Friday, January 30, 2009

Rapids News and Notes - January 30th

This has been one of the more interesting opening weeks of preseason for the Rapids in a while. I've got two or three other blog posts I was planning for this week, but the Rapids keep putting out news to comment on. Two stories today:
  • The Rapids are in negotiations to host an international friendly at The Dick on March 11th. There was a story saying that Mexico was planning to play in Denver on that date and rumor their opponent would be Bolivia. Nothing official yet but its a nice way to ease back into the season.
  • The Rapids announced that they've re-signed four players to long-term contracts. Colin Clark, Jordan Harvey, Kosuke Kimura, and Nick LaBrocca were given new 4 year deals by the team. most standard MLS contracts are two guaranteed years followed by 2 option years controlled by the team. This means we'll have a core group of young players through '09 and '10 and if they turn out to be solid MLS players we have them under contract through '12. A good move by our new Technical Director Paul Bravo.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Rapids News and Notes - January 29th

Lots of news today. First the USMNT camp roster was announced for the US - Mexico game next month. Rapids Ugo Ihemelu and Matt Pickens have been invited to camp. The roster will be supplemented by European based players com the week of the game, so there's a decent chance neither player will be on the game day roster.

Second, we had our first preseason coverage from the Denver Post. Lots of interesting tidbits here, so let's break it down bit by bit.

Smith confirmed the team had entertained offers for winger Terry Cooke and is still open to a deal for Christian Gomez.

In the case of Cooke, who has led the team in assists the past three seasons, Smith said, "it's not like we've thrown him out there as bait to anyone."

As for Gomez, who is bothered by a sore groin: "I am definitely prepared to adapt what I want to do for Christian, as long as he wants to meet me halfway in some way," Smith said.

This confirms what many Rapids fans felt last year. Gomez being relegated to the bench wasn't only because of skill, it was also Christian and Smith not being on the same page. Combined with the rumors coming out of DC about them wanting Gomez back, I wouldn't be surprised to see him heading back there before the first game. The quote about offers from Cooke is interesting. No player is untouchable on this squad, but trading Cooke should only be considered if we're getting a top player in return.

"We've got a couple bodies in the pipeline, one or two from Europe, which may be pretty difficult to get in straightaway," Smith said.

The transfer window for international players closes April 15 and won't open again until June. Smith also said he has "a couple" players from South America who won't arrive until later in the preseason.

Hearing about possible new players is always good, but why do the Rapids always wait until late in the preseason to add their new international players? Why can't we get these players signed right at the opening of the transfer window so they can join the team early in camp?

Cory Gibbs revealed he pulled out of the U.S. national team camp ahead of its Jan. 24 friendly against Sweden at the behest of Smith. Gibbs said Smith was concerned the defender, who had injury issues before joining the Rapids last August, might put too much stress on his body with the extra training prior to the regular season.

Smith said he spoke with national team coach Bob Bradley about his concerns and they ended in agreement

Maybe its just me, but I find it concerning that the most experienced central defender can't attend an offseason National Team camp because the coach is worried about injury. Seems like you'd want your star defender to have a bit more toughness than that.

The Rapids remain on the shortlist of clubs still without a shirt sponsor after the San Jose Earthquakes announced this week a three-year deal, worth a reported $2 million to $3 million a year, with Amway Global.

Managing director Jeff Plush said the club is fairly close to the same place it was last season in terms of finding a partner, and added the global economic slump isn't making things easier.

So after a full year we're no closer? That seems like an opportunity the Rapids have failed to capitalize one.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

2009 Schedule Released

MLS just announced the 2009 schedule. The Rapids play each team home and away, and then add in an extra home game against FC Dallas and finish the season with an extra road game against FaKe SaLt LaKe for a total of 30 games. The schedule isn't kind to fans with a amazingly small number of early home games and 4 weeks off (up from 1 week last season). Here are some of the highlights.
  • The Rapids first home game is March 28th, then don't play at home gain until April 25th
  • The team has only 4 home games before June 20th
  • 2 tough stretches of 3 games in 8 days. June 20th-28th we play DC and Dallas at home, then fly to Seattle. Septemeber 18th-26th we play San Jose on the road and at home, then go to KC.
  • All but 3 games on are Saturday or Sunday. We have two home Wednesday games (one in each of the above 3 games in 8 day stretches) and 1 Friday game (in San Jose to start the second 3 game in 8 day stretch.
  • Only one home afternoon game, Aug 30th vs. Houston, everything else is a night game
  • The Friday game is our only ESPN appearance. We have 4 Fox Soccer Channel games, including the season opener and finales, and 2 Telefutura games.
  • Outside of the 3 games in 8 days we have a tough stretch after our home opener. We're on the road for 3 straight games at LA, Columbus, and Houston. Gary Smith will quickly be tested.
  • We also finish with two tough road games at Dallas and FSL. We're going to want to have a playoff position secured before then.
  • September might be a place to pick up points. We start with a bizarre home-and-home against Toronto, then finish with that 3 games in 8 days stretch against San Jose and KC. Given TFC and SJ last season we might be able to pick up points against them.
  • 3 home games and 1 road game in both July and August.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Colaluca to RBNY?

Yesterday the Rapids official blog reported that Nico Colaluca was on the the Rapids preseason roster. Today Soccer by Ives reported that Colaluca was spotted practicing with the New York Red Bulls. Presumably, if Ives correctly identified Nico, a trade is about to be announced as its not standard procedure to allow one team's player to practice with another team before the new team actually has his rights.

Roster Update

I've recieved confirmation from the Rapids PR department that Mike Graczyk was signed directly by the Rapids this year, not as a MLS Pool keeper.

Now the numbers are 33 players for 24 spots. By position:

GK - 5
D - 10
M - 12
F - 6

Monday, January 26, 2009

Official Preseason Roster

The Rapids have just announced their roster for the preseason. The big news is who is not there. As had been rumored for the last couple of weeks, Tom McManus did not have his option picked up for next season. The Rapids also declined their option on Facundo Erpen. As Gary Smith said in the interview with WewantRapidman Jose Burciaga has not been re-signed. Along with the players we already had heard were leaving (Mike Petke, Tim Ward, and Bouna Coundoul) that opens up 5 senior roster spots (Ward was a Dev player). With 2 more senior spots being created this offseason that's 7 spots up for grabs. We can be fairly sure that Ty Harden and Matt Pickens will take two of those spots, so that leave 5 spots + the 4 Dev spots to be fought for, assuming none of the senior contracted players fall out of favor and get cut.

Here's the complete list:

Kwame Adjeman-Pamboe (FWD)
Mehdi Ballouchy (MID)
Preston Burpo (GK)
Conor Casey (FWD)
Steward Ceus (GK)
Colin Clark (MID)
Nico Colaluca (MID)
Terry Cooke (MID)
Omar Cummings (FWD)
Greg Dalby (MID)
John DiRaimondo (MID)
Kevin Forrest (FWD)
Cory Gibbs (DEF)
Christian Gomez (MID)
Mike Graczyk (GK)*
Brian Grazier (MID)
Ty Harden (DEF)
Jordan Harvey (DEF)
Mike Holody (DEF)
Justin Hughes (GK)
Ugo Ihemelu (DEF)
Henry Kalungi (DEF)
Stephen Keel (DEF)
Kosuke Kimura (DEF)
Nick LaBrocca (MID)
Pablo Mastroeni (MID)
Ciaran O’Brien (MID)
Jacob Peterson (MID)
Matt Pickens (GK)
Kwame Sarkodie (DEF)
Ross Schunk (FWD)
Jordan Seabrook (FWD)
Chris Sharpe (GK)*
Cesar Zambrano (DEF)

* - Both players were MLS pool keepers that trained with the Rapids last season. Sharpe was re-signed as a pool keeper for 2009, I'm still waiting for an update on Graczyk's status

By position:
GK - 4/6*
D - 10
M - 12
F - 6

That's 32 players (not counting the *) for 24 spots. Should be some good competition in camp.

One-Year Anniversary

Today marks the one-year anniversary of this blog. 226 posts later I'm a little surprised I kept it up for a year, I half expected to do it for 2 to 3 months and then lose interest. View From the Couch is here to stay though.

I want to open up the site a little more though. I'm sure you're all tired of reading me ramble on about whatever topic I have rattling around in my head. I want to know if there's anything you want to see. More general MLS talk? Coverage of former Rapids playing elsewhere? I've considered trying to contact the Rapids to maybe to an occasional email interview with somebody, anyone in particular? I won't promise to follow all of your suggestions, but I'll at least consider them. ;)

I'm also willing to give other voices a shot. If you have something you want to contribute let me know and I'll take a look. If it fits into the site I'll put it up.

Here's to 2009 being a better season than 2008 was!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Preseason Plans

The Rapids just announced their preseason plans:


Colorado to take Trips to Florida, Los Angeles and Seattle

COMMERCE CITY, COLO. (Friday, January 23, 2009) – The Colorado Rapids announced their preliminary itinerary for the 2009 MLS preseason, which includes trips to Ft. Lauderdale Fla., Los Angeles and Seattle.

Players will report to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park by Sunday, Jan. 25 and the club will hit the training pitch for the first time on Wednesday, Jan. 28.

The Rapids will have two weeks of training sessions in Colorado before traveling to Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. where they will train in the Sunshine State for a second straight year and play up to three matches against opponents to be announced later.

In March, the Rapids will also be announcing a series of friendlies against other MLS clubs that will coincide with scheduled trips to Los Angeles and Seattle.

Colorado then return home to start preparations for their season opener on March 21 against Chivas USA at The Home Depot Center. The following weekend, on March 28, the Rapids host the Kansas City Wizards at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in the club’s 2009 home opener.

Colorado Rapids season tickets are on sale now at or by calling (303) 825-GOAL.

I'd love to go to Seattle for the preseason match but I think I'll have to wait for the regular-season matchup.

News and Notes

A couple of tidbits heading into the weekend:

  • Tom McManus has apparently been released by the Rapids. It was reported on BigSoccer and appears to be confirmed by this article. McManus brought a great attitude and a deadly long-range shot but never was able to solidify himself as a starter. With the restrictions on international players we can't afford to spend significant money on an international bench player. That, combined with Gary Smith wanting to put together his own team, seems to have ended McManus' time in Colorado.
  • According to this blog the Rapids will play the San Jose Earthquakes in a preaseason game on March 2nd at the Home Depot Center in LA. I'm sure we'll get a complete preseason schedule from the Rapids in the near future.
  • New Rapids keeper Matt Pickens may get a chance in the nets in this weekends U.S. - Sweden game at the HDC. 6:30pm MST Saturday night on FOX Soccer Channel.
UPDATE: One more note is making the rounds. Real Maryland FC of USL-2 just annpunced that they've signed a partnership agreement with the Rapids. The agreement will aloow for the movement of players between the clubs and give Real Maryland's coaches a chance to learn from the Rapids. A good partnership for the Rapids, hopefully some of the younger players that won't make the new smaller roster will end up there and have a chnace to work their way back to MLS.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Review: How Soccer Explains the World

How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization by Franklin Foer

In How Soccer Explains the World the author uses a variety of situations around the organization of soccer clubs to show how the world is still organized by tribes. I would go more into the sociology aspect of the book, but to be honest I don't really care. If you want a book about the sociology of soccer this might be a place to start, but I'm sure you could find better. As a book about interesting stories around soccer its great. The subject matter ranges from Serbian supporters groups that became the special army of Serbia's dictators during the war through Pele's movement in and out of Brazilian politics. In between the history of the Rangers-Celtic rivalry is detailed and attempts by women to be fans of Iranian teams are covered. Its written in a way that makes it very easy to pick up and become enthralled in whatever subject the author is covering and avoids reading like a sociological thesis. I'd recommend this book to anyone who's interested in soccer outside the lines. There's very little talk of the game as played, but if you want to see the in's and outs of the way, for example, the Milan clubs are run along side the government, this is your book.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Weekend Roundup 1/17 - 1/18

Queen of the South - QoS traveled to Ross County looking for their first win in any competition in almost 3 months which happened at Ross County. The first half was what Football Manager would call "a bore draw" with only a couple of chances amounting no nothing from each side. The second half was more of the same until County got a lucky break in the 73rd minute when a sliding shot made it past Robinson to give Ross the 1-0 lead. The Doonhamers threatened after that but were unable to break through and were unlucky to come away with the loss. Queens has now slipped into the relegation playoff spot, 1 point from safety and 14 points from the lofty heights we resided in at the quarter-season mark. With 17 games left this season is now about avoiding relegation instead of challenging for promotion.

Blackburn Rovers - Blackburn hosted the jailbirds from Newcastle this weekend. Sam Allardyce saved United from relegation last year and we're hoping he can do the same thing for Rovers this year. The first half was 45 minutes of terrible soccer from both sides. Watching the game at the British Bulldog with my good fiend and Newcastle fan Greenie he compared the game to watching an electronic football game. The players just all got on the field and ran in random directions.

After enduring the first half Big Sam must have had words with Blackburn as they came out in the second half much more focused on playing actual soccer. Newcastle wasn't, and the difference paid off. First McCarthy was taken down in the box for a PK (heavily embellished by Benni), then Pedersen set up Roberts off a Robinson free kick to put Blackburn up 2-0. Newcastle crumbled at that point with Nicky Butt picking up a second card and United looking more light fighting each other instead of Rovers. The Pedersen-Roberts combo combined a second time to finish Newcastle off and send the fans home with a 3-0 win. The victory allowed Blackburn to claw themselves out of the relegation zone on goal differential but with only 6 points separating 9th from 20th its still a long road to safety.

CD Tenerife - After a week where CDT's leading scorer Nino was the subject of a 1.4 million euro transfer offer from Barnsley that he turned down Tenerife had to wonder if Nino would be unsettled by the attention. He answered the question with a resounding no, scoring after just 9 minutes and again in injury time to bookend the 4-1 victory by CDT. Girona never threatened int his game and the scoreline could have easily been worse for them. With the win Tenerife goes up to 3rd in the table, the last promotion spot, and only 1 point off the top of the table. With only 1 game until the midway point Tenerife have put themselves in the race for the second half of the season.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Superdraft Roundup

A busy day for the Colorado Rapids. 6 draft picks and a trade brings a whole new crop of faces to the team. Matt Pickens was the big move, Colorado sent their 2nd round pick and allocation money (rumored to be 125K) to Chicago for their 2nd round pick and the rights to Matt Pickens. Pickens has been out of MLS for the last year playing in Europe. He played for a while with the QPR reserves and was rumored to move to Falkirk in Scotland but has reportedly signed with MLS and will be joining the Rapids.

The reason for the move is that, reportedly, the Rapids and Bouna Coundoul are expecting to part ways. Rumor has it that the Rapids offered Bouna Time! a six-figure salary, but Coundoul's agent is advising him he can do better in Europe. I think the better move is the contract he's been offered (Bird in the hand and all that) but I'm sure Bouna is still a bit unsettled after having been kept on the bench by Gary Smith. Personally I'm disappointed to see him leave as Bouna was one of my favorite Rapids players the last couple of years and I was looking forward to seeing him grow more next season. I guess my new jersey will have to have Cookie's name and number on the back.

After the trade for Pickens Colorado still had 6 picks in the SuperDraft. In order:
#28 - M/F Kwame Adjeman-Pamboe
#37 - GK Steward Ceus
#47 - F Ross Schunk
#51 - F Jordan Seabrook
#53 - D Henry Kalungi
#59 - D Michael Holody

The Rapids now have 33 players on their roster according to MLSnet. This includes Jose Burciaga and Bouna Coundoul, both of which are expected to be leaving the team. It doesn't include Mike Graczyk who Gary Smith mentioned in his interview with wewantrapidman had signed with the team. That leaves 31 or 32 players trying for 24 roster spots. That group includes up to 5 goalkeepers (Pickens, Ceus, Burpo, Hughes, and Graczyk) of which at best 3 might stay with the team, maybe only 2. Current players like Kwame Sarkodie, Cesar Zambrano, and Brian Grazier have to be concerned about their spot on the team.

SuperDraft 2009

The 2009 SuperDraft has just started in St. Louis. The Rapids first pick is currently at #20, the 5th pick of the 2nd Round. I'll update this entry as Rapids picks happen or if any Rapids-related trades occur.

UPDATE 1:45pm: The Rapids have traded the 20th pick to the Fire for their 27th pick (and presumably something else)

Our next pick is the 12th pick of the 2nd Round, #27

UPDATE 2pm: Reportedly Chicago sent some allocation money our way in the trade of 2nd round draft spots. Also our first pick is #28, not #27.

UPDATE 2:05: New info now says that the Rapids gave up their pick and allocation money for the Fire's pick and a Player To Be Named Later

UPDATE 2:20: Bonji is reporting that the player to be named later is GK Matt Pickens, because the Rapids and Bouna Coundoul could not come to an agreement on a new contract (More on this later if it pans out).

With the #28 pick the Rapids take Kwame Adjeman-Pamboe, a Midfielder/Forward out of George Mason University.

The Rapids next pick is the 7th of the 3rd Round, #37.

UPDATE 2:55pm: With the 37th pick the Rapids take goalkeeper Steward Ceus out of the University of Albany.

The Rapids next pick is the 2nd of the 4th Round, #47

UPDATE 3:10PM: Ives is now reporting that the Rapids have acquired Matt Pick4ns rights. Pick4ns has re-signed with MLS and will become the new starter for Colorado. Bonji further reports that Bouna was offered a 6 figure contract which his agent advised him to turn down because he could do better in Europe.

UPDATE 3:30pm: With the 47th pick the Rapids take forward Ross Schunk out of the University of Redlands.

Our next pick is just 4 away, #51

UPDATE 3:40pm: With the #51 pick the Rapids take forward Jordan Seabrook out of the University of Southern Florida

With the #53 pick the Rapids take defender Henry Kalungi out of Winthrop University.

Our final pick is 6 away at #59

UPDATE 4pm: With their final pick at #59 the Rapids take defender Michael Holody out of the University of Michigan

I'll have a wrap-up of all the news and picks tonight.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Trade Winds Blowing

The SuperDraft is tomorrow and the trade rumors are flying. We've already seen one trade as the Rapids picked up the rights to Ty Harden. Just to review, the Rapids currently hold a second round, a third round, and four fourth round picks in tomorrow's draft. Given the reduced roster sizes, and particularly the fact that there are only 4 development spots, there's a good chance some more trading is going to happen. The Rapids currently have 25 players either under contract or with a team-option for 2009. The only player not under contract that hasn't yet been mentioned as leaving is Bouna Coundoul, and reports before the holidays were that they were in negotiations with him. Assuming they re-sign Bouna that leaves 26 players for 24 slots even before the Superdraft. Keeping all six picks to end up with 32 players is probably not the best move.

The current hot rumors swirl around Christian Gomez. The first report said that New England is interested in him in exchange for their two first round draft picks, but New England wants Colorado to eat some of Gomez' salary. News from Steven Goff today is that Dallas has also inquired about Gomez, but no word yet on what they're offering. The good news is that there are multiple teams involved, which allows the Rapids to get a bit of a bidding war started. Regardless it appears that the Rapids are shopping Gomez, and I think its more likely that they trade him than keep him. Gary Smith showed last season that Gomez didn't fir into his plans for the team, and I don't see that changing this year.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Rapids Acquire Rights to Ty Harden

The Rapids just issues a press release with the announcement that they've traded a 3rd Round pick in Thursday's SuperDraft for the rights to former LA defender Ty Harden. Harden graduated from the University of Washington, my alma mater, in 2007 and was drafted by the Galaxy. He was the defender of the year for LA in 2007 before taking 2008 off to pursue philanthropic options.

If the Rapids are able to sign him and bring him back to the league this is probably a good move. It gives us depth at defender for not a lot of cost, and gives more competition for Ihemelu, Erpen, Harvey, and Kimura.

Rapids Launch Official Blog

Today the Rapids launched their official blog, The Rapids Undercurrent. I guess I have some more competition now in the Rapids blogosphere. Something tells me a lot of what I write wouldn't make it onto their blog (for better or for worse) though, so I think I still have a niche. ;)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Weekend Roundup 1/10 - 1/11

Queen of the South - Queens travelled to Falkirk for their FA Cup 4th Round match up. They were hoping to recreate the magic of last year where their best-ever FA Cup run saw them all the way through to the final where they lost to Rangers but still claimed a UEFA Cup spot. In horrible rain and win QoS got stated on the wrong foot, spending most of the first 15 minutes defending their own goal. After relieving some of the pressure Falkirk got a dubious penalty to go up 1-0, but the Doonhamers wasted no time in leveling the score off a Barry Wilson shot from outside the area. Queens went ahead right after the break, only for Falkirk to return the favor and equalize right after. Unfortunately QoS was no match for the SPL side this year and Falkirk managed 2 more goals by the end of the game to eliminate the Doonhamers form the competition.

In other news the Annual General Meeting was held and from an off-the-field perspective Queen of the South is in better shape than most Scottish clubs. QoS has half a million pounds in the bank in profit over the last 12 months (Helped significantly by that Cup run) which should keep them in good financial standing for a while.

Blackburn Rovers - Blackburn's game at Fulham was postponed due to the condition of the pitch.

CD Tenerife - 4th place Tenerife travelled to 3rd place Xerez this weekend, the second part of a clash of the titans weekend that also saw the top tow Segunda teams facing off. Unfortunately for CDT they seemed to leave their game in the Canary Islands as they never truly threatened. They allowed a goal on both sides of the break and headed home with a 2-0 defeat. Other results broke their way however and they are in 4th place, 2 points out of a promotion spot and 3 points behind their opponents this weekend, who now lead the league.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Paul Bravo named Technical Director

Today the Rapids announced former player Paul Bravo as their Technical Director. Bravo is one of three former players (along with Marcelo Balboa and Chris Henderson) inducted into the Rapids Gallery of Honor. He is still the Rapids all-time leading scorer with 39 goals in 135 games for the team.

This position had first been offered to Chris Henderson and then Jurgen Sommer, both of whom initially accepted the position before changing their minds (and in Henderson's case taking the same position with his hometown Seattle Sounders). Bravo retired and became an assistant coach with the Rapids, UCLA, and the Galaxy. At the end of 2007 he was given the title of Director of Soccer with the Galaxy, the equivalent of his new position with the Rapids. Bravo will essentially be the General Manager of the team's soccer operations, leaving the business side of the GM's job to Charlie Wright and actual GM Jeff Plush. He'll be responsible for scouting, player acquisition, and the youth system.

This is a position that's been sorely needed by the Rapids. Currently after you get pat the coach there's nobody in the Rapids organization with strong soccer knowledge (And given Clavijo's tenure I'm not sure you could make that claim about the coach!). The key to this position working though is that the person in it has to be more than a yes man for Plush. He has to have the ability to make the call on players and coaches without undue influence from above.

Assuming that happens, is Bravo the guy for the job? We don't have that much to work on. Last year's Galaxy was a mess under Ruud Gullit, but they were operating with some limitations that the Rapids don't have, namely Alexi Lalas, David Beckham, and Landon Donovan. Until late last season LA's focus was on off field issues. The image of the team appeared to be more important than the results. Acquiring names like Ruud Gullit and Abel Xavier was the focus, not players that would fit in the system. If Bravo's hands were tied then he can't really be blamed for the mess that resulted. If Bravo thought these were the best players to bring in, that doesn't bode well for his judgment. With his long tenure as a Colorado player he knows the city, lifestyle, and what players will need to adapt to to make it in Colorado, so that's a point in his favor. Hopefully we'll avoid situations where we've seen players leave because they aren't happy here.

Time will tell if this was a good move or not. On the surface it looks like a strong move though and I'm hopeful that having a soccer focused person in the FO will help stabilize the team.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Review: Football Manager 09

To help fill some of the down time before the season I'm going to add some reviews of soccer games, books, and movies. First up is this year's Football Manager release.

The Football Manager(FM) series is the continuation of the legendary Championship Manager series by SI Games. It is the most complete sports management simulation in the market today, with only Out Of The Park Baseball (Now also a SI Games property) approaching it. This is the 17th version of the game, dating back to 1992, and the series now includes a handheld version and a Live version played on-line. The series, for trademark and marketing reasons, is known as Worldwide Soccer Manager in the U.S. and is distributed by Sega.

In FM the player takes over as the manager of a soccer club. The current database includes over 5000 clubs from more than 50 countries. You can also take over any of the National Teams if you prefer to try your hand at international management. Every player currently on these clubs is included int eh database, with each player having around 20 visible stats and a number of ones only the system sees covering his ability to shoot, pass, tackle, lead, etc. Players can choose to manage teams at the top of the heap like Manchester United, all the way down to the semi-pro levels of football in the country, like Bishop's Stortford in England. For the U.S. only MLS teams are available, but all 14 of the 2008 MLS teams are int he database and it includes MLS specific rules like the SuperDraft and the Designated Player rule.

As manager you control everything on a day to day basis. From player acquisition and staff hirings to training schedules and tactics. On game day you set the lineup and tactical formation, watch the game, and decide when to make subs and change tactics. You also have the option to apply for other management positions. Tried of coaching Blackburn? Maybe Man City wants to hire you. (That's the Mark Hughes career strategy). Eventually when you get tired of your success (or nobody will hire you after you've been fired) you can retire into the Hall of Fame.

SI put in a number of improvements for the 2009 version of the game. First and foremost is the addition of a 3-D view for games. Prior to this the best representation of the game was a 2-D version of a pitch with the players moving on it. Even that was fairly recent as for most of the game's lifetime all players hat to work with was text commentary! The 3-D version is a nice bonus, but so far doesn't provide that much more than the 2-D version did. Right now its got some great animations but I'm not drawing that much more information from seeing play players in 3-D than I already was.

SI has also added a number of frills to the game that range from the helpful to the "eh, who cares" level. Added feedback in game from the Assistant Manager is great, as is the new TV View that stretches the game to take your whole screen while matches are being played. The added press conferences and board confidence is nice right away but probably not a huge change long-term. Press conferences in particular get old quickly. Adding the ability for your manager to be female is probably a nice touch for female players of the game, but has no real effect overall.

The biggest knock against this year's version is that the tactical engine has become much harder to figure out. I'm having a hard time translating what I want to happen into the settings that the game uses. Most of the tactical settings are controlled by slider bars. You can set your team Mentality from anywhere between Ultra-Defensive to All-Out Attack, your Passing Style from anywhere between Short and Long, etc. The interface doesn't make it clear how these sliders interact with each other, so when you think you're going Defensive if you don't change your player's Closing Down setting there's very little change in tactic. Its taken a good deal of testing just to get the basics worked out. SI needs to dial back the detail a little in next year's version.

Overall I think its a great game but I'm coming at it after having played the series off and on over the last 9 years and 4 different versions of the game. If you've played the series in the past I highly recommend upgrading to the new version. If you're new to the series I'd recommend it if you are willing to be patient and learn the game. If you just want to be able to jump into something I'd stay clear of this one. Either find an older version of the game (I upgraded from the 2006 version , which is more newbie-friendly) or try EA's FIFA Manager game, which is reportedly designed for a quick start.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Ugo Ihemelu called into Nats camp

Our first bit of Rapids news for 2009. The Rapids have just confirmed that Ugo Ihemelu has been called up for the U.S. National Team camp in progress at the HDC in Carson, CA. The camp is for preparation for the Nats first game of 2009, Jan 24th against Sweden on Fox Soccer Channel. Ihemelu is replacing Rapids defender Cory Gibbs who withdrew from the camp for unspecified reasons over the weekend.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Weekend Roundup 1/3 - 1/4

Queen of the South - QoS travelled to Morton this week trying to get the season turned around. Queens got off to a flying start with Barry Wilson scoring in the 7th minute to give the Doonhamers an early lead. QoS doubled the lead 11 minutes later when Gary Arbuckle found the back of the net. They were only able to keep the two goal lead for 15 minutes however, conceding a goal to Morton in the 33rd minute. It looked like the Doonhamers would escape with the 3 points until the last minute of injury time when Morton equalized to rescue a point at home. Pretty typical of the second half of the QoS season so far. That makes it 2 points in 9 games for Queens, keeping them in a relegation battle. They are just above the relegation playoff spot due to goal differential with 16 games to play.

Blackburn Rovers - Rovers traveled to Blue Square North side Blyth Spartans for the 3rd round of the FA Cup. With 5 levels separating the teams one would expect Blackburn to have an easy time of it, but that wasn't the case. Rovers had control for most of the first half but could not make the chances count. The closest they got was a badly hit bicycle kick from Matt Derbyshire that struck a Spartan in the head and deflected into the net for an own goal, but Derbyshire was ruled to be offside. Blackburn finally broke through for a goal in the second half. Carlos Villanueva took a gorgeous free kick from outside the box that he curled into the upper corner for the lead. Blyth did not go quietly though, keeping the Rovers defense in a state of panic for long stretches. The Spartans had a great chance off a volley in the final minutes bit they managed to put the shot wide and Blackburn escaped with the win. They will travel to Sunderland in the next round.

CD Tenerife - CDT hosted cellar dwellers Sevella Athletic trying to stretch their winning streak to 3 games. Tenerife opened up a two goal lead with goals in the last 10 and first 10 minutes surrounding halftime. Sevella hit right back after the second goal to make things interesting but 10 minutes later their keeper handled the ball outside the box. He was shown a red card and any hope Athletic had was gone. With the win CDT moves into a 3 way tie for 2nd place. They are 4th due to goal differential, one spot out of the promotion zone and two points behind the leaders. Next week they travel to third place Xerez while the top two teams face each other. A win could go a long way towards the promotion hopes.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy 2009!!!

Happy New Years everyone! Maybe 2009 is the Colorado Rapids season. Only 79 days util we start finding out!!!