty well when the ball was actually played through the midfield to him, but it was too little too late.

    Friday, June 13, 2008

    We know about that. It's a Toronto skunk. My jurisdiction

    The Rapids are in the Great White North, taking on the hosers of Toronto FC. The game is at 5 PM MDT on Altitude. As always the supporters groups will be gathering at the British Bulldog in downtown Denver for the viewing party.

    Here's the injury report:

    OUT: DF Mike Petke (R foot); GK Justin Hughes (L groin); MF Nico Colaluca (L groin); DOUBTFUL: DF Jose Burciaga Jr. (L groin); PROBABLE: DF MF John DiRaimondo (L ankle); Kosuke Kimura (R foot); FW Herculez Gomez (R ankle)

    SUSPENDED: DF Facundo Erpen

    INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: Bouna Condoul - Senegal, Ugo Ihemelu - Canada, Pablo Mastroeni - USA

    My lineup prediction:

    Kimura - Keel - Harvey
    Gomes - LaBrocca
    Peterson - C.Gomez - Clark
    McManus - Casey

    Yeah, we're really hurting in defense with all the missing people. If DiRaimondo is ready to go I can see Gomes moving to the back line, LaBrocca taking Clark's spot, and DiRaimondo being the d-mid. We should be playing Cooke to get crosses to Casey, but he's apparently in Clavijo's doghouse, so I expect the ineffective Peterson to be started.

    Critical Matchup: Rapids midfield vs. TFC midfield

    These two teams have possibly the best midfields in the league. The team that controls the ball in the middle of the pitch and be patient in picking their spots will have the advantage. The Rapids have shown that when they don't play through the midfield they only get goals when they gt a lucky bounce or when a forward creates and finishes his own chance. Long ball won't work on the bouncy turf of Toronto, we have to be a ble to build the attack.

    Keys To Look For:

    • How disorganized is our patchwork defense? Can we keep Dichio and Cunningham in check?

    • Can we figure out how to play on the road? Other than the game in New England we have yet to have a road lead this season.

    • Another week to harp on our lack of first half performance etc. etc. etc.

    • Christian Gomez. This is the type of game where we need a big-name player to step up and take control of the team. This is what we gave up a DP slot for and he needs to produce.

    • To win this game its going to take a tremendous effort. If we don't get the first goal I can see the team throwing in the towel.
    Prediction: 2-0 loss. Our weakened defense and inability to play on the road, plus the turf and home field advantage for Toronto makes this a game we'll have a hard time winning.

    Wednesday, June 11, 2008

    Why Blackburn Rovers?

    Another in my occasional series where I explain why I've picked the teams I have.

    So why Blackburn Rovers? They aren't one of the "big" names of English football, ManU, Liverpool, etc. Well that was part of it. I don't like to pick the big team, I like rooting for the underdog. The main reason though is Big Bad Brad Friedel.

    I'll be honest. The first EPL side I rooted for was Leicester City. When I started following soccer 10 years ago Kasey Keller was (and still is) one of my favorite players. He grew up in the Puget Sound region, like me, and I've always enjoyed watching good goalkeeping. He was playing for Leicester at the time, so I picked them. Eventually though Keller moved on to Spain and Leicester found the relegation zone. until the last couple of years it was difficult, at best, to follow a non EPL side in the States, so I decided I needed another EPL team to root for. I went with my pattern of picking an American keeper, and that was Brad Friedel.

    Unlike my following of Leicester though, I've grown to be a fan of Rovers for more than just the keeper. Rovers have added more players that I like, like former DC United back Ryan Nelsen and young striker Matt Derbyshire. They also added former Leicester midfielder Robbie Savage for a while, who was always one of my favorites at LCFC.

    More than just the players though, the team has had a good philosophy about their goals. They've made strong economic choices that have allowed them to be competitive in the EPL. They haven't over extended themselves, and yet have been in the running for Europe for the last few seasons, just barely missing getting a slot for the 08/09 season. They will probably never challenge for the EPL title again while the big money of Arsenal and Chelsea is still available, but they're in the next group pf strong teams. Of course much of that is due to manager Mark Hughes, who has just been stolen away by Manchester City. The choice of the next manager will be critical to continue this style of play.

    Eventually Brad will retire, and maybe Blackburn will end up relegated. With the advances in soccer coverage in the U.S. and availability of news on the Internet I doubt you'll see me giving up Blackburn like I gave up Leicester.

    Tuesday, June 10, 2008


    Red card in MLS: $250

    Red card in a friendly against your birth nation: $1000

    Red card in World Cup group stage against Italy: $5000

    Being known as the destroyer of the Nats: Priceless

    There are some things referees can't book, for everything else there's MastroCard.
    (Credit to BigSoccer user Betamax for the image)

    Monday, June 9, 2008

    Weekend Roundup 6/7-6/8 & Euro 2008 comments

    Colorado Rapids - My game wrapup is here. The Rapids fell to third place with the loss, 2 points behind LA, and Houston. We're tied with New York for 7th in the league overall. We have the 3rd best offense and we're tied with Toronto for the 5th best defense.

    Tenerife - Tenerife made their supporters sweat this one out. After scoring early, allowing the equalizer, and regaining the lead they let the opposition have the run of play in the second half. The defense held firm though and walked away with a vital 3 points. With the victory CDT is safe from relegation. They jump back into the top 10 at 10th, with 1 game to play. They will finish between 8th and 14th.

    *****EURO 2008 SPOILERS AHEAD*****

    • Wow, so far this has been a dull tournament.
    • With 15 minutes to go in the final game of the day every game has had at least one team shut out.
    • The Swiss were unlucky. They probably should have gotten a PK for a handball, then to lose their star striker. Not going to be a good tournament for the hosts.
    • Meanwhile the Croatians were quite lucky. A fair PK, but one that isn't called often, followed by allowing the Austrians to control the game.
    • Hey, if you fell asleep during France - Romania, wake up!
    • The first Dutch goal was onside. a player off the field without the permission of the referee is considered when determining if an attacker is offside
    • Predictions based on the play of the first 2 groups: Czech Rep., Portugal, Germany, and Croatia advance, Germany and Portugal to play in the semi final.
    • The Dutch are the class of Group C so far, Italy could be in trouble if France can take advantage.

    Sunday, June 8, 2008

    "Well, I've got news for you pal, you ain't leadin' but two things: Jack and s#!%... and Jack just left town"

    The Rapids didn't lead the game, and they aren't leading the conference. In Army of Darkness terms this game "went bad so we should cut it off".

    For the first 50 minutes of this match the Rapids looked like a USL-2 side. Disorganized, no creativity, and no ability to do anything. Erpen lost his head before half, kicking Gordon in the groin and getting a red card for his efforts. Lucky for the Rapids Gordon was just as stupid and kicked back at Erpen, also seeing red. By the time they finally woke up they were down 3-0. For the next 20 minutes the Rapids were able to get their defense organized and started to retain some possession. Finally the offense clicked in the final 20 minutes. Cummings set Clark up in the box and Clark embarrassed Xavier for the second time this season. Herculez jumped on a rebound to get us within one. McManus had a rocket of a shot just barely parried off the bar by Cronin. Numerous crosses made their way into the box. But like every other loss this year the Rapids were unable to complete the comeback and lost.

    Keys to the Game review:

    Just go back to the Game Preview if you want to review them. Needless to say none of the Keys went the Rapids way.

    Critical Matchup: Jordan Harvey vs. David Beckham - We kept Beckham off the score sheet. His cross from a free kick led to the first goal, but it was a lack of clearing the ball more than Beckham's ball that caused the goal. So we shut down Beckham, we just didn't do anything else on defense.

    Fact of the Match: In all 13 competitive games the Rapids have played this year, the team that scored the first goal has won the game.

    Random Observations:

  • We're down 2 and the one thing that's worked well has been crossing into the box. So why bring on Mehdi Ballouchy instead of Terry Cooke for Jacob Peterson? Clavijo called Cooke the "second best crosser in MLS" on From the Pitch earlier in the week. This pretty much confirms that Cooke is in Clavijo's doghouse for no known reason.

  • Ballouchy for Beckerman. Worst. Trade. Ever. Ballouchy has shown no justification for having an MLS contract. He can't read the game, he has feet of stone, and he can't hit a good pass.

  • Christian Gomez needs to stop taking free kicks. He can't get them up over the wall, or corners over the first man. Cooke should be taking the free kicks (another reason he shouldn't be on the bench).

  • The Peterson experiment needs to end. He doesn't play well enough to start.

  • Gomes is not a central defender. Get him back to defensive mid, or bench him.

  • McManus was quiet, but had a couple of dangerous moments. He should continue to start.

  • Horrible, horrible game. The Rapids yet again blew a chance to establish themselves as a team to beat. Looking at our upcoming matches (@Tor, Hou, @Clb) its not going to get any better for a while

  • Man of the Match: Pablo Mastroeni - For getting as far away from this debacle as possible by being in New York with the National Team.

    SPECIAL NOTE:The broadcast of this game on Altitude may be the worst soccer broadcast I have ever watched. The announcers know nothing about soccer and even get basic rules wrong. At one point they wondered why Buddle wasn't offside on the throw-in that led to the second goal. First he wasn't offside, second it was a free kick not a throw-in that was played to him, but most importantly third, you can't be offside on a throw-in. This is the same pair who wondered during the Chivas game why Bouna didn't pick up a backpass instead of playing it with his feet. If you don't even know the basic Laws of the Game you have no business calling a game.

    That was only a small part of the issues. The number of basic mistakes that they made was amazing. Alan Gordon went down with an injury int he first minute of the game. They managed to identify him as 3 different players before he got to his feet. They somehow missed Cummings being substituted for Casey until Cummings had been in the game for minutes. Their analysis of the game was laughable at best. You could pick any two members of the Rapids supporters groups and get better commentary than we got last night.

    The last piece of this disastrous puzzle was the fact that KSE was too cheap to send their own production team to the game. That means that the Rapids used the Galaxy's FSN video feed, with no ability to control it. That meant what replays we saw were based on whatever replays FSN decided to show. When FSN cut to their sideline reporter the Rapids team had to just keep talking over the top of the video of the reporter, because we didn't have the audio and we had no ability to change the video feed. I'm pretty sure the Rapids team wasn't even in LA, instead calling the game on a monitor from a studio here in Denver. The result of all this was a broadcast that was so distracting that it was hard to even stay focused on the game. I was so fed up by it that by the time the Rapids even started playing well I had partially tuned out of the game.

    Bush league broadcasting by KSE.

    Friday, June 6, 2008

    "If You Have It, You Don't Need It"

    Experience. The Rapids have in in beating the Galaxy this season. The Galaxy don't.

    The Rapids are out in LA-LA Land this week, facing Old Spice and the rest of the Galaxy. The game is at 8:30 PM MDT on Altitude. As always the supporters groups will be gathering at the British Bulldog in downtown Denver for the viewing party.

    Here's the injury report:

    OUT: DF Mike Petke (R foot); GK Justin Hughes (L groin); MF Nico Colaluca (L groin); MF John DiRaimondo (L ankle); PROBABLE: DF Kosuke Kimura (R foot)

    My lineup prediction:

    Ihemelu - Erpen - Harvey
    Gomes - LaBrocca
    Peterson - C.Gomez - Clark
    McManus - Casey

    US Soccer has not released the roster for the match against Argentina on Sunday, so its unknown at this time if Mastroeni will be in LA. Bob Bradley did call Pablo into the game day roster and he'll miss the game, the lineup prediction has been updated accordingly. If he's not I think Gomes will go in his place alongside LaBrocca. Kimura has had some bad games recently, and has not fully recovered from the foot injury, so I think he sits. Clavijo stated this week that the reason Cooke is on the bench is because he's too one-dimensional in his game, always going for the cross, but that he is improving. He also said that he's the second best crosser in the league after Beckham. Given that I think Peterson will start.

    Critical Matchup: Jordan Harvey vs. David Beckham

    I'm guessing Harvey will start on the left, but whoever it is, the key to this game is shutting down Old Spice. LA has shown that they are two different teams, a very good one with Becks and Donovan, and a very bad one without them. Donovan is either injured or will be in New York for the Argentina game, so he will not be playing. If we can take Spice Boy out of the game we leave LA with very little options in the attack.

    Keys To Look For:

    • Consistency. We have yet to put back-to-back wins together this season. We missed the opportunity to do it with 3 straight home games, but going to LA looks to be one of the better chances to do it on the road.

    • Another week, another time for me to harp on our first half efforts. The last time we had a lead at half was against the Galaxy in the season opener. We need to start putting the ball into the net early.

    • Casey and McManus are quickly becoming the go to guys on the strike force. Are they developing a good style playing together?

    • Patience. We're still playing the long difficult pass instead of the short possession pass. It doesn't matter how quickly you score unless you're behind late.

    • Its time for Peterson and Clark to step up and prove they deserve to be starting. Peterson has been completely unimpressive except for his goal in the DC game, and with Cooke waiting on the bench his time is up. Clark has been inconsistent.

    • With a win the Rapids retain control of first place in the West, get some separation for the team behind them. With a loss they're right back in the middle of the mixed up West again. At some point if the Rapids want to make a run for the title they need to step up and get that separation, and they're running out of chances.

    Prediction: 1-1 draw. Beckham will burn us once on a free kick ,and our offensive struggles in the first half will continue. We'll tie it up in the second but not be able to get the winning goal.

    Wednesday, June 4, 2008

    MLS Cup, U.S. Open Cup, Supporters Shield - Where do we stand?

    Those are the "Big 3" in MLS trophies, none of which we've ever won. While watching the USOC pbp I was doing some number fiddiling to figure out where we stand in getting one of the 3 this year.

    USOC: Out after loss to KC
    MLS Cup: To be decided at the end of the season, currently have home-field advantage to the final
    Supporters Shield: Goes to the best regular season record

    Right now that's New England, with 20 points from 11 games. If we use points per game though the leader is Chicago with 19 points from 9 games. We're at 15 points from 10 games. Lets do some figuring to see some best case/worst case scenarios.

    Best case:

    • Nobody played better than .500 ball the rest of the way, or 1.5 pts/game. That would put Columbus on top.
    • That gives them 30 points the rest of the way.
    • Added to their current 19, that's 49 points.

    • Lets say the Rapids play really well and only get 2 draws the rest of the season.
    • That means they would have to go 11-7-2 to top 49 points.

    Middle case:

    • One of the top teams, say New England, settles in around 1.7 points/game for the rest of the season and sets the bar.
    • New England would end up with 32 more points.
    • Added to their current 20 they would end with 52 points.

    • The Rapids do draw a couple of games, say 3 games.
    • That means they would have to go 12-5-3 to top 52 points.

    Worst case:

    • Everyone but the Rapids keeps their current pts/game average.
    • Chicago would then be the winners with 31 x 2.1 = 63 points

    • The Rapids do eventually draw some games, say 4 games.
    • That means they would have to go 15-1-4 to top 63 points

    What's all this mean? Not a ton yet, but you can see that even only a 5 point gap with a game in hand is already a bit of a mountain to climb. We can't afford to slip back much further if we have any hope of getting the Supporters Shield.

    (Credit for the inspiration for this analysis goes to the great team at USS Mariner and their similar analysis for the M's record.)

    Rapids out of the USOC before it starts

    In KC tonight the Rapids snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Up 2-1 with 5 minutes to play KC scored, got a red card, sent the game into extra time, then won 5-3 on PK's. The full blow by blow is here. Looks like Kimura got burned for the first goal. Erpen missed the PK that cost us the chance to win.

    Weekend Roundup 5/31-6/1 & USOC preview

    OK, a quick roundup of the weekend action, only 2 teams playing, then a preview of tonight's USOC match in KC.

    Colorado Rapids - My game wrapup is here. The Rapids jumped back into first place with the win, 1 point ahead of LA, Chivas, and Houston. We're 5th in the league overall. We have the 4th best offense and we're in a 4 way tie for the 2nd best defense.

    Tenerife - Tenerife went down quickly in this game, then went down a second goal right after half, even while playing up a mand. They battled back though, scoring twice late in the half and having a wide open chance missed in the 80th minute. They had to settle for the draw. CDT are in 13th place, 4 points from the relegation zone with 2 games to play. They can still finish as high as 6th or as low as 21st (Out of 22).


    Tonight the Rapids take on KC in the final USOC play-in game in KC. The winner gets entered into the USOC proper. Game time is at 6pm MDT, no coverage, the best that's available is running commentary on the Hillcrest Road blog.

    The Rapids took the following players to KC for the game:

    Mehdi Ballouchy, Jose Luis Burciaga Jr., Preston Burpo, Colin Clark, Terry Cooke, Omar Cummings, Facundo Erpen, Rafael Gomes, Herculez Gomez, Mike Graczyk, Brian Grazier, Jordan Harvey, Stephen Keel, Kosuke Kimura, Ciaran O’Brien, Jacob Peterson, Tim Ward and Cesar Zambrano.

    My guess on the starting 11, based on that list:

    Kimura - Keel - Erpen - Burciaga
    Cooke - Ballouchy - Clark
    H.Gomez - Cummings

    It doesn't appear that the Rapids are taking this game very seriously. They left Ihemelu, C.Gomez, LaBrocca, McManus, and Casey at home. Combined with Pablo and Bouna Time! being gone for National Team commitments the spine of the team isn't even in KC, much less starting.

    Monday, June 2, 2008

    Time for some thrilling heroics

    It was Tom McManus with the Jayne Cobb "thrilling heroics" yesterday as his near-post shot got by Dallas keeper Ray Burse Jr. for the game wining goal.

    The Rapids jumped out to an early lead with only their second first-half goal of the season. Christian Gomez spun away from a Dallas midfielder and chipped the ball over the defense to an on running Conor Casey. Casey turned a bad touch into a nice cutback, leaving the Dallas defense confused and went far-post with the shot for a 1-0 lead in the eighth minute. The rest of the half looked a lot like the first halves of Rapids games have looked all season and they eventually got burned for it. Rafael Gomes tried to clear the ball with a header and instead just knocked it straight up in the air. Casey and Mastroeni collided going up for the ball, leaving it to fall and be deflected into Odoro's path, who was able to get it past Preston Burpo for the tying goal.

    The Rapids came out more aggressive in the second half, but it didn't lead to much early. Christian Gomez had a great individual run and set McManus up outside the box, but Burse was able to parry his shot away and over the line. Cummings had a couple of nice chances, but couldn't get the shot on frame. Finally the ball bounced the Rapids way. Gomes smacked the ball out of the back to clear the area and McManus took the chance to run onto it in the Dallas box. He nodded the ball down with his head and got enough space to squeeze the ball between the onrushing keeper and the near post. Shortly after that the Rapids shifted to a defensive formation to preserve the lead, but Burpo was not significantly threatened in this game outside of the shot that scored the goal and Colorado retook the lead in the West with the win.

    Keys to the Game review:

    • First half play. I've been hammering this every week, and we haven't shown up yet. If we continue to play flat in the first half we'll be in holes we can't dig out of, like last week against Chivas
      Well we did better this week, getting an early goal before taking the rest of the half off. Dallas did make us pay for it.
    • Burpo's play. The reports out of the USOC game against LA said that Burpo did not look good. We'll be relying on him for at least 4 league games and a USOC match and he's going to have to step up.
      Burpo wasn't significantly tested in this game. His choices on a couple of balls were questionable, but he showed some good instincts to come out and take care of dangerous through balls.
    • How our defense handles Kenny Cooper. He has as many goals as the next 3 Dallas players combined. If we take him out of the game Dallas' offense will be hurting.
      Cooper who? He was pretty much invisible all game.
    • Can Pablo and LaBrocca handle Rocha? He's Dallas' midfield general.
      Rocha didn't make the trip
    • How does Clavijo balance the league needs vs. the USOC needs Wednesday night? Will he hold some players back for the USOC game, or go all out on Sunday?
      It doesn't seem like Clavijo worried about the USOC match. The only unusual sub was Cummings for Casey at half, so maybe he was considering keeping those two fresh for the game in KC
    • Patience and build-up in our offensive play. We do best when we don't bomb the ball over the top of the midfield.
      We were slightly better in this facet of the game. There were still many times when players passed on the easy short ball to go with the harder long ball pass though.

    Critical Matchup: Cummings & McManus vs. the Dallas defense - OK, so it was Casey, Cummings, & McManus vs. the Dallas defense. As predicted we were able to break them down for 2 goals. Cummings had a couple of chances that he should have converted for another goal, one was a great save by Burse while another was a bad shot that didn't get anywhere near the frame.

    Fact of the Match: This is the first time we've given up a lead this season. Its also the first time we've won when allowing the opposition to score.

    Random Observations:

  • Tom McManus looks dangerous whenever he gets near goal with the ball. The last time the Rapids had a striker like that it was Jeff Cunningham.

  • Great assist from Gomez, but when he gets tired his play falls off a cliff. There were multiple times in the second half where he played balls that nobody could get to, then complained to his target for not getting to them. If he can provide that kind of assist in every match then we can live with that drop off, but he has to produce before he gets tired.

  • Clavijo's 3-5-2 seems to be playing more like a 5-3-2. Peterson and especially Clark spent a good deal of time in the back, leading to cases when the Rapids would start a break without enough players up front to play to. If Clavijo wants a 5-3-2 then Burciaga is the better choice on the left.

  • This strategy of defensive-minded wing players is probably why Cooke can't get back into the starting 11. Its a poor strategic choice by Clavijo IMO.

  • Gomes is not a central defender. He managed in place of Kimura, but he needs to be pushed up more if he continues to play.

  • A solid win over a bad team. We didn't look great, but we got the job done.

  • For the second time in three weeks I was dead on with my prediction of a 2-1 Rapids win.

  • Man of the Match: Tam McManus - Close call between him and Gomez, but I was excited about his play.