Friday, July 31, 2009

YMCA Alert!

The Eastern Conference leading Crew sail into town tomorrow night to face the Rapids. The Rapids are finally back at full strength after the international absences of the last two months. Game time is 7:30pm at the Dick, and the supporters groups will be tailgating starting (officially) at 5:30. I will not be in attendance for the second time in a month as my company's summer picnic is tomorrow night. The DVR's all set up though so I'll see what happens when I get home.

Official Injury Report:
OUT: DF Julien Baudet (L forearm fracture); PROBABLE: FW Conor Casey (L thigh sprain); FW Omar Cummings (L hip tightness), MF Pablo Mastroeni (lower back tightness)

Official Discipline Report:
TWO CAUTIONS FROM SUSPENSION: Mehdi Ballouchy, Pablo Mastroeni, Scott Palguta

Columbus is missing league and MLS Cup MVP Guillermo Barros Schelotto to injury along with 2 other players and they have a couple of other players just returning form injury and probably not match fit. My best guess on the Rapids lineup:

Ihemelu - Gibbs - Palguta - Harvey
Smith - Ballouchy - Clark
Cummings - Casey

If Jamie Smith is not ready to start I assume Jacob Peterson would start in his place. Kimura and LaBrocca will probably be the super subs off the bench along with new signing Facundo Diz.

Key To Look For:

Defensive battles. Both teams are tied for 2nd on goals scored this season, so the back line that protects the goal better will be the team that comes out on top. The Rapids will be returning to the back line they used before the Baudet signing, so the players should be fairly familiar with each other (if a bit out of practice). That back line was usually good for one mistake a game, so hopefully they bring their A game this week.

Prediction: 1-1 draw, goal by Omar Cummings. Given the Crew's strike power, even without GBS, I don't think the Rapids can keep them off the board. At the same time the Rapids offense is still trying to get back into sync (Red Bulls aside) after all the international absences. I'm sure they'll find a way to score one, but I'm not sure they can do more than that.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Terry Cooke Waived

Reports are trickling out that Terry Cooke, as expected, has been waived by the Rapids. I expect the official announcement will be made at the same time as the signing of his replacement, Jamie Smith, is made. This move is hardly a surprise as its been obvious that Cookie has been out of favor for a while. I'm a little surprised that they couldn't find a taker for him in some sort of trade. If Pat Noonan is worth a first-round draft pick Cooke has to be worth something.

I still think this is a bad move based on our current roster, but if Smith can step in and claim the right midfield position it may be a move for the better. If Smith is a bust though, this is a very bad move by the Rapids.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Red Bull Gives (Opposing Teams) Wings!

Red Bull is apparently just what the doctor ordered for the Rapids. In a game the Rapids controlled from start to finish they never took their foot off a pedal and did exactly what a team is supposed to do when facing weaker opposition by giving them a 4-0 beat down.

The first half started with a bang as Cummings took a Ihemelu pass deep into the corner and crossed the ball in front of the net where Jacob Peterson beat former Rapids keeper Bouna Coundoul for the early lead. After that RBNY had 2 good chances that Pickens had to come up big against, plus a third that Pickens forced to go off the post. It looked like RBNY was going to get back in the game until two different incidents involving NY striker Sinisa Ubiparipovic changed the game. First in the 34th minute a ball was served over the top to him and as he went to make a play on it Rapids defender Julian Baudey came flying in to clear the ball. In the process he slammed into Ubiparipovic, knocking his tooth out. Baudet got the worst of it though as as he tumbled to the ground he fell onto his left arm and had to leave due to injury. 12 minutes later Ubiparipovic lunged into a studs up tackle on Scott Palguta and swept Palguta's plant foot out with his trailing leg. He was properly shown a red card and RBNY played the second half a man down. Colorado would make them pay.

1 minute into the second half Pablo Mastroeni played a through ball to Pat Noonan who broke the offside trap to go in 1v1 on Bouna Time! Noonan got Bouna to go to ground and pushed the ball past him for his first goal as a Rapid and a 2-0 lead. The game was over at this point as the fight went out of the Red Bulls. Colorado wasn't done though. 15 minutes later Coundoul saved a shot from Ballouchy but gave up a soft rebound and Nick LaBrocca was in place to put it away. At this point both teams just played out the game, with the Rapids having long spells of possession (When the fans get tired of the Ole! chant in the 70th minute, you know the other team has quit). A minor foul outside the box in the 67th minute was expected to amount to nothing, but Ballouchy hit possibly the best free kick of his career and bended the ball around the wall for a 4-0 lead. At that point the game was truly over.

My key to the game focus. I was concerned the Rapids might overlook a historically bad Red Bulls side. Clearly the Rapids didn't do that and came out firing.

Other Observations:
  • The bad news for the Rapids was the injury to Baudet. Reports today say that he broke both bones in his arm when he fell on it. I have to assume that will put him IR for quite some time, if not the rest of the season.
  • The silver lining in the injury, if there is one, is that players on IR don't count towards the roster limit, so if he does go on IR the Rapids won't have to move a player to sign Jamie Smith.
  • We got goals from unusual places in this game. Combined the 4 goalscorers had 3 goals on the season going into the game. It was the first goal of the year for Noonan and the second goals of the year for Peterson, LaBrocca, and Ballouchy.
  • Cummings deserves an honorable mention in the MOTM voting. He was setting up balls all night. He only got one assist officially, but his was his dangerous play that opened up the opportunities for everyone else.
  • Cooke looked pretty dejected after the game. Its obvious that he thinks his time in Colorado is over.
  • It was good to see new signing Facundo Diz get 20 minutes or so. The game was so dead at that point it was hard to see much, but he didn't embarrass himself.
  • We're going into a rough set of 4 games against Columbus, Chivas, Chicago, and Houston. At least Chicago is the only game on the road.
Player of the Game: Matt Pickens. he kept us in the game when it was still 1-0. If RBNY had found some hope by tying the game it may have been a very different result.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Rapids Try To Find Their Wings Against Red Bull

A closeup of my cousin's new baby daughter Abigail. One thing Rapids fans and Sounders fans can agree on is that NY is crap

Red Bull New York Red Bulls are in town tomorrow to take on a Rapids side that needs to right itself. The game is at 7:30 tomorrow night at the Dick, to be followed by the rescheduled fireworks for the 4th of July. The supporters groups will be tailgating as always starting at 5:30.

Official Injury Report:

Official Discipline Report:
SUSPENDED: Conor Casey (Caution Accumulation)
TWO CAUTIONS FROM SUSPENSION: Mehdi Ballouchy, Pablo Mastroeni, Scott Palguta

International Absences:
Colin Clark (U.S. National Team)

New York has two players out injured and two players listed as questionable. They aren't missing anyone to discipline or international duty. Facundo Diz will be available, but recent reports don't have him in shape to be starting for the Rapids yet, so I'm guessing he'll be on the bench. My guess on the lineup:

Kimura - Gibbs - Baudet - Harvey
Peterson - Ballouchy - LaBrocca
Cummings - Noonan

I've heard from a good source that Cooke will be starting on the bench (continuing to indicate that he's the odd man out when Jamie Smith signs). This is the first time that all 5 defenders that have gotten significant play time and Baudet are available, so picking the back line is fairly difficult. I think Palguta is one of the two unlikely to start, but the second could be any of the rest of the group.

Key To Look For:

Focus. There's a big game coming up next week against Columbus, and its easy to overlook RBNY. New York is working on a historically bad season and this could be a seen as an "easy" win by some players. If the Rapids do that though, they'll let the Red Bulls sneak out of a town with a point, or maybe 3. They need to focus on putting RBNY away and worry about Columbus starting Sunday.

Prediction: 2-0 win, both goals by Omar Cummings. Red Bull is an awful team and its just the type of team the Rapids need to right the ship. Omar's due for a multiple goal game and a disorganized defense like New York's is a good team to score against.

Facundo Diz Signed

The Rapids announced the signing of Argentine forward Facundo Diz today. He'll provide depth up front behind Casey and Cummings, and competition for Noonan to be the first striker off the bench. With this signing the Rapids are at the limit of 20 senior-roster players, so any more moves (Like adding Jamie Smith) will require somebody be traded or cut.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Review: The Beckham Experiment

The Beckham Experiment: How the World's Most Famous Athlete Tried to Conquer America by Grant Wahl

If you've been following MLS in the last month you've heard about the uproar that this book has caused. Donovan calling the world's most famous player a poor teammate and a cheapskate, Beckham calling the book "unoffical" or "unauthorized", and MLS trying to stay out of the way. The publishers were nice enough to send me a copy of the book for review and I dug right in. Simply, this is the best book I've read about Major League Soccer (admittedly a short list). Anyone who's followed American soccer for a few years knows Grant Wahl, who may be the best soccer journalist in the country. When news of Beckham coming to LA was announced Wahl got a leave of absence from his job at Sports Illustrated to follow the team for a year (which was extended to 16 months after Beckham's injury in 2007) and write a book about the interaction of the circus that is Team Beckham with the young MLS. The LA Galaxy and the rest of the league were happy to grant him the access he needed, and what resulted was a very interesting look at life in MLS.

When I say the "rest of the league" granted him access there was one notable person that did not go along with it. David Beckham himself. Beckham's people told Wahl that he would need to pay a minimum of a million dollars and give Beckham's people editorial control in order to get the same access he was getting from the rest of the league. Not surprisingly, he passed. This has been the basis of the "unofficial" claims from Camp Old Spice and others, but there is plenty of commentary from Beckham in the book. David was made available in press conferences before and after every match and numerous times after training during the week so Wahl had plenty of chances to ask him questions. He was not able to sit down one-on-one with Beckham and ask him about some of the things other people said, but he gave Beckham that chance and they turned it down, Wahl shouldn't be faulted for that.

There's been some talk that Wahl wrote this book to take Player A down a peg or to get on Player B's good side. While the excerpts may lead you to believe that, once you've read the book you realize that nobody comes out of it looking good (except maybe Alan Gordon). There's enough blame and questionable decisions to go around, from Beckham himself, to his teammates like Landon Donovan, to the coaches (Frank Yallop and Ruud Gullit), to the front office (GM Alexi Lalas) and all the way to the head of AEG soccer operations, Tim Leiweke. Wahl does a good job of laying out what happened from multiple points of view and while he draws some conclusions from it all of them are reasonable based on the evidence presented.

The only drawback to the book is that it can be a bit repetitive. Wahl mentions the same information 2-3 times, or tells variations of the same stories in multiple places. Its a light read so having to go through the same information multiple times isn't a big deal, but by the third time you're being told that Alan Gordon shared a locker room with Beckham while only making 30K a year, it gets a bit annoying.

If you are interested in MLS outside the play on the field I'd recommend reading this book. For Rapids fans there's a nice chapter on the aftermath of Ruud Gullit's first game in charge of the Galaxy, which was that 4-0 beat-down the Rapids game them at the Dick to start the 2008 season, and a "what could of been" moment when we find out Lalas vetoed trading Pete Vagenas and a draft pick for Kyle Beckerman (Ballouchy was a better trade than that at least). I'll be keeping this on my shelf next to John Harkes' Captain for Life, which is one of the better looks at the u.S. National Team in the 1990's.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Smith Leads Rapids To Destruction

(Now just replace the kicker with Christian Gomez and the kickee with Pablo and you have a good image of what happened on Saturday)

I'm going to dispense with my standard recap of the 3-1 loss in DC. Just assume it was crap and move on. Instead here's just some extended thoughts on what I saw.

This lineup and sub patterns were straight out of Clavijo's playbook. A new formation (4-5-1) with 2 new starters (Dalby, Baudet) and then when forced to sub instead of sliding Palguta over to where he's used to playing and bringing Harvey into his natural position he introduces Harden, another player with essentially no experience with this group. Our defensive incompetence should be no surprise.

Pablo had an impressively bad 10 minutes after half time. First he gets called for a PK (admittedly a very very weak PK) then he does his best Mike Burns impression in letting the second goal get between him and the near post. But Baudet made him look good when The Beast couldn't even successfully let the ball clear and allowed Christian Gomez to get around him.

Of course, the only thing more incompetent was the Altitude broadcast. The first 20 minutes was shown in a compressed screen, the cut-aways are awful, having Lopez (ugh) and Balboa in Denver means they can't even tell when a goal is scored or a card is given. Just garbage. I'd almost rather Altitude do no broadcasts and be guaranteed to get some professional coverage by spending $79 to get Direct Kick and the oppositions broadcasts than deal with the crap Altitude throws up there for free. Get what you pay for I guess.

How the hell Fred stayed in this game is beyond me. He had a yellow and then that spiking of Gibbs' knee, while not intentional, was clearly dangerous play and should have drawn a second yellow. Fred even turned to show the ref his number like he expected a card. When the DC fans are saying he should have been tossed you know the ref blew it.

If we had started our normal starting 11 with Baudet in for Gibbs or Palguta I'm not sure we win this game, but we have a good chance to draw it, and we don't look like a USL-2 squad in the back. The players (particularly Pablo) didn't play well, but this loss is squarely on Smith's shoulders.

My key to the game was defensive cohesiveness. Yeah, not so much.

Other Observations:
  • Conor Casey is a selfish moron. In the last couple of games he's picked up a yellow card for dissent and now one for delaying a restart. Both stupid mental errors that will force him to miss the next game due to yellow card accumulation. If he had gotten through the next game without a card he would have had one knocked off for good behavior. Instead he's put his team in a hole when we're already down a key component with Clark at the Gold Cup.
  • Peterson actually showed a little in this game. not enough for me to think he should get off the bench, but something.
  • Wow, talk about a bad start for Baudet. Couldn't even do a simple job like shepherding a ball over the line for a goal kick.
  • Cooke left on the bench when we're down 2. Yeah, he's done as a Rapid.
  • Why we benched Jordan Harvey, who's been our most consistent player all season, is beyond me.
Player of the Game: Nobody, this game should be wiped from the memory and we should move on

Friday, July 17, 2009

British-led Rapids Try To Burn DC

The British didn't burn Washington until August of 1814, but late July is close enough for my purposes. Once again the Rapids are facing the same team twice within a month, this time its the squawking crows of DC. Back in late June we beat them at the Dick 3-0, now we have to head East and repeat the feat. Game time is 6pm MDT (Same time as the USA-Panama game of course) and as always the supporters groups will be gathering at the British Bulldog.

Official Injury Report:
PROBABLE: MF Nick LaBrocca (L hamstring strain)

Official Discipline Report:
SUSPENDED: Ugo Ihemelu (Caution Accumulation)
TWO CAUTIONS FROM SUSPENSION: Mehdi Ballouchy, Scott Palguta

International Absences:
Colin Clark (U.S. National Team)

DC is missing Quaranta and Jakovic to the Gold Cup and Barklage to injury. New signing Danny Szetela is still dealing with some personal issues involved in the change of teams as well, plus they are one man short of a full roster. So both teams are dealing with some depth issues. My guess on the lineup:

Kimura - Gibbs - Palguta - Harvey
Cooke - Ballouchy - LaBrocca
Casey - Noonan

If LaBrocca can't go I assume Peterson would take his spot. Julian Buadet is eligible to play his first league game, but I'm guessing he'll come off the bench while Smith works him into the squad. There's been no official announcement of Jamie Smith or Facundo Diz being signed, so I'm assuming they won't be available yet.

Key To Look For:

Defensive cohesiveness. There's been a good deal of rotation on the defense over the last couple of weeks, but they did manage to get a shutout against a toothless Dallas team last week. DC is tied with Seattle for the highest scoring team in the league so we're going to need the back line to work as a team to have a chance int his game.

Prediction: 2-1 loss goal by Omar Cummings. The Rapids have historically struggled in DC over the years, and the way we've been playing over the last month I don't expect that to change. Our defense hasn't shown the ability to shutdown a rested strong offense so I expect DC to get at least 2. I don't see how our offense can keep up with them.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Scoreless Draw between Colorado and America

Last night the Rapids played Club America of Mexico in a friendly at the Dick. The game was scoreless despite America playing down a man for 2/3rds of the game. As you can tell from my lack of coverage I wasn't particularly interested in the game and didn't go. Club America isn't that interesting of an opponent. I can see them every weekend of the Mexican season on Spanish-language TV, and between Superliga, Interliga, and friendlies I have plenty of chances to see them in person if I wanted to.

I understand the marketing appeal form the Rapids perspective, one of Mexico's top teams in an area with a significant Mexican population. I'm not sure how much it appealed to existing Rapids fans (which, theoretically, they're also selling to) though. Most of the Rapids fans I know, which includes a number of die-hards, are more interested in the European leagues or the big South American leagues like Argentina. I'm all for the Rapids trying to get new fans, but I would have liked it better if this game had been paired with another friendly involving a team that targets more of the current Rapids fan base. I thought last year's combo of Everton and Tigris was great, and I'm disappointed that club America was the only game we get this year. I realize that a team like the Rapids with a smaller fan base can't attract teams like Real Madrid and Chelsea like other MLS teams are playing this summer, but I figured that a team like Fulham or Blackburn would be achievable. Arsenal should always be an option given that the Rapids owner, Stan Kroenke, is also the largest shareholder in Arsenal. Even if an EPL team is out of our reach there are a number of other possibilities in Europe. Top non Old Firm Scottish teams like Hearts or Aberdeen (where our new signing Jamie Smith spent last season), Dutch teams like Feyenoord, or German teams like Borussia Monchengladbach. Or even a strong South American team like River Plate or Boca Juniors would be a nice change from the same Mexican tours we see through the U.S. each summer.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Kildare County Wins A Game!

Yes, believe it or not, after opening the season with a draw, then losing 15 straight league games and 2 cup matches, Kildare County has finally won a game this season! On Friday night they traveled to Terryland Park to face 10th placed Meruve United, and quickly went down 1-0 midway through the first half. Everything seemed to click after halftime though as the Thoroughbreds reeled of 4 unanswered goals to not only win, but win in convincing fashion 4-1!

The 3 points still leaves them in the cellar of the First Division, with a 5 point gap to 11th placed Longford Town, who has a game in hand and easily has the goal differential tiebreaker in their favor. This match was the midpoint of the 33 game season though, so County still has time to make a push and try to survive.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Domo Arigato, Mister Kimura

The Rapids snoozed their way through 89 minutes of the game on Saturday night. They did enough to keep Dallas from doing anything, but never really threatened the goal except for the 79th minute where Ballouchy and Kimura combined for Kosuke's 2nd professional goal. That was the difference in a much needed, if not much deserved, win for Colorado.

The first half was pretty forgettable. The Rapids controlled play most of the time, but it didn't lead to many good scoring chances. Jacob Peterson had two shots from the edge of the box in the first 25 minutes that were easily saved but other than that it was control with no opportunities. There were two early yellow cards, one to Ihemelu that was barely a foul (and thanks to it he'll miss the next game) and one to LaBrocca that I still haven't figured out. Other than that the highlight of the half was watching Kimura own Brek Shea Pet over and over right in front of Class VI, who made sure Shea new exactly how bad he was playing.

The second half was more of the first, control but no results. In this half Dallas had a little more control, with a couple of dangerous probes in the middle of the half, one led to Dallas' only shot on goal of the game which the Rapids defense easily dealt with. The early highlight of the half was Dallas realizing that Kimura was owning Shea, so they had him switch sides. That put him in front of Class VI for until he got subbed out in the 62nd minute. In the 79th minute the Rapids woke up long enough to win the game. Kimura played a give and go with Ballouchy and on receiving the return pass Kosuke was behind the Dallas defense. Honestly it looked like he was offside on the play, but Altitude did not provide a side angle view so I have to trust the AR. Kimura took a couple of touches and put a shot into the roof of the net for the 1-0 lead. After that the Rapids just closed up shop and took the 3 points.

My key to the game was depth and seeing if somebody would step up to fill in for the missing Clark and Cummings. Kimura did, becoming the only player on the team with multiple goals this season outside the 3 C's (Clark, Cummings, and Casey). Other than that though, blech. Players seemed to be going through the motions.

Other Observations:
  • With the win the Rapids are tied for 4th in the West and a 4 way tie for 6th overall. In points-per-game though, the Rapids are alone in 5th.
  • Everybody in front of Pablo had a forgettable game. It ranged from adequate (LaBrocca) to horrible (Ballouchy).
  • Ballouchy was a black hole. The pass to Kimura was his only decent forward pass all night. He actually blocked a shot on goal by Ihemelu in the first half, and under no pressure in the second half he lost the ball on a dribble. Awful game from him.
  • Casey seems like he's still in South Africa. He's been out of sync with the team for the last two games, and late in this game he was standing in an offside position for a noticeable amount of time without making any effort to get back into the play.
  • As much as I liked the Noonan trade, so far he's brought nothing to the table. With Cummings returning from the Gold Cup next week and Facundo Diz rumored to be incoming, I think Noonan's chance to earn even the fist forward off the bench spot may be up.
  • Peterson's two shots on goal early were the only shots on target other than Kimura''s goal. For the amount of possession we had, that's unacceptable.
  • This may have been Cooke's last game as a Rapid. If we've truly signed Jamie Smith then I don't see how we can play them both and its pointless to have one of them on the bench.
Player of the Game: Kosuke Kimura. He was the Player of the Game before he scored the winning goal. He showed more hustle and desire than anyone else on the field, and his owning of Brek Shea was a highlight. Kimura is quickly becoming one of my favorite Rapids.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Undermanned Colorado Tries To Run Circles Around Hula Hoops

Didn't we just do this? For the 2nd time in 3 weeks Dallas is in town. Last time around it was a 1-1 draw midweek, this time the Rapids have more rest and hopefully more desire. Game time is 7:30pm and as always the supporters groups will be starting the tailgate 2 hours ahead of time.

Official Injury Report:

Official Discipline Report:
SUSPENDED: Cory Gibbs (Caution accumulation)

International Absences:
Colin Clark (U.S. National Team), Omar Cummings (Jamaica National Team)

Dallas is missing 5 players to injury and Kenny Cooper is with the National Team at the gold Cup, so they only have 18 players to fill out the 18-man game day roster. My best guess on the lineup:

Kimura - Ihemelu - Palguta - Harvey
Cooke - Ballouchy - LaBrocca
Casey - Noonan

With Gibbs out Kimura gets back into the starting 11 while Ihemelu moves inside. Other than that I don't expect any changes. With the expected signings of Diz and Jamie Smith when the International transfer Window opens on Wednesday there's a very good chance that this will be Cookie's last game in a Rapids uniform. The bench isn't very deep, with only 6 players available (Burpo, Valentino, Harden, Dalby, Peterson, Schunk) we can't even fill out the 18-man roster. I expect the subs to be Dalby, Peterson, and then either Schunk or Harden depending on the game situation.

Key To Look For:

Depth, again. Somebody has to take the pressure off of Casey, because Chicago manged to bracket him with two defenders and stymie our offense. Until somebody else proves to be a threat its going to be hard to score.

Prediction: 1-1 draw, goal by Conor Casey. I still don't trust this defense to pitch a shutout and nobody outside Casey has proven to be a scoring threat. Without that I can't see us getting more than 1. Maybe I'm just gun shy after a few years of poor summer play, but the Rapids have to prove to me they can win when things aren't perfect for them.

Rapids Get Trio of Reinforcements

The Denver Post is reporting that along with French defender Julian Baudet, the Rapids have also signed Argentine striker Facundo Diz and Scottish right-winger Jamie Smith. Diz would obviously give us much needed depth up front, while Smith seems to be a replacement for Terry Cooke who has reportedly been asked, and agreed, to not have his contract guaranteed until September instead of on the July 1st date all other MLS contracts are guaranteed on. Smith is reportedly a winger who likes to cut inside and go to goal, so a right-sided version of Colin Clark. As we all know, Cooke likes to stay outside and whip crosses in, so its obviously a shift in playing styles. I'm not sure if replacing Cooke is a great idea, but maybe Smith is an upgrade.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Midseason Review

We're at the halfway point of the season. Much like I did at the quarter point, lets see how we're looking so far.

Goalkeeping: Matt Pickens has done a good job in net. He doesn't make the big amazing save very often, but I can't think of a single blunder he's made. The only thing lacking is that I can't think of a game we really won because of his play. Burpo is still a quality backup and Ceus is getting some good experience on-loan to the USL-2 Charlotte Eagles.
Grade: A-

Defense: The defense has not done well over the last few games. They've gone from nearly a 1 goal a game average to a 1.5 goal a game average, and given up multiple goals to NY, Chicago, and Seattle (twice). Ihemelu seems to have regressed to his "one brain fart a game" method of defending, and Cory Gibbs has been less than impressive. On the positive side, Jordan Harvey has been a rock at left back, Scott Palguta is proving he can play at this level, and Kosuke Kimura is turning into quite the 'jack-of-all-trades' off the bench. The Rapids have reinforcements coming in the form of French defender Julian Buadet, maybe he can link everyone together into a cohesive unit, Cory Gibbs sure hasn't managed that.
Grade: C

The midfield has improved from disappointing to inconsistent. When players like Ballouchy and LaBrocca are on their games the Rapids mids are a force to be reckoned with. When only Clark and Pablo show up to play the offense stagnates and the Rapids are lucky to score once. Ballouchy has shown signs of turning into a real MLS center mid, but then he checks out of games for long periods. LaBrocca is still coming along well, but he's been asked to play in all spots in the midfield but he's really only suited to a center role, which means that when he's on a wing the attack on that side suffers. Pablo is still Pablo, he does what he does very well and that's what you should expect. Same with Cooke when he gets on the field. Peterson continues to be a disappointment, with speed his only asset (as seen by his goal on Sunday). Colin Clark continues to improve, and he has caught the attention of National team coach Bob Bradley. His absence for the Gold Cup hurts the Rapids, but will hopefully help Clark become a star int he long run.
Grade: C

Conor Casey and Omar Cummings are having great seasons. Unfortunately after them the attack falls off a cliff. The other true forwards that have been on the roster (Noonan, Schunk, Richardson) have a grand total of 0 assists and 0 goals between them. That was fine when Cummings and Casey started every game, but that duo hasn't started together since May 30th due to National Team commitments. The only other player on the team who has scored multiple goals has been Colin Clark. Somebody needs to step up and become a third striker quickly, or the season is going to slip away from us. Rumors have Argentine Facundo Diz being added to the roster, maybe he's the answer.
Grade: B-

The Confederations Cup and Gold Cup have really exposed our lack of depth up front. While there are still plenty of options in the back, we have no good left wing to cover for Clark and none of our strikers have shown anything. While losing Clark for the Gold Cup was a bit of a surprise, Cummings joining Jamaica should have been expected, and Casey's absence, while maybe not obvious at the start of the season, isn't that big of a surprise. The team has done a good job with loans in getting bench players like Ceus, Harden, and O'Brien extended playing time with the loss of the Reserve League and hopefully we'll see the results of those loans in future years.
Grade: C

Some of the shine has come off of Gary Smith in recent games. From his decision to play the same 6 defensive players in 3 games in a week to his choice of subs, it appears that Gary Smith isn't dealing well with the missing players. Still the team plays like it had a plan, which is more than we could ever say under Clavijo. There's still a tendency to sit on a 1 goal lead but the team does try to push for the next goal more than they have been. My main concern is an over reliance on players like Ballouchy and Peterson when better choices like Cooke have been available on the bench.
Grade: C-

The biggest off-field moves have been the cutting of Ivan Guerrero and Gregory Richardson for Pat Noonan and Julian Baudet. Baudet hasn't been eligible to play yet (July 15th) and Noonan has been less than impressive. I'm willing to cut Noonan some slack as he needs to get used to the altitude and get back into 90 minute shape, but he's going to have to start performing soon or this is going to look like a busted trade. If Baudet can come in and settle down the back line it will be a good move. If he comes in and can't get off the bench or can't reduce the Rapids tendency to give up stupid goals then it will be a waste of a midseason signing. This team still needs depth up front, and while the rumors of Facundo Diz coming in are great, we really needed that depth in June and early July, not late July when both Casey and Cummings will have completed their National Team commitments.
Grade: C

The solid early start we saw from Colorado has been marred by the last 3 games of bad play. Maybe this is just a dip due to missing players to National Teams and once everyone rejoins the team after the Gold Cup we'll see the Rapids we saw to start the season. I'm concerned this is the annual summer swoon though, so for that reason a win on Saturday is important. This still appears to be a team that can make the playoffs and maybe even a conference final, but they don't look like they can stand up to the top teams in MLS right now.
Grade: C+

Monday, July 6, 2009

British-led Rapids Defeated on Independence Day

We should have seen this coming. Sending out a team with a British coach, assistant coach, and starting right winger was just asking for trouble on the 4th of July. Chicago responded in defense of America, and much like Washington and the Continental Army 230+ years ago, they sent the British packing.

For the first half the Rapids looked like 11 individual players, while Chicago looked like a team. After controlling the game for 30 minutes, Chicago made the Rapids pay. With a nice display of one-touch passing that left the Rapids defense completely confused Pappa was left open at the top of the box and put it away. 7 minutes later the Fire struck again as Cory Gibbs inexplicably made a play on a ball that was going safely over the line, resulting in a corner kick where Conde got away from Ihemelu and headed the corner in for a 2 goal lead.

In the second half the Rapids looked like they remembered how to play as a team. Unfortunately with Colin Clark at the Gold Cup the game plan became "Give it to Cookie". Time and time again Terry send crosses in, only to be cleared out by the Fire's central defense. Meanwhile Jordan Harvey was left wide open and ignored on the left. Eventually the team changed things up and Ballouchy floated a cross in that Casey redirected on net. Busch made the save but let the ball dribble free and Peterson raced in to tuck it away. The Rapids kept the pressure up trying to find the tying goal, and Casey was fouled in the box (but made such a meal of it that the ref waived it off as a dive), but they could never convert and Chicago became the first visiting team to win at the Dick this season.

The game was followed by the state's largest unfired fireworks display as an electrical glitch caused the 4th of July show to be called off after only a few fireworks were ignited. The show has been rescheduled for July 25th, anyone with a ticket to the July 4th game can get a free ticket to the RBNY-Rapids game that night followed by the fireworks show.

My key to the game was depth and seeing if somebody would step up to fill in for the missing Clark and Cummings. Nobody did. Cooke tried hard, since the offense kept running through him, and Kimura did a nice job in a free role behind him, but nobody else did.

Other Observations:
  • Hey guys, when everyone is defending Cooke's crosses, stop passing it to him and look for the open guy. Harvey looked like he had a infectious disease he was so unmarked.
  • Kimura did good work in his kind of half-mid/half-defender role. He's becoming a good jack-of-all-trades off the bench.
  • Ballouchy had some good moments, and then checked out of the game at times just being happy to push the ball to Cooke.
  • Another set of brain farts on Chicago's second goal. Hopefully Baudet can settle this group down.
  • I knew Clark had played well, but seeing this team having no other options without him really showed me how important he is.
  • Gibbs' yellow means he's on the bench next week. I'm not that concerned by that.
  • Casey may have picked up a second yellow after the game. If he did it may be the single stupidest thing I've seen a Rapids player do in years.
  • he Dallas game next week is huge. We need 3 points to stop the bleeding.
Player of the Game: Terry Cooke. He did what he's done for the Rapids for 4 years. Its just that nobody else did anything.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Casey Not In Seattle

Soccer by Ives has reported than none of the extra 7 players, which includes Casey, are in Seattle for today's U.S. - Grenada match. Presumably this means Casey will be starting for the Rapids tonight.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Shorthanded Rapids Try To Extinguish Fire

Its time for the annual full house game on the 4th of July as the Rapids host Chicago. The Rapids are 11-1-1 all time on Independence Day (with the draw and the loss both being against Columbus). Game time is moved up 30 minutes to 7pm to allow for the post game concert and fireworks. The supporter's group will be starting the tailgate an hour earlier than usual at 4pm, and for this week only they will be in a special location at the East edge of Lot C.

As is traditional for me, I will not be at the game tomorrow night. Instead I'll be celebrating my 11th wedding anniversary with my wonderful wife. She's better company than the supporters anyway. ;) I do have the DVR set up though, so I'll watch the game Sunday morning and have a full game recap on Monday like normal.

Official Injury Report:

Official Discipline Report:

International Absences:
Colin Clark (U.S. National Team), Omar Cummings (Jamaica National Team)
Possible International Absences:
Conor Casey (U.S. National Team)

Chicago has two players listed as probable and two players missing to the Gold Cup. For the first time this year the Rapids have nobody on the injury report, but their fate may be in the hands of U.S. Nats coach Bob Bradley. Earlier this week CONCACAF allowed the U.S. to expand its Gold Cup roster by 7 players due to having the Confederations Cup and Gold Cup back to back. Bradley has notified the Rapids that Conor Casey will be one of those 7 players, but only for selected games. There are rumors floating around that Casey has been summoned to Seattle for the game against Grenada tomorrow night but nobody can get confirmation on that (and that's a whole other issue). If Casey is in Seattle, expect a rant about that here next week. Assuming Casey is gone, here's the lineup I expect.

Ihemelu - Gibbs - Palguta - Harvey
Cooke - Ballouchy - LaBrocca
Peterson - Noonan

If Casey is available he'll move into Peterson's spot, with Peterson possibly displacing Cooke. Baudet will not be available to us until July 15th due to the International Transfer Rules. This leaves us a bench of Burpo, Kimura, Dalby, Schunk, and Valentino, since everyone else is on loan. Not much depth to work with. I'll predict that two of the subs will be Kimura and Dalby regardless of the status of the game.

Key To Look For:

Depth. Somebody is going to have to step up and fill the holes created by the loss of Cummings, Clark, and possibly Casey. Nobody else on the team has scored more than 1 goal this season, and its time for that to change.

Prediction: 1-1 draw, goal by Terry Cooke. If Casey plays I'll say 2-1 win, goals by Conor Casey and Terry Cooke. I still don't have faith that our defense can pitch a shutout against the likes of No-neck Blanco and McHead, and I don't see a de-fanged Rapids offense without its best 3 players getting more than 1 goal.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Weekend Roundup 6/20 - 6/28

With the 3 Rapids games last week plus trying to keep up with the National Team I didn't get the final Weekend Roundup posted, so here it is. Even though Colorado and Kildare County are still in season I'm going to retire the weekly update until the other European leagues start up again in late summer. If Kildare County ever wins (or hell, even draws) a game I'll post an update otherwise you'll get plenty of Rapids news anyway.

Colorado Rapids - After their 4 points in the last 3 games the Rapids have fallen to 4th in the West and tied with our upcoming opponents Chicago for 8th overall in MLS. We still have played a game or two less than everyone above us, and only 2 points separates us for 4th overall. The Rapids are tied with Columbus, Toronto, and Chicago for 4th in goals scored but they have dropped into a tie for 7th with LA in goals allowed.

CD Tenerife - Tenerife just had to match what Xerez and Real Zargoza did on the last weekend to clinch the Segunda Division title. On Saturday both teams drew, which meant a win or a draw over 8th placed Castellon at home in front of the fans celebrating the promotion to La Liga would do it. CDT took the lead in the 41st minute and we well on their way. Castellon pulled level in the 55th minute but rolling into stoppage time the deal; was done. Unfortunately nobody told Castellon and they scored in stoppage time to snatch the tile away from Tenerife and their celebrating fans. With the loss CDT finished 3rd, just 3 points from missing out on promotion so the win on the next-to-last weekend proved vital. They were tied with Real Zargoza and 1 point behind Xerez. In the long run though, the big goal of promotion was achieved and while winning the title would have been nice the consolation prize of La Liga is nothing to sneeze at.

Kildare County - County lost by one goal on the road to Sporting Fingal. Most people say it was their best soccer of the season so far, but a loss is still a loss. They are now 8 points from safety, and its actually 9 since they'll lose the tiebreaker. Its now a 15 game losing streak though where they've been outscored 47-6.